Underside Couching

Schematic drawing of underside couching. Schematic drawing of underside couching. Drawing by Martin Hense.

Underside couching is a technique whereby a thread (laid thread) is placed on the surface of the ground material, which is usually held taut in a frame. A second, usually finer thread (tying thread; couching thread) is brought up from the backside of the cloth and then used to encircle the laid thread. The tying thread is returned through the same hole and pulled gently until a loop of the laid thread appears on the back of the material.

This technique is characterised by the tying thread not appearing on the surface of the ground material. Instead it takes the form of long threads on the back of the ground material. Because the tying thread secures the laid thread on the reverse, it is protected from surface wear, which means this type of embroidery does not wear out as quickly as normal (surface) couching. In addition, the loops of laid thread on the back of the ground material act like a series of small hinges, giving the embroidery a pliability that does not normally occur with surface couching.

Underside couching was widely used in English embrodiery; examples are extant that date from the eleventh to the early fifteenth centuries. It was one of two stitches frequently used for opus anglicanum; the other stitch was split stitch. In English embroidery, the couching thread was normally made of linen.


Last modified on Monday, 26 June 2017 17:49