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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Bargello Quilt Basics: 3 Steps to Bargello Quilts

Bargello quilts can look intimidating, especially for beginning quilters. The three basic steps to making a bargello quilt are:

  • sew the horizontal strip sets,
  • cut the horizontal strip sets into vertical strips, and
  • sew the vertical strips together.
Once you understand these basic steps, you can make any bargello quilt. In this tutorial we follow the process to make the quilt shown here.This simplified version uses 1/2 yard of 13 fabrics. The quilt finishes approximately 60″ x 76″ without borders.

I use Electric Quilt to design most of my quilts. I found this to be a great tool for auditioning fabric choices. If you are using Electric Quilt, put “bargello” in the search box and find "How Do I Create a Quick Bargello?" to find step-by-step instructions.

bargello quilt in 3 steps
Electric Quilt Version

Finished Quilt

Most bargello quilts are pieced in smaller sections or panels. Piece the sections or panels together to make the quilt. In this
simplified version, we make three identical panels to sew together.

Prepare the Fabric

First, determine the placement of the fabrics. The colors should flow from one fabric to the next. Some ideas are light ot dark and color groups.

TIP: Lay out the fabrics and take a picture. Try other combinations and take a picture each time. Look at the pictures to determine final placement.

Number the fabrics from 1 thru 13. Next, cut the fabric into strips. From each of the 13 fabrics, cut 6 strips, 2-1/2″ x WOF. This 2-1/2″ width is common in many bargello designs but can vary between designers.

Finally, cut a swatch from each fabric and make a swatch chart like the one shown here.

Step 1 - Sew Horizontal Strip Sets

For this simplified version, a strip set consists of one strip from each fabric. The fabrics are pieced in order from 1 thru 13. For other bargello designs, you may have more or less colors or the colors may be repeated in a strip set.

Tip: To keep the seam lines straight alternate the sewing direction Sew the first two strips together from left to right, sew the next strip right to left and so on.


Press the seams to one side, alternating the pressing direction.

I press from the wrong side.

By alternating the pressing direction, most of the seams will be interlocked when the strips are sewn together in the third step. After pressing, check the front to make sure the pressing is even.

Fold the strip set, right sides together and stitch fabric 1 to fabric 13. This forms a tube. Do not press this seam.

Step 2 – Cut Horizontal Strips into Vertical Strips

With the strip set still folded in half, cut the vertical strips.

Your instructions will have a chart or table showing the width to cut the strips.

For this quilt, there are 5 different cut widths in 1/2″ intervals. Other bargello quilts might have a different number of strips with 1/4″ intervals. Cut the required number of strips for each width. For now, each strip you cut is a loop. Keep the loop intact. Use boxes or bags to sort the loops by width. This will come in handy for the next part of this step.

Loops to Strips

Next you cut the loops apart at various seams. Your instructions will have a chart showing where to remove the stitching. The partial chart below shows how to lay out the panel in columns. Use this chart along with your swatch chart. For Column 1 choose a 2.5″ strip. Remove the stitching between colors 10 and 11. Place this strip on your design wall or table with color 11 at the top.

Here you see some of the columns in place on the design wall. Columns 1-6 are already sewn together. Placing the columns together like this is very important so you can check the design before swing them together in the next step.

Step 3 – Piece Vertical Strips

The last step for this panel is to sew all the vertical strips together. Start at one side and sew the strips together. since you pressed the seams in alternate directions, most of the time your seams will interlock. Change the direction of any seams that need it. Once all the strips are sewn, press the vertical seams in one direction. To complete this quilt, make two more identical panels. Stitch the three panels together.

Check out more from Carol Thelen:

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