Bargello Table Runner

The women in the last class I taught asked for another project. I thought they might be interested in bargello piecing. It looks complicated, but it’s another of those techniques where you sew strips together to set up a colour palette, then recut and re-sew to create some kind of a pieced pattern.

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; but bargello can also be created from fabric piecing.

A number of years ago I made a bargello quilted jacket:

Bargello Quilted Jacket – Back

The jacket was cut from 6 panels constructed from pieced strips – 2 fronts, 2 sleeves, 2 backs (joined in the centre). In this case the second cut was done so that there were two sets of strips on opposite diagonals creating the zigzag effect.

There are simpler ways to piece bargello. Today, I took nine 2″ strips cut from the width of fabric graduated in colour from pale to dark blue with a contrasting yellow/green. I sewed the nine strips together from light to dark, then added the contrast strip and sewed the first and last strips together to form a tube.

Bargello Table Runner – In Progress

Next, I cut the tube into 11 strips of different width (1″ – 2 1/2″) and sewed them together to create the parabolic curve. I had enough fabric in the first sewn panel to make two blocks which I then stitched together in opposite directions to get the “diamond” in the panel above.

I started out by cutting two sets of 2″ strips – I will use the second set of strips to make two more bargello blocks to add to either end of the current piece to construct a table runner – the project I’m suggesting for a class.

I will need to take pictures as I construct the second two bargello blocks to record the steps in the process.

So far we’ve heard back from one person who is interested in doing the class. Hope there will be a few more.

Charm Quilt Top II

I spent a couple of days looking at the finished quilt top and decided it wasn’t finished after all – it needed something in the border below the panel to mirror the stripes in the left border.

Revised Quilt Top

So, I carefully unstitched the border below the panel, created two strips from scraps, inserted them into the border, trimmed the border (praying I was getting the size exact so it would fit back into the original space and lie flat).

It did.

The quilt top now has balance which it didn’t have before.

The quilt back is also done. I incorporated the column of HST I removed from the panel, added a border on the right, then two sets of pieced sashing on either side. I slit the backing fabric leaving 12″ to the right and inserted the strip.

Charm Quilt Back

The quilt sandwich is now pinned and ready to be quilted in the hoop. I extended the blocks into the borders by marking them using a Frixion pen (heat erasable). I’d planned the borders to equal multiples of the original 4.5″ quilt block so the quilting should work out relatively easily. That will get underway this weekend – I will do a few blocks to show how I do the quilting for my class on Wednesday.

Quilt Sandwich

Charm Quilt Top

In the end I went with an on-point square layout set off-centre.

7 x 10 HST Panel

However, the finished panel was too small, even with 3.5″ borders, to be a good size throw quilt. So what to do with it…

I had used all of the white/grey background fabric I had, I had no batik charms left. I also thought the 8 x 10 array wasn’t rectangular enough, so I removed one of the columns – set it aside to use in the quilt back.

Next, I decided to use the panel offset to one corner and create narrow pieced stripes in the wide border to the left of the panel as an accent for the HST array.

Completed Quilt Top

To build out the quilt, I added 9″ of backing fabric (a different pale grey/white fabric which blended with the original fabric) to the bottom of the panel so I knew the length of the  side panel. Then I began building pieced strips from everything I could find in my stash which blended, or implied, burgundy – the focal colour of the batik charms. I offset the strips by varying amounts from either the top or the bottom of the side piece by inserting appropriate amounts of backing fabric into the piecing. I completed the wide side border with a wide strip cut from the length of backing fabric to avoid a large, obvious mitre across the middle of it.

Finally I added a 3.5″ mitred outer border.

Now I’m ready to construct the backing. I bought a darker grey/white printed fabric for backing. I have a 4.5″ strip of HST I removed from the panel. I haven’t measured the panel width but I’m guessing it’s close to 54″ wide. So my insert panel will need to be at least 12″ wide.

No idea yet how the back will shape up. That’s for tomorrow.

Another HST Quilt

Two weeks ago at class one of the gals gave me a batik charm pack in exchange for the materials I’d given her. The batiks – five related colours – all felt “burgundy”. I thought they’d work with a light background. I decided to create unequal half-square triangles.

I raided my stash of larger fabric pieces and found a remnant of a white with grey fabric from the Zen Chic Fragile Collection.  I measured it carefully – thought I had enough for 40 5″ squares, plus sashing pieces; I started cutting. Turns out I was close, but I had to hunt through boxes of scraps hoping to find a wee bit more – luckily I found exactly enough to scrounge 8 more 4 1/2″ sashing pieces. That was it – there are no scraps of any kind left! This fabric collection, this colour in particular, were popular and are nowhere to be found. Trust me, I looked for hours online.

Stitching Unequal HST

To construct the unequal HST I marked the diagonal, then another parallel line 1/2″ to one side. I chain stitched the diagonals, cut the blocks apart, chain stitched the second line, cut them apart. Then cut between the two lines of stitching. After pressing the blocks open, I added a 1″ sashing to two sides of the smaller triangles.

I’ve interleaved larger and smaller triangles and this is the 8 x 10 array I currently have on my floor. Kinda interesting….

Current Layout On The Floor

I decided to see what other arrays are possible. I took a photo, then cut the paper into sections so I could try other arrangements:

Pinwheel Array

The pinwheel is off centre (centre is at position 4/3). While the centre should provide focus, it doesn’t seem to in this case – what’s there is too busy.

Next layout:


The chevrons work better – the white lines draw your eye in toward the offset centre. However, this layout requires two smaller triangles which I don’t have. I have two of the larger triangles but not a single scrap of fabric to convert them into smaller triangles – no fabric to construct sashing!

