Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Achieving Soutache Symmetry

Venetian Tango
Venetian Tango - Focal
Whilst wondering around Etsy.com in search of Soutache excellence to pin to my Board  'Soutache Extrodinaire' (yes I am Pinterest crazy right now).  I happened across a store that was selling a Soutache neckpiece for $175.  I looked closely argh .. cheap soutache, wonky stacking* and gasp .. symmetrical imperfection!  Now before I say anymore, lets just clear up that I do not claim to be the Queen of Soutache Embroidery, merely the Duchess of Symmetry (tongue in cheek of course).

Currently I am working on a Soutache piece entitled 'Venetian Tango' it's a vibrant piece using glass cabochons and beads from my vintage Venetian Millefiori collection,  The 'Tango' reference is ode to the vibrant red and black Soutache and sparkling movement the piece exudes.  I decided to share how I created two components for this to demonstrate how to achieve symmetry.

To achieve symmetrical perfection typically does not happen the first time you play with Soutache, indeed not the second or third time either.  Symmetrical perfection requires focus, steady hands, a good eye, technique and the final ingredient .. 'patience'. 
Creating Art is not a production line activity, so there is never a need to rush to finish, not ever.

Creating Symmetrical Perfection

Start by placing the components you want and lay them out in readyness.  I have two components here that require symmetrical perfection.

For these componets I precut  identical lengths of Soutache. I only use premium quality European Soutache. Soutache from 'Spotlight and/or Lincraft' is suitable for practice sampling only. 

I work from one component to the next, ie in tandem this way I am replicating identical components.

To ensure perfect symmetrical proportions of my fold back curls (we'll just call them curls for now).  I select the first component, ensure that my working thread (always use Fireline, typically I use 2lb or 4lb for sewing the Soutache) is exiting the edge of the back of the component (see pic below the 'white' line). 
See where the white line (Fireline) exits
Carefully fold back your Soutache stack of strands to form the curl, position them, ensuring the curl Soutache strands are carefully stacked.  Examine the curl, is it perfect?  If so, position the curl to the back of the cab by sewing through the ends of the Soutache and anchor it.  (At this point in time I like to sew through the curl stack to join the layers of Soutache).  Move to the second curl on the first cabochon.  Look at the first curl, then start creating the second curl.  Hold the ends with your fingers, now look at the curl .. ask yourself is it identical to the first curl? .. if not, redo it, keep redoing it until it is identical, then anchor it using your working thread.  Even after you have anchored the second curl, look at it again, from different angles, is it identical?  If not unpick and start again, as so often is said in Australia 'she'll be right mate' just will not do in this instance.

The first completed Compoent with Symmetrical Curls
The second component, this is where it starts to get a wee bit tricky as this one must be identical to the first component.  I understand that Soutache embroidery allows for 'organic movement' but typically the components must have symmetrical proportions.

Creating the Second Component
Once both components are completed, pick them up, look at them again 'Are they truly symmetrical?'
Remember your work is an extension of you, it reflects your design talent, craftsmanship, work ethics and your attention to detail.  Which in turn will reflect in your sales and return customers who will wait eagerly for your new designs. 

Symmetrical Components
Anneta Valious is releasing her new book, Soutache 30 Designs this June through Lark Publishing. My work appears in the Gallery of this book. 
If Soutache interests you this book is ideal for your library.  Keep out a watch for it on Amazon.com in the book section, typically new books from Lark Publishing are available for pre-order which saves you money from the cover price.  I will include the link to Amazon.com when the book is listed with them.
*Stacking refers to the layers of Soutache braid that 'lie' together.


  1. Way cool Melissa. A good explanation of what to do and a gentle reinforcement of how you need to be in achieving quality.
    Way to go.

  2. I'm all for symmetry! You are right that it takes time to achieve. I must add that keeping the right tension is also very important.

  3. thanks for your article. Symmetry is so difficult, at least for a newby like moi. Can you suggest any U.S. based sites for purchasing good quality soutache?

    1. Hi Rosalyn I buy my Soutache through Etsy mostly. I'm so very sorry it has taken me such an incrediblly long time to respond.

  4. I will be coming to Brisbane in March - is there a place I could come to see your work? Do you teach?
    Thanks your work is beautiful

    1. Hi Vicki I will be the Guest Artist at the March 'Craft & Quilt' show which runs from March 20-23, 2014 at the Brisbane Convention Centre. I will be demonstrating working with Shibori silk ribbon and Soutache along with off loom beading stitches. All my awarded and published beadwork will be on display. I hope you can come along to the show.

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