Couching With Cross Stitch

How to add flare to your cross stiching pattern with 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.


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. Think of it as tacking down the fabric with little stitches. It will add dimension to your project.

Couching was used in tapestries starting in the year 1020. It has a long history, but in commercial tapestries, the technique is not used as much as it was before. It has also been called laid work because the floss is laid down and stitched over. 

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. 

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 another 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. 

Couching Resources

Stitch School offers up their lesson on couching. They demonstrate a step by step tutorial on the stitch. You will notice that they also use contrasting thread to show what the stitch should end up looking like. The examples she shows are absolutely beautiful.

While the Couching is from The Craftinomicon 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 ways 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.