How to Make a Biscornu - Tutorial with Step by Step Instructions
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?”
You will need:
A biscornu pattern
DMC embroidery thread
Sharp sewing scissors
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever made a biscornu before?
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!
© 2015 Suzanne Day