Tutorial by Big Horn Quilts
40″ x 60″ before borders
This quilt will use two 2-1/2 inch strips of 20 different fabrics from your stash. So, cut pairs of strips, selvedge to selvedge.
To make a bigger quilt, decide how tall and wide you want it to be without borders. Each 2 ½ inch strip in your strata will give you 2″ in length, each 4 ½ inch strip in your strata will give you 4 inches additional in length. Each strata set will give you about 30 inches in width but again, the strata must be identical! Make two identical strata by sewing the strips together so that you get value runs from dark to light and back. Set your stitch length to about half your normal length, because you will be cross cutting small pieces and you don’t want them coming apart at the seams. The strata are most interesting when there are at least two light areas and two dark areas, and at least two color families. The top and bottom of your strata will be joined together, so consider that in planning your color runs. When fabrics next to each other have a sharp contrast, it is dramatic. You want a little drama, but not chaos. If you try to blend too much, you’ll end up with mush. Since this is an exercise in using up scraps, have fun with it.
The fabrics don’t have to all play well together, they just have to play well with the ones on either side of them. Iron all the seam allowances toward the bottom strip. Ironing well at this point will save you grief later. Check both the right side and the wrong side for pleats and goofy seam allowances. Then sew the bottom strip to the top strip, right sides together. This will make a big tube with all the seam allowances on the outside. Cross cut this tube into the following widths: 1″, 1-1/2″, 2″, 2-1/2″, 3″, and 3-1/2″. You should be able to get about 3 of each width out of each of your strata tubes. These widths are not real important, you can do any widths, but what is important is that your cuts are at a good 90 degrees to your seam lines, and that the strips you cut are the same width at both ends. You may have to discard some ‘check slivers’ to keep everything perpendicular to the seam lines, and to flatten out places where the tube wants to twist. Set your sewing machine back to normal length stitches, and turn the tubes right sides out. Now comes the fun. On your design wall if you have one, or on any surface, start designing your bargello. Pick up a strip, decide which fabric you want on the top right hand corner of your quilt, and lay the tube out with that fabric at the top. Pick up a strip that is similar but not exactly the same size and lay it beside the first, with that top fabric offset up or down ½ drop (one inch). This will mean folding a fabric at the top, midway between the seams. It is fun to go from about 2 inch strips up to the 3 ½ inch size, and then back down to the smallest, and then back up. If you do this, you get curves. If you put all your 2 inch strips beside each other, you will get a straight line. Go up for a while, then down for a while. Play with different arrangements. Don’t worry about the backs of the strips, which you cant see if the top looks good, the bottom will too.
When you like the design, cut the top of each tube. Every other one will be cut right on the seam line, and the alternate tubes will be cut exactly between two seam lines. Sew them back together, and you have a bargello quilt! By having all the seam allowances pointing the same direction, it is easy to sew without having to fuss with them, they should always point towards your belly when you are sewing.