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Boutis: Traditional French Needlework

" Piqûre de Marseilles" or "Boutis" is a traditional French hand stitched and corded needlework technique, which uses embroidery stitches to create intricate channels that will later be stuffed with yarn, thereby creating a raised design with three layers. It's origins, and it's name, can be traced to the port of Marseilles in southern France to the 15th century. Traditional boutis was a technique invented to embellish otherwise plain white cotton with intricately patterned channels that would later be stuffed with a plump white yarn to give it relief. The resulting corded whitework created an elegant, embossed textile that was much sought after. Not only was it aesthetically appealing, but it also provided warmth and absorbency, so could be used for bed coverings, toilette linens (like towels), clothing items, home decor, etc. The first two photos below are from the collection of Mme. Monique Alphand, a well known French expert and collector of antique t
Recent posts

A Celebration of Solstice Stars

 December 21st became a real celebration for us when our granddaughter was born on it. Each year on her birthday, the winter solstice, I make her a special star that she can hang on the Christmas tree. Boutis, applique, beading and other bling were used in making these stars. (Every party needs some bling!) Because the project is small, it's a fun way to experiment and play with different techniques and ideas. Here's a small selection of some of the stars that I have made.

Boutis: Hummingbird Gold

With the stitching and cording finished on "Cathedral Boutis Blues" , I have started my next boutis design. Whenever I design a project for myself, I like to make it relevant to my world and my experiences, just like every generation of quilters and designers has always done. Birds have always fascinated me and one of the delights of our balcony garden is the constant flurry of hummingbirds around the 3 feeders my husband faithfully tends. I am thrilled for the opportunity to observe and photograph these delicate creatures at such close range. They have inspired many of my patterns. There is resolve and focused determination in their ability to hover at the feeder with a steady, stable grace. Perhaps that's the reason I admire them and am drawn to them.     In a boutis project, narrow channels form the outline of the design. These channels are stitched first, and then individually corded with a cotton yarn, thereby adding relief that highlights the design.    The colour

Cathedral Window Boutis Blues

Stitched in white, restitched in shades of smoky blues and then finally corded, my boutis interpretation of the Notre Dame Rose window (Rose Sud) was finished over the summer. "Stitching the Boutis Blues" , which was posted on October 10/2019, describes the inspiration and the evolution of this piece. The original intent of the project had been to make a traditional white on white boutis piece. The addition of the cut out "rosettes", a technique that I had been wanting to try for a while, were added to lend a sense of luminosity to the window. With the rosettes done, the stitching was complete and the piece was ready to be corded. But then, on April 15, 2019, when much of  the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris was destroyed in a devastating fire, a pristine, light interpretation of the rose window no longer seemed appropriate. I felt that the piece needed to be darkened, dirtied somehow, to convey this recent destruction. To achieve this darkened smokiness, I started ov

Whole Cloth Quilt Silk: Finished

"Dancing Shamrocks" , as I have named her, is finally finished and on the bed. My hope had been to finish the quilt for our 40th wedding Anniversary, which was March 17th. 2019! It was in May of 2018 that I was ready to start the machine quilting. By November of that year, the top of the quilt was finished with only the border left to quilt. A 2019 finish seemed quite possible. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances put the project on hold from Dec.2018 until October 2019. However, from then until it's finish in April of this year, my sewing machine and I have been best of buds. Even so, we didn't quite make it for March 17th of this year, our 41st, but came close. The last stitch closing the binding went in on April 24, 2020. When squaring up so large quilt (94" x 100"), a clean floor is my only option and the parquet flooring gives me great reference points for getting it square. Unfortunately, when I laid it out, setting up for advantag

Boutis Gold

A sister project to "Boutis Blues", but with a brighter outlook, "Boutis Gold" represents hope and light. This project will require 8 - 10 of Medallion A, (see below) Medallion A and another 6 - 8 of Medallion B. (below) To create boutis, two layers of a fine white Swiss cotton batiste are stitched together into channels and small closed shapes, and are later corded. Medallion B Although traditionally cotton thread is the thread of choice, my preference for detailed stitching like this has become a 50 weight silk thread. (I use Tire thread by Superior . It's available in Canada through Cindy's Threadworks . ) As well as being a pleasure to stitch with, the contrast of gold silk on a bright white background, adds a luminescence not possible with cotton thread. The reverse side of Medallion B. Most of this project is stitched with a tiny back-stitch, (point d'arriere), one of the most frequently used stitches in boutis. The backgroun

Stitching the Boutis Blues

Europe is rich with magnificent historical buildings, many dating back to medieval times and earlier. Spending time exploring some of these amazing architectural structures is always a priority and highlight for me when traveling in Europe. After reading "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett , I became particularly fascinated with cathedrals and living in France for a number of years gave me the opportunity to visit many of them. Cathedrals provide a huge source of design inspiration for me. From floor to ceiling, inside to out,  they hold a treasure trove of motifs and patterns. I have spent hours photographing and collecting data in these churches and cathedrals and they have become an important resource for me. Rose windows, in particular, fascinate me and have become a recurring theme when I'm making patterns for my boutis. The radiating bars that divide the circular windows into segments easily lend themselves to boutis design. With the help of my husband and