" ". The Smiling Cat: Learning the Basics of Bargello-A Belated Valentine Table Runner

Friday, March 21, 2014

Learning the Basics of Bargello-A Belated Valentine Table Runner

DSC00810 (2)
For quite a while I’ve been intrigued by the precision of Bargello quilt patterns.  They seem so complicated, I’ve been afraid to start one.  Last Christmas I bought my quilting buddy, Debbie, the book:  “Bargello Quilts” by Marge Edie.  I thought  it would fun to try to make one together.  Between the two of us, we should be able to figure it out.  If you are unfamiliar with Bargello:          
Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create curved  motifs. The name originates from a series of chairs found in the Bargello palace in Florence, which have a "flame stitch" pattern. Traditionally, Bargello was stitched in wool on canvas.  Traditional designs are very colorful, and use many hues of one color, which produces intricate shading effects. 
Here is an example of the “flame stitch”-
  Florentine (2)
In addition to Bargello embroidery, there are Bargello quilts in which these embroidery patterns are constructed with strips of fabric instead of wool.  In Bargello quilting, long strips of fabric are sewn together lengthwise, then the first and last strip are sewn together, forming a loop. The loop is laid flat on a cutting mat, and then cut vertically to make many narrow loops. The quilter then opens the loops by pulling out the stitching between two pieces of fabric, making a long, flat strip.  By opening the loops in between different pieces of fabric (for instance, between the first and second piece on one loop, then the second and third piece on the next loop), the quilter can make the colors of the quilt appear to curve. Slicing the loops very narrowly makes the curve appear sharp; cutting wide loops creates a more gentle movement in the quilt.  Bargello patterns are usually “quilt as you go” projects.  The individual strips are sewn on a base of backing and a flat cotton batting basted together. Working from the center toward the edges, using a sew and flip method to add each strip so the machine quilting shows only on the back side of the quilt. 
Okay-simple enough…..
I had some 1-1/2” red & white fabric strips left from a few Christmas projects, so I decided to make a very simple pattern for practice.  First, I randomly  sewed all the strips together lengthwise, using a 1/4” seam.  I didn’t want to deal with a complicated pattern, I just wanted to learn the technique.  When sewing the strips together, I started with a middle strip, and alternated sides when adding the other strips.  If you keep adding to the same side, it will curve in that direction.  I also used a smaller then usual stitch length to sew them together, so they wouldn’t pull apart later.
After pressing all the seams in the same direction, I sewed the first & last strips together lengthwise to make a sort of tube.
I then laid it flat on my cutting mat, lining-up all the lengthwise seams, and trimming the edge even.  Next, I began cutting 2-1/2” strips off the end of the tube, much like slicing bread. 
When all the strips were cut, I decided which rectangle would be the beginning rectangle , and removed the stitching in the seam between the beginning rectangle and what would be the ending rectangle.

I put this strip aside and picked another loop.  With this strip I moved over one rectangle to the left, and removed the stitching between the next two rectangles.  I continued strip by strip, each time moving over one rectangle to the left.  Creating a staggered pattern.  I handled them as carefully as possible, to avoid separating the wrong seams.
When all the strips were opened correctly, it was time to start sewing them together.  Starting with the first & second strips, taking my time and matching up the many intersections of the seams carefully.  Still using a 1/4” seam allowance.  I used many, many pins!  Also, when joining the first two strips, I  had to press the seams in the second row in the opposite direction of the first row.  Having the seams facing in opposite directions is always important, but in this case with so many small seams, it’s a must! 

I didn’t use the sew & flip method with this project, because I wasn’t using a pattern and I didn’t know how big it was going to be in the end.  I think it would help to keep the project stable.
I continued adding the rest of the strips, making sure the seams lined up.  Pressing after each row, and making sure the seams were facing in the opposite directions. 

I was happy with the way all the different fabrics came together!  I added a red border & a little white lace, and I had a small table runner.
 DSC00839 (1)
I added a layer of batting, lined it with plain white cotton backing & did a little quilting…….

DSC00835 (1)
And used small scaled red & white gingham for binding.

DSC00814 (1)

Even though I didn’t have it finished by Valentine’s Day, It is my valentine for this year.  This project came together much easier than I thought, and it has encouraged me to try a more complicated pattern in the future.
DSC00820 (1)
 DSC00826 (1)
Well, that’s all for now….Hope you’re having a great day! 
Please leave a comment if you have the time & let me know what you think.