12th century Agincourt Heart for Bella,  12th century projects,  Embroidery,  Hand-Sewing,  Herringbone stitch,  Materials,  Medieval Embroidery,  Pearls,  Projects,  Surface Couching,  Surface Couching 2:1

Surface couching embroidery – how I made the 12th century Agincourt Heart for Bella’s elevation garment

Surface couching embroidery - how I made the 12th century Agincourt Heart for Bella's elevation garmentI will be very busy and away from my computer for the next days, therefore I thought that you might enjoy some of the progress pictures which I took while I was working at the 12th century Agincourt heart for Bella’s elevation garment.

As some of you might have already noticed, I am very keen on medieval and especially 12th century surface couching embroidery. And today’s progress pictures will give you a nice glimpse at the “2:1 surface couching” embroidery technique which I used for Bella’s 12th century Agincourt heart.

I hope you’ll enjoy the following progress pictures of the 12th century Agincourt heart for Bella’s elevation garment as I am working at a “Craft with Racaire – medieval surface couching project” which will start soon. With my upcoming project I plan to introduce you to the awesome and versatile world of medieval surface couching – yes, one small step after another…

Surface couching embroidery - how I made the 12th century Agincourt Heart for Bella's elevation garment

But, while I am putting together a nice pattern for my next project and am making decisions about the materials I want to use, please enjoy the following progress pictures of how I embroidered Bella’s 12th century Agincourt heart:


Above you can see how I mounted the fabric for the embroidery into my “rolling frame”.

Some of you might recognize the “Herringbone stitch” which I used for this purpose – I used this stitch quite recently for the 14th century French pouch to secure the inside seam allowance at the bottom of the pouch. But I use this technique actually much more frequently to attach fabric to my “rolling frames” before I start with my embroidery projects than for securing seam allowance.

Though the stitches at the picture above look quite big and rather far away from each other, it’s all I normally need to mount my fabric to my “rolling frame”. This very simple “Herringbone stitches” help to spread the tension of the fabric evenly along the upper and lower stitches while I am working at my embroidery and I never had any problem with it. Yay for simple solutions that really work! 😉

…and now a sneak peek at the actual embroidery:


Before I show you a close up picture of the surface couching embroidery, I would like to point out the pin at the bottom left. While working at my surface couching embroidery I learned that a simple pin can help quite a lot. The pin can be placed wherever it’s needed and you can pinch your thread between the pin and the fabric to either keep the rest of the thread out of your way while working at difficult small patterns or to lay the thread along a long straight pattern part to enable fast work.

Normally I use just one pin and one of the corner screws of my “rolling frame” to straighten the thread by putting more tension on it. To apply some tension to the thread I just let the spool hang down from one corner of my embroidery frame. The combined weight of the spool and thread adds usually enough tension to the thread.

But let’s get back to the medieval surface couching. To cut a long story short, the basic rules of medieval surface couching embroidery can be easily summarized: a rather thick thread laying on top of the fabric surface is couched down with a rather thin thread! …and this basic rule is what makes this embroidery technique so versatile – you can create patterns depending on how you lay the thick thread, you can use your couching thread to create patterns on top of the thick thread or to create the most beautiful pictures, you can even work it over raised/padded patterns to add depth,…

And the simple surface couching technique, which I am showing you today, can either be used on it’s own to create simple but very effective embroidery in combination with appliqué to embellish the borders of medieval appliqué.

And now a close up picture of the “2:1 surface couching” embroidery:


The picture above might finally give you a hint why I call this technique “2:1 surface couching”. The “thick” thread for this surface couching actually consists of two smaller threads which are twisted. You can either buy your thread already twisted like the one which I used for Bella’s 12th century Agincourt heart embroidery or you can use two single threads and twist them yourself while you are couching them down.

I actually used the same technique to embellish the borders of the appliqué embroidery on my husbands gambeson. To meet the colors of his SCA coat of arms I used an yellow and a black thread which I twisted while couching the embellishment down. This way I created a two color twisted wool border for the appliqué embroidery.

And here a picture of the backside of the surface couching embroidery to give you a better idea of what I am talking about:


At the picture above you can see the small stitches with which I “sewed”/”couched” the “thick” thread to the fabric. Only the beginning of the “thick” thread which I secured to the backside of the fabric is visible – the rest of the “thick” thread stays on the surface.

And now let’s take a closer look at the technique:


As you can see on the picture above, I pre-drew the pattern with a simple pencil on the fabric. Working along the pre-drawn embroidery pattern, I always stitched down one single thread of the twisted thread, twisted the thread again and then stitched down the next single thread and so on…

This way most of the small couching stitches are hidden underneath the second thread which goes on top of the thread which was couched underneath. All you can see is the sparkle on the surface of the twisted thread.

And here a close up picture of the second row for Bella’s 12th century Agincourt heart embroidery:


As you can see above, I untwisted some of the thread to make it easier for me to separate both threads from each other. This made it much easier for me to determine the next thread before I couched it down.

And last but not least I have two pictures of the completed surface couching embroidery for Bella’s 12th century Agincourt heart for you:



Well, the 12th century Agincourt heart embroidery looks so far quite nice but rather naked and unfinished, doesn’t it? Therefore I decided to get my pearl box and to add some pearls to the embroidery:


…it is really amazing how much better an embroidery can look like if you add the right embellishment. And well, 12th century embroidery shows a rather excessive use of pearls, gems… 😉 

I hope you enjoyed the progress pictures of the 12th century Agincourt heart for Bella’s elevation garment and are already looking forward to my next “Craft with Racaire – medieval surface couching project”… 😀

Best regards Racaire