Suzanne is an artist and writer who enjoys designing, crafting, and upcycling.
What Is a Biscornu?
A biscornu is an octagonal pincushion, originating in France, where the name means “quirky”, “skewed” and “irregular”. Most people consider these items to be curious oddities and cute keepsakes. Traditionally, biscornu are sized to fit in the palm of the hand, and a button is sewn on both top and bottom to create depressions and enhance the shape. Beads, tassels, fringing and more can be added to increase its appeal.
Biscornu are usually made with either fabric as a patchwork project or as an embroidered design on Aida fabric or linen. They are made from two squares of design that are joined in an offset hemline, resulting in an eight-pointed star pillow. Biscornu have become trendy in the past few years with needlecrafters looking for something new to stitch. They aren’t the easiest project to complete, but they make a pretty good-looking ornament that makes people ask, “how did you make it?”
- Biscornu pattern
- Aida fabric
- DMC embroidery thread
- Embroidery needle
- Sharp sewing scissors
Step 1: Choose a Pattern and Obtain Materials
To create a biscornu, you will need a pattern with two sides in a square shape. Most biscornu are of a size of 2.5” (inches) to 4.5” (inches) and are often stitched on Aida fabric or linen fabric (e.g., Belfast linen). Choose your pattern, obtain your materials and proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Sew the Pattern
Sew the pattern as per the counted cross stitch instructions, including the backstitch onto your chosen Aida or linen fabric. Both pieces of fabric must be in the same size square shape, and both must be the same size.
How to Sew Backstitch
Following are some photos on how to complete backstitch correctly in a cross stitching pattern for the edges of your biscornu. Backstitch is usually done with one DMC thread, but for this project, make sure to use two DMC threads, as it strengthens the hemline, and the thread won't break as easily.
Step 3: Prepare the Two Sides
Iron both sides of the design (iron the underside to prevent marking the top embroidery) and then cut the edges on both sides to about 3/4 of an inch around all edges.
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Step 4: Fold the Edges and Pin the Middle
Fold the edges with your fingers (scoring all sides) around both designs so that they have the backstitch right on the edge of the fabric. Pin halfway between the two edges on the top side of the biscornu.
Step 5: Start the Whip Stitch
Create a knot on the end of the DMC thread. Use two strands of the same colour as the backstitch on the top side. Pass the needle through the Aida hole in the corner of Side 2. Then, bring the needle up through the pinned backstitch in the middle of Side 1 (remove pin).
Work from top to bottom (top of Side 1 to bottom of Side 2) using whip stitch. Keep the tension light, and don't pull too hard on your stitching. Otherwise, the back stitch will become very hard to pick up with the needle.
Step 6: Continue the Whip Stitch
The stitch we are using around the edges of the biscornu is called whip stitch and it is done by working from top to bottom—from the top into the backstitch square of Side 1, then through the square backstitch of Side 2 to end up at the bottom.
Going around the corners is fun—you need to geometrically match each Aida square to the corresponding square on the other side, only at an angle. Pay attention to where your current thread sits.
Continue the whip stitch around the whole biscornu (Aida square to square) until you have a small space free to insert filling. Go on to Step 7 when this occurs.
To whip stitch around corners, use one Aida cross stitch backstitch square to match the other on Sides 1 and 2, even if this means rotating around corners. Working around corners will give your biscornu its shape, though it is a good idea to work loosely around corners and pull it tight after three whip stitches in order to be able to pick up the backstitches easily.
Step 7: Insert the Filling
When you've completed whip stitch all the way around the biscornu, leave an opening for the filling to be inserted. Add the filling, which can be wadding or small lighter fabric chopped into tiny bits.
Step 8: Finish the Whip Stitch
When enough wadding has been inserted (to your taste—both thick and thin are fine), continue whip stitching until you reach the end of the last corner. Sew a few times through your whipstitch, create a finishing knot, sew through another bit of whip stitch, and cut off the thread as close to the fabric as possible.
Step 9: Add Two Buttons
Select two buttons (one for each side) and sew them onto the biscornu. Add a knot to a length of DMC thread (2 threads used), then sew one button, then the other on at the same time, passing through the middle of the biscornu, pulling tight. When the buttons are sewn on strong enough, pass the needle through the holding threads of one button and create a few end knots before trimming the thread.
You're now done with the biscornu! Congratulate yourself, this is not the easiest project to master, and you have done it! Well done, from me.
If you'd like the exact pattern that was used in this tutorial, you can find it here: Blackwork-Chevron-Biscornu-Pattern.pdf
This is the first charted circular chevron pattern in the world—invented by me!
I'd love to hear any of your comments or feedback on making biscornus below. They are a tricky project, but they look great and are a very cute gift idea. If pressed, I'd say the hardest part was picking up the backstitch around the edges to whip stitch—but this can be solved by using a sharper needle, creasing the fabric or by only doing every second square.
