Saturday, 26 September 2009

Goldwork - basic couching

As I'm working on the second cross, this seems like good time to look at the basic goldwork technique: couching.

Couching is very simple - it's simply laying one thread on the surface of your fabric, and using a second thread to stitch it down. This can of course be done with any sort of thread, yarn or cord, but here I'm using gold passing thread. I'm also using two gold threads in parallel, which is quite common in goldwork.

As the threads to be couched don't need to pass backwards and forwards through the fabric, it's possible - and often easier - to keep them on the reel. As I'm not cutting lengths to use, it saves on wastage, and also leads to a neater finish, as one long length of thread is used for the entire piece.

I prefer to keep the reels I'm using in a bag. This minimises tangling, and stops them unspooling when I drop them on the floor (it happens!):

To start off, leave a tail of about an inch (2.5 cm), and stitch each thread down separately:

Keeping both threads flat and parallel, stitch them down together at intervals of about a quarter of an inch (about 0.5 cm):

At the corners, stitch each thread down separately, the same as at the beginning; this helps keep them flat, and prevents them crossing:

I also tend to fold the couched threads back at the corners - this puts a crease in them, that I find helps keeps the corner sharp:

It's also best to keep an even tension in the couched threads if you can, to stop any unwanted kinks appearing:

Here, I'm working the couched threads in concentric bands. When starting the second lap, I place the couching stitch half way between the stitches done first time around. On the next pass, the couching stitch lines up with the equivalent stitch in the first row; this gives a nice brickwork or basketwork effect.

I also angle the needle slightly, so that it goes under the first row of couched thread. This pulls the second row up close to the first:

Once all the couching is finished, stitch each thread down separately, very close to where the end of the thread will be. Secure the couching thread firmly on the back, but don't cut it. On the front, trim the couched threads, again leaving a tail of about an inch (2.5 cm):

These ends now need to be pulled through to the back of the fabric. Thread a thick needle with a loop of thread, and push this part way through the fabric at the point where you want the couched thread end to go through. Put the end of the couched thread through the loop:

Pull the needle through, keeping the thread end in the loop; try and leave yourself some slack in it, rather than having the loop right at the base:

Give the loop of thread a good tug - the couched thread end will be pulled through to the back of the fabric.

When all the ends have been pulled through to the back, whip them with the remaining couching thread to catch them down, and trim the ends:

You should be left with a nice neat finish on the front, and the ends will be well secured.


  1. Thank you for sharing this process with us, I've been following your posts and thought it only polite to say Hi :) I love all the detailed pictures, so I hope you continue that part.

    Your project is looking beautiful.

  2. Thanks Karen! Photography isn't really my forte, so I'm glad my not-so-good pictures are some use.