Couching vs Bobbin Work

While preparing a tutorial on fusible appliqué, I made the same block in five colorways to demonstrate a variety of edge-finishing techniques. The tutorial will be available next month and I will share it with you then. But I ran into an interesting dilemma as I approached my final sample: couching versus bobbin work?

Couching is an embroidery technique where yarn or cord is laid across the surface of fabric and stitched in place by hand or machine. When stitching by machine, insert fine matching thread or invisible thread in the needle, set your machine to a small zigzag stitch, and install a couching presser foot if you have one. The foot has a guide that positions the cord under the stitching. Zigzag stitch the cord around the edges of the applique.

Couched Cord

I used the couching technique on this butterfly that is composed of many small snippets of fabric, like a mosaic. The butterfly was covered with a layer of tulle, stitched around the outer edges, then the tulle was trimmed close to the stitching.

Snippet Butterfly with tulle

The mosaic was completed by couching navy-blue perle cotton around the edges of the butterfly and antennae. To watch this butterfly mosaic come to life before your eyes, check out the video!

Butterfly closeup

Bobbin work is a technique where the yarn or cord is wound onto a bobbin and fine matching thread or invisible thread is used in the needle. Some machines have a special bobbin case specifically designed for this technique; otherwise, the bobbin tension will need to be loosened.

Bobbin work setup

The design is stitched from the back so that the contents of the bobbin appear on the front. I tried this technique for the first time in a lesson from Superior University and loved the results.

Coaster front with Razzle Dazzle thread

Coaster front with Razzle Dazzle thread

So which method did I use for my tutorial sample: couching or bobbin work? Can you tell the difference? How do you choose?

Crazy Daisy with Tulle and Couched Cord


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