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How to Make a Biscornu - Tutorial with Step by Step Instructions

Updated on May 7, 2017

A biscornu is an octagonal pincushion, originating in France, where the name means “quirky”, “skewed” and “irregular”. Most people consider biscornus 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 a biscornu 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?”

A finished circular chevron biscornu.
A finished circular chevron biscornu. | Source

Materials

You will need:

A biscornu pattern
Aida fabric
DMC embroidery thread
Embroidery needle
Sharp sewing scissors
Pins

Step One: Choose A Pattern & 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 (eg Belfast linen). Choose your pattern, obtain your materials and proceed to the next step.

Step Two: 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.

Sewing the biscornu cross stitch design onto Aida.
Sewing the biscornu cross stitch design onto Aida. | Source

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 biscornu, make sure to use two DMC threads, as it strengthens the hemline and the thread won't break as easily.

Step A: Point the embroidery needle down into the first stitch (one Aida square).
Step A: Point the embroidery needle down into the first stitch (one Aida square). | Source
Step B: Bring the needle up after one blank Aida square.
Step B: Bring the needle up after one blank Aida square. | Source
Step C: Sew backwards to fill in that blank Aida square.
Step C: Sew backwards to fill in that blank Aida square. | Source
Step D: Bring the needle up at the end of the stitching and start at the beginning of the backstitching method.
Step D: Bring the needle up at the end of the stitching and start at the beginning of the backstitching method. | Source

Step Three: 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.

Iron both sides of the design.
Iron both sides of the design. | Source
Trin both sides of the design about 3/4" from all edges.
Trin both sides of the design about 3/4" from all edges. | Source

Step Four: Fold Edges & 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.

Folding and pinning.
Folding and pinning. | Source

Quick Biscornu Overview Video

Step Five: Starting 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.

Bring the needle up in the corner of Side 2.
Bring the needle up in the corner of Side 2. | Source
Work from top to bottom and sew the needle through the centre backstitch of the middle of Side 1.
Work from top to bottom and sew the needle through the centre backstitch of the middle of Side 1. | Source
What you should see when you've done both of the above steps.
What you should see when you've done both of the above steps. | Source

Step Six: Continuing 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.

Beginning the whip stitch around a corner, top to bottom.
Beginning the whip stitch around a corner, top to bottom. | Source
Continuing around a corner.
Continuing around a corner. | Source
Holding the fabric together to stitch easily around a corner.
Holding the fabric together to stitch easily around a corner. | Source
A demonstration of letting the stitches hang loosely (not pulling them tight) until after 3 stitches have been done. This helps you to be able to pick up backstitches easily and also in navigation of the Aida squares.
A demonstration of letting the stitches hang loosely (not pulling them tight) until after 3 stitches have been done. This helps you to be able to pick up backstitches easily and also in navigation of the Aida squares. | Source

Step Seven: Insert 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.

Adding the wadding.
Adding the wadding. | Source

Step Eight: Finish The Whip Stitch

When enough wadding has been inserted (to your taste - both thick or 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.

How the finished biscornu will look.
How the finished biscornu will look. | Source

Step Nine: 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.

Sewing on one button (the needle passes through to the other side of the biscornu and sews on the second button at the same time).
Sewing on one button (the needle passes through to the other side of the biscornu and sews on the second button at the same time). | Source

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Congratulations!

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, visit this website: 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 look great and are a very cute gift idea. If pressed, I'd say the hardest part was picking up the backstitch around the the edges to whip stitch - but this can be solved by using a sharper needle, by 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!

A beautiful finished biscornu pincushion!
A beautiful finished biscornu pincushion! | Source

© 2015 Suzanne Day

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    • eilval profile image

      Eileen 2 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      It would be worth trying to make one of these . Clear pics with step-by-step instructions . Great hub !

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

      This is beautiful and I love your step-by-step instructions. Pinned to my pincushion board. Thanks!

    • teamshepherd profile image

      Natasa Shepherd 2 years ago

      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.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I can't sew a lick, but I did learn what a biscornu is, so thanks for the education. :) Have a wonderful weekend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      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!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 2 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I love this pincushion. I have to make one.

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 2 years ago from Dartmoor

      I really like your article. It's very clear, and I' m going to give making a biscornu a go.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      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!

    • melissae1963 profile image

      Melissa Reese Etheridge 2 years ago from Tennessee, United States

      Wow! This is a fantastic HUB. Your instructions are clear. Your photos complement the Text quite well. I'm very impressed with this.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      Really really beautiful piece and great hub. Love this project!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      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

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 2 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Beautiful! Thanks for the detailed photos and instructions!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      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!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      t...this is a beautiful craft, you can sell it at ebay

    • Suzanne Day profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Great idea, though already have the pattern on Etsy.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      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 profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 20 months ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Hi All, the pattern is now available for FREE from this post (see last bit of post with link).

    • breathing profile image

      Sajib 16 months ago from Bangladesh

      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.

    • profile image

      Lyn 6 months ago

      I loved your concise instructions and will definitely make one.I had never heard of a biscornu before.

    • profile image

      Krissy 5 months ago

      Brilliant demonstration, thank you.

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