Currently I’m enrolled in a class taught by Natalie Dupuis called “The Humble Couching Stitch”. After a very long year when I wasn’t feeling (or being!) very creative, I decided that a class was just what I needed to rekindle my creativity and this was the perfect choice!

As a surface embroiderer I do loads of couching on my pieces. I particularly love laid and trellis work which requires couching threads down to create the layered patterns.

The couching stitch is one of the most versatile stitches there is and can be used in both traditional and contemporary embroidery, such as the piece I did for my City and Guilds Course, below.

Natalie’s class focuses on the couching stitch as used in metal thread embroidery. There are a number of things that I’ve particularly enjoyed. Firstly, the organization and delivery of the class is first rate. For each technique we  have access to background videos, readings that are available online or to download, high quality images and demonstration videos. There are assignments for us to do each week or every two weeks depending on the size and scope of the topic. As we work, there is a discussion area for each assignment where all students can upload and comment on their own work. Others can comment on your work as well and Natalie replies to every single comment.

It’s inspiring and encouraging to see the work of other students and the atmosphere Natalie sets online is positive.  Uploading images and comments is easy and straightforward so I’ve spent very little time doing technology and loads of time stitching: the best balance for any online class I think. We have weekly Zoom lecture meetings where we learn more, go over content we’ve been assigned to read and have a little time to talk with one another.

We started with basic couching. Below is the best brick pattern couched work I managed. My stitches still aren’t perfectly straight but they’re MUCH better than the first one I did (farther below).

We then moved on to underside couching.  It is a very cool technique and I loved it but it was tricky! If you want to learn more about underside couching, here is a link to a fabulous video by Sarah Humphrey. I took a class from Sarah years ago at the V&A and started on the piece you see at the beginning of the video. I had the best luck using a gold tambour thread which is super thin. The thinner the thread, the easier it is to get it under the fabric.

The couching as labeled in the photo –

#1 – left-over #7 silver passing thread  (too lumpy)

#2 – Same as #1 but with silk on top of the muslin (still too lumpy!)

#3 – #4 gold passing thread (better)

#4 – Gold tambour thread (best!)

#5 – Same materials as example #3 but using the method I found worked best for me whilst doing example #4.

It worked pretty well but the Tambour thread works best. It’s so fine that it’s really easy to pull through – even the silk.

You can see that I am NO expert and my samples look a bit scruffy. However, that’s the point – I’m learning!

We then moved to diaper patterns which I LOVED!!! I decided to do two different patterns in two different threads. In the first I used gimp thread and colored silk to couch down the gimp.

The second is a pattern  from the Fisherman’s Pall (below) and I used gold thread with purple silk to couch down. As you can see from the area I couched, I really, really enjoyed this technique!

Last week and next we’re focusing on the technique called Or Nué. I have NO experience of this technique and it is very s…l…o…w. I’ve chosen to replicate my logo in one color for my first try. Typically Or Nué is a shaded technique but may be done in one color. We’ll see how it turns out when I’m finished.

If you’re interested in Natalie’s classes on Teachable, here is a link to that page.

This is a link her her web page where you can read more about her and her work.

The course I’m taking now, of course, is full. The next course is called “Ode to the Palette” and I don’t know if it’s full or not. I’ve signed up and am looking forward to learning even more about color!

It’s never too late to learn something new or learn more about something with which you are already familiar – and it might even bring back your creativity, as it did for me!


Trevelyon’s Pocket: Design and Colour

I’ve been working hard on a new design for a miniature pocket, based on a design from Thomas Trevelyon. It’s unbelievable how much time it takes to draw, trace, edit, fix, erase, edit, redraw, copy, white out, redraw from an original to create a pattern that’s usable for us to stitch from. This is especially true when working in miniature, since a pattern that’s too crowded simply won’t work!

Here is what the original pattern from Trevelyon looks like.

And here is how it looks now that I’ve finished reworking it for embroidering in a much smaller area.

Here are all the Au ver a Soie D’Alger threads on the ivory silk fabric, including the gold passing thread I’ll be using. Just seeing them altogether makes me excited to get started!

I’ve decided on which colours I want to use but not where each colour will be used within the design. For that I will pull out my coloured pencils. I test each coloured pencil to see if the colour matches when the pencil is applied to the paper. Once I’ve found the best match, I make a note of which number pencil correlates to which number thread.

Then I lay them out as you see above, ready to experiment.  I always have a “whee of a time” colouring in the design! I usually do three of four different coloured designs before I find one I love and, even then, I often make adjustments as I stitch.

What do you think of the colours? Do you do the same kind of thing when designing a piece? Please leave a comment and share your process with us!



Trevelyon’s Gold Cap Finished

Firstly, thank you all for your supportive emails and comments after my last post! And now, back to embroidery!

At the end of October I finished the single panel of Trevelyon’s Gold Cap. The border was relatively quick with only chip work for the acorns and some couched threads for the vine. Then I had to decide what I was going to do next.


Originally, I thought I’d embroider the other three sides and assemble a three dimensional cap. However, that isn’t possible this year given my limited ability to embroider anything challenging for a while. The new plan is to mount it on an embroidered background and then have it framed.


The piece looked a bit unfinished, so I decided to outline the panel with Grecian twist and black and gold twist. This gives it a more finished look and defines the shape of the panel, which is important for mounting the piece.


Usually when a piece of embroidery is mounted and framed, the background is simple: perhaps a plain piece of linen or silk on a board or a piece of mat board. In this case I want the background to carry through the richness of the piece itself.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll remember when I did vermicelli couching on the Loveday piece by Nicola Jarvis last year. I fell in love with that technique and the wonderful texture it gives to a piece of fabric. I think vermicelli couching using the same black and gold twist I’ve used on the cap applied to black silk will look absolutely fabulous!

The plan is to draw an outline of the cap on the black silk and then apply the vermicelli couching from the outside edge of the outline all the way to the edges of the black silk. I’ll then mount the cap panel on a piece of board that’s cut to the shape of the panel. That will be applied to the top of the black silk fabric with the vermicelli couching. Then the whole thing will be framed. Of course, this means I have to mount two different pieces of embroidery and you all know how much I love (not!) mounting!

What do you think? Will this set off the piece or detract from it? I’m interested in your opinion!