Beginner's Guide to Bargello Embroidery - make a pincushion!
Learn how to do Bargello as you make this rainbow-inspired pincushion! It's a perfect introduction to this modern needlework method because it's small, while also useful. After all, who couldn't use an extra pincushion on hand?
Bargello isn't a new technique, but it is newly popular again. And it's no wonder because the designs are eye-catching and it's so fun to do. What makes this method unique is the long stitches worked to form bold patterns with tapestry wool. And because it uses this yarn for the stitches, it comes together quickly.
For our sample, we used a folk color palette that makes a non-traditional rainbow, but you can select colors that make your own favorite style of rainbow…or try alternating a color or two with a neutral.
Once you get the hang of Bargello, there are so many designs you can try and projects to make!
Tools and Supplies
- 10-count tapestry canvas (12-count will also work, and will make your project smaller)
- DMC tapestry wools in a rainbow of 7 shades (we used DMC 7666, 7005, 7506, 7363, 7347, 7860, and 7375)
- Large tapestry needle
- 100% wool felt (we used Cherry Jam)
- Sewing machine (optional)
- Pincushion filling (we used Polyester Toy Filling)
- Needle and thread
- Free Bargello pincushion pattern PDF
Starting with the center colour of the bargello pattern, cut a piece of tapestry wool about as long as your forearm. Thread your tapestry needle.
TIP: If you're finding it hard to thread the needle, try pinching the very end of the yarn and pushing it through the needle eye.
Hold a short tail of yarn on the back of the canvas and begin stitching the lines marked on the pattern. Each line represents one stitch.
As you stitch a section, always work from either top to bottom OR bottom to top. Doing this creates full coverage of the canvas on the front and back, which is what you want. And as you stitch, be sure to cover the starting tail.
To end a piece of tapestry wool, slide the needle and working yarn under the previous stitches before snipping off the extra yarn.
Once the center is finished, begin adding rounds of stitches, following the colors on the chart. Start and end the new piece of yarn the same as in step 1.
When the ends of two colors meet, they both go through the same hole in the canvas.
Continue adding rounds of color, always pulling the stitches taut but not too tight.
Some of the rounds have longer stitches, but to avoid extra-long stitches, some have lines made up of several stitches. On those sections of the pattern, you can see where the lines are broken to show the stitches.
Trim the canvas down so there's about four squares of canvas around the edges.
Cut a piece of wool felt to match the size of the tapestry canvas. Pin the felt to the front of the stitched canvas, leaving a section on one side unpinned to leave open when sewing.
TIP: If you want to fill your pincushion with a finer filler, such as ground walnut shells, add a layer of fabric or felt to the wrong side of the stitching. This will prevent tiny filler bits from coming out through the stitched canvas.
Starting on the side that will have the opening, sew around the pincushion on a sewing machine. Make the opening about 6cm wide.
Use a small stitch length and stitch as close to your bargello stitching as possible. Back stitch at the beginning and end to secure the stitches.
If you don't have a sewing machine, you can sew around the square by hand. Use a doubled thread to stitch with running stitch, going through every square of the canvas. Next, go back and fill in the gaps of stitching with a second line of running stitch so that the seam is secure.
Trim the corners to reduce bulk, but don't cut too close to your stitching. It's better for it to be a little fuller than for the stitches to get cut.
Turn the pincushion right side out. Use the eraser end of a pencil or a chopstick to poke the corners into shape.
Add filler to your pincushion. Make it as full as you can so that the pincushion is firm.
Fold the two open edges in and use a needle and thread to sew the opening shut. Use whip stitch, taking two stitches for each square of the canvas. These tiny stitches will ensure that your filler doesn't com out!
All you have left to do is add some pins to your Bargello pincushion!
Pincushions are always useful because you can keep one in every spot where you do needlework. They aren't just for holding pins by your sewing machine—you can use them to hold pins for small hand-sewing projects or pre-threaded needles for your embroidery.
With thanks to Mollie Johanson for this tutorial.