Cross Stitch Techniques: What is Couching?

How to add flare to your cross stiching pattern with couching

Couching. Graphic © Connie G. Barwick, licensed to, Inc.

Do you have a project that needs a little extra zing? Want to take your cross stitch to the next level? Why not try the stitching technique of Couching. Just what is couching? Is it complicated? Will it work for any project? Let's take a closer looks that this unique cross stitch process. 

Let's break down the definition of Couching: One thing that couching is is not sitting on the couch while stitching.

It is not hanging out on the sofa watching TV. 

Definition:  Couching is used on some advanced Cross Stitch patterns. Couching is a type of stitch. When couching a strand of floss, ribbon, or cording, the fiber is laid on top of the fabric and tacked down with tiny stitches. Couching was used in tapestries starting in the year 1020. It is a very old technique that is not used as much lately due to the fact that so many tapestries are not made by hand at this time. 

Couching is a good technique to use for fragile fibers, especially metallics. Couching also allows stitchers to create curves and circles in a Cross Stitch design. Metallic cross stitch floss is very difficult to work with but couching allows you to get the effect you want with very little effort. It may seem very confusing but once you have the technique down, it is very simple to do and offers a beautiful effect. 

Just going by the definition alone, it can be a bit complicated as to what exactly couching should look like.

Let's take a look at the diagram to the right, the thick yellow line represents the floss, ribbon, or cording to be couched. The small blue lines represent the tiny stitches used to hold it in place. Basically the thinner blue stitch is holding the thicker yellow floss in place. It is almost like a fake blanket stitch to hold floss in place.


The couching may be done with a coordinating or contrasting color of floss, depending on the look desired. It is especially a desirable technique when working with metallics or other fragile floss. If you use contrasting floss, you will get a shadowing effect. If you use the same colors, you will get a nice stump work effect. Whichever you choose, you will love the way the project turns out. 

Examples of Couching:

Below are some examples from other sites of Couching. The sites offer examples, tutorials and tips on using couching as a style for cross stitch. 

Mary Corbet's example of Couching includes pictures and variants of the style. She uses contrasting floss so you can see exactly what she means. Check out her blog post about Couching here. If you are still confused you can watch her YouTube video on the stitch. You can view it here. This is a wonderful step by step tutorial and video. If you are more of a hands-on person, these videos are for you. 

Stitch School offers up their lesson on couching. They offer step by step instructions on the stitch, again with contrasting floss color for easy understanding. The examples she shows are absolutely beautiful. Check out her work and the tutortial here.  

The last tutorial on Couching is from The Craftinomicon. Although her tutorial does not use contrasting colors as examples, she does show how the piece will look with floss of the same color.This is a good idea so you can see both way to do this stitch.  This tutorial is perfect for those who have somewhat of an idea of how to do this process but still needs a little bit of help understanding, For those of you who are concerned with the way the back of a project looks, she shows you that also. You can see the tutorial here.  


Couching is a great way to add flare to a simple cross stitch. Give it a try today!