Colorwash Bargello – Laying Out the Vertical Rows

This is the fifth in a series of sew/quilt-along posts about making a bargello quilt.

Now that my loops are all cut from the strip-pieced tubes (see previous post), I’m ready to open the loops up and lay out  the bargello segments that form the vertical rows. This is exciting, as it will be the first chance to see what the finished quilt will look like.

I start by laying all the loops on my worktable in order. Remember – the colors are different in the photo only because the tubes have been rotated differently. All of the odd numbered loops have been cut from one tube, and all of the even numbered loops have been cut from another tube.

Laying the loops out in order first on the worktable – note the alternating direction of the seam allowances

Now it’s time to open up the loops!

I like to use an inexpensive foam core board for this. Being able to look at the design vertically helps immensely. As I open each loop, I pin it to the board and transfer the number to the top of the bargello strip.

The Colorwash Bargello book shows a design graph for each quilt. This graph shows the movement (up one space or down one space) of the “dominant” fabric.

Design graph for Cascade from Colorwash Bargello Quilts showing the movement of the “dominant” fabric – the deep burgundy

Cascade, designed and quilted by Beth Ann Williams, pieced by Pam Crans for Colorwash Bargello Quilts. 29″ x 34.5″

However, for this particular quilt, I think the easiest way to decide where to start opening up the loops is to figure out what you want to happen through the center of the quilt – where the cream runs from the bottom left corner to the upper right corner in the original quilt.

I’ve decided to run the light green/cream/tan through the center of this project, so that’s where I’m going to start opening up the first loop. This will put the bright turquoise fabrics where the burgundy is in the original.

Now you’ll see (if you haven’t already figured it out) why it is so helpful to have two different colors for the bobbin and the top thread! It allows you to immediately identify which side of a seam shows the bobbin thread. Too many times, I’ve seen people pull their fabric out of shape – or even accidentally rip the fabric – when “sewing in reverse” (AKA taking a seam apart).  This method will prevent that:

 Carefully slit the bobbin thread every 4-5 stitches with a sharp seam ripper

Flip the fabric over, and the top thread should easily come out in one piece, pulling most of the short bits of bobbin thread with it – without stressing the fabric

This shows the first few vertical rows pinned to the board:

The first few vertical rows pinned to the foam core board – note the numbering at the top

Ta-da! Now the design is complete as far as the original pattern is concerned.This pattern is particularly beginner-friendly because the fabric always moves up one step – never down 🙂

But since my sew/quilt-alongs are all about variations, I’m going to use my left-over tube sections to make the quilt a little wider. 

I’m planning to cut 1 medium-sized loop from the leftovers from the first tube and 1 wider loop from the leftovers from the second tube.

Note: Adding more vertical rows (bargello segments, or loops that have been opened up) will make the quilt wider. This quilt will also be 1 1/2″ longer than the original Cascade because I am using 20 fabrics instead of the 19 specified in the pattern in Colorwash Bargello Quilts.

Here is the slightly wider version of Cascade. It’s fine to add or subtract vertical rows – just make sure the seam allowances of the vertical strips have been pressed in alternate directions, and the pattern is continuous – each fabric moves only 1 step up or down at a time. 

Lastly, I re-number each vertical row, making sure to keep the painter’s tape out of the seam allowances

Note: I’m happy with how this looks, but if you are laying out your own version of this quilt and decide that you’d rather emphasize a different color by switching things around, it’s no big deal to sew the bargello segments back into loops and start opening up the loops again in a different spot.

Now I’m ready to start sewing again!

 

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