Embroidered ‘E’: couching and plastic

More experimentation with couched embroidery: This time text-inspired, and still more specifically, the letter E. A leaf through a sketchbook unearthed a drawing of a piece of fairground carousel typography, pride of place being the ‘E’. All my subsequent stitch explorations, with subtle differences between them, therefore saw fit to follow with this trend….

Unusual materials alongside the traditional goldwork thread feature more in this post, with the incorporation of plastic fishing line. Not only is it an entirely different texture of thread, reflecting the light and behaving quite differently to gold or silver passing, it comes in an almost acidic pink that is quite unhead of in traditional goldwork. Extending my experiments with ‘raising the stitched surface up’, using padding, this thread brings couching into a much more contemporary application.


Overview of my current sample frame


This blue and white example uses various different techniques in its construction. A central padded and couched golden initial is bordered by what I think can best be described as ‘padded piping’. A continuous pipe-like tube surrounds the initial, constructed from white PVC to highlight the shine the relief offers. It’s surprisingly tactile for those of you inspired to reach out and poke its squishy surface.


Here, a drop-shadow has been added as yet another layer in the many stacked-up segments of padding, overlaid with bricked gold passing before the top red and white layers are added on top of that. The entire motif is edged in couched silver Jap.


0.35mm diameter nylon fishing line is definitely my new favourite material for experimentational samples.

1. Pink wire laid down two at a time, idiscreetly caught down with ‘invisible thread’ except from the ‘e’. This is the densely decorative ‘or nue’ couching technique, also worked over two threads at once.

2. Clear wire on a white PVC background for greater shine. Or nue worked over one strand, highlighting the finer detail achievable than with its comparatively clumsy previous companion.

3. Silver passing thread alternated with pink nylon wire, each worked in pairs. However, the widths didn’t quite match up, as the mismatched width of stitches within the or nue betrays.


4. Alternating clear and purple wire, worked individually. I think the purple is a little lost, and unfortunately reminds me of chopping the cross-section of a red onion.

5. As before, worked two at a time, creating bolder stripes.

6. Appliqued circle of fabric with an all-over typewritten font print. Couched over with a single strand of clear nylon wire, through which the underneath pattern can still be seen, yet is no longer the focal point of the design.


Not content with the two-dimensional nature of a good number of these letterings, these last few show a much more 3-dimensional approach, standing a cm or so up from the surface of the fabric.


  1. I really like the white PVC against the gold and blue. I like it best with edges covered rather than the coke one

  2. opusanglicanum – thankyou. The coke one is going to be covered as soon as I work out what best to edge it with…. I agree, the un-covered edges do look a bit messy.

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