How to Do Boutis’ or French Quilting

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How to Do Boutis’ or French Quilting


Of all the beautiful fabric arts I’ve ever learned, Boutis’ is the most lovely. When I first learned, there was almost no way to learn about it at all.  A well-known French quilter, Segolene Diamant Berger, explained what boutis’ was to a group of ladies at the Houston Quilt Guild. A group of her friends, all from France, showed off their exquisite handiwork..and I was entranced. I HAD to learn how to do this!



At first I was simply blown away by the incredibly intricate patterns they used. I talked to Diamont, who was such a gracious woman and asked her where I could get the patterns!


She said that she’d be happy to have her husband buy the book while on a business trip in France. It sold for well over $50.00 in the US but I paid only $35.00. The book was in French so I couldn’t read it but the photos were helpful and the patterns were everything I’d hoped for and then some!


Can you imagine my delight when she offered to let me come to her lovely home for a ‘quick’ lesson on how to do boutis? Her home was so beautiful…   So very ‘French’.  The book was Tim’s birthday present to me. I tried my best to ‘take it all in’..but it’s easier to learn by doing than just by someone ‘telling’ you what to do.

I did order an article from Taunton Threads (from a back issue) that was very helpful. And there was one video at the time that finally got me ‘over the hump’.

COTTON YARN: Peaches and Cream 1.38 white cotton yarn from Wal-Mart or Amazon
Fabric to use for Boutis: Cotton Batiste  One place to order from is   Baltazor Fabric Boutique, LLC 
You can also order it from The Sewing Place.

NEEDLES:  Fat tapesty needle about 2" long and Doll Needles about 6 " long--You can buy these at Hancocks for sure.  You will also need quilting needles, though I feel like you could use a regular sewing needle and just baste with tiny stitches. And you will need white cotton thread.

Doll Needles - From
Tapestry Needles - From

Here are the supplies you need to do boutis’ :
  • a pattern
  • fine cotton like batiste fabric
  • white 100% cotton yarn (like Peaches and Cream’s yarn)
  • a quilting needle and thread
  • a blunt tapestry needle
  • a long doll needle (for filling long straight tunnels)
  • an embroidery hoop
  • a rubber finger guard like the kind postal workers use to flip through papers. (Gives you a good grip for pulling the fat needle and doubled yarn into the fabric and back out again.)
  • quilter’s erasable marker

My second boutis' project, Ronde' fleur or Round of Flowers. It's not finished yet. :o)
If you look at it and it doesn’t look puffy..just keep looking. It’s an optical illusion. Your eyes will adjust in a minute. :o)

Traditional quilting is simply the process of sandwiching a layer of fluffy batting (traditionally cotton) between two layers of cotton fabric and then holding those layers together with a very unique stitch, called the ‘rocking’ stitch. It took me a month to get that stitch down. It is hard to learn, but once your fingers are trained, it’s quick, smooth, and so tight that antique quilts will hold together at the stitching, even when the fabric has fallen apart years later.

boutis with light shining through

In Boutis, you leave out the ‘middle layer of batting’. The test of whether something is true ‘boutis’ is that the light will shine through everything except the stuffed elements of the design. This makes it perfect for curtains, clothes, and lampshades.


Here’s how to do Boutis’ in a nutshell…

    1. First, trace the design to the top layer of a piece of fine cotton Batiste. (I just used thin cotton for my first project.) You can tape the paper with the pattern to a window and then tape the cotton fabric over it so the light shows through. Trace it with pencil or erasable quilting marker.
    2. Then put the two pieces of cotton together and place them in an embroidery hoop. Now you baste, machine stitch, or use a quilting stitch to outline all of the lines of the pattern. You will be stitching leaves, grapes, petals, stems, and lots of filler lines.
    3. Then thread your tapestry needle with the thick cotton yarn. Yes, it can be done!
    4. Now comes the most challenging part. Push the tip of your needle through the grain/weave of the fabric at the edge of ..say a leaf (on one side).
    5. Carefully push the needle between the two tight layers of fabric (without poking through the underside) and then poke the tip out the other side of the leaf, again pushing through the grain of the fabric. (In quilting, this is similar to ‘traveling’ except trickier because there’s no batting to travel through.
    6. The hard part is getting both the needle and the double over thread through the close weave of the fabric. That’s why you have it on a hoop. Get a good grip on the needle with your rubber finger guard and pull hard and quick. This will ‘pop’ the eye end of the needle with the thick yarn into the weave of the fabric. Now give it another quick, hard pull to pop it back out through the other side of the leaf design.
    7. Pull the doubled yarn all the way through, very carefully until you are almost to the end of the yarn. (Remember,  no knot on the end.) Pull until it’s all the way through except for the last 1/8th of an inch.
    8. Now clip off the thread on the side where the your needle exited the fabric about an 1/8th of an inch from the fabric. You have now ‘laid’ down two threads inside the leaf. The ends of your threads are sticking out on both sides of the leaf. Just leave them sticking out. They anchor the threads in a horizontal line for the moment.
    9. Go back and do steps 1-8 again, right next to the first piece of yarn. Each time you do this you insert thread after thread in a flat layer of horizontal lines. The fringe sticking out will be the ‘shape’ of the leaf or other design element.
    10. When you are finished ‘filling’ the leaf shape with rows of cotton yarn. Go back and push the ‘fringed’ edges of the yarn all the way into the weave of the fabric with the tip of your needle or a wooden stipple.  If you work the threads a little with the tip of the needle you can almost close up the holes so that nothing shows on the top or the bottom.

