Variable Zig Zag Bargello Stitching

close up of variable zig zag bargello with title.

Bargello stitching is made up of straight stitches in repeated rows. Changing the stitch length will change the whole look of the design. Variable zig zag takes a basic zig zag design and makes it a bit more complicated. But it is still easy to stitch. Learn how in this tutorial.

Bargello is stitched on canvas, and there are different options for materials. The samples are stitched with worsted weight yarn on plastic canvas, but the stitching technique is the same if you are using traditional canvas and tapestry wool.

Colour Choice

Traditionally, bargello is stitched in different shades of one colour, but feel free to play around with other colours. This is a fun design for trying new things and experimenting with unusual colour combinations.

The sample uses four different shades of teal, stitched in a gradation from dark to light.

Stitching the base row

Cut the plastic canvas to size for your project. The sample is a 4″ square that can be used as a coaster. but this design would look great on other plastic canvas projects. Use it for cuts, boxes or wall hangings.

Begin in the centre of the piece. Find the mid-point column between the right and left sides of the piece. Take a stitch in the middle of the column over just one bar. Leave a long tail on the end of the thread.

first stitch in variable zig zag bargello.

Stitch to the right side of the piece, moving the stitches up one step each time for five stitches, then down one step at a time for five.

There are two different options for stitching bargello stitches.

Method One

The first option is to always bring the needle up at the bottom of the stitch and take it down at the top of the stitch.

bargello stitching chart with numbered stitches.

Method Two

The second option is to take the stitches from bottom to top when you are moving “up” the zig zag and from top to bottom when you are moving “down” the zig zag. This way uses less thread.

Either of these stitching techniques is fine, so choose the one you like better.

When you get to the right side of the piece, weave the end of the thread into the back of the stitches. Go back to the long tail from the centre stitch. Thread that, then stitch the other side of the base row to the left side of the piece.

This is the base row. It will be used a reference for the other rows. The darkest teal is used in the sample.

first row of zig zag bargello.

It reminds me of Charlie Brown.

Stitching the echo rows

Once the base row is stitched, it is easy to stitch the rest of the rows. There is no complicated counting.

The second row is stitched over two holes. Begin at the left edge of the piece with a waste knot, and stitch across to the right edge.

stitching the echo row in variable zig zag bargello.

The bottom of this row shares a hole with the top of the stitches in the base row. Be careful not to pierce the thread when you are stitching. This will make it more difficult if you have to take stitches out.

The third row is stitched over one hole, and the fourth row is stitched over three holes.

These four rows make the pattern.

four pattern rows of variable zig zag bargello.

Repeat these rows. When you get to the top of the piece, just stitch to the edge with partial rows.

one half of variable zig zag bargello stitching complete.

When the upper half has been stitched, repeat the rows in the lower half.


Once the bargello stitching is complete, you can finish your piece as desired. For dimensional projects like boxes or bowls, there will be seams for construction. Then exposed edges can be covered with overcast stitch.

One of the nice things with bargello stitching is that it looks very neat on the back side as well. You can tell on this sample, I used the first stitching method.

variable zig zag bargello sample in teal.

Be sure to #epidastudio when you share your projects on social media!


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plastic canvas with yellow stitches and title.
close up of multi-colour zig zag bargello stitching with title.

Elizabeth DeCroos - Epida Studio.

Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos is the designer and teacher at Epida Studio. She loves to work in quilting, pojagi and embroidery and teach these techniques to others.
Learn more and get her to speak to your group.

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