by Brenda Rialland

I have not been to any classes to learn this technique. I discovered this method of sewing from reading these books:
Boutis d’hier & d’aujourd’hui (Printed in French but does have lots of photos and a good choice of patterns.) by Nicole Astier, published by Cande in Italy (not widely available, even in France).
The Embroidery of Boutis by Francine Nicolle, Edisud Publishers, France (available on
Boutis & Trapunto by Catherine Coget, Search Press, UK (available on
Kits, the loose cotton thread, and the fabric can be purchased from
A little background:
Boutis originated in China in about 200BC, but it is more commonly recognized as being from the Marseille area in the South of France. It is commonly worked on white or plain cotton, but Provençal prints can also be used.
The unique character of boutis is that, although the “padding” is inserted into the back of the work, it should become invisible and the article can be reversible.
Materials required:
• 2 pieces of fine cotton fabric, new and unwashed. Boutis us usually worked on white or light coloured fabric. The finer the fabric, the easier it is to feed twisted cotton thread through channels. Cut fabric larger than finished size and trim to size when the project is complete. The filling process and washing can cause a slight degree of shrinkage.
• Sewing thread to match colour of fabric (I use normal machine sewing/hand sewing thread.)
• 25g loose twisted cotton thread (may also be known as quilting cotton)
• Quilting needle
• Large-eyed needle, such as darning or tapestry
• Graphite pencil or washable marking pen

Creating Boutis:

1. Use a light box or window to trace the desired design on one piece of the white fabric with a Graphite pencil or washable marking pen. This will be the top surface. Baste both pieces of fabric together taking care to keep the straight of grain in the same direction on both pieces.

I have used coulored fabric and thread here for demonstration purposes only.

2. Using small quilting stitches, stitch along all marked lines. This can
also be done by sewing machine. I found it’s a good idea to machine stitch the
straight lines and hand stitch the curved shapes such as flowers and petals.

 3. Now you are ready to do the infilling. Working from the back with a large
needle and double thread, begin at the centre of the motif and carefully thread
the twisted cotton through the channels. Take care not to pierce the top layer.

4. Pull the twisted cotton through the channels and trim close to the fabric.
The short ends that remain should be poked back into the channel with the
needle or a pair of fine pointed scissors. This needs to be done very carefully
so as not to leave a hole in the fabric. Where the channels are wider (for
instance, petals and leaves) start in the middle, then carefully add extra
strands of thread on either side until desired shape is achieved. The padding
should be fairly solid.

When all channels have been filled and short ends of thread buried, make a
small hem or over sew raw edges.

5. Wash in cool water, gentle cycle in a net bag, dry flat, or stretched on
washing line. Gently press while still slightly damp with dry iron, taking care
not to flatten the padding.

6. Trim to desired size.