Fabric Friday – Bargello Emboidery – A UFO Flashback

June 27, 2014 — 25 Comments

Well, I totally failed at completing any of the projects from the Fat Quarter Fun series as I’ve been trotting about whilly nilly doing totally random stuff (good stuff, just not sewing).

So that I don’t leave a horrid gap in the blog I thought that I’d take you back to (yet another) fabric related work in progress.

This one started last year. In fact I even eluded to it in a UFO post in September of last year. I haven’t really worked on it a huge amount but it’s quite a fascinating thing that I thought that I would tell you a little more about it.

It’s not strictly ‘sewing’ but then I never intended ‘Fabric Friday’ just to be about sewing. I envisaged it to be about making fabrics, or useable/sewable pieces, through the use of fibres and yarns too and in quite a direct way, that’s what I’m doing with Bargello embroidery.

Ok, here’s a quick pick of one of my experiments that I am working on and then I’ll get all chatty about what it actually is.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Zig Zag 2

Cool, eh?

So what is “Bargello” embroidery?

Well, for a start, it has various other names (flame stitch or Florentine stitch) but simply put it is the application of surface decoration through stitchwork to a ‘mesh’ canvas resulting in a beautifully patterned piece of fabric that can be used in a multitude of ways. In short, it’s embroidery from a geometric pattern.

It has been around for a long time. Original pieces of work that are displayed in museums in Florence (hence one of it’s names) are dated back to the seventeenth century. The Hungarian point style is often also lumped in with this style however it is said that it’s origins differ.

To be honest, no one seems to be sure and the story differs depending on what you are reading. Either way it is a very distinctive and recognizable style and, I’m pleased to say, continues today.

In it’s early days it was used for elaborate furniture coverings from beds to chairs and was of course reserved for the nobility. Through time the pattern has been adopted by many different creative types and in particular in the seventies the colour mixes that could be achieved with this style meant that it was a natural style for the riotous cacophony in fashion breaking out at that time.

Here are two examples of book covers from my collection that date from the mid seventies.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Book 1

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Book 2

Wow! You’d certainly be noticed in those threads, right?! Also, who thought putting those blue areas there was a good idea?!

As I said before, it’s a fairly easy style to work with. You can start with a basic zig zag and get some amazing results.

Normally it is worked on a “mono” or single weave canvas with interlocking threads that has been stiffened with seize. It looks a little like this.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - The Mono Weave Canvas

Like Aida and Evenweave you can get it in various HPI (holes per inch) “mesh”; the one you choose will depend on the intended use and the thread that you are using. A 30 count mesh is obviously very fine however a 3 count mesh would be used for something akin to a rug.

I have used some Aida in some of my experiments and it seems to work OK; you do however get a tighter stitch which can become a little harder to work as you build up the stitches.

Here a couple of examples of zig zag patterns that I have been playing with.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Zig Zag

Here’s a super close up of the stitches.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Super Close Up Of Zig Zag

As you can see, the stitches are quite tightly packed, which was good from a design point of view but it did make my fingers ache a little as the design built up.

This next one was done on the mono canvas and was quite easy to work.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Zig Zag 2

The stitches are a little “looser” as you can see here on this close up.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Super Close Up Of Stitches

But once fully stitched and pressed, they do cover the canvas well.

Oh, by the way, I’ve mostly been using cross stitch thread or Perle cotton thread but often a tapestry wool is used and this will probably “fill out” the design a little better – I will be on ebay soon, lol!

As I mentioned, the zig zag is a very good place to start as it has the same count for all stitches.

Moving onto something a little more complex and you can see in the next image my Hungarian Point test swatch.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Hungarian Point

Not sure if you can make it out however this has been worked in four different shades of thread to give it the proper look.

Here is another picture of it.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Hungarian Point 3

Ok, that’s slightly better, you can just about make out the four different tones there.

Next is an examples of a slightly more complex design that required the careful counting/stitching of the grid frame before infilling with the various colours.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Diamond Flame

Moving that idea forward I “flattened” the design by adjusting where the stitches of the frame went in and out in order to get this.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Diamond

You can probably see there how each colour is being added separately and worked in “rows”.

This is one of those super close ups so that you can see how the stitches are worked.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Super Close Up Of Diamond

These examples so far have all used fairly straight lines however with different patterns a more curved design can be achieved, as seen in the next examples.

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Swags 2

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Swags

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Flame

So, this is all well and good but what can you make from this?

Well, I’ve already mentioned unique soft furnishings, but there are plenty of ideas out there – I think that my favourite, and definitely one on my to do list, is from one of the books in my stash and looks like this!

Fabric Friday - Bargello and Florentine Embroidery - Book 3

Wow and Kapow! Lol! I’m definitely going to have a go at that one :)

Anyway, that’s it for this week I’m afraid. Hope to see you next week and I WILL be making time to complete some of these UFOs!

If you have any questions or comments on this post then please feel free to use the comments section below.

