Instructions for Bargello Quilting Technique

    by Anne Baley

    About the Author

    Working in sunny Florida, Anne Baley has been writing professionally since 2009. Her home and lifestyle articles have been seen on Coldwell Banker and Gardening Know How. Baley has published a series of books teaching how to live a frugal life with style and panache.


    Bargello quilts are based on needlepoint patterns of the same name. Undulating waves of color come up to a point and then swoop down to a trough before rising up again. This dramatic zig zagging pattern offers an ideal use for fabric in your scrap basket, as you will need a wide selection of different prints to complete it. While the bargello pattern looks complicated, it takes more trick than talent to complete this design.

    Cut fabric strips

    Cut two strips of each fabric, each 2 1/2 inches wide, from edge to edge, across the entire width of the piece. This will give you strips about 44 inches long. These dimensions will make a good-sized lap quilt, but once you are familiar with the basic bargello design technique, you can vary the width of these strips and make your quilt larger or smaller. Varying the width of the strips will also make your design more interesting and dynamic.

    Create a striped design

    Lay out your strips, one from each fabric, in a striped design. Go from light to dark to light, or the other way around, depending on the values of your fabrics. Each fabric doesn't have to match or even go nicely with every other piece, but each fabric needs to complement the fabrics it is touching. Lay out 20 stripes in a pleasing pattern, and sew the stripes together, two at a time. Join each set of two, and so on until you have made one large piece of striped fabric.
    Lay out the second set of strips in exactly the same order and sew them together in the same manner. You will now have two pieces of identical striped fabric. Press all the seams in the same directions to make for easier handling.

    Create a tube and rings

    Fold the striped fabric in half, right sides together, with the first strip touching the 20th strip. Sew these two strips together, creating a tube of strips. All of the seam allowances will be on the outside. Repeat these actions with the second striped fabric. Lay the tubes on the table or cutting board with the seams running horizontally. Cut the fabric vertically to create a series of rings. Make rings that are different widths, making them 1 inch, 1 1/2 inches, 2 inches, 2 1/2 inches, 3 inches and 3 1/2 inches. With two sets of fabric, you should be able to get three rings of each size out of all this fabric. Turn all the rings right side out.

    Designing the top

    Pick one fabric to be the fabric in the upper right corner of the quilt. Find that fabric in one of the rings. Pin this ring up on a design wall, with the corner fabric on the top. Choose another ring of a different width from the first. Find the same corner fabric on this second ring. Pin this ring on the board with the corner fabric touching the first corner fabric, but with the patch either halfway up or halfway down the first. The seams will be staggered and will not match. Find a third ring of a different width and do this same thing, staggering the corner fabric either up or down about halfway. Stagger the fabric by folding the fabric in the tube either on the seam or in the middle of a fabric patch. The top of every tube should line up. Alternate every once in a while, staggering down three or four and then up three or four. This staggering makes the wave design. There is no right or wrong way to set this design, just do what pleases your eye.

    Sewing the final seams

    When you have finished designing the top to your satisfaction, cut the top of each tube as it is on the design. You will be either cutting on the seam line or in the middle of a fabric patch for each ring. Keep the strips pinned to the design wall until you sew them. Start with the first and second strips, sew them together. Keep adding strips until you have taken them all off the design wall in order and have finished your bargello quilt top.