Bargello Floor Cushion

Materials

Based on fabric at least 1m wide

  • One 2 1⁄2in strip of each of 12 fabrics
  • 1.5m black fabric for backing and borders
  • Seam ripper
  • Sewing machine

Skill Level

Intermediate

If you have teenagers going off to college or university, this floor cushion can be stuffed with a pillow and duvet or sleeping bag, all set for unexpected visitors. Whatever you fill it with it will be well used and admired.

Bargello embroidery, which is worked with vertical, parallel stitches to create colourful designs, has inspired this technique among quilters. Here we hope to inspire you with this simple introduction to the technique. Work as accurately as possible and you are sure to be pleased with the results.

Choosing Fabrics

This is a great project for usng up the fabrics in your stash. Start by choosing one or two fabrics that you really like and which go well together and then pick out a selection of paler and darker ones too. As you can see, this one featured changes from pale cream to beige, black, brown, rust and finally burgundy. This contrast of light through to dark will make your design more eye-catching than simply using a selection of 12 random fabrics.

Ideally, all the fabrics should be washed and ironed to prevent shrinkage later. It is easier to cut across the width of the fabric if it is folded into four first.

  1. Cut a 2 1⁄2in strip from each of the fabrics. Lay all the fabrics side-by-side in order before sewing them together. Use a 1⁄4in seam allowance throughout. Stitch the fabrics together in alternate directions to avoid distortion (see Photo 1).
Photo 1
Photo 1

Photo 2
Photo 2

Photo 3
Photo 3
  1. 2 (Photo 2) Press all the seams in opposite directions and then sew the two end fabrics RS together to form a tube. Trim one end of the tube using the rotary cutter. Cut ‘slices’ from the tube and keep them in order as follows: 2 1⁄2in, 2 1⁄2in, 2 1⁄2in, 2 1⁄2in, 2in, 1 3⁄4in, 1 1⁄2in, 1 1⁄4in, 1 1⁄4in, 1in (centre), 1 1⁄4in, 1 1⁄4in, 1 1⁄2in, 1 3⁄4in, 2in, 2 1⁄2in, 2 1⁄2in, 2 1⁄2in, 2 1⁄2in

You’ll find you have enough fabric left for a couple more cuts. If you choose to use these, the end result will be more oblong.

TIP! It is a good idea to clean and oil your machine before starting this project as there is quite a bit of high speed stitching involved!

  1. (Photo 3) Take the centre 1in strip and carefully unpick the stitches between the light and dark fabrics and open out to create a strip. Work across the fabric tubes to the outside of the row unpicking the stitches as before but each time between the next consecutive two fabrics. In this way the Bargello pattern will start to appear. Repeat from the centre out towards the other side.

TIP! You may wish to reinforce your work at this stage by pressing iron on Vilene to the back of the Bargello, which will help to secure the stitching. Alternatively, back it and quilt it in the ditch of each seam line.

  1. Stitch the strips together. The seam allowances should be pressed opposite to each other to prevent bulky seams. Again, stitch the strips together in opposite directions to prevent distortion. Carefully press your work on the reverse.
  2. Cut the border for the Bargello block from 3 1⁄2in wide fabric – we’ve used black, as it's particularly practical for this age group! Carefully measure the width of your completed patchwork and cut two strips of fabric to the same size. Stitch these on opposite sides. Press. Now measure the other two sides and cut a further two strips of fabric and stitch them in place.
  3. There are a number of ways you can finish your cushion. If you do not intend to fill the cushion with something usable, simply cut a square of fabric to size, sew around three sides, turn, stuff and hand stitch. Alternatively, insert a zip fastener across the centre of the backing or make an 'envelope' style flap before sewing together.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 11 Number 10 - October 2003