Thanks for reading :)

J :)

25 responses to Fabric Friday – Bargello Emboidery – A UFO Flashback

  1. 

    Hi John, I found your blog when I did a search on “bargello Florentine pillows”. I love all of your pieces, but I especially love the first one with the pink and beige zig zag stitch. Can you tell me if you used cross stitch thread (DMC) or Perle cotton thread?

    Like

  2. 

    I’ve turned my house upside down thanks to you John! Some years ago I made a set of 4 bargello placemats which I would never let anyone use ‘cos I didn’t want to have to wash them ;) Can I find them now???? I bet I wake up about 3am with a lightbulb moment going on – if I do I’ll send you a piccie :)

    Like

  3. 

    I’ve never heard of this.

    I do love that green piece especially.

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  4. 

    Hi John

    I’m a day late, I know :-) one of those look like the pattern on the sofa we had when I was six years old and under! I’d be interested to know how you get from finished to fabric. I work with aida but it was the larger hole canvas I’m curious about. I need to investigate as a pattern like that would be the perfect finishing touch to the quilt covers and pillow cases I’m making (my bedroom is a very un bedroom colour scheme so I can’t buy anything that matches! I can se it being possible to make lots of geometric styles – aztec patterns being one I can think of. Thank you John for waking me up to this!

    Crafty hugs

    T x

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  5. 

    Love you have the patience to get such amazing results, i do enjoy your diverse knowledge. Todays post is most informative, thank you:-)

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  6. 

    Tell me please when you sleep?? You do so many things….I can’t keep up!!

    Honestly, I enjoy all of your post and your blog. While everything is not “my cup of tea” I do appreciate all of the work that you put into it.

    thanks for the inspiration!

    joanne

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  7. 

    I tried this at College about 8-9 years ago its still sewing just the embroidery side and festinating at the colour changes and patterns that can be made. Well done and keep going! xx

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  8. 

    Hi John,

    All I can say is FANTASTIC, MAGNIFICENT, FANTABULOSO!

    All the best.

    Carol

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  9. 
    Pauline norbury June 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Hi john
    Any ideas to reset my scan n cut. The touch screen buttons are not working
    Thanks

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  10. 

    Mmm – that reminds me of some embroidery I started back in 1977! One day….

    But seriously John that work is lovely, you are so talented and creative… Thanks for the inspiration, as always

    Toni

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  11. 

    Hi
    Just love the bag. You will have to do this and show us the instructions. Can’t wait.
    Love Paula

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  12. 

    Ooh that has brought back some memories

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  13. 

    Hi John, love what you have done already with the bargello.
    Last year at our village festival I found a lady selling a small book of bargello and asked her about it. I thought maybe I could use it in my paper crafting, using pens and a very light couloured grid. Mostly tho’ I have just sat admiring the pictures and trying to work out the patterns. They are beautiful. You have put me in mind of an old dining chair that could do with recovering, so think I might be off to the fabric shop and give it a go.
    Love and Light
    Sioux x

    Like

  14. 
    Jackie Calvert June 27, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Hi John, mmm takes me straight back to the 70’s, and reminds me of a beautiful skirt and bag bought in Portugal. I like the idea of the bag shown, presumably made up before embroidering: like Carole, I am busy jamming and preserving at the moment, fruit and veg fill my thoughts, but may try this in the future sometime. X

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  15. 

    Morning John. This is a fascinating and absolutely beautiful hand craft. I am wondering whether I could incorporate small panels into my bag making as I’m not sure if I have the skill or particularly the patience to complete a whole bag as in the pic gorgeous as it is! :-) B x

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  16. 

    My goodness, this brings back memories! I have that top book and have dabbled in stitching pieces, I love it. Perhaps I ought to get it out once more, I haven’t touched it in years. Thanks for the memory John. Actually I have a couple of pieces which need to be made up into cushion covers, perhaps I ought to dig those out.

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  17. 

    Love this John, can you tell me where to get patterns please? Jan

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    • 

      There are very few books in print. All of mine I got from eBay second hand.
      There are quite a few now on the internet and if all else fails you can always make simple patterns on squared paper yourself. :)

      Like

  18. 

    Thought I had see (and possibly done) most embroidery stitching, but this one escaped me. I love it and like you John, will just have to “have a go”.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Catherine.

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  19. 
    Carole Morgan June 27, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Tie brings back memories John! I did some cushion covers many years ago. I will have to get my canvases & threads out again! But can I fit in yet another project!! Lol!

    The veggies & fruit in the garden are taking priority at the moment!! filling the freezers & making jams etc. All good produce though, & will keep us going through the coming months. My husband is brill at growing them all & we manage to keep supplies of most things through to the next season. We all have our talents don’t we.
    Thanks again for sharing & encouraging us to do different things.
    Carole

    Like

  20. 

    lol, so many crafts, so little room.

    Like

  21. 

    hi John. Must admit to not ever hearing of Bargello embroidery. The stitches are really lovely and the bag is to die for. Looking forward to seeing some more.
    Love Val in Spain x

    Like

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