This section is from the book "A Sewing Course For Teachers", by Mary Schenck Woolman. Also available from Amazon: A sewing course for teachers.
Linen or Unbleached Sheeting, 6x3 Inches. Material in Contrasting Color, 2x2 Inches.
Mercerized Yarn, Scotch Floss, or Jute Threads, several strands. Silk, B or C.
Needle, No. 6.
Decoration of table covers, scarfs and bags.
Couching is a decorative stitch for outlining a pattern. It is frequently used in place of the outline-stitch to cover the cut edge of applique work and, at the same time, to hold it down to another material, and also to make a foundation over which other stitches can be worked, as in Venetian embroidery. In the latter, the blanket-stitch is made over the couched cord to obtain a design in high relief.
Applique is the laying of one piece of material upon another. It takes the place of solid embroidery in a design. Couching is very generally used in connection with it. Both couching and applique are largely used in historic national embroideries, and have been used by many primitive people. They can be utilized to advantage in the schools, even with young pupils.
The soft rope-like appearance of couching makes an attrac-tive outline and also a good covering to the edge of materials. The stitch which crosses the cord not only satisfactorily holds down the materials beneath, but lends itself to excellent decorative effects. The ease and rapidity with which beautiful results can be obtained by the use of various materials cut into designs and laid on other cloth makes applique a valuable, economical and artistic means of decoration.
Fig. 49. - Couching.
Couching is a species of overhanding, or of over-casting, made over a cord or group of threads into the cloth beneath. The strand or strands must be as long as is needed for any part of the design where no break in outline can occur without injuring the pattern. The strands are held close to the outline or the edge of the pattern. If the couching is to cover another material which is to be appliqued by it to the foundation, the cord must completely cover the raw edges. The stitch which holds down the strands is made across the cord at right angles to it and into the cloth beneath. The distance between the stitches is a matter of choice, or according to the importance of this stitch across the cord as strengthening the applique beneath. To finish the end of the cord when the termination of the pattern is reached must depend on the wisdom of the worker. The strands can be the same size throughout and be held down so neatly and yet strongly that the raw ends of thread will not show; or they can be reduced gradually until invisible; or a hole can be made in the material below and the cord can be fastened se-curely on the wrong side; or the ends of the strands can be pushed under the applique and fastened. Innumerable threads and yarns are used for the cord, such as crewel, filoselle, mercerized yarn, jute and various wools. The cross thread can be made of a contrasting color. Several lines of couching can be laid side by side, and the cross threads can be used to attractively vary the pattern, by such effects as diaper and basket designs. The strands can be wound into a disk and the cross-stitches can be made an attractive feature. Couching is also used as a basis for work with another stitch. In Venetian embroidery it provides the foundation over which a close blanket-stitch is made. The pattern is thus thrown into high relief.
Applique is made of many materials, such as silk, velvet, linen, denim and others. The design is made first on paper; this is cut out and serves as a pattern for the material which is to be used for the applique. If the material is inclined to fray, it is well to make the design in thin paper, cut it out and paste it on the back of the cloth before cutting the latter. The design is then laid on the foundation material and basted or pasted in place. The latter way is used if the pattern is very elaborate, or if it has large stretches of plain surfaces. Wrinkles and bubbles in the design interfere with the beauty of the solid embroidery effect. When the pasting on of a design is finished, it should be put under a press until dry. The couching and other needlework can then be done upon it. In heavy or stiff materials the double pasting is not necessary. In such simple applique as would be done in most elementary and high schools the thin paper design can be pasted, if necessary, to the cloth, but when this is cut it can be basted to the foundation, instead of pasted. In place of applique, the foundation cloth is often painted or stencilled, and couching, outline or blanket-stitch used to finish the edge.
Make the design for the applique and have the color scheme and the materials worked out carefully; the foundation, the applique and the cross threads must all be considered. Unbleached color in the foundation lends itself to good effects in dull oranges, brown, blues and greens in the applique. The strands for the cord may match the ground, or the applique, or may contrast, and the over-casting of silk may be an additional decorative feature. When these points have all been settled, take foundation material 6x3 inches, and the design on thin paper which will occupy a space within 2x2 inches. Cut out the design, paste it lightly and carefully, that no strain may go through, on the back of the material for the applique. Press it until dry and smooth, cut out the pattern, lay it on the foundation toward the end and a little to one side, and baste it in place. Take several strands of the yarn selected. Begin the work of couching at a part of the applique where the fastening down will show least; push the ends under the applique, and begin to overcast the strands through the applique and the foundation. Be careful to keep the overcasting stitches near enough together and on the edge of the pattern that the outline may be perfect.
This stitch is useful even in early grades, as it is simple and may be quickly executed. The art teacher can unite with the sewing teacher in obtaining good designs; the cutting and pasting are good exercises in themselves; and many articles can be attractively decorated. Work bags, sofa cushions (large or small), table covers, bureau scarfs, and dress trimmings can be adapted to pupils from the fifth grade through the high school. It is possible to use couching even in earlier grades, as it is similar to the coarse towel weaving which is adapted to young pupils. Excellent color schemes can be worked, and very beautiful articles made at little expense.