January 8, 2013

Soutache Tips From a Novice

This piece was the first piece I attempted using Soutache, and let me tell you, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be!  I almost threw in the towel and chalked it up to one of those things I'm just not cut out to do (like washing windows).  I did try again, though and with the lessons I learned (the hard way) the first time, my second piece was better.  And just in case you're thinking of trying your hand at it, I will share.

The first thing that struck me was just how tiny this stuff is (and that's from a gal who does micro macrame, people!).  It's about 1/8" wide, give or take, and if that's not bad enough, you actually turn it on its side when you use it, so you're standing it up on the skinny edge.  The skinny edge of 1/8".

From what I've gathered, there are two basic kinds of Soutache - imported and domestic.  Of course, that's all relative to where you're located, so sometimes you'll find imported European domestic Soutache or other confusing bits.  Suffice it to say, some is made in USA, some in Europe.  The American stuff is just a bit smaller than its European cousin.  The European stuff is just a bit beefier (if that even applies to anything in the 1/8" category) and tends to fray a bit more easily.  Quite a bit more easily, in fact.  You might want to get a bit of Fray Check on those ends (or a dab of glue or nail polish - whatever is handy).

I learned to run my cord through my hair straightener (or iron it on a low setting, maybe?  If you own an iron...) before I start so there are no little bitty kinks in it.  Those don't go away and are magnified in your work.  I found working on a backing instead of "freestyle" is much easier for me (there's a tutorial on that here) and I also decided it's much easier to stitch together the Soutache before adding it to the design.

 On my first piece, I added each piece (color) of Soutache separately (I'd go as far as I could with one color, then add another, etc. until I got to a turn - if that makes any sense?).  Anyway, I tried stitching the colors together before actually adding it to the cab and found that much easier.  Do you see how there's a "ditch" in the cord right down the middle?  Line up the "ditches" (that will even out any little differences in size if you're using a mixture of domestic and imported Soutache) and run a quick stitch  through them.

This makes it much easier to handle because you not only have one piece to maneuver around those curves instead of three, but it is also three times as wide - three pieces on edge side by side instead of one - and much more stable.

Let's see - what else?  Oh, you can see in that first piece that the sides don't quite meet at the bottom?  And so one side is slightly shorter than the other?  Where your cords meet (like at the bottom of that piece) stitch the cords together.  That's right - go through all the cords and make a couple of stitches.  Then when you separate them again to go their own merry way around the curves, they'll STAY where you had them together.  Trust me - you'll be glad you did.

If you'd like to see how my second piece turned out, check out the post about it here.
  Now it's your turn!  If you're interested, check out the Sufferin' Soutache Challenge on Artisan Whimsy.  There's an awesome grand prize from Amee at Amee Runs With Scissors.  And she carries a whole bunch of colors (turns out I'm a compulsive Soutache buyer - who knew!):

I had to add a little postscript - I just finished my third piece - a cuff:


  1. fabulous post! thank you so much for this! I have my pile of soutache sitting next to me .. and haven't quite been able to get started yet on my first piece. But these are some great tips!!

    1. Don't feel bad - I had my soutache stash for probably 2 years before I finally got up the nerve to try it! I'm learning a lot, anyway!

  2. Great tips! My first attempt was bug ugly, and I haven't really gotten back into it -- I'll be sure to have your ideas printed out and taped up next to my worktable when I get my courage up again!

  3. I've just started learning soutache in the last couple of weeks, wish I'd found you back then!! I've just uploaded my first YouTube video yesterday and hope to do more shortly but I hope you won't mind if I mention some of your tips, hair straightener, and put your website up. I think it will help all us newbies to have as many sources as possible.

    1. I'd be honored1 I think it's great that you're putting things out there for the next people who want to learn this technique - there isn't a lot available.

    2. Thank you so much for agreeing. I'll post your site on my next video and my facebook etc. I know what you mean about the lack of information. I must have spent a good 6 to 8 weeks looking around for information, tutorials, video's, anything in English that would explain the basics about the technique. In the end I had to simply look really closely at photo's and watch video's in Polish, French, Italian and just about every language except English and hope that I would get it right. My first piece is pretty bad but to be honest I like it so it stays and gets worn as a symbol of my struggles. There are now a couple of others who have started doing English video's on YouTube so we're starting to expand our network. Every little bit helps. Aneeta Valious, probably spelt that wrong, is publishing a book later this year that I'm looking forward to. The first book published in English that is devoted solely to soutache. I can't wait. I'll keep in touch and hope you will watch my video, which is not great but it gets information across. By the way, I like to talk/write, in case you didn't guess. :D


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