Sunday, June 14, 2009

Embellishment Experiment: Couching to Replace Embroidery

My current project offered a small opportunity for embellishment on the in-seam hip pockets. This opportunity was just right for me, since my embellishment experience is limited to machine appliqué back in the 90s. The pattern, BWOF 03-07-130, called for embroidered linen on the pocket bands. If embroidered linen wasn't available, Burda provided a motif in case a brave and talented sewer wanted to do the embroidering herself. I decided to experiment with couching instead.

Couching can replace embroidery as a subtle embellishment.

  1. soutache trim
  2. braiding foot
  3. tear-away stabilizer
  4. stencil

I'm not very good at drawing freehand, so I used a quilting stencil for my design. These stencils are inexpensive and readily available. I traced the design onto fabric that was larger than the pattern piece for the pocket band and pinned the fabric to tear-away stabilizer to reduce the amount the fabric drew up.

It is possible to couch without a specialized foot, but the right foot made the job easier. The foot had a notch etched into the front and I used this notch to follow the drawn placement lines. It wasn't quite as helpful in the tight curves, however. Bernina's free hand system and needle-stop-down feature made maneuvering around the tight curves easier. I sewed a few stitches, raised the presser foot using the FHS, and pivoted the fabric, keeping the needle down. The braiding foot kept the soutache directly under the needle.I chose to use clear monofilament thread, although I could have used matching thread or decorative thread. If the embellishment were in a position more prominent than the hip pocket, I might have chosen something a little flashier.Once the couching was completed, I used the pattern piece to center the couching on the pocket band before cutting it out. Then I sewed the pocket band into the pants front according to BWOF's directions.
Couching is an easy embellishment technique that can be made as simple or elaborate as needed. As in all projects, having the right tools makes the difference. Couching worked well in this project as a substitute for embroidery.

I wonder if Summerset started this way!


  1. I agree--it does take the right foot to make a technique easier. I have a total foot fetish! Nice job on the couching.

  2. Very cool!!! It worked so well and with minimal fuss

  3. Great idea and it looks great. I have one of these feet, not that I remember ever using it!

  4. You are one brave woman! I don't think I have the patience for that sort of work. I'm really keen to see the end result now.

  5. I have always loved the look of soutache trim. I don't know if my machine has a brading foot or not, I have several feet which I have not used yet. I will have to try to find it and give it a go. I've only done couching by zigzagging over a trim, but the soutache gives a nice valley down the middle to work with. I can't wait to see this on your pants.

  6. Couching is easy and cool, isn't it? I love this design for you trouser pockets!

  7. A+ for embellishment! Now I've got to go get a braid foot, Elaray!

  8. I'm a little late to this, but I love the couching, and the pants. Thanks for the tutorial!

  9. Thanks for the tutorial! This is a great idea. I'll have to give it a shot.