Pressing Matters!

Time to finish preparing for the bargello workshop I'll be teaching at the end of April!
First I made a "light to dark" key by pasting up a tiny bit of each fabric.

Project key

Then I cut strips for sets that would be sewn together in light to dark order. I decided to join pairs first, sewing from the "top", down.

Sewing strip sets

After that I joined pairs into foursomes, sewing in the opposite direction ("bottom", up). 

This keeps strip sets nice and straight.

Pairs become foursomes

Maximize useable fabric by keeping one end of the strip set lined up (as below).

To maximize useable fabric, keep one end even.

The other end will jog around because fabrics are never exactly the same width. That's okay.

The "joggy" end!

Instead of building sets the way I did, you could choose to join strips together in order, from left to right. Simply alternate the sewing direction (starting at top or bottom) each time a strip is added. Remember to keep one end all lined up, and let the other end "jog".

Why does "alternating" the sewing direction keep strip sets straight?

Feed dogs sometimes pull fabric unevenly. By alternating your sewing direction, you counteract the "pull" of the previous seam and prevent your strip set from curving into a giant smile!

However you accomplish it, your goal is to make strip sets that match the order of your project key.

A finished strip set

Pressing techniques for straight strips:

Some people are happy sewing a bunch of strips together, and then somehow pressing all the seams at once. There is usually much pushing (of the iron), and pulling (of the fabric).

When I try it that way, strips stretch and waver, and sometimes the fabric doesn't open all the way and a fold is permanently rendered beside the seam.

So - I prefer to press as I go. It is not as quick, but my strip sets are straight, accurate, and crisp.

Here is my first pair of strips, sewn together.

A pair ready for pressing

Lay the pair on the ironing board in a nice, straight line and set the seam. To reduce the risk of stretching the fabric, I lift and place my iron as I move down the length. Never "push" it along the fabric.

In this case I wanted the seam allowance pressed toward fabric #2, so I placed that fabric UP so I could see it. The seam is positioned farthest from my belly.

Setting the seam

When the fabrics are opened (also away from my belly), the seam allowance automatically goes toward the top fabric (#2, in this case).

Pressing in progress

Straighten the strip along the ironing board as you work with it. The straighter you keep it while applying heat, the straighter it will be in the end. 

Open the strip set and hold it in position with one hand. Place the iron on it with the other. Repeat along the length, resisting the urge to push & wiggle the iron!

Crisply pressed, fully open at the seam, nice and straight - seam allowance pressed toward fabric #2.

In case you are wondering, I am a steamer! 

Technique is TWICE as important if you use steam because things can go wonky before you know it . . . BUT, if you practice good habits, steaming results in the crispest seams. Yumm!

Strip sets, sliced and diced!

Coming together quickly now.

Though it isn't quilted, this is now a FINISHED teaching sample! Whoop whoop!

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Try, Learn, Grow!
P.S. I love hearing from you, so don't be shy. Tell me what you think!


  1. Aren't Bargello quilts fun to make as they have such impressive results. I hope you have lots of fun teaching this technique.

  2. Lovely! I hope the class is a lot of fun. :)

  3. I press as I go too. It makes a real difference in my accuracy.

  4. Do you pin your intersections when you sew the cross cut strips together?

  5. flutter. . . that's what my heart is doing! There is nothing like a Bargello and you have chosen some seriously awesome colors!! If you were going to quilt it (and I know you will at some point lol) what would you do? All over? Straight line? Cross hatch? Spirals? Inquiring minds would love to know ;)

  6. Your Bargello quilt will be gorgeous! I too press my seams as I go for a crisper look. I believe it makes all the difference in how neatly it lays.

  7. So pretty! And it looks easy the way you've presented it for us. Are those geodes in the background of one of the last photos? My daughter is a gemologist/fine jewelry designer and so my eye always keys in on things like that!

  8. Perfect sample! Have fun!

  9. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for all the tips. I have a Bargello pieced by my sister-in-law to quilt. What are your plans (for more inquiring minds).

  10. I love the colours you've chosen for your bargello sampler. Thanks for all the tips too.

  11. I knew about setting seams but not to alternate the seams. Thanks for the tutorial and tip.

  12. Nice tips, your sample looks incredibly crisp. I'm very good with the pressing, I do often feel slightly tempted to press in bulk purely for time, but I just can't do it, despite my wonky leanings! However your tips on seams and order/direction etc are definitely ones I need to pay close attention to!

  13. Great tips, Carole! Your Bargello Quilt looks fantastic.

    Barbara xx


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