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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.

Finished version

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 to dark and color groups.


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.

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

NOTE: This 2-1/2″ width is common in many bargello designs but can vary between designers.

Step 1 – Sew Horizontal Strips 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.

This partial chart 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.

Bargello Videos!

My inspiration for this quilt came when I watched a video by Erica Selman. She does an excellent job describing the process. I especially like how she designs the quilt on her graph paper notebook. She does this with other quilts in more of her videos. This video shows a bargello baby quilt.

I don’t know what size vertical strips Erica cut but it appears overall, her strips are narrower than the strips in this article. Also, there appears to be 7 different widths in Erica’s quilt. Using more and narrower strips gives the points a sharper look.

Erica’s Heartbeat Bargello Quilt

The videos below show Erica making her Heartbeat Bargello quilt for her son’s high school graduation. The first video is the longest at 24 minutes. Erica shows in detail how she chose the fabrics, how to cut the vertical strips, how to remove the stitches between colors and how to sew the panel. Excellent overview of the process!

This next video is 4 minutes. Erica shows how she stitches the large panels together then shows a piano key border made with left over strip sets.

This next video is 4 minutes. Erica shows how she stitches the large panels together then shows a piano key border made with left over strip sets.
This video is about 6 minutes and Erica shows how she quilted the bargello part of the quilt.

This video is about 7 minutes and Erica shows how she quilted the piano key border.

Bargello Quilts with Electric Quilt

I use Electric Quilt to design most of my quilts. I found this to be a great tool for auditioning fabric choices. Use Electric Quilt to design your bargello quilts. Put “bargello” in the search box and find How Do I Create a Quick Bargello? There are step-by-step instructions.Instructions for designing a bargello quilt in EQ7 can also be found on the EQ Support page, Bargello – How to Design.

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