I’ll probably stick with the array I currently have on the floor – I need to leave it there for a day or so to make sure I’m happy with the colour distribution.

I didn’t say the reason I’m doing this quilt is so I can demonstrate for a class in early February how to “quilt-in-the-hoop“. I need both a quilt top and back to do this. Stitched, this array is going to be on the small side (but with no more burgundy batik squares and no more backing fabric to extend the size by a row/column or two, I will enlarge the panel with an inner sashing and a wide outer border so the finished size lands somewhere between 40″-45″ x ~55″- 60”.

I have a piece of complementary burgundy fabric large enough for sashing; and the other day I bought a metre of soft grey which should work for the border. I’m thinking a hidden binding from the main backing fabric might be in order because I don’t think I want to define the outer edge of the quilt with another strong colour.

First to assemble the blocks into a panel. I’ll work on that tomorrow.

Another possible layout:


This one works – and I’d complete the diamond on the right in the border (including a narrow sashing all around up to, but not including, that point…).


[BTW – I’ve been doing these different layouts by cutting a paper printout of the layout currently on my floor and holding it together with tape – no need to spend time on the floor arranging and rearranging blocks! The reason for placing my layout on the floor – my cutting table is too narrow to hold the width of the panel and I don’t have a space where I can hang a flannel design wall. I suppose I could set up a flannel panel and use weights to hold it in place on the floor – that could help keep the blocks from sliding around – but I’d still have to be on my knees to work with it.]


Yesterday, I enlarged and printed both the iris and its leaves on fabric then applied some Steam-a-Seam2 Lite (fusible web) to the back so the iris could be fused to the watercolour panel background. Last evening I fussy cut the iris, the bud, and the leaves.

Complete except for hidden binding

This morning I fused the appliqué elements to the panel, then thread painted them, taking care to edge stitch everything so the appliqué won’t lift  over time.

Iris – Thread Painting

Because the appliqué elements are rather small they didn’t want a great deal of stitching but I did want to work in a bit of shading on the leaves and on the flower – not so much that I obscured the shading within the appliqué.

I added a signature along the right side, then applied three border sections – first a narrow inner binding of natural raw silk, then small dotted green piping, last a 3″ purple grunge outer border.

All that’s left to do is add the hidden binding (I do have a small amount of purple grunge left but I’ll see if I can pick up 1/2m more because it’s a very useful colour to have on hand). Once the bindings are attached, I’ll insert a muslin backing and hand stitch the bindings in place on the back.

I will leave the piece as it is – while I can still lift the border to reveal the inner border construction. That will allow me to show the gals how I align the narrow border, and piping as I explain how I do it.

Yet Another Watercolour Piece

So I can demonstrate on Wednesday how I finish a hanging, I had to produce another panel for class. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to construct – a colour shading from dark purple in one bottom corner to very light in the opposite one. That was easier said than done – I had no suitable precut light colour squares; instead, I had to go back to my stash and pull out both large and small cuts of fabric in very pale colours that would blend with the purple range I was building. After considerable hunting and cutting, I was finally able to assemble a complete panel.

Once laid out, I stitched the rows (first sewing the 8″ panels together, then cutting apart each row, starting at one end, sewing and pressing each seam open).

Rows Sewn Together (Back)

Next I stitched the columns, again by cutting apart and sewing each column one at a time beginning on one side.

Columns Stitched, Seams Pressed Open

I pressed the seams open as I went along – first finger pressing, then pressing with the iron.

Completed Panel

I’m now ready to add a fused appliqué to the pale side of the panel – that’s for tomorrow. Once the appliqué is fused and thread painted, I will be ready to demonstrate how to add the three finishing layers on Wednesday.

Watercolour Quilt Workshop

I arrived at the class on Wednesday with my latest watercolour panel completed. I also took along the others I’d done as well as a folder of images I’d compiled from Pinterest to discuss with the gals – pointing out technical decisions evident in each photo.

Garden In Pink

We started by preparing the gridded fusible interfacing – cutting it into working size rectangles, then into 8″ rows – to be able to carry them to and fit them on an ironing board.

I’d come to class with over 2000 precut 2″ squares in a wide range of colours (all sorted into small zippered sandwich bags so the gals would have something to use – I was anticipating they might not have a broad colour selection and I wanted to be sure we had enough precut fabric to work with).

We spent almost all of the day working on developing colour flow. Each panel shaped up into something striking and different from the others – fascinating to watch.


I pitched in as the gals were trying to meld the different parts of their assembly – locating squares from my abundant stash to fill the central gap and draw the panel together.


Once laid out, the squares were fused to the fusible interfacing in sections in preparation for sewing the rows and columns together.


That was as far as we got on Wednesday. Homework: to stitch the panel completely – first,  sew the rows together, then the columns, with the 1/4″ seams pressed open (to allow the panel to press flat).


Coming Wednesday, we’ll turn these panels into finished art works complete with a signature (which I’ve already prepared on my computer and will bring with me on a memory stick so we can use one of the high-end embroidery machines in Sew With Vision to stitch each out).

We’ll frame each panel with a narrow off-white inner frame, a contrasting piping, followed by a wide, contrasting, outer border. Lastly, we’ll add hidden bindings and a backing fabric. All of that takes as much time, I find, as creating the panel itself.

With the pieces taken that far, I’m gambling the gals will blind stitch the hidden binding at home to complete their hanging. I hate contributing to everybody’s UFO piles – I’m determined these pieces will get done.