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Trailing icon

  • Trailing couching stitch
  • Overcast stitch
  • Cording
  • Satin couching
  • Cord stitch
  • Overcasting

A precise overcast stitch producing a bold smooth outline over a thread core, suitable for lettering, monogramming and crisp edges.

For a less raised version see overcast stitch and for a tapered version see tapered trailing.

The earliest references to trailing date from the 1970s although it is hard to be sure whether this was the start of the use of multiple core threads, or the first time it was recorded and named.

Trailing is generously sponsored by Paulette Dudley



Begin partway along the line, preferably on a straight section. Decide how many threads to use as the core. Bring the needle up just one side of the line.


Bring the needle over the core threads and take it down just on the other side of the line. The stitch should be at right angles to the line. Pull fairly tight on the first stitch and maintain the tension as you work the next stitch.


For each subsequent stitch, bring the needle up from underneath the core threads and take it down underneath them. The stitches should be as close together as you can manage, so as not to let any of the core threads show through.


As you turn a corner, change the angle of the stitches so that they stay at right angles to the line at all times. They will be spaced a little further apart on the outside curve and even closer together on the inside curve.


To finish a line, stop stitching just before the end of the line. Thread one of the core threads into a large chenille needle and take the needle down at the end of the line to plunge the thread through. Bring it up a short distance away.


Repeat for the rest of the core threads and then continue to stitch. Holding the core threads to keep some tension helps.


Finish stitching to the end of the line, angling the needle out from under the core threads and back underneath them with each stitch.


If the trailing finishes away from any other stitching, turn to the back to cast off. Run the needle underneath the last few stitches, pull the threads through and trim.


On the back trim the core threads as close as possible to the fabric so that no shadows will show on the front. Trim each thread individually for the neatest result.


A finished example


Embroidery Techniques

Variant Stitches

Identifying Trailing

​Trailing has a thread core, sits proud of the fabric surface and the couching stitches should be close enough to ensure the core is not visible and has a smooth surface.  

It can be visually difficult to distinguish trailing from overcast stitch as they are both couched in stitches which completely cover the core.  If the stitching is particularly raised it is more likely to be trailing as the padding can use multiple strands, whereas overcast stitch padding normally has just a single line of running stitch.


  • Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.332
  • Erica Wilson, Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book (1975) , p.266
  • Beryl Dean, Creative applique (1970) , p.63

Examples of Trailing