During the time when I was regularly creating prayer flags, I made a series with tiny paper tags attached. On the tag I glued words cut from old books–little phrases that fit the intention of the flag.
The little tags came with strings attached, so I used them as part of the design, couching them down onto the flag with embroidery floss.
Couching is an easy and versatile stitch to use when you want to add lines to small quilting projects with decorative threads, yarns, and other fibers. Couching is especially useful when the fiber you want to add to your work is too fragile or thick to pass through the fabric.
Traditionally, couching is done with two threaded needles-and embroidery needle for the decorative fiber and a beading or Milliner’s needle for the couching.
But with the proliferation of fancy threads and fibers that don’t easily go through fabric, many stitchers now lay the decorative fiber on top of the fabric and stitch over it with the couching needle and thread.
The couching stitch itself is simple.
1. Bring the needle up from the wrong side of the small quilt or single layer of fabric, coming up right next to one end of the decorative fiber.
2. Bring the needle back down into the fabric on the other side of the couched fiber.
3. Bring the needle up about 1/8” – ¼” up from the first stitch and then down on the other side, positioning the decorative thread as you go.
Typically, the couching thread should blend with the decorative thread because its purpose is to tack down the embroidery thread. But I find it fun to add some contrast with my threads and even use other kinds of stitches for the couching.
You can use couching to create flowing lines, windblown hair, waving seaweed, or anything with free-flowing curves and swirls. From embellished scrap quilts to crazy quilts, to prayer flags, the couching stitch is one stitch I couldn’t be without.
We have many videos, books, and more on embroidery, crazy quilting, and creating small quilting projects in the Quilting Daily Shop. Explore and learn!
P.S. Do you use couching in your fiber art? Tell me how!