A biscornu is a tiny eight-sided embroidered pillow. It can be used as a pincushion, a key or scissor fob, or filled with potpourri for a sachet, to name a few possibilities. The name derives from a French adjective which literally means “several horns” and refers to an odd or bizarre, irregularly shaped object. Sometimes they’re called tuffets, too. I had seen a few of these little gizmos and wasn’t sure I could make one, but they’re not difficult after all! I began stitching the pieces late one afternoon, finished most of the stitching that evening, and assembled the biscornu the following day.
To try it out, I used a quick, simple pattern and materials already on hand. One of my favorite eBay sellers often includes extra fabric with my purchases, so I chose a small piece of her khaki colored Quaker cloth (28 count). The biscornu instructions on the Own Two Hands blog includes a list of links to patterns; I based mine on the “Popular Red Biscornu” pattern, but instead of red I used alternating bands of cream and lilac. While stitching the design, I decided to add cream-colored beads to the ends and points, and chose a pair of honeybee buttons to decorate the center. So much for keeping it simple. This is a good time to point out that biscornu-making can be addictive like embroidery crack. The design possibilities are endless, and they can be embellished with beads, buttons, charms, ribbons, hand dyed fabrics — anything goes.
There are several great how-to sites (I already mentioned Own Two Hands; also check out Violarium and Biscornu Basics) which show off lovely examples to pique interest, then walk the biscornu-curious through the creation steps. Here are a few lessons learned:
- The pattern I chose used only one color. Was that good enough for me? Oh, no. The light colors I chose give this biscornu a lovely antique look, but it would have been a lot easier to stitch with a dark color … like red … especially on the khaki-colored fabric. These stitches were hard to see and I had to unpick the design several times because I kept miscounting the evenweave. Not a big issue, but if I were making one for the first time again, it would be much easier if there were greater contrast between the floss and fabric.
- The how-to sites suggested attaching some backing to the evenweave. Good idea, because the evenweave frays like crazy. But I chose to back mine with felt, which was so thick that it made it difficult to stitch the two pieces together. The corners are not as square as I’d like them to be, either. Next time I’ll use much thinner backing.
- I used #12 perle cotton to stitch the connecting backseam, which may have been overkill and was almost impossible to see against the khaki fabric (see do-over #1). But between the felt and the perle cotton, it’s sturdy!
- Not precisely a do-over, but the rest of Team Gimlet claim the buttons aren’t honeybees, but houseflies. Even I have to admit these buttons are a little bit ambiguous (but I still say they’re bees). Perhaps I should name this the Pestilence Biscornu?
Even with these missteps, I’m pleased with how my first attempt turned out. Speaking of first attempts, here’s another peek at that band sampler I’ve been working on. It’s proceeding more quickly than I thought it would; ten out of the fifteen bands are finished. At this rate there shouldn’t be any trouble completing the sampler on time, but the Hardanger embroidery at the end promises to be a challenge.