Friday, October 28, 2011


In my last blog about the bargello Christmas runner, I showed you how the strips were made.  Now we begin to assemble them so that the colors travel across the quilt.  In order to keep our lines true, parallel lines are drawn on the batting that has been pinned to the backing, keeping the backing nice and smooth while this part of the quilt sandwich is being manipulated.  The parallel lines are our guides for where to start the strips.  I also drew lines about every 2" perpendicular to the parallel lines so that I could "eyeball" my strips to help keep them straight.

This is how my bargello came out.  My runner is draped over the edge of my sewing machine cabinet.  I bound the edges and then off I went to take the second lesson from Til -- embellishments!

My!  Til brought so many beads and baubles and bright shiney things!  Ribbons and needles and threads galore.  Others brought their decorative stashes to share, too, for who would ever use 7,000 tiny gold beads?  Not in my lifetime!

Pat is putting on the binding for her background bargello prior to adding the embellishments.

Joane has selected the fabrics she wants and the shapes of the ornaments.  These can be backed by wonder under or dryer sheets or fabric stabilizer so that you can applique them onto the quilt in your favorite way.  Or you can just do needle turn applique.  However you do it, though, you must put the ribbons and beads and the like on the ornaments before appliqueing them onto your runner.

Dot is extraordinarily creative and decided not to use the drawings given out by the teacher for her ornaments.  She made hers up, and they are reminiscent of the old fashioned painted glass ones we used to have as kids.

Once the ornaments are on, round gold ribbon is used to "hang" the ornaments from the centers of the bargello waves, and wired gold ribbon is used to create a bow at the top where they meet the bargello stripes. 

Voila!  This is a time consuming but easy project.  You can make it go faster two ways:  Tube quilting and strip joining. 

When you cut the 2 1/2" strips of the various colors and sew them together in a strata, join the last strip to the first one, making a tube, with the strips going longwise.  Lay the tube on the table, flattening it so that one of the seams runs along an inch marker horizontally on your cutting board.  Place the bottom of your 6 x 12 (or larger) ruler along this seam (with the tall side of the ruler near the left edge of the tube) and trim the end of the tube on the left (if you are right handed) to even it up and square it up.  Then cut your variable strips, one section after another in the following order:  1, 3,  5.  Then with another strata cut sections 2, 4, and 6.  Cut all the strips you need for each section and label them.  Press each strip so that the seams of section 1 go up, the seams of section 2 go down, 3 goes up and so forth. 

When we assembled our bargellos, we did so keeping the strips in their respective piles, beginning with section 6, placing that first section 6 strip on our backing/batting sandwich so that we lined up the beginning on one of the long parallel lines and kept the entire strip aligned with the perpendicular line at the beginning.  Then we added each individual strip, one at a time.  However, one of us, who shall remain nameless in order not to get in trouble with the teacher, decided that all those strips were too apt to work their way into a curve or cattywompus, so she joined a few strips together at a time and then added this new mega-strip to the sandwich, thus decreasing the number of sewing lines that had to be accomplished.  I must say, her quilt looked alot more even than mine did, and I'm going to try it her way next time.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Both my sister and I have bought quilt tops from Ebay on the internet.  I'm pretty sure she feels as I do:  the quality of Ebay quilt tops is abysmal!  From a quilting point of view, the piecing is spare and often leaves areas that are not joined with enough seam allowance so that the quilt top comes apart if any stretch is put on it.  The colors may be very pretty, but the fabric is usually thin with poor greige (pronounced "gray") goods.  These don't hold up well to repeated washings and everyday use.  And worst of all, for the person who actually quilts these tops (i.e., adding patterned sewing to the quilt sandwich), junctions between blocks sometimes don't fit, or they pucker or tent.  In that case, the quilter has to "quilt it out."

Case in point.  This is an Ebay quilt and is a wonderful Drunkard's Path pattern, rich in autumn and/or Christmas colors. This quilt is king size, so there was alot of room for puckers, tenting, mismatched seams, and two areas where the seams came apart.  Because of the variety of colors, I used a variegated autumn colors thread.  Because the main patterning was on the diagonal, and because doing custom work on a poor quality quilt like this is not using my time effectively, I used a pantograph.  Usually during the time that the pantograph is running with my marvelous IQ computerized stitching program, I can do other things, like press quilt tops, put on binding, or create new blocks for a project.  Not so with this quilt.  There was so much distortion and puffiness in the blocks that I had to babysit it the whole time, easing fabric excess into more flattened shape while the Nolting needle came perilously close to my fingers.  It took 20 minutes to do one pass of the pantograph.  There were nine passes in the entire quilt.  That means that I sat there for three solid hours pushing and patting and fitting this quilt into some semblance of a flat cover for someone's bed.

