Couching features quite a lot in Japanese embroidery in various forms. "A line of Held thread" is exactly what it sounds like; a line of thread held in position with couching stitches. This technique is used to add details to motifs, like stamen on flowers or veins on leaves.
Metallic threads are used extensively. As in gold work, they are couched on to the surface of fabric. Traditionally gold is couched with red thread and silver with white or grey thread, however other colours are sometimes used to alter the appearance of the silver or gold.
Other decorative threads, such as the katayori and karayori that I learnt to make in Bournemouth, are also couched on the surface, usually with a fine twist of the same colour silk.
Many of the holding techniques use couching stitches such as the diagonal holding used on the gold leaf cloud. Fine twisted silk threads are laid across the foundation and couched at intervals in a similar fashion to Bayeux stitch. For the woven effect on the side of the scroll, the final stage is to couch the in-fill stitches between the perpendicular gold threads. Normally I would couch along the length of each thread, one at a time. For this technique the couching is worked across the rows of thread using a variation of backstitch. The stitch on the surface is just long enough to secure the thread; the stitch on the reverse is long enough to travel from one thread to the next. Each row is completed before moving into the next.
© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway
I'm very pleased with this element. I took a lot of care to make the stitches regular and stitch the gold perpendicular to the foundation. My only slight criticism is that the lines of couching stitches are not very straight. I found it difficult to separate the silk threads in the right place AND keep in a straight line whilst working the backstitching.