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. 

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