Japanese Couching: Starting the Center Waves

The center motif on Ocean Waves is stitched using a couching technique traditionally found in Japanese Embroidery. This is the first time I’ve ever tried it, though. The technique involves couching two strands of metallic (typically Japanese gold or silver) with a silk thread called couching silk (of course).

Here’s the first section stitched in this manner. (You can click on the photo for a closer look.) The couching was started at the far left end of the area. I couched along the bottom edge of the area, made a sharp turn at the far right, and couched along the top edge of the area. The area is filled in by spiraling in to the center. The couching stitches on each row are staggered from the couching stitches on the previous row.

The trickiest part of this technique, I found, was turning the sharp corners. I have a couple of books which explain this well, and Jane Zimmerman has posted a very complete description online, also. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture step-by-step photos of the process.

In Jane Zimmerman’s article, she mentions that the couching stitches have to be exactly the correct length, so the couched thread can’t slide around and isn’t pinched. This is a disadvantage of trying this technique on congress cloth. I was generally able to pierce the cloth threads at least once with each stitch, but it’s next to impossible to get those stitches a precise length with this ground fabric. Maybe someday I’ll try it on the silk fabric typically used for “real” Japanese embroidery and the results will be a bit more precise.

Anyway, moving on. This first section of the waves was in a red-gold Japanese metallic. This was followed by an area of Japanese gold metallic, then a section in Kreinik #4 braid, and then two more sections in the Japanese red-gold and gold.

Up next – the silver froth of the waves. But that’s another post!

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