"Drawing" on Fabric With Yarn (aka Couching)




Introduction: "Drawing" on Fabric With Yarn (aka Couching)

Couching is a sewing technique where thread, fabric or yarn is attached to a piece of fabric. It's traditionally sewn by hand but a machine with a zig zag stitch can be used.

In this Instructable I share an easy way to do couching with yarn using a sewing machine.

I also provide additional information to make a simple and unique couched quilt.

Step 1: Materials

For the couching you need:
Fabric to sew the yarn to*
Thread the same color as the yarn
Washable pen
Washable school glue
sewing machine

If you want to make the quilt project, you will also need:
Thin, cotton batting
Fabric for the back of the quilt
Spray quilt basting***

*I used an old bed sheet. Be sure to choose fabric without a bold pattern and with enough contrast with your yarn. Something light colored is probably best. Cotton fabric works well but I used a poly/cotton blend. Be sure to prewash.

**I found the yarn I used at a thrift store so I don't have information about it but I believe it is an acrylic and it is thicker than the usual, cheap craft yarn. I recommend a synthetic yarn so you can wash the project without worrying about shrinking. If anyone can tell from the photo the weight of the yarn I used please leave a comment!

***Spray quilt basting can be purchased at a fabric store. It works like spray glue but it washes out. This is a must because it would be a giant pain to baste this quilt well enough to do the couching.

Step 2: Transfer Your Design to the Fabric

Make sure your fabric is pressed. Use a washable pen to draw your design onto the fabric. I used a washable Crayola marker and it washed out great. You may want to test washability or your marker on your fabric if you're worried.

A few design tips:
--Use a simple line drawing
--Curves, especially small curves, are much harder to sew than straight lines. 

A few ideas for getting your design onto the fabric:
--Create your design as you (or your kid) draw directly onto the fabric
--Use a drawing and freehand "enlarge" it to fit your fabric (I did this using one of my daughter's drawings as inspiration)
--Project a drawing or design onto the wall using an overhead or data projector. Hang your fabric on the wall and trace the image.

After you transfer your design you need to baste the quilt. Make sure your quilt backing is ironed. Following the spray baste instructions, spray your batting and adhere to the quilt back making sure it's very smooth. Spray the other side of the batting and adhere the quilt top making sure it is perfectly smooth. You'll want the batting and backing to be slightly larger than the quilt top.

Step 3: Glue the Yarn

Working in sections, run a thin bead of glue along the lines. Press the yarn into the glue taking care not to stretch the yarn as you go. Trim at the corners.

Leave flat for several hours until completely dry.

Note: If you aren't making and quilt and especially if you have carpet you might want to put something under your fabric. I managed to glue my project to my floor but it came off the hardwoods with no problem.

Step 4: Sew!

Set your machine to a wide zig zag stitch with a medium to long stitch length.  

The top thread in your machine should match the yarn as closely as possible. The bobbin thread should also match but keep in mind if you're making a quilt, the bobbin thread will show on the back so you may want to make the bobbin thread match the quilt back to disguise the stitching.

Working in sections zig zag stitch over the yarn. Adjust your stitch width as needed--it should be just a teeny bit wider than the yarn and basically invisible.

At the beginning and end of each section of stitching take a few back stitches to secure the threads. Keep the yarn centered so but make sure the yarn doesn't get caught up in the middle of the presser foot. 

At intersections (as shown in the photo below) hold the perpendicular yarn to make sure it doesn't move and distort your design.

Continue sewing until all your yarn is secured with zig zag stitching.

Step 5: Wash and Go

Trim all the threads and wash your project on the delicate or hand wash cycle to remove the washable glue and marker.

Depending on your design, you may need to add additional quilting to secure the batting. Use a thread that matches the fabric so as not to distract from the couching. Trim the edges of the batting and backing even with top and bind the quilt. Then wash.

Have fun!

Participated in the
Gorilla Glue Make It Stick Contest

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    5 Discussions

    Couching is a great craft in itself and you can make some wonderful ornaments with various threads and cords and gold tinsel thread. I once had a satin horse with the seams done in red cord stitched with gold threads. Very beautifully done. Even the tail was made of the red cord . Its also incorporated into tapestry style pictures. Thanks for inspiring us to try more crafts.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Criket--
    The contest instructions clearly state that glue/adhesive must be used but it need not be a gorilla product. If you read this instructable you'll see that glue is an essential part of the process although I'm not sure why it matters so much to you.



    9 years ago on Step 5

    Really love this effect, it reminds me of a 3d line drawing. Have you done any with colours placed inside the the spaces?


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 5

    katgal--thanks for the nice feedback. I am considering doing another one with color inside. I would applique the fabric shape to make the patch of color first and then do the couching around it. Have fun!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice, I'm just staring on a quilted wall hanging this technique will be a great addition. Thanks for posting.