Having Fun With A New Stitch


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Many of us are spending the next two weeks secured to our couches as we watch the Olympics. We may be simultaneously stitching, working on taxes, checking Twitter, updating Facebook, or doing any other multi-tasking project, but we are held down by the human-interest draw and sheer drama of athletic competition. (And if it’s not the Olympics, it may be Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, or any of the fabulous shows on right now.)

So I can’t help but take this opportunity to showcase one of my favorite embroidery techniques: couching. It doesn’t involve sofas, but you may be sitting on one while you are doing it. In embroidery, couching is a technique in which threads are laid on the surface of your project and sewn in place with stitches. I love couching because it enables you to embroider with anything—thick threads, beady threads, fuzzy threads, trims, ribbons. Love a fiber but it is too unique or bulky to use in cross stitch? Couch it. Want to add layering to your collage or fiber art? Couch some colorful or highly textured thread. Your project will get an instant “facelift” as you add depth, dimension and light play.

Traditional embroidery over the years has always featured couching techniques.
These two counted needlepoint designs feature Kreinik Japan Threads couched on canvas. The green palm tree in the design on the right is made with several strands of Kreinik Braid couched side by side.

Probably a few of the gorgeous embroidery designs you’ve seen on mrxstitch.com feature couching techniques. It has been used in embroidery for centuries, especially back when real metals were the main fabric embellishment. Japanese embroidery is famous for couched motifs featuring real gold or silver pounded into a super-thin leaf and wrapped around a core (used to be horse hair, now it’s a synthetic fiber). It’s a creative, versatile, and useful stitch in any needleworker’s repertoire and can be done no matter what your skill level. You can couch by hand or by sewing machine.

Use a couching foot on your sewing machine to attach thick threads.
Couching enables you to use unique threads like Kreinik Micro Ice Chenille. To couch with your sewing machine, use a couching foot (check with the machine’s manufacturer to see the options).
A couching foot holds the thicker thread while you tack it down with stitches.
Here we have samples of couching by sewing machine. The foot on the right has three “holes” or grooves so you can keep three different strands spaced evenly as you stitch (Kreinik Medium #16 Braid in 027L Orangeruptis and 100 White). Use some of the decorative stitches that come on your machine for more interest, as seen on the left (Kreinik 1/8″ Ribbon in 024L Fiery Fuchsia). You can create gorgeous trims and borders on costumes and clothing with the couching technique.

How do you couch? First, you need to plunge the end of your thick thread to the back of your work. I like to use a needle to open the fabric enough to slip the thread through, then sew it down or even tape it down temporarily on the back. An alternative to plunging is to finish the end so that it doesn’t fray and can be secured on the top of your work. Use Fraycheck™ or clear nail polish, or wrap a matching thread very tightly around the ends to keep them from raveling.

Two couching methods
Lay the thick thread on your design and begin tacking in place using small stitches. Side-to-side (diagram on left) and right-down-the-middle (diagram on right) are the most popular ways to couch. You can also use decorative stitches on top of your thick thread. Imagine the design possibilities…

Lay your thick thread on your design and begin securing in place using one of several techniques: 1. Make a straight stitch across the thick thread, from side to side at regular intervals, 2. Make straight stitches right down the center of the thick thread (if the construction of the thread permits), 3. Make decorative stitches as desired on top of the thick thread (cross stitch, herringbone, ladder stitch etc). Use a matching color of thread to make these tacking stitches, or use a contrasting color for more color. I like to use silk threads to couch metallic or metal threads if I am doing decorative stitches. Otherwise I like to use Kreinik Cord which comes in colors to match Kreinik Medium #16 Braid, Canvas #24 Braid, Heavy #32 Braid, Facets, Micro Ice Chenille, Hot-Wire, or 1/8″ Ribbon—all of these Kreinik threads are beautiful in couching.

Kreinik Facets look like beads without the mess.
Kreinik Facets are a bead-like yarn — it looks like beads, but doesn’t roll all over the place making a mess. You can’t stitch in and out of fabric with Facets; instead you couch it. This metallic makes a gorgeous surface embellishment.

To finish, plunge or secure the ends as you did in the beginning. Your exciting journey into this versatile stitch/technique has now begun. Do some test stitching at home while you’re watching TV or sheltering from winter’s weather. Start with couching anything you may have on hand, then look at specialty threads like real metals, braids and ribbons from your favorite needlework stores.

Real metal threads add supreme elegance.
These two beautiful samples of hand embroidery feature real metal threads couched on canvas (on the left) and fabric (on the right). Kreinik offers a variety of real metals in silver and gold finishes. Visit www.kreinik.com for photos and ordering.

Some other options as you explore the world of couching:

  • use multiple threads laid side by side for bolder effects
  • couch threads to fill in a shape like a flower, pumpkin, butterfly wings, etc
  • create gorgeous borders with couched threads
  • try couching trims, rick-rack, and ribbons with decorative stitches

Couching gives you freedom to embroider with unique threads, to stitch curves and other shapes more easily, and to attach fun embellishments. It is a surface embroidery technique that opens up a world of stitching options for you. Have fun and play! Visit www.kreinik.com to explore all of the options in Kreinik silk, metallic and real metal threads.


KreinikGirl
Dena Lenham, aka KreinikGirl, is Creative Director at Kreinik Manufacturing Company, a family-owned, USA-based business that manufactures high-quality yarns and threads made of metallics, silks and real metals from their West Virginia factory. Dena’s monthly column, Kreinik Calling, sheds light on the fascinating fibres that we all use and love.
KreinikGirl

@kreinikgirl

Official thread news, tips, ideas and answers from Dena Lenham, Creative Director at thread company Kreinik Mfg. Co., Inc.
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KreinikGirl
KreinikGirl

3 thoughts on “Having Fun With A New Stitch

  • Any chance you have information on the name or designer of the needlepoint lion design with the palm trees?

    • Unfortunately that older design is out of print at the moment. Kreinik does have plans for bringing it back sometime this year, however. Check in with us via Twitter (@kreinikgirl), Facebook (www.Facebook.com/Kreinik.Manufacturing.Company) or http://www.kreinik.com where we post notices. It is a gorgeous design so we want to make it available again.

      • Good to know it’s a Kreinik design. I’ll keep my eyes open for it. I’d sure like to stitch this one.

        Thanks!

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