These auctioned quilt tops are not going to become heirlooms, and it certainly saves on the time it takes to create a quilt that you want to use yourself or give away as a "utilitarian" quilt, so they're definitely worth quilting.  I don't mean to take away from the people who mass produce these on Ebay, but buyer beware!  If you think you're getting something that is well made, you will be unhappy with what you find once you open the box.  Be prepared to TWEAK it with a capital T!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Bargello quilts are some of the most complicated and stunning uses of fabric that can be found.  Both the colors of the strips and the widths of the strips vary from row to row, creating a unique pattern.  It is not known when bargello stitchery came into being, but there are examples of it in the fabrics created for chairs in Florence in the 16th century.  It was originally called the Hungarian point, suggesting that the patterns originated in Hungary. In the last two decades, a resurgence of interest in the complex patterns has arisen and extended to a variety of modalities, among which is quilting.  Most recently, bargello quilting is being accomplished with strip piecing, and that's what I want to show you today.

Strata are created using 2 1/2" strips of fabric in a variety of colors.  In this particular case, the pattern and colors are predetermined by a pattern developed by Til T from my quilting guild, who has created a Christmas table runner in this fashion.  The first picture shows the strips sewn to one another in  a particular sequence.  The second picture is a strip cut from that strata.  Til's pattern calls for 8 of these strips.

In order for the progression of the colors in an orderly sequence across the quilt, you need to create strips of varying widths.  Since you don't want all your strips to have the same sequence of color, you have to either form a whole new strata and cut the next set of strips, or you can do it the way I did, by cutting the second set of strips the correct width and then following these steps:

Here I am cutting a narrower strip from the original strata.

I take the two ends of one strip and join them right sides together.

In order to make this step less tedious, I join all strips of that particular series by chain piecing them.  For instance, the series could call for a 2" row with the colors black, black, light green, medium green, dark red, light red, black, black, black.  It would be extremely time consuming to have to join these individually, so that's why the strata are so useful.

Once you have joined each strip end to end, you have a circle, like this.  Remember, the sequence of the colors is always the same in simple bargello.  So now we can just remove the stitches between the colors that we need to be first and last for the next row:

This shows the last row I needed to make for the table runner.  The sequence here is black, black, black, black, black, light red, dark red, dark green, medium green, light green.  You can see that it is quite different from the preceding rows.

Finally, I place my folded (just for convenience) strips beside each other to demonstrate how the bargello pattern will evolve.

Later this week I will show you how the strips are joined to each other.  This is a quilt-as-you-go project, and that's another story....

Don't forget to check out my other blog:  where there are some pictures of a lovely embroidered quilt in the making. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011


For several years I quilted Quilts of Valor that Sue Bennett had created.  Sue would donate the material and the work, and I would donate the quilting.  Then she would put on the binding and send it in to the QOV people, who would then send it on to a wounded soldier.  At some point, Sue started sending me her personal quilts.  Now she's sending me her friends, and they compliment me by sending their quilts.

The stunning New York Beauty above is an example of Kay McA's work.  Kay is a careful piecer, and apparently a very patient one, too.  The reason I know this is that her sewing is very precise, but also, she has waited an inordinate amount of time to get her quilt finished.  I received it from her in mid-August.  My Intelliquilter robotics tablet was in California having some upgrading work done on the battery compartment.  This was supposed to take one week.  It took four, so I didn't get started on Kay's quilt until early September.

There followed several unexpected mishaps:  we had an earthquake, followed a few days later by hurricane Irene and three days of power outages.  After two days of cleanup around here, tropical storm Lee hit, and another power outage occurred.  Even with a generator, I wouldn't dare start up my Nolting 24 Pro, fearing surges and the like that could permanently damage the machine and/or the Intelliquilter.

As soon as the property was recleaned from Lee, I had commitments to five classes that I needed to attend or sponsor.  One of these was hosting Marilyn Doheny for my guild.  Marilyn gave a fabulous trunk show one day and a stimulating, exciting class the next.  She stayed with me during this time, and because her next show and class wasn't until the next week, her visit stretched to a full week.  This is a real treat for any quilter who loves getting her creative juices flowing, and we had a wonderful visit, cooking, sewing, visiting quilt shops, and getting Marilyn rested up from her month long marathon of traveling.  But it didn't get this quilt done.

Here's a picture of the center NYB.  If you click on the picture, you can enlarge it quite a bit to be able to see the stippling in the wedges between the blades of the star.  Around the outer shell are triangle shaped feathers to fill the setting block, and inside the inner circle is a feathered wreath with a small star in it. I created all of these designs for Kay with my Intelliquilter. 

At each corner of the central star is a three-quarter star.  The stippling was the same here, as were the corner treatments, but, again, I had to fashion a three-quarter wreath for these wrap around NYB's.

As the array of NYB's expanded, there were also half-wreaths needed.  My IQ helped me create these to fit smoothly in the half circles.

Kay's quilt has eight rows of Beauties; each row took nearly 5 hours to do:  four for the stippling wedges and one for the feathered accents.

So now this one is finished, and although it has been on my frame for six weeks with all the interruptions from weather, mishap and hostessing, I am sorry to see it go.  It is a visually compelling quilt, and one that Kay will be proud of forever.