Late one September night (and I mean late; I finished after midnight), I was whipping up the last of a batch of 6 biscornus (a biscornu is an eight-cornered tuffet pincushion) and I decided to take pictures. A LOT of them – 53 to be exact, because personally I like to see detailed, step by step photos of a technique if I’ve never tried it before. So, I’ve added some text to go along with all of those photos and here is the end result.
The pictures included below are merely thumbnails. If you want to see the full sized image, just click on it.
Please make sure you read through and understand all of the instructions before starting.
First, gather all of your materials. This includes your stitched piece, a corresponding piece of fabric for the bottom (or another stitched piece of the exact same size, if you want stitching on both the top and bottom), floss for outlining the design and putting the pieces together (use a contrasting color for a decorative edge or one that matches your fabric for a more invisible look to the seam), a button (you will probably want to use two buttons if you are using two stitched pieces), fiberfill to stuff the pincushion and thread to attach the button(s). I use an invisible, nylon quilting thread to attach my buttons that can stand up to the tugging and tension of pulling the middles of the top and bottom together. You may also want a thimble when you get to that point, to save your fingertips. Optionally, you can sew beads onto the edge as you are putting your pincushion together, in which case you will need a packet of beads.
In this example, I wanted a plain bottom, so I will be using a blackwork design for the top and another cut of the same fabric for the bottom of the pincushion. You could use contrasting colors of fabric for the top and bottom, two different stitched designs, two versions of the same design or whatever strikes your fancy.
Thread a needle with two strands of whatever color floss you have opted to use for your seam. Count out 5 stitches (or more or less, depending on the look you want) from the outermost edge of the design and backstitch (you could also use a running stitch, if you prefer) an outline around the design, starting at the center of the top of the design. In this case, since I am using a blank piece of fabric for the bottom of the pincushion, I needed to keep track of the number of stitches in the outline, so I marked off every 10 stitches to make it easier to count. If you make the mark to the outside of your outline, it will be hidden when you put the pincushion together.
When you’ve reached a corner, you can double-check to make sure that you are 5 stitches out from the outermost edge of the next side of the design by stretching your thread across the current line of holes and then counting out from the design.
Continue stitching the outline. When I reached what I thought was the center of the next side of the design, I laid my needle across, just to double check that it lined up and I had the right number of stitches.
When you’ve finished the outline around the stitched piece, either start the outline on your second stitched piece, if you are using one, or leave a 1/2″ margin between the outlines and start the second outline on the blank piece of fabric. This is where having marked every 10 stitches will really come in handy.
Continue your second outline just as you did the first until it is completed.
Cut the excess fabric off of both pieces about 1/4″ from the outline.
Now you are ready to start assembling your biscornu. Align your two pieces of fabric such that the point of the outline of one piece is touching the center of the outline of the other piece. This is your starting point for assembly. From here on out, I will refer to the fabric that will make up the top of the biscornu (the stitched piece, in this example) as Piece A and the fabric that will make up the bottom of the biscornu as Piece B.
Secure your thread firmly on the backside of the outline of Piece B and bring your needle up at the corner of the outline. I don’t actually secure my thread because I don’t cut it when I’m finished with the second outline, so I just bring the needle up at the nearest corner.
Run your needle (and thread ;)) under the first backstitch to the right of the center of the outline on Piece A.
Pull the two pieces of fabric together and pick up the first outline backstitch to the right of the corner of Piece B.
Pick up the next outline backstitch on Piece A.
Repeat. Once I’m a few stitches out from the corner, I like to pinch the two pieces of fabric together between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand a little ahead of where I am sewing so that I can go faster and keep everything in line.
Continue pulling the pieces together snugly as you go.
Repeat until you reach a corner. You will continue stitching the pieces together in the same manner, but you will probably find that you can’t keep the pieces pulled together as snugly until you are a few stitches past the corner. This is okay, you can leave some slack between the stitches until you get far enough away to be able to deal with the corner a little better.
Once you have stitched past the corner 1/4″ or so, pull the thread and remove all of the slack between your stitches.
Once you’ve taken up the slack, you can pop the corner out.
Repeat and repeat and repeat. Nearly ad nauseum.
Here is the piece at the halfway point. You will have stitched three corners and be preparing to round the fourth.
Repeat until you have completed stitching five corners and are at the sixth corner. You will have completed stitching together 6 out of 8 sections at this point. Now is the time to add your stuffing. How much you add is up to you. I like a firmly stuffed pincushion, so I use a good bit of fill.
Make sure you push stuffing firmly into each of the corners that you’ve created so far.
Now you are ready to tackle your next-to-last corner. You can leave the stitches slack again (though maybe not as slack as the photo shows).
Then pull them tight.
If you are following my method of pinching the two pieces of fabric together, you will have to do it from the outside for these last two sections.
And then your last corner will be the trickiest one of all. Once you’ve gone around the corner, pulled your stitching tight and popped the corner out, you will probably want to add just a touch more stuff to fill out the corner you just stitched and leave a little extra behind to fill out the last corner, as well.
Congratulations, you are on your final section!
Now tuck the last remaining selvage edges of fabric inside and out of your way for the final run of stitching.
When you get to the last stitch of that last corner, make sure you pull all of your stitches and make the joins snug.
I like to go a few stitches around that last corner to help end off the thread.
Then, I go down into the seam and come up through about a inch later.
And snip your thread as close to the seam as possible without cutting anything else. You can get much closer than the photo shows. You want the tail to disappear into the seam.
Give yourself a little pat on the back. Your biscornu is nearly assembled!
For the finishing touch, you are going to pull the centers of the biscornu together to give it a pretty pucker in the middle. You can do this by doing a decorative stitch in the middle on both sides (I’ve done this, but it’s more difficult), or you can sew a button to one of both sides. In this example, since only the top is decorative, I am only using a button on the top. I use a nylon thread so that I can really pull hard on the thread to get the tension and pucker that I want without running the risk of breaking the thread in the process (I learned this the hard way). If you overstuff your biscornu like I do, then you will want to use the nylon thread. Trust me. 😉
Thread a beading needle with your thread of choice and pick up a little bit of fabric at the center of the bottom of your biscornu.
Then tie a double knot to secure your thread (you can get away with this better with invisible thread). Again, you are going to want your thread as secure as possible because you are going to be tugging on it quite a bit.
Put your needle through the center of the bottom of your biscornu. If you are adding a button on the bottom, thread your button and put the needle through slightly away from the center so that your button will be centered.
Now, pinch the two pieces of fabric together in the middle and run your needle up through so that it emerges slighty off from the center of the top (again, so that your button will be centered properly).
Thread on a button.
Go back down through the top of your biscornu and the second hole of your button, centering the button on the design.
Come up through the bottom of the biscornu and pull as tightly as you can on the thread to pull your centers together.
Repeat several times to give everything a really secure connection, especially if you used a lot of stuffing. Secure the end of your thread by doing a couple of backstitches underneath your button, if possible, or bring the needle out to your seam and do a couple of tiny backstitches there. Once secured, bring your needle out through the seam as we did when we finished stitching the pieces together.
Then clip the thread close to the seam, allowing the tail to disappear underneath the stitches.
Go back to the bottom and clip the beginning tail of your thread as closely to the fabric as possible.
Now you can sit back and admire your finished biscornu! Don’t be afraid to stick some pins and needles in it. After all, you can always make more, right?