I know that there are probably a million Bargello step by steps all over the internet, but I wanted to, specifically with a few friends in mind who have asked me how I made my last one, the Nebula Bargello.
Back when I made that one, I really enjoyed the process and immediately bought fabric for another one, not knowing how long it would take me to get through my project list. Moving and having a baby in the middle of that didn’t help things much, either. Two years later, I finally got to a point where I had the space and time between some projects to work on my ever growing Want to Make List, as well as some encouragement from fellow quilters on social media like Instagram (I did a Friday night sew a long with people I follow on IG).
I know that there are a lot of books available on these, too. I highly recommend checking them out for ideas and instructions, but I never followed the instructions from a book for this. I just make it up as I go, and so my quilts so far are not overly complex are complicated.
Here we go. Bear with me on this, people. I’ve been writing this post for as long as I have been working on the quilt, but my husband just took the boys out to give me some free time, and I left my notebook that I’ve been using to plan this in the diaper bag, so I don’t have it. Great job, Bria!
Step 1 – Decide to Make a Bargello Quilt
Seems rather silly, eh? But it isn’t! Bargellos look so much more intimidating than they actually are. I pieced this quilt incredibly fast compared to my normal quilt top timeline. My first was pieced over three days, start to finish, dedicating about 2-3 hours per day to it. I like doing this style of quilt because it doesn’t take a long of planning or stressing over super precise piecing. Yes, you should follow the 1/4″ seam rule, like always, but there are a couple of design decisions you can make that make piecing a little more forgiving. To me, at least 😉
I also like to make up my curve as I go along, instead of planning it before. I might make a rough sketch, but it’s not something I am very strict about.
There is a program available that will help you audition fabrics, plan the curve, and then print out instructions for exactly how to cut your fabric to make that curve. I believe this is it. Many of the ladies in my first Bargello class used this, and they found it really helped them take the mystery out of the quilt so it was a lot more accessible to them. I, however, am fundamentally very lazy in most things, and so the idea of taking pictures of each of my fabrics, uploading them onto my computer, organizing them, trying new designs, and then printing it all out and following it was too much work for me.
Step 2 – Pick Out Fabrics YESSSSSSSSS
Isn’t this one of the best parts about making a quilt? I picked the fabric for this one out years ago, stored in a plastic bag labelled “Bargello: Apocalypse”. I wanted to make something inspired by a painting my husband did in college.
For both this quilt and Bargello: Nebula, I used 12 fat quarters. You can use less or more, but 12 makes a decent sized quilt if you use all of each FQ. Using fat eights will give you a decent lap quilt. Here are my selections –
I don’t often use batiks in my quilts (they are LOVELY, but sometimes I think a little over used), but I think Bargello’s are perfect for batiks, and so I use them almost exclusively, although in this one I have picked a few that are not. Arrange them in an order that is pleasing, step away, change it up, and rearrange until you are happy.
Then, keeping the fabric in the same order, rotate them to make sure that the ones at the edge look good against each other, since in the Bargello they will be rotated. This is what I’ve done in the photo above.
Bargellos can look nice without borders, but I think one, simple, usually around 4-5″ inches wide provides a nice frame. As the size of the Bargello is variable, I can’t say for sure how much fabric you will need. I like to wait until the main part of the quilt is pieced before I choose one anyway.
Step 3 – Prep Your Fabrics
This isn’t essential, but it’s something that I’ve learned from my first Bargello: starching helps. Since it is likely you may have strips as narrow as 3/4″ wide (1/4″ finished in the quilt), and to keep piecing tidy you will probably be pressing a lot, it is really easy to distort and curve your quilt. Starching (or using a starch alternative) and pressing your fat quarters before any cutting is good practice. I’ve never done this for any of my quilts before, but I’m still a novice, and the more I read and cut and piece myself, the more I think I should do this for ALL of my quilts.
Step 4 – Deflect Angry Baby Agro
No matter what I’m working on or how recently I’ve tended to him, now it about when my 11 month old needs attention, so I have to stop for an hour or so and nurse him. He can’t seem to stand me being engaged in anything else. This is a stressful age for me. *sigh*
Step 5 – Cut Your Fabrics
With my first Bargello, we just cut four strips, around 3.5″ wide and the length of the fat quarter (about 22″, this does not need to be precise) to make four of what I am going to call sets. For this, I wanted to make five sets, so I made the strips a tad narrower, 3″, to fit in five, which you can see pictured below.
Here are all of mine
I ended up having a little left of of my fat quarters, between 2.5 and 3″. I did not want to make a sixth set of strips, so I just set those aside for a future project of 2.5″ squares.
Step 6: Arranging and Preparing the First Set
Now take one of each of the fabrics and arrange them as you have decided from step 2. Take a picture! Make a note of how you want them arranged. As you sew these strips together it can become confusing and very easy to mix them up. One thing I do to keep them all in order is as I cut, I take very small scrap strips and tape them to a paper, like this.
And here are all the fabrics for my first set lined up, ready to sew.
Here is the same, all sewn together.
Go ahead and press your seams all in one direction here. (I don’t yet have any experience pressing seams open, although that is something I would like to try in the future. Pressing to one side won’t hurt at all and helps to keep the back tidy). I don’t think it matters if you press them up or down. I made the mistake of waiting until I had sewn all five sets into tubes before I started pressing, and that was a huge complicated pain and I wasn’t able to press well.
Now here is where we really deviate from normal quilt sewing, at least to me. Take your first and last fabric, put them right sides together, and sew those, to make this set into a tube.
Do your best to press this last seam to the same side as the others. I don’t know if there is a great way to do it. What I did was arrange the tube so the seam I needed to press was in the center, and pressed it even though it was on top of the part of the tube under it.
Step 7: Repeat with the rest of your sets
Here are my five all sewed and pressed into tubes, stacked up, ready to be cut into the Bargello strips.
I’ll go ahead and stop here. If there is anything that is unclear, please let me know! I will respond and try to edit to be clear.