he women of fishing villages near Marseilles, in Provence, France used the word ’boutis’ to refer to the corded or quilted needlework used to make jupons (petticoats), couvre-lits (large bed covers), vannes or vanhos (small bedcovers) and petassouns (infant pieces). Boutis was also the name given to the blunt-nosed needle used to draw cording through narrow channels of stitching. According to Kathryn Berenson, the Provencal word never passed into common French usage.
During the 19th C, young women from the Mediterranean fishing villages produced petassouns to sell to fine families in the area. “Harmonious compositions featured a central figure, such as an intricate puffed grid, diamond grid pattern or a floral medallion surrounded by trailing leaves and garlands. Other motifs; floral sprays, small acorns or grapes on the vine, decorated corners and side borders symbolised good fortune and prosperity. All figures rested on a bed of diagonal corded lines that made the work supple and absorbent. Most petassouns had scalloped borders.
A pattern was traced onto white cotton percale, and then parallel lines or small areas outlined using tiny running stitches. The design areas were padded from behind and cording passed through the parallel lines.