Bargello stitching is made up of straight stitches in repeated rows to make geometric designs. Of all the different bargello designs, basic zig zag is the easiest. Learn how to stitch it in this tutorial, and change the look with different colour combinations.
Bargello is usually stitched on canvas and there are different options for materials.
The samples shown are stitched on plastic canvas with worsted weight yarn. This is a great choice for trying out a new technique because it is easy to find, inexpensive and doesn’t require any equipment other than a needle and scissors.
In bargello, colour is a big part of the design.
Traditionally, it is stitched in different shades of one or two colours. This is a classic design that looks beautiful.
But feel free to play with other colour combinations. Bright colours with lots of contrast give a fun modern look.
For the sample, I will be using these four colours – dark burgundy, royal blue, rose and ivory.
This is leftover yarn from a knitter friend. That is a great resource for stitching. Knitters often have leftover odds and ends that they will be happy to give you. It will save you from having to buy a whole ball of yarn for a small project.
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 plastic canvas cups or boxes as well. The design can be centred if there is an odd number of spaces.
Begin in the centre of the piece. Find the mid-point between the right and left sides of the piece. Then take a stitch over two spaces in the middle of that column. Leave a long tail on the yarn, so that the stitch uses the middle of your piece of yarn.
Stitch the zig zag going toward the right of the piece, moving up a step at a time for five steps, then moving down a step at a time. Each stitch is worked over two spaces, so they are the same size.
There are two different options for stitching bargello.
The first is to always bring the needle up at the bottom of the stitch and take it down at the top of the stitch.
The second option is to take the stitches on 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 end of the piece, weave the end of the yarn into the back of the stitches. Then go back and thread the other end of the yarn and stitch the same zig zag pattern toward the left side of the piece.
This is the base row that will be used as reference. The other rows will not require any counting, because they will just be echoes of this row.
Stitching the echo rows
Beginning at the left side and stitch the next row directly above the base row. Use a waste knot or hold the tail of the thread so that it is caught in the back of the stitches.
This stitches in this row are also worked over two spaces. This blue yarn is a lighter weight than the others, so two strands are being used.
The bottom of this row will share the holes with the top of the base row. When stitching, be careful not to pierce the previous stitches with the needle. This will make it difficult if you have to take stitches out.
When you get to the end of the row, weave the end of the yarn into the back of the stitches and cut.
Continue stitching echo lines in this manner with the colour pattern you chose.
The top rows are stitched as partial rows.
Once the upper side is done, stitch the lower side in the same way.
After the stitching is complete, you can finish the piece.
If you are making a box or a cup, use overcast stitches for the seams to assemble it.
Any outer edges can be stitched with overcast stitches to leave a clean finish and cover the plastic canvas.
Bargello is one of the designs that almost looks as good on the back as it does on the front. You can see that this sample uses the first method of stitching.
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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.