Colorwash Bargello

What makes a quilt a bargello quilt?

And what does colorwash mean?

In the introduction to my second book, Colorwash Bargello Quilts, I credited 3 main influences:

  • Centuries-old bargello needlepoint, also known as Hungarian point, flame stitch, or Florentine work.

    Two examples of Bargello needlepoint patterns or Florentine work. (Left) typical curved Bargello motif, (Right) “flame stitch” motif. Image from Velvet-Glove (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) Public domain, via Wikimedia

  • Modern strip-piecing methods pioneered in the 1970s by quilt artists such as Barbara Johannah
  • Colorwash/watercolor quilting designers in the early 1990s such as Deirdre Amsden, Pat Maixner Magaret, and Donna Slusser.

I also recognize the influence of traditional quilt patterns such as Trip Around the World and Star of Bethlehem or Lone Star when the makers have used gradations of color and/or value in their fabric layout.

In my bargello-style quilts, I emphasize blending the colors and visual textures of the fabrics to create smooth gradations and transitions or “washes” of color across the face of the quilt, punctuated at intervals with areas of higher contrast.

Close-up of Aurora pattern from Colorwash Bargello Quilts showing gradations from light to dark and back again, as well as areas of  higher contrast.

Continue Reading…

Sewing with Seat Belts

No reviews today – just one more day of seat belt fun before moving on to our next topic. 🙂

This time, I’m showing the Market Tote and Pouches from Cozy Nest Design in different colors. I’m using indigo, royal blue, and lavender blue.

Seat belt webbing from Cozy Nest Design – Check out the swatches on the website to see the full color range.

My second Market Tote. Pattern (3 sizes included) from Cozy Nest Design.

Continue Reading…

Pattern Reviews

Front view of my Market Tote, pattern from Cozy Nest Design

My last post included my review, some helpful tips, and photos of the Market Tote Pattern from Cozy Nest Design.

Today I’d like to share 2 additional related patterns: the Pouch Trio and the Cosmetic Bag Duo.

Note: All pattern information is from Cozy Nest Design.

Seat Belt Series: Pouch Trio Sewing Pattern

$5.99 (PDF download)

This sewing pattern will take you step-by-step to create a trio of customized pouches made from seat belt webbing. If you have never worked with seat belts before, this is a great project to get you started. Seat belts are shimmery and luxurious, yet extremely durable and easy to clean and sew. The pouches are fully lined and close with a zipper. These pouches are so versatile; use them for make up, accessories, for travel or for every day. You can even dress them up by adding a clasp ring for a matching tassel or wrist strap!

Here are a couple of pouches I made to coordinate with my teal feathers, tropical teal, and minty aqua tote:

Zipped Pouches made from seat belt webbing. Pattern by Cozy Nest Design.

Once again, I found the pattern exceptionally well written. The only time I got into trouble was Continue Reading…

Pattern Review

Sewing with Seat Belts – Market Tote from Cozy Nest Design

Notes: All pattern information is from Cozy Nest Design.

Seat Belt Series: Market Tote Sewing Pattern

$6.99 (PDF download)

The Market Tote sewing pattern will take you step-by-step to creating a customized bag made of seat belt webbing!  Seat belt webbing is shimmery and luxurious, yet extremely durable  and easy to clean and sew! The tote features 2 exterior slip pockets and a flap accent with metal ring. On the interior you will find a zipped pocket and zipped gusset closure. The handles are 23″ long with a 11″ drop. Instructions are included for 3 different size options.  

Skill level: Intermediate
Finished sizes:
small: 14 x 9 1/2 x 3 3/4″
medium: 15 1/2 x 11 x 3 3/4″
large: 17 x 13 x 3 3/4″

What’s in the pattern:
–  3 complete sets of instructions are included – one for each bag size (small, medium and large)

– imperial and metric measurements
– cutting labels and one pattern piece* for each bag size
– a thoroughly tested design given the thumbs up by my amazing test team
– quality computer-generated line drawings and concise, detailed instructions
* all other pieces are cut based on measurements.

Here are the colors I chose for my first Market Tote:

I chose these 3 colors arranged in blocks for my first tote. Market Tote pattern options include instructions for 1, 2, or 3 colors and solid, stripes or blocks versions.

Continue Reading…

Sewing with Seat Belts – one of my new favorite things!

It has been observed that I’ll try to sew almost anything if it sits still long enough…

I get a kick out of trying new things, whether it’s new-to-me fabrics, or more unusual materials such Tyvek, used dryer sheets, specialty papers, or even very thin sheets of metal. One of my most recent discoveries is seat belts – yes, seat belts! The kind that you buckle up in the car – only in fabulous colors.

Sarah of Cozy Nest Design has developed a terrific series of patterns for stylish totes, bags, pouches, and even a wallet using seat belts. She also sells seat belt webbing by the yard or in customizable kits that correlate with her pattern line. She even has hardware!

I should note that in addition to Sarah’s ingenious seat belt patterns and supplies, Cozy Nest Design offers an inviting  selection of inventive and creative sewing patterns for fabric, too. 

One of the first things I did was order a set of seat belt swatches.

Continue Reading…

Celtic Quilt to Celtic Pillow – Sewing Machine or Serger

Celtic True Lovers’ Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs

The Celtic True Lovers’ Knot has been appliquéd, quilted, and trimmed, and is now ready for the binding.

This would allow you to use the completed piece as a wallhanging. I did consider a wallhanging – I especially liked how it looked when I hung it on point –  but I already have several of this design, so I thought it would be fun to turn it into a pillow, instead.

This method works not only with this Celtic project, but with any orphan quilt block or cool fabric that you might have on hand. If you use fabric that hasn’t been quilted, I recommend fusing a layer of Pellon 987F to the back of the fabric before proceeding. I like the extra shape and softness it gives the pillow.

