- Basic couching
- Simple couching
- Plain couching
- Laid embroidery
- En Couchure Stitch
- Kloster Stitch
- Convent stitch
Couching is the method used to attach a thread or group of threads to fabric when they are too thick, too highly textured or too fragile to be stitched through the fabric. A second thread, normally finer, is used to stitch over the couched thread, thus anchoring it to the fabric. The name comes from the French word coucher, meaning to lay down.
The earliest evidence of Couching is from Egypt in the 4th century AD where excavations revealed fabric couched with yellow wool designs . Finds in both Mammen, Denmark and from the nomadic Qidan people of northeast Asia dated to the end of the first millennium both provide further evidence of the use of couching.
More recently, in Japan Couching was particularly used in the Muromachi period (1392-1568) for Bugaku (dance) garments; from the Ming to Quing dynasties it was used in China for embroideries based on ink brush paintings; and also as an outlining technique in the Ming dynasty. Countries as widespread as Palestine, Thailand and Ethiopia all use couching in their embroidery traditions
Put one or several strands in a chenille needle and bring both ends to the surface separately.
Bring all the strands together and lay the along the surface.
Bring another needle and thread up through the fabric on one side of the laid thread.
Take the needle back down through the fabric on the other side of the laid thread, to secure the surface thread.
Continue couching small stitches over the length of the surface thread at regular intervals.
To finish, take both the surface thread and the couching thread back to the underside of the fabric and secure in the normal manner.
Structure of stitch
Couching works well as an outline stitch and easily scaled up or down by adding more threads.
Couching is used extensively in metal thread embroidery as a line stitch and also a filling.
Ideal stitch for covering edges of an applied fabric or embroidery.
The colour and texture of the couching thread can be chosen to be either invisible or to create a certain effect.
Letitia Higgin, RSN Handbook of Embroidery (1880) , p.39–41
Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.131–2
Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.54–5
Jacqui McDonald, RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Crewelwork (2010)
Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.59, 280
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 'Berenike', TRC Leiden (2017). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/regional-traditions/middle-east-and-north-africa/ancient-middle-east-and-north-africa/berenike-egypt (Accessed: 20 August 2012)
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Willem Vogelsang, 'Watashi-Nui', TRC Leiden. Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/techniques/couching-and-laidwork/watashi-nui (Accessed: 25 August 2021)
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 'Gu Embroidery', TRC Leiden (2017). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/regional-traditions/east-asia/china/gu-embroidery (Accessed: 25 August 2021)
Schuyler Cammann. (1962) 'Embroidery Techniques in Old China', Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America pp.16-40. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20067040
Sheila Paine, Embroidered Textiles - Traditional Patterns from Five Continents (1990) , p.29, p23