This week it’s time to start piecing with a really cool Bargello piecing technique that’s going to make this quilt much faster and easier to construct.
Learn how to piece your rainbow Bargello strip sets in this new quilting tutorial:
To follow along with this project, you'll also need a copy of the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day.
This book covers all the basics of quilting from preparing your fabric to piecing to basting so you understand how to make a quilt from the ground up.
The quilt projects in this book are designed to teach you every step of the quilting process and learn thirty new designs. I've even included a walking foot wholecloth design to help you stitch your quilting skills up a notch!
Piecing a Quilt Bargello Style
Did you know Bargello quilts originated from a distinctive hand embroidery style? We call it Bargello because this style of stitch work was found on a set of chairs in the Bargello palace in Florence, Italy.
Somewhere along the way quilters saw the Bargello embroidery designs and decided to piece a quilt the same way. Isn’t it wonderful how these crafts swirl together so seamlessly?
Thankfully piecing a Bargello quilt is much faster and easier than hand stitching threads on a canvas. We will use time saving techniques like Strip Piecing that will create the colorful units for our Prism Path quilt very quickly.
Strip Piecing is a technique of piecing long strips together into a strip set, then cutting new shapes from this pieced unit. It definitely takes the criticism of quilting up a notch. Many non-quilters don’t understand why we “cut up fabric into tiny pieces to make a quilt.”
Well, this Bargello technique takes it to another extreme. We’re cutting up fabric into pieces, stitching it together, then cutting it up again and stitching it together again to make a quilt.” LOL!
The key to piecing a strip set starts with setting a good quilting foundation. Make sure you’ve prewashed, starched, and pressed your fabric before cutting it into long, straight strips. We covered this last week in Prism Path Post #1.
The next key is accurate piecing. Be sure to use a ¼-inch patchwork foot and piece a few test seams and measure to make sure that foot is giving you an accurate ¼-inch seam allowance.
Learn more about seam allowance and measuring for accuracy in the book How to Piece Perfect Quilts.
I’ve made a Rainbow Quilt!
Arrange all your strips in the order you want to piece them together. No, you don’t have to piece a rainbow, but if you want to, make sure you piece all the strips in the same order every time.
For piecing thread, I use Aurifil 50 wt. Mako cotton. This is my favorite thread for piecing because it’s very thin so takes up very little room in the seam. It’s also virtually lint free. This means that I can piece this entire baby quilt without having to brush out the lint from my bobbin case. Some threads are SUPER linty so watch out for that as you begin piecing and quilting more. The more lint, the more often you need to clean out your machine.
I wound only three bobbins for this quilt in red, yellow, and blue. I stitched red thread between the red and orange strip, yellow between the yellow and orange and yellow and green strips, and blue thread between the last remaining strips. That way the thread color matched with at least one fabric color for every seam.
Before I begin piecing, I always adjust my stitch length. Most machines start up and have a preset stitch length already selected for you. I find this length is WAY too big for piecing. I change my stitch length to 1.5 mm.
Why such a tiny stitch length? I want the fabrics locked together tight. I want that seam to be super hard to rip out. And I like it that way because I press my seam allowances open.
You know you've been quilting a long time when you imagine a collective gasp of shock after saying something like that out loud. Many quilters want to burn me at the stake for pressing my seams open.
And yep, this is another thing I can rant about all day. Click Here to find my podcast episode all about pressing seams open.
Here’s the thing - don’t knock it until you try it. I find a lot of things with quilting have been passed from quilter to quilter but aren’t really based on real-life, hands on experience.
How many quilters have actually seen seams pressed open cause a quilt to fall apart? Or batting to leak through? Unless it's happened personally to you, how do you know it's true?
For years I heard polyester batting was evil, then I had a COTTON batting beard through the top layer of a quilt. That taught me an important lesson about learning from my own experience, not what Betty Sue’s Grandma’s Aunt’s best friend experienced in 1976.
But if the seams are pressed open, how do we match seams?
Many quilters get stuck on the idea of seams “locking” together when one seam is pressed to one side and the other is pressed to the opposite side. Yes, this kinda works, but it's also very easy for those seams to slip and not join up at all.
Pressing seams open results in a more accurately pieced quilt so your seam lines are naturally going to line up more accurately.
Another thing - your seams will match mostly based on how you prepared and cut the fabrics. I pin a few seams here and there, but for the most part trust my fabric preparation and cutting to ensure the seams match up nicely.
But that’s getting a bit ahead for this week!
Prism Path Quilting Homework
Your homework this week is to piece all your rainbow strip sets and cut the Rainbow Bargello Units you need for this quilt. Yes, you will cut more units than you need. I wrote the pattern that way so just in case your ruler slips or something happens, you have plenty of extra pieces.
Let's go quilt,
Find all of the posts for this baby quilt along by clicking the images below: