Biscornu: It’s Meant To Be Wonky

The French adjective biscornu means wonky, skewed, irregular, or – if taken literally – twice-horned. The English adjective biscornu doesn’t exist, because English is totally unreliable in its use of the vocabulary it has filched from other languages. Like an overconfident teenager with an unfamiliar appliance, we are certain we can get it to work somehow, without bothering to listen to the instructions from those who’ve been using it longer.

English uses biscornu as a noun, meaning a small pincushion made from two squares of material – or, according to Wikipedia, “the boundary of a unique convex polyhedron….a flattened square antiprism”. (And if you understand that, I’m very happy for you.)

They’re usually made from Aida cloth or embroidery linen, with a counted-thread design, but it turns out you can make them from two squares of ordinary cloth. This is a very useful time to employ what quilters call English Paper Piecing.

Diamonds of fabric tacked to paper have been pieced in threes into hexagons. In the background are scissors, reels of thread, a thimble, and a tin.
Cloth is not this compliant without paper underpinnings.
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Wardrobes the Way they Were

Time immemorial…. Has a lovely sound to it, doesn’t it? Like days of yore.

In fact, in British law, time immemorial is defined as everything before the sixth of July 1189. This was decided in 1275, presumably because by that point no one could remember anything before the sixth of July 1189 and it was therefore literally time immemorial – a time that no one living could remember.

Hunterian Psalter c. 1170 feasting
Don’t worry, no one remembers you taking the last piece of pizza in 1170.
It is interesting to consider what time immemorial would be these days. It’s so easy to forget how short a time, relatively speaking, things have been The Way Things Are. Mass transport, antibiotics, Queen Elizabeth II, the Internet… Fast fashion has only been around for a few decades, and yet how strange it now seems to have just a few carefully tended items of clothing, worn for years and infrequently replaced.

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Dye, Dye, Dye!

Three packets of dye, that is.

Some of you may remember the hemming escapade I went on nearly a year ago. Amazingly, it’s taken me this long to realize that the colours of the dress didn’t really suit me. I looked ok, but just ok. I decided… to dye.


After quite some time (a whole evening, if I recall correctly), doing research on what was available where, what people thought of it, and what colour it came out, I ordered a four-pack of Dylon Burlesque Red. Which isn’t red, in case you were wondering. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is also known as Plum, which makes a lot more sense.

After a bit of hassle (ordered 4x50g, got 1x50g, returned the one, reordered the four, followed by a supply issue, followed by some clever person realizing that four ones is the same as one four), I received the dye and set to work.

Each packet dyes up to 250g of fabric (dry weight) to the full colour, or more to a paler shade. I didn’t want a paler shade, so for my 700g of fabric I used three packets. I wasn’t sure about whether the required 250g of salt or the 6L dye bath also needed to be tripled, and I couldn’t find any definite advice online, so I didn’t triple the salt, and I only tripled the 500mL for dissolving each packet of dye.

After. A trifle blurry, but it gives you the best idea of the colour.

I quite like the colour it came out – a sort of ripe plum. Or at least, what I would call ripe, which is what everyone else would likely call not quite ripe yet. It’s not too bluey, and not too pink; and I really hope it doesn’t fade. As you can probably see, the triangles are still darker (“colour mixing rules apply,” as the packet notes).

The kerchief/Super-Bandanna came out a slightly different shade, being made of tea-dyed calico; but the triangle on the kerchief is the same fabric as the triangle on the dress, and thus came out the same colour as that. (Confused?) The lack of complete match doesn’t really bother me as I don’t often wear the Super-Bandanna: it’s too big for convenience, and doesn’t produce the line I was hoping for. Maybe one day I will alter it, but so far I haven’t got round to it.

The one downside in all this is the fact that the thread and zip didn’t take the dye. The thread is likely polyester (unlike the dress, which is linen/rayon blend) and the zip is metal. So the seams clearly stand out, outlining the neck, triangles etc.


But overall, I’m happy with it. Plenty of dye came out during the rinsing process, and I’m just hoping that what’s left stays fast, because I like the deep tones and I don’t want to lose them!