In the past, there have been entire accessory systems to achieve this unique embellishment technique, sometimes referred to "yarn embroidery." Now, with the Janome Free Motion Couching Foot Set, you can do it with a simple change of your presser foot. It results in a cool textured effect and is very easy to do... like drawing with yarn. We're already scheming on possible uses for future projects.
The Janome Free Motion Couching Foot Set is designed for Janome Memory Craft Embroidery Machines as well as other Janome High Shank Models. The set contains a foot holder and two feet that work with different thicknesses of yarn: Foot 1 accepts 1.5 - 2.0 mm and Foot 2 accepts less than 1.5mm. We did our tests with different weights of yarn, but you could also use soft cording or other pliant strips. Doing lots of experimenting to determine the best (and most fun) materials to couch is the way to go. The only stated item to avoid is hard string.
To attach the foot, first select Foot 1 or Foot 2 to match your chosen yarn. The feet are interchangeable with a simple set screw.
Remove the standard foot holder and attach the Free Motion foot holder. It's easiest to bring it into position from the rear.
Tighten the thumb screw, then double check that your needle drops through the center of the hole in the foot.
Set up the machine to match your fabric and yarn. The number one thing to remember is that the machine's feed dogs must be lowered in order to allow the free motion movement.
Our samples were sewn with Foot 2 attached to the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 15000. We used a standard zig zag set to a 2.0mm stitch width. The machine was threaded with 40 wt polyester embroidery thread in the top and bobbin thread in the bobbin. We tested with both a baby yarn (light blue in the photos below) and a bulky yarn (dark blue in the photos below).
For our first test (as shown above), the yarn was threaded through the back of the foot holder and then through the clear foot, which was the recommended threading pattern from some sources.
However, this was not our favorite set up. The yarn ends up behind the needle as it stitches, so it frequently fails to properly couch the yarn, and the yarn comes free from the foot as stitches are made.
We preferred threading from front to back, which we will describe below. First, a few additional set-up notes.
You can either draw a design to follow on your fabric or simply improvise. The basic technique is just like free motion quilting. If you're just starting out, keep your guidelines farther apart with larger curves and avoid cross-overs. As you improve with practice, your designs can get more intricate.
To start, lower the needle through the yarn at the starting point of your design and then lower the foot. Sew several stitches to fasten the yarn.
Stop the machine and trim away the extra yarn.
Continue sewing through the design. Work at a medium, even pace.
As mentioned above, the threading technique we had the best luck with was one we learned from our friends at Paramount Sewing & Vacuum in Eugene, Oregon.
The yarn is threaded through the couching foot from front to back, using the notch in the foot. Both the thread and yarn ends should be drawn to the back.
The skein/ball end of the yarn is then guided behind the upright secondary thread spindle at the top of the machine and allowed to feed freely.
This puts the yarn directly in front of the needle as the machine is sewing, catching the yarn consistently no matter which direction the free-motion stitching sews.
We always recommend testing your techniques prior to using them on your final project. But with this foot, pre-testing is super important. You need to get the stitch width right for your yarn, and the free motion movement does take a little practice. That said, we also want to emphasize how easy this is... and how fun!
If you're looking for a dimensional embellishment for your next project, this may be just the ticket. Stay tuned for our project ideas.