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I have long admired quilts from the Provence region of France called boutis. After reviewing The Art of Boutis by Kumiko Nakayama-Geraerts, I really want to do learn this style of handwork!  The author makes this technique accessible with clear instructions and illustrations. Do I need to  learn a new skill when I have so many UFOs? No, but just look at that small project on the cover! It is supposed to be a business card holder, but wouldn't it be a lovely needle book?

The intricate quilting, popular in Southern France since the 17th century, is often done with white thread on white fabric. Provençal prints and toiles were also used. Historically, popular items done in boutis were wedding skirts, later cut up into clothes and gifts for the woman’s babies, and bedding.

Two layers of fabric are basted together and placed in an embroidery hoop. A design is embroidered with common stitches such as the running stitch, backstitch, and stem stitch. Then filler, such as cotton yarn or cotton roving, is inserted between the layers with hand sewing needles. This differs from trapunto in that there are no holes on the back where stuffing is inserted; this makes the work reversible! Ideally, when a boutis is held up to the light, it appears almost transparent except in the opaque, filled areas. After the sewing and stuffing is completed, the project is washed and dried, which is why 100% cotton and not wool (would felt) is used.

Since the top layer is a sheer fabric like batiste, subtle color may be added by incorporating color into the yarn or bottom layer of fabric.


I am excited to start adapting the business card holder to a hand sewing needle book. So far I have only had time to research and gather (buy) my supplies. I do love to research and gather! Maybe that is one reason for my Quilt Project Attention Deficit Disorder. Hmmm...

Anyway, here are some things I will need: 100% cotton white yarn, 100% cotton batiste, doll needles, white quilting thread, and a bamboo stiletto. Not shown but important are: Art of Boutis book; Quilter's Candy Basics 3956 Solid White (for the bottom layer); tapestry needles; and my favorite 7" embroidery hoop, Black Gold Appliqué Sharpsthimble, and scissors.

Next, I want to make the charming heart-shaped pillow that could later be used as ring pillow for a wedding. The Art of Boutis has so many ideas for clothing, bags, and home décor, I am sure anyone wanting to try this artistic needlework would find something to inspire them!

P.S. I would love to hear from anyone who is familiar with boutis - its history or types of quilted pieces - and especially advice from someone who has experience with this type of handwork!




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Comment by Genevieve/France on October 3, 2014 at 2:53pm

Hello Ann have you started your boutis yet?

Have posted a pic of a simple boutis that I've just finished if you are interested in seeing it.

Comment by Genevieve/France on May 30, 2014 at 2:55pm

  Anne: This is a boutis site that has really lovely boutis but in a more modern fashion,(it's all in french, but the images of lovely)  hope you'll enjoy it, might give you more ideas!!!     http://www.boutisarchi.com/ 

Comment by Irene Gallway on May 30, 2014 at 5:39am

Absolutely gorgeous. 

Comment by Linda Bodkin, ON on May 29, 2014 at 7:34pm

A group of Broderers from Brantford here went to France and studied the technique a couple of years ago, and showed us their projects. It surely is beautiful.

Comment by Donna Sykes on May 29, 2014 at 6:23pm

Ann, these projects are just beautiful. I just might have to purchase this book and try this technique.

Comment by Barb/WI on May 29, 2014 at 6:03pm

Beautiful!!!  Can't wait until you start posting pictures of your projects to inspire the rest of us.

Comment by Ann Johnson on May 29, 2014 at 11:32am

Prairie Quilter, thanks so much for referring me to Genevieve In France. I looked at her photos and they are amazing. Apparently this technique is very time intensive so her large quilts must have taken a long time. I will probably contact her through her QWU page and show her a link to this blog. It would be great to know someone else who has done this method. I sense it is not as easy as the pictures show.

Comment by Barbara Graham on May 29, 2014 at 10:11am

I tried learning the technique from a book written in French. The patterns were gorgeous but my French language skills, mostly forgotten, didn't fill in the blanks. I'll have to get this book.

Comment by Prairie Quilter Jan/NE on May 29, 2014 at 9:39am

Ann, a member of our handquilting group, Genevieve/France, has experience with Boutis.  There are pictures of her projects on her page here on QWU.  

Comment by Pam/NY on May 29, 2014 at 8:31am

This is gorgeous and you have peeked my interest!!!

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