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COUCHING: 3 easy ways how to sew

Couching is a beautiful decorative technique that will give your garments a fresh new look. It gives you freedom of creativity and is so simple to make!

Couching is a technique where the yarn or cord is applied on the surface of the fabric, giving it decorative 3d look.

Yarn attached to fabric using couching technique

While traditionally it’s a hand embroidery technique, but we can also create it using sewing machines. In this post, I'll share 3 ways how to do couching on garments using a sewing machine. We will begin with the most frequently used technique for home sewing and finish with a professional solution. 

This post is created in partnership with Brother and all samples you’ll see today are made using Brother Stellaire 2 - sewing and embroidery machine. 

All samples in this post are created using Brother Stellaire 2 sewing and embroidery machine

Click below to watch video of 3 couching techniques and scroll down to read!

COUCHING TECHNIQUE 1: using zigzag stitch

The most common option for doing couching is using a universal presser foot and zigzag stitch. 

Before and after: sweater decorated with couching technique, using zigzag method

For this technique, you’ll need your regular sewing machine setup, yarn that you want to attach to your design, matching sewing thread and water soluble marker. Take your garment and using water soluble marker, draw lines of the design you want to create.

Tip: on fuzzy knit fabrics, my regular fabric marker does not leave good visible lines, so instead I’m using a washable kids marker, which leaves a very clear marking.

When drawing the design on existing garment, be aware that in some parts it might be difficult to reach with sewing machine - let’s say sleeves would be particularly difficult to sew, so I'm placing my design on places that will be easy to reach. 

When design is marked, on sewing machine, I’m going to choose a zigzag stitch, which will be same width or a bit wider than my yarn. Begin by placing yarn under the presser foot and start sewing, following marked design lines. The goal is to navigate the yarn to replicate all design lines. When sewing, the zigzag should ‘hug’ the yarn and firmly attach it to place. 

Yarn placed under presser foot for zigzag couching technique

Tip: in this technique, we’re going to pivot fabric lots of times, so if you’re working with a computerized sewing machine, it’ll be very useful to use presser foot auto-lift function. 

Tip: in this technique, we need accuracy to manually follow all design lines, this is why I activate a speed control on my sewing machine. Even if I accidentally push foot controller too hard - the machine won’t sew too fast.

After the design is stitched, I’ll finish with a few back stitches and trim down the remaining yarn. If you’d like to create more clean finish, you can leave longer yarn tail and beginning and end, and after the design is stitched - bring it to the garment inside. 

With this technique, the yarn is kept in place with a zigzag stitch and the better you match the sewing thread color to yarn color, the less noticeable zigzag will be. 

Couching technique using zigzag stitch upclose

Tip: if you’re doing couching on sweaters, I recommend matching yarn fiber with sweater fiber - if you use wool yarn and the sweater itself is synthetic, after wash the couching detail may shrink, while the sweater itself would remain intact, so it’s best to use matching fibers. 

Sweater decorated with couching technique, zigzag method

This method will work great for uncomplicated designs and will add a lovely detail to an existing garment. 

COUCHING TECHNIQUE 2: using narrow hem foot

Second technique - and the technique I like to use more - is using narrow hem foot to navigate the thread. The benefit here is that because the yarn is feeded through presser foot at the same spot, we can use either a straight stitch or very narrow zigzag. 

Shirt decorated with couching technique, using narrow hem foot method

For my shirt, I used heart template to create multiple heart shapes. I also decided to use a very fussy, decorative thread and because the thread has long piles, I didn’t want to use zigzag, as it would lock the piles to the body of the yarn.

To create this technique, I took narrow hem foot and fed my yarn through the hole. 

Narrow hem foot navigates the yarn in couching technique

If you’re working with thicker yarn and design that has more straight lines, you can choose a straight stitch; in this design, because of curvy parts of the design and thinner thread, I chose zigzag stitch of 0.5mm width and started following the lines.

Couching technique using narrow hem foot upclose

One minus with this technique is that the narrow hem foot is a bit longer, so it restricts the view of the design; but because the funnel of the presser foot keeps the yarn in place, this is the method I like to use the most. 

After I was done stitching, this is how my shirt looked - minimal detail, but it elevated the entire design and gave my very old shirt a fresh new look.  

Shirt decorated using couching technique and narrow hem foot

Comparing stitching with first technique, you can notice that with this technique stitching is less noticeable, because we’re not using a wide zigzag stitch. And using this narrow hem foot method we can create a bit more complicated designs.

Both first and second techniques took me about 45minutes to an hour to complete. Now let’s move to a faster way that will give professional results and allows to tackle more advanced designs.

COUCHING TECHNIQUE 3: using an embroidery function

The last technique is using couching embroidery function on embroidery machine.

Sweater decorated with couching technique, embroidery machine method

Brother Stellaire 2 is sewing and embroidery machine and couching is one of the features I was very curious to try. First, I’m going to convert from sewing to embroidery by removing free arm and attaching embroidery module. Then, I’m installing a special couching foot that comes with this machine and then thread machine with sewing thread and the yarn. 

Brother Stellaire 2 sewing and embroidery machine

At the machine screen, I’m selecting the design I want to stitch out from a variety of special couching designs. 

Then I added my sweater into a very large hoop and started stitching. 

And now the machine stitches out the design, while I sit back and enjoy the process. 

Brother Stellaire 2 stitching out selected couching design
The yarn is being fed through a special couching presser foot

Tip: I placed tear away stabilizer for machine embroidery, but if you’re sewing on sewing machine and using fabric that’s very stretchy, you can add stabilizer to the back side, too, and that will significantly help improve the results. 

After the stitching was done, this is the beautiful result that we get. 

Couching design stitched out using Brother Stellaire 2 couching function

If we take a look closer at the stitching, you can see that with this technique the top sewing thread is virtually invisible, giving a more professional look. 

Couching stitch done on embroidery machine upclose

Using this technique, you can also tackle more difficult designs, use pre-existing patterns or create your own. 

The stitching time for this large design was 8 minutes, and while it took time for me took prepare machine and hoop in fabric, it was still faster than previous methods that took over 45 minutes to complete. 


If you’re going to use couching is some designs, only from time to time, both first two methods are fantastic and provide great results. If you’re planning on doing couching more often, or even use it for a business, than a machine with couching function will give more professional results faster and allow to tackle even more difficult designs. 

If you enjoyed this couching technique, here are 4 more creative techniques you can try on your sewing machine:

Thank you for reading and wishing creative week ahead!


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