Tips for Constructing a Bargello

Posted by on 2 March 2020 | 0 Comments

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This week I've been working on my new Bargello. As you may remember a few weeks ago I talked about the fabric colors I was going to use which turned out to be a split complementary colorway.... so here's my progress report with a few tips for constructing a Bargello.

I've made a Bargello block of the purple/green set of fabrics and cut the strips accordingly.

bargello building

Bargello strips cut from my Bargello block

Then I begin placing the strips in the appropriate places to create my design.

new bargello construction

Placing strips is like putting together a big jigsaw puzzle - it's a lot of fun!

As you can see above, I have pinned the strips to a big piece of batting - two reasons...

  • I don't have wall space for a large design wall
  • I'm heading down south to visit my grandchildren and I can easily fold this up to take with me so I can continue to work on it when the kids are at school.

At this point, I still have the second colorway to add and for this, I'm going to use what I call a 'backward constructing Bargello Block' which uses less fabric and less time to piece. Confused? Let me explain...

So a regular Bargello Block or the most common method of construction is by joining all your strips together in the desired order.... this is then often joined into a tube.... all your Bargello strips are cut from this block or tube of strips. The backward method is only required in complicated or more detailed Bargellos when you don't require full Bargello strips. In other words, partial Bargello strips where not all the fabrics are required like those below.

bargello strips

Partial Bargello strips

For this method, I sew the first two fabrics of the color run together to make a two fabric block then cut out any two fabric strips and place them in the appropriate place in my design.

Then I add the third fabric in the sequence to that two-fabric block and cut more strips, adding them to my design.... then the fourth fabric is added, and more strips cut and so forth until I have used all the colors in my set. As you can imagine, I use much less of the tenth fabric and a lot of the first fabric. If I was using the full block or tube, a lot of fabric would need to be removed from each Bargello strip discarded. That just seems like too much waste to me!

In my Advanced Bargello Blues online workshop, one of my students Mary made the comment "I definitely prefer your way to handle the 3/4" strips. Thanks for that tip."..... so I wanted to share this with you today. You are probably thinking, why would anyone want to work with 3/4" strips especially when we know by the time you take two 1/4" seams off, that turns into a mere 1/4" finished strip? There are two main reasons why I work with this size.

One, I love using this width as an accent border as you can see here in Wild Flowers

Two, I can give much more detail to the points in a Bargello creating beautiful shapes and better dimensions as you can see in Color Connections.

So here's the trick. Sew the first seam of your strip as you normally would with a 1/4" seam. The trick comes when you sew the second seam. It's really important that you sew that 1/4" seam FROM your previous seam rather than sewing 1/4" from the raw edge.

bargello quarter seams

Quarter-inch is measured from the seam to the left of the foot

Why? Because it is better that your two seams are parallel. If the first is a little crooked, then so will the second. However, on the front, any crookedness will never be seen as the strip remains an even width all the way down.

bargello quarter seams

Top: Shows seam on wrong side is not particularly straight to raw edge
Bottom: Shows straight strip on front when both seams are parallel

This is especially important when making a fractured quilt like Fractured Falls.

Students are definitely amazed by this tip and I teach it in both my Beginner's Bargello workshop as well as my advanced. I hope you'll try it the next time you have a narrow strip to sew.

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