How to Turn a Quilted Block into a Decorator Pillow:

Note: This is actually a pillow cover, as it is easy to remove for laundering – an important factor with kids and pets! Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Adding Additional Texture with Machine Quilting

The True Lovers’ Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs – appliquéd and ready for more quilting!

This is the tenth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fused onto background fabric. For this project, I added the borders, layered the quilt top with batting and backing, and machine appliquéd and quilted the design in one step.

Now I’m ready to add a little more texture!

Since the design itself has already been appliquéd and quilted in one step, I’m going to start this stage by stitching in the ditch between my borders. This will  further stabilize the quilt and help keep my borders straight. I usually recommend a walking foot for this step, but my layers are flat and stable enough that I am going to continue on with my standard presser foot.

Stitching in the ditch in the seam between the borders.

I could stop here, but I’m having too much fun. 🙂 Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt РTop Tips for (Invisible) Machine Appliqu̩

Working my way around the design, including  sewing down the folded edges formed when the points were created.

This is the ninth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric. You can choose to appliqué the design (sew everything down), add borders, layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then quilt by either hand or machine. Or you can choose (as I usually do) to add the border(s), layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then machine appliqué and quilt in one step.

Here are some of my top tips for successfully appliquéing a Celtic-style design:

In 20+ years of teaching, this is the monofilament thread that seems to work the best in the greatest number of machines.

Choose the right thread.

I recommend a .004 polyester or nylon monofilament thread for your top thread. In teaching various appliqué classes for more than 20 years, I have found the single brand that seems to work best in the greatest number of machines is MonoPoly by Superior Threads.  That said, I have also had students use Wonder Thread, YLI, and even Sulky successfully – it all depends on what works best in each particular machine.

I never use monofilament in the bobbin. Instead, I prefer a high quality 50 or 60 weight, 2 ply cotton, or a high quality 60 weight poly such as Bottom Line by Superior Threads.  Using a relatively finer thread in the bobbin instead of an all-purpose 50 weight, 3 ply cotton thread makes it easier to avoid little dots of bobbin thread being visible on the right side of your work.

Note 1: monofilament can be a little tricky to work with, as it has an unfortunate tendency uncoil, get wrapped around the spool pin, and then break before you realize what has happened. Fortunately, you can minimize breakage by

(1) using a thread net over the spool,

(2) switching to a vertical spool pin instead of a horizontal one, and/or

(3) stitching slowly and steadily – avoiding abrupt stops or speed fluctuations that might cause the spool to spin.

Note 2: If you’d rather avoid monofilament, you could opt to use Bottom Line, or a 50-60 weight, 2 ply cotton thread in both the top AND the bobbin – just match the color of the thread as best you can to your appliqué fabric(s). Silk thread is also WONDERFUL, but can be pricy.

Choose the right tension settings.

Many machines now have automatic tension control, which generally does a very good job adjusting to whatever kind of thread you may be using. However, when it comes to monofilament thread, even high-end machines may need some minor adjusting. On my own machine, I find it helpful to lower the upper thread tension to between 1 and 2 when I’m using monofilament thread as the top thread in my machine (auto-tension for my machine is set at 4).

For more on thread tension and when and how to adjust it, see this machine quilting post: Machine Quilting FAQ & Top Tips.

Choose the right needle.

Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Preparing the Quilt “Sandwich”

True Lover’s Knot (on point) from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs – Now ready to layer with batting and backing!

This is the eighth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric. You can choose to appliqué the design (sew everything down), add borders, layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then quilt by either hand or machine. Or you can choose (as I usually do) to add the border(s), layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then machine appliqué and quilt in one step.

What kind of batting do you prefer? 

This is one of the most common questions quilters ask each other.  My preference is for low-loft batting, usually cotton or cotton blend, although I’ve seen some really nice bamboo battings lately…

The batting I’m using for this project is Hobb’s Heirloom 80/20 Fusible Cotton Batting.  I like it because it is nice and flat, does not beard over time, and the dry (heat activated) adhesive allows me to fuse the quilt top, batting, and backing all in one go. It also gives the quilt sandwich a slight stiffness that helps stabilize the fabric – very helpful for Celtic-style appliqué, which involves lots of turning. (This slight stiffness washes out if you launder the quilt; the adhesive is water-soluble.)

It is also particularly helpful not to have to deal with pins (as in pin-basting) potentially getting caught on each other or on the presser foot as you quilt.

If you choose to use a temporary basting spray instead of a fusible batting, I recommend using 505 Spray and Fix, as I find it is much less likely to gum up your needles and/or cause thread breakage.

But as always, use what works best for you!

Is the layering process any different with fusible batting?

Slightly. Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Adding Borders

The True Lovers’ Knot (placed on point) from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs – ready to add borders!

This is the seventh in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric. You can choose to appliqué the design (sew everything down), add borders, layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then quilt by either hand or machine. Or you can choose (as I usually do) to add the border(s), layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then machine appliqué and quilt in one step.

How do you decide whether or not to appliqué and quilt in one step? 

The main rule of thumb for me is the size of the quilt. For wall-hangings, table runners, pillows, etc., I always appliqué and quilt in one step. For larger projects such as bed quilts, it depends on if the design has lots of major changes in direction or not. There are definitely times when it is easier to appliqué first and then quilt later!

You can also use my methods to “baste” the design in place and then appliqué by hand. If you choose that route, I recommend matching your thread color to the fabric. Silk thread is my top choice – the stitches usually sink down into the fabric for a lovely “invisible” stitch – even if you don’t have a perfect color match. You can then layer the appliquéd design with batting and backing and quilt by hand or machine. Continue Reading…