The Swatch of the Month for September continues August’s emphasis on texture as it relates to an overall design perspective. Couching has a sculptural quality and it places significant focus on the stencil or design motif it highlights. This stencil, Anna’s Garden, works well with the couching technique, as it has lots of curved shapes and forms.

Traditional couching is a very old embroidery technique in which yarn is laid across a surface fabric and sewn into place (usually with a satin stitch). While we have used cotton yarn in some of our couching designs, we most often substitute our cotton jersey, cut into strips and pulled to make a smaller version of our cotton jersey pulls. These are more substantial and look beautiful on coats, dresses, pillows – and many other pieces.

Couching is simple in concept, but more difficult in execution. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pin the yarn or rope to the base fabric before stitching it down, so you must use your fingers to turn and shape it into place.

Begin by stenciling your design to the top layer of fabric using your transfer method of choice. An enlargeable version of this stencil can be found on our Maker Supplies + Stencils page. Using scrap fabric jersey, cut 1/2”-wide strips with the grain and pull each strip from both ends to make ropes. For the swatch kit, we have included 10 strips for couching, each 2 yards long.

Align your top and backing layers of fabric, with right sides up and pin together. Choose one stenciled shape as a starting point and place the end of your cotton jersey rope at the edge of that stenciled shape. Secure it into place using what we call a “couching wrap stitch.” To do this, insert your needle from the back of the fabric up through the middle of the rope and pull the thread through to the back of the swatch.

Using your fingers, mold the secured rope along the stenciled shape and anchor into place using a whipstitch that wraps around the entire rope. See detailed instructions, photographs, and drawings on pages 110-111 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for reference. As you move your rope along the stenciled design, keep your whipstitches about 1/8” to 1/4” apart. Finish each shape with a couching wrap stitch before moving to the next shape.


2 – 10” x 16” cotton jersey fabric swatches (use a double layer for your base for stability)
10 cotton jersey ropes, each 2 yards long
Anna’s Garden stencil
Textile paint
Spray bottle or airbrush gun, depending n stencil-transfer method
Button Craft thread

Basic sewing supplies: needles, embroidery scissors, rotary cutter, ruler, cutting mat, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design for instructions on couching and embroidery techniques.

Or, you can purchase a Swatch of the Month Club membership and receive all supplies necessary to complete this swatch.

Everyone who purchases a membership will receive a package with the supplies to complete this month’s swatch – and all prior swatches for 2014.

Visit our Journal for instructions and photographs of prior months’ swatches, and for projects that incorporate completed swatches.


Fabric – 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Top layer fabric color – Navy
Backing layer fabric color – Navy
Couching strip (cotton jersey rope) color – Navy
Stencil – Anna’s Garden
Textile paint – Pearl Slate
Technique – Couching
Button Craft thread – Navy #13

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2 comments on “SWATCH OF THE MONTH: SEPTEMBER 2014

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  1. Linda Gerig

    I belong to the swatch of month and really like this months swatch but am a little unclear at how to end it. The directions on book are not clear to me at least. Do you lay two ends side by side and sew down or do you try to telescope the two which does not work real well on the monthly pic it looks like you start at a point and lay side by side and tack down. I wish there were more directions with the swatches . I have all the books but still need more help. The months with the beads seem harder to me.

    1. Alabama


      You will begin by tacking down your starting end. To do so, you will bring your needle up through the back of the swatch, making sure that you go through the center of the pull. Put the needle back through the swatch at the end of the pull, tacking the end down. You will then wrap two stitches, one on top of the other, across your pull to cover the tacking stitch. Whipstitch as you normally would, 1/8” to 1/4″ apart, around the edge of your shape. From the back of the swatch, you will insert your needle on the edge of the stenciled shape underneath the pull, wrap the stitch around the pull, and then reinsert your needle in the same spot you started the stitch. This will secure the pull to the fabric. After you’ve worked your whole shape, you can either lay the end of your pull on top of the starting end, or place the end right next to it. You will tack it down the same way you did on your starting end, making sure to knot off on the back of the swatch.

      Please let us know if you have any more questions. Happy sewing!