Biscornu How To

First, how do you pronounce it? Here is some information from a blog that had the French Word of the Day for Wednesday, January 9, 2008.

"Bis means ‘twice’, and cornu means ‘with horns’, ‘that which has an irregular form, with projections’, or ‘complicated and bizarre’".

It is pronounced “biss-core-new” by most people. Almost as quirky as the object itself, we have turned a French adjective into an English noun. Some people think it is actually a derivative of the English word "biscuit" because of its shape.

Not everyone agrees on how to pronounce it or exactly where the word came from, but that doesn’t change what it actually is: an eight-sided embroidered pillow. The most popular uses are as a scissor fob, ornament, or pincushion resulting in a fairly small biscornu. You can make them into pillows or even a cushion. Perhaps Little Miss Muffet’s tuffet was actually a biscornu?

Debbie from My Big Toe says "The ‘biscuits’, as my Texas friends call them, are a lot of fun to put together and I hope that your newsletter will bring more stitchers over to the ‘doing side’". Sharon from Threads in Bloom assures that once you learn how to do one, you’ll have so much fun you won’t want to stop!

Choosing a Design:

  • It can be any size, just as long as the final area is square. The design itself can be anything, but a biscornu lends itself to a geometric square or round shape.
  • The top and the bottom squares need to be the same size. You don’t have to have a pattern on the bottom.
  • It helps to have a clear center to your top design. Don’t have the best part of the design be the center though because you are going to cover it up with a button or bead(s).
  • Find a button or bead(s) that complements your design to use in the middle of your biscornu to form the tufted area in the center. Some designers add beads along the edges as they stitched the two sides together, or as decoration on the points.
  • Most any needlework technique can be used. If your design has open cutwork areas you will need to add a lining behind it when you stitch the sides together.


  • Your completed design which has been cleaned and pressed.
  • Button/bead for center
  • Stuffing material such as fiberfill. You can make them into sachets with the addition of dried flowers, herbs, or a touch of oil.
  • Something sharp such as a laying tool to help push out and fill in the corners.
  • Lining fabric, if your fabric count or stitched design would allow the filling to leak out.
  • Water soluble marker (to mark the center of each side to help keep your stitching on track).

Tutorial and Tips

Always read the instructions before you get started. The designer often includes tips and tricks on what worked best for them to complete the project as shown. Biscornus are generally stitched the same way, with a few embellishments added or details modified for the technique. For example, Brazilian embroidery is stitched on trigger cloth, so it may be suggested to do a stem stitch to go along better with the overall design.

Thank you to My Big Toe Designs for allowing us to use their tutorial in our newsletter. The pattern she shows in her tutorial is Quietness and Confidence.

Step 1:
In order to make your biscornu, you need to first backstitch a square around your design, three stitches (6 threads) from the edge of the design. You will need two backstitched squares, and they must be the same size. You will also need thread that matches your backstitched square. Trim any excess fabric, a half inch away from the backstitched line.

Step 2: Thread your needle with one strand of thread. Secure it on the backside of the backing fabric, in a corner, and bring your needle up in that corner. Run your thread under the stitch immediately to the left of that corner (going counter-clockwise). Then line up that stitch with the middle stitch on your top fabric.

Start sewing the pieces of fabric together, one stitch at a time, lining up the backstitching and fabric. Be very careful not to miss a stitch, or use a stitch twice.

Step 4:
Continue sewing the stitches together, until you get to the end of your top fabric backstitched line.

Step 5:
The corners can be a bit tricky, but just make sure to not skip a stitch, or use a stitch twice, and continue sewing all around your biscornu.

Step 6:
Sew together all sides but the last one. You will need this open to add batting.

Step 7:
Tear off small pieces of batting, and stuff your biscornu. How much batting you use will depend on how fluffy you like your biscornu. You can pinch the middle together while stuffing, to get an idea of how firm it will be. At this time, you may want to add a small square of scrap fabric inside your biscornu, in the center of the top and bottom pieces. This will help your fabric to be stable when you add the button.

Step 8:

Sew together the final edge of your biscornu. Secure the thread with a small knot, and tuck it inside the biscornu. Use a button on the top and bottom to pinch together the middle. We used a Mill Hill Treasure and an ivory colored seed bead to make the ‘button’ on the top of this biscornu.

Here are some other biscornu patterns to help you take the plunge!

There are several great sites on the web with additional photographs and instructions:

Creating a biscornu is truly not as hard as it looks. We hope you have felt inspired to try one.

We hope this article was helpful and makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was published by Nordic Needle in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit”

2 thoughts on “Biscornu How To

  1. I just recently discovered biscornu, and am totally smitten with them. I am a bit rusty when it comes to French, but my guess re: pronuciation would be “bee-kor-NOO”. Usually, the syllables in French all have the same emphasis except for the final syllable which gets the biggest bang. And the letter “s” in “bis” would be silent, with the letter “i” having more of a long “e” sound. But not matter how you say it, I think bicornus are fascinating little canvasses for embroidery and gifting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.