Tuesday 31 January 2017

The Art of Boutis ....

Boutis - Is a type of embroidery that became extremely popular in the 17th Century in Marseilles in France and is also known as Marseilles Work and Trapunto.  This embroidery is typically done on white cotton.  When your pattern is drawn and you have two piece of cotton, front
and back and it is secured in a hoop you use a running stitch with cotton thread and embroidering each piece of the pattern separately before stuffing each piece to make a 3D effect.

One of the earliest surviving examples of Trapunto/Boutis quilting is the 1360-1400 Tristan Quilt , a Sicilian  quilted linen textile surviving as two fragments, representing scenes from the story of Tristan and Isolde ; one part of which is housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum  and the other in the Bargello in Florence. A picture found on google to the right.

Boutis quilts, as they are known today evolved from the earlier Provençal quilting techniques. They represent a simplification of the Marseille technique where the motifs in the quilting are larger and the stuffing bulkier. The boutis quilt may feature various images and symbols in its design, such as religious symbols, oak leaves, flowers, fruits and berries, animals, and cornucopia; it might also include naive motifs drawn from the maker's personal life. The term "boutis" is now widely used as a general term for all forms of Provençal stuffed quilting, with La Maison du Boutis (The Boutis House) in Calvisson  acting as a museum dedicated to traditional Provençal embroidery & quilting techniques. The special boxwood needle used for stuffing the motifs is also known as a boutis.

Well It has captured my imagination and the art of stuffing the little bits of stitching with a needle and thick yarn.  You see the true test to see if it is true Boutis is that if you hold up the work to a
window it is completely see through apart from the stuffed  elemants of the pattern.  You can not cheat and use batten in the middle of two pieces of cotton and stitch on a pattern and call it Boutis!

Look at these examples that I found on the internet they are stunning and make me want to have a little go ...

So basically you trace or draw a design onto white plain cotton and then you have another of piece of cotton the same size for the back.  You use running stitch to stitch around each bit of the pattern you have chosen.  It is a must to put your work in a embroidery hoop I think to keep it neat.  Then to stuff your design you thread your tapestry needle with thick cotton yarn and it can be done I have read!  You basically have to get thread into your design bit by bit cutting the thread close to the fabric and stuff strand by strand....

There a some tutorials on You Tube in French but you basically get to see the process for yourself, however I think I may try and get a book on the subject to teach myself this technique properly just so I can do the odd little pretty piece.  I would think it is fairly time consuming to do but what a skill to learn!  I think it would be lovely to incorporate some of this beautiful embroidery into a sampler piece so I am going to give a little design a go and will let you know and show you the results .. good or bad!

I would love to hear if any of you have indeed tried this before and any tips would always be welcome. See you back here on Thursday as you know tomorrow is design day for me.. Thursday will be the 2nd of February ... slow down year you are going very fast!!!

I hope you have enjoyed this little peek into the art of Boutis and that you all have a wonderful day.  Happy Stitching! XX


  1. I was taught this years ago by an elderly lady. The lovely lady passed away now, she would be well over a hundred if still alive now, but I still remember what she taught me. She taught me that and how to do Tambour work.

    Julie xxxxx

    1. Julie

      How lovely to have had such skills passed down, how lucky for you to not only have the skill but the memories of this lady!

      Sarah xxx

    2. She was a lovely lady with lots of patience