The Bargello Quilt

December 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm 5 comments

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Okay, it’s FINALLY done and ready for showing!  Here’s the story of this quilt.

Earlier this year (much earlier, actually) I wanted to make a quilt for both of my moms.  I’ve been through many stages with them and both are very important and influential in my life, and I wanted to make them something to mark our history and our future together.  My birth mother’s quilt came to me almost immediately.  I saw the pattern (Elizabeth Hartman’s New Wave pattern) and saw it in blue/blue-green for her.  The blog and photos of this quilt can be found here.

The other quilt, however, was a little more difficult.  It’s not that she’s picky or hard to pick something for.  I just waited long enough for something to speak to me.  She collects a lot of Native American things, so I wanted something with the essence but not blatantly Native American.  I ran across a book with a pattern similar to what I was looking for and bought it.

As is usual with me, it was a technique in quilting I’d never heard of it, and it wasn’t just measuring, cutting and sewing pieces together.  It is Bargello.  I have included more information on Bargello at the end of this post.

I read and reread the book on the bargello technique.  Our first sew day with the Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild was on March 7 at Rae’s house.  I spent the day cutting the strips and carefully sewing them together to make the ‘color run’.  And then it sat. And sat. And sat.  For almost 9 months, this quilt alluded me. I refused to touch it or even think about it (outside of reading the book yet again) because I was so scared of it.

And then something happened about a month or so ago when I decided the only way I’m going to figure it out is to dive in and try.  I forget that the worst thing that will happen when you start a new quilt using techniques you’ve never tried is that you’ll end up using it as practice.  The world won’t stop.

That first try did end up being a practice quilt.  Because I took the basic idea of a quilt pattern and graphic I saw and modified it to look like I wanted it to, the first quilt was turning out much too small.  It was meant to be a lap quilt or wall hanging, but the first try would’ve been embarrassingly small for a quilt.

The good news is once I got going, it wasn’t near as hard as I thought it would be.  It just all made sense once I got a good rhythm going.  Working on this quilt is very time consuming because it requires a lot of focus and major attention to detail.  Once the strips are sewn together to make the color runs, you rearrange pieces of the color runs to create the pattern, and it’s very easy to mess up the order of your pieces if you aren’t paying attention.

One bonus to a bargello quilt is that you actually quilt it down to the batting (I used flannel) and backing at the same time you sew your strips down.  That is a bonus, unless you like lots of fancy quilting stitches on your backing.  Once the quilt was finished, I was actually very sad to see the project come to an end.

Lucky for me, people love the quilt and have expressed interest in possibly having one for themselves or to give as a gift.  This is why I’ve decided to make it available in my Etsy store.  In fact, it will be the first item listed : )  So, here it is (click the pics to make them larger):

Perfectly mitered corners!!


The quilt is personalized on the back with an old Native American Wisdom piece.


Bargello started out as a needlecraft, such as needlepoint.  In recent times, it’s been adapted to quilting by using strips of fabric rather than yarn or thread.  Here’s what Wikipedia says about Bargello:

Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create 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. Embroidery done this way is remarkably durable. It is well suited for use on pillows, upholstery and even carpets, but not for clothing. In most traditional pieces, all stitches are vertical with stitches going over two or more threads.

Traditional designs are very colourful, and use many hues of one colour, which produces intricate shading effects. The patterns are naturally geometric, but can also resemble very stylised flowers or fruits. Bargello is considered particularly challenging, as it requires very precise counting of squares for the mathematical pattern connected with the various motifs to accurately execute designs.

There is no limit as to what can be done with the Bargello technique, and each one is just as unique as the next.  Here is a gallery that shows other bargello-style quilts.  It’s safe to say that I am addicted to Bargello now and I can’t wait to do more.

This quilt will be available in my Etsy store starting next week, or you can contact me for ordering information.  The color scheme can be changed to fit your style or decor.  The possibilities are endless!


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