Here is a link with the best Video on how to do boutis' and Threads is the magazine that has a great article with excellent pictures showing how to do this. I own that magazine just for the article on Boutis.

Now you can do the next grape, flower petal, leaf, or stem. When you wash the fabric, all of the holes will close up tight and people will be totally puzzled as to how you stuffed all of those things without cutting the fabric (as trapunto does.) Amazing huh?


My first ‘boutis’ piece…a needle case for the tapestry, quilting and doll needles.

One thing that is a little bit different is the long straight rows or lines that are often used as filler for large blank spaces or as frames. That is what the doll needle is for. You can push that needle down long straight rows of straight lines, but you can’t turn corners. :o) Just pop out at the corners. Clip your thread leaving a little anchor piece. Then pop in again at the same place but start the next side of your square or corner.  Be very careful traveling long lengths like that. Is it very easy to accidentally poke through the back and not know it. You want to slip between the two layers of cotton with your needle.

You can fold over the edges of your piece and appliqué them or slip stitch them closed.

Love Birds

I made these wedding ring pillows for my son Andrew, and wife Elisabeth. It was my third project..and easier to complete. I wrote about my boutis projects HERE.

Julia's Sew Sweet Special Occasion Clothing for Children, used this method to embellish some lovely dresses for her granddaughters. We had a good chat about it and I think she did a great job.

You can buy boutis’ pieces online, but you will pay a pretty penny for them. But now you will be able to appreciate what goes into a piece of French Quilting.  I do hope you enjoyed this explanation of the lovely art of French Quilting. Be sure to email me if you have any questions.

Here are the links for the books and magazine article. 

BLOG POST on Boutis by Postmarked Art: Great how-to pictures and list of books and resources.


The BOOK I use for patterns is Boutis D'Hier & D'Aujourd'hui. Nicole Astier
is the name of the book I used for patterns for projects. There are so many gorgous patterns!  

Marie Yolande is the quilter who does the video. Her website is a wonderful place to visit--The Country Bumpkin.  She sells kits for doing baby layette projects. 

I hope these links help you get a good start!
Have a lovely weekend!

Linking with My Romantic Home's Show and Tell Friday
and Deb's Fantastic Friday fun linky party 
Melissa's My Crafty Weekend


Heather said...

Hello Donna,
Like you, I am also completely passionate about the boutis, and learned in France when there was nothing in the US. I invite you to visit my blog where I have a lot about the boutis and so on. Love your projects !

Maria Killam said...

So pretty Donna, and how did you photograph them with the black background, looks so great!
You are a true homemaker Donna!

Rae said...

So very beautiful! A work of art...and you know I love white, just beautiful Donna.

Breathing In Grace said...

Is there absolutely nothing that you can't do?!? You are so blessed with talent!

Trudy said...

Great tutorial. Love your work.

Kerrie said...

I love white and needlework, too! This is great, would love to make the needle case! hugs, K

Needled Mom said...

I, too, love the boutis pieces. You did a beautiful job on them and provided everyone with a great tutorial on doing it.

Julia said...

I'm bookmarking this post! Thanks for the mention of me and my small attempt at this method of quilting.

GlorV1 said...

Hi Donna. That is just beautiful. I thought you said you weren't artistic? If this isn't artistic, then I don't know what is. Fantastic job! I know I could never do this, my fingers would cramp up, but I love the idea of it. Great job.!

HeARTworks said...

These are so beautiful! How patient you are! Patsy from

Donna said...

Maria, It was so easy. I just laid the pillows on a black piece of fabric. :o) The camera doesn't see anything but black. Ha!

Gloria, I have a complex about the art thing. I'm so enamored of detail..and push myself far beyond what most people terms of fabric art.

I'm growing but don't think I'm there yet..but I'd love to be called 'an artist' like my dad. I just don't feel like I've earned that title yet. :o)

Thanks for the encouragement!


Debby said...

What beautiful works of art. Way too detailed for me.
Thanks you for all your words of comfort. The sun is out today and I am trying. It has been so hard to get back on track. Last night my husband asked how I was feeling. I said I was okay and he asked how I was really and I cried. I must move on and I am trying. Thanks for your kind words. You are a dear person.

Every Stitch said...

Absolutely beautiful - thanks for posting so much information. It is a truly inspiring craft!
Every Stitch

Donna said...

So glad you enjoyed the post EveryStitch. Nice to hear from you. :)

iloveboutis said...

i love boutis too but have been struggling to find Marie Yolande patterns. Her Website is not being found either. Any ideas?

iloveboutis said...

I love boutis too. I am trying to find the Marie Yolande Baby Layette a la Boutis provencal with no luck. Her website is not found either. Any ideas?

Donna said...

Ladies, I updated the link. A simple google search came up with her kits on The Country Bumpkin at It's on the post now. So glad you guys commented so I'd know that link was out of date. :) Enjoy!

Unknown said...

This is fantastic! I can't wait to earn more and to have a go at a small project. Thank you for writing about this so clearly ad pointing us towards further information. Can you use vintage French linen or is the weave better with cotton? Thanks, Penny

Donna said...

I think any linen would be fine, but that's my 'inexpert' opinion. I am in no way the 'master' at this sort of thing. Really, you could use any cotton but I don't know how soft the French linen is. I do think the batiste is probably the norm so whatever fabrics are most like that would be best. My first project, the needle case, I think I did with simply 100% cotton and I can't say that I thought it was best. Wish I could easily just send a note to Segolene and ask her. :)

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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