Many people complete biscornus on different-sized Aida fabrics. Size 14 count is good, but it doesn't look as pretty as size 18 count. I wouldn't go any higher than 18 count due to backstitch being harder to whip stitch, but you could do every second square on 18 count fabric and still end up with a gorgeous biscornu!
Interested in similar cross stitch patterns?
- Modern Cross Stitch Patterns by Lucky Star Stitches
The home of original, handmade and modern cross stitch patterns. Each pattern is hand-stitched by us and is available as a downloadable PDF.
© 2015 Suzanne Day
Virginia Wallace on September 08, 2020:
learning how o make a Biscornu was on my bucket list and so while we have been staying home because of COVID, I decided to try to make one. WELL, 25 biscornus later, I m totally hooked. I do Hardanger and Elizabethean Blackwork so have used these needlecrafts, I also want to do some cross-stitch ones as well. They take me about 30 hours from start to finish one. I am addicted to these beautiful works of art. I also made a 6 sided one, and have a pattern for a 15 sided one. We'll see. I came to this site to find out the origin of them. Virginia
Jessa on January 04, 2020:
Thank you for the easy instructions & pattern. Making my first one and I'm hooked
kimbesa from USA on July 03, 2019:
Thank you for the clear instructions. I have two of them stitched and I'm ready to assemble them.
Krissy on January 23, 2017:
Brilliant demonstration, thank you.
Lyn on January 04, 2017:
I loved your concise instructions and will definitely make one.I had never heard of a biscornu before.
TANJIM ARAFAT SAJIB from Bangladesh on March 05, 2016:
There are so many things of decoration that we hardly know. How many people-just left making but even know the name of biscornu? The art and craft involved in making this creative cushion is really worth watching!! Simply amazing!!! The author has described all the steps briefly but in so much detail that the home moms who are not finding anything to do can enlighten their creative mind and look forward to do this task. This will help you to make some cushions which will be very helpful to decorate the house. Also you will spend a quality time doing some creative work.
Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on November 01, 2015:
Hi All, the pattern is now available for FREE from this post (see last bit of post with link).
Susie Lehto from Minnesota on July 04, 2015:
That is a beautiful discornu, Suzanne. My eye cross when I try to do any kind of hand sewing or cross sticking these days. - Kudos!
Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on June 15, 2015:
Great idea, though already have the pattern on Etsy.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 11, 2015:
t...this is a beautiful craft, you can sell it at ebay
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 17, 2015:
I have some old pincushions dating back to the time of my grandmother. I did not even know the word "biscournu" nor what it meant which is one reason why I clicked on this hub of yours. Now I know the meaning and how to accomplish making one should I ever have the time or inclination. Your instructions and photos are excellent. Up votes and pinning to my crafts board. Will also share. Your biscornu is very pretty!
Besarien from South Florida on April 19, 2015:
Such intricate work! I was impressed when I thought that the pattern was a print! This is a brilliant hub. Your photos rock. Voted up!
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 29, 2015:
Beautiful! Thanks for the detailed photos and instructions!
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 18, 2015:
This is such an attractive creation; I know many seamstresses who would love to have one of these.
Such detailed directions helps a novice like me.
Angels are on the way ...
Voted up pinned and shared
Claudia Porter on March 18, 2015:
Really really beautiful piece and great hub. Love this project!
Melissa Reese Etheridge from Tennessee, United States on March 14, 2015:
Wow! This is a fantastic HUB. Your instructions are clear. Your photos complement the Text quite well. I'm very impressed with this.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 10, 2015:
This looks really cute and creative!
I had not heard about the term, 'Biscornu' earlier. This looks like pincushion. Thanks for sharing the clear step by step instructions and helpful pictures.
I am tempted to try this as I love this. Voted up and pinned!
Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on March 08, 2015:
I really like your article. It's very clear, and I' m going to give making a biscornu a go.
Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on March 07, 2015:
I love this pincushion. I have to make one.
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 06, 2015:
How beautiful! Your instructions are precise and the photos easy to follow. I would definitely make this. I enjoy cross-stitching and haven't done it in years. Lovely job! Voted up and more!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 06, 2015:
I can't sew a lick, but I did learn what a biscornu is, so thanks for the education. :) Have a wonderful weekend.
Natasa Shepherd on March 06, 2015:
Before reading this I didn't even know what a "biscornu" is! Your article is absolutely beautiful, the pictures and the writing are great. Wow.
Donna Herron from USA on March 06, 2015:
This is beautiful and I love your step-by-step instructions. Pinned to my pincushion board. Thanks!
Eileen from Western Cape , South Africa on March 06, 2015:
It would be worth trying to make one of these . Clear pics with step-by-step instructions . Great hub !