Couching Tutorial

Couching as you will probably know is the technique of attaching a thicker thread i.e. metallics, cords, ribbons etc. which cannot be drawn through the background fabric. Instead the thicker threads are attached to the surface fabric using tiny stitches or more decorative stitches worked in a finer thread. Couching takes its name from the French word 'Coucher', which means to lay down. Couching was very popular in Medieval embroideries to keep more expensive threads only for the surface of the fabric so there was no waste. Couching is really fast and easy to do and a really effective way to define outlines and curves it can also be used to fill a motif or to edge appliqué shapes. There are different forms of couching and today we will be covering plain couching, bricking and bunched couching.

Plain Couching
To work plain couching work from right to left. Place the thread to be couched in the position required on your fabric. If you wish to keep the ends of your threads neat knot the thread to be couched and bring up through the fabric and lay along your line. Using a finer thread bring your needle up at 1, hold laid thread in place with your left thumb and insert your needle at 2 making a small vertical stitch. Repeat a long your line at regular intervals. To finish take both threads to the back of your fabric. Note: couching should always be worked with fabric stretched in a hoop or frame.

Turning the Thread
Turn the laid thread in the direction you require and make a small horizontal stitch over the turning point as shown below.

Bricking creates a regular pattern and is used for filling small and large areas. Stitches are positioned halfway between the stitches of the previous line. Work the first line from right to left then turn the work for each new line.

Bunched Couching
Working from left to right bring thread to be couched to the surface of fabric and lay along your line. Next using your tying thread make small vertical stitches, this time however pull the tying stitch tightly to bunch the thread. This technique works best when there are several threads being couched. It is great for when a bold line is required.

You can also use a variety of decorative stitches for couching for example; blanket stitch, feather stitch, chevron stitch, or cross stitch. The example below is couching with blanket stitch.


  1. This is really helpful but I always wonder what happens to the ends of the threads being couched? I have some beautiful antique metallic embroidery threads that I'd love to use, but if I pull it through the fabric, they will get damaged. How/where do I start? Or do I tuck the end under to make it look neat?

  2. Hi Ingrid, you could just lay the thread at the start of the shape you are going to couch around and make a stitch a little way in and then go back and cover the end with another stitch to stop it fraying, this is what I would do. Or as you say you could fold it under to neaten the ends and fasten down.

  3. Thanks Elmsley Rose glad you like the tutorial!

  4. I had curiosity of how to do it...I learned it noww....thank you


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