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How to sew a Bargello patchwork cushion

Perfect your strip piecing technique and brighten up your favourite sofa or chair with Sally Ablett's bite-sized bargello patchwork design sewn in contrasting solids.

How to make a bargello patchwork cushion

As is common with many traditional blocks, the origins of bargello designs are particularly hard to place, but according to the Bargello Museum, the name ‘bargello’ originates from a series of chairs found in the Bargello palace in Florence. “Traditionally, bargello designs were made with wool on canvas, however, I have taken inspiration from needlepoint work and used fabric instead to create a pattern with strips of fabric,” designer Sally Ablett tells us.

Graduate colours from light to dark and/or warm to cool to create a mesmerising design

“I created this pattern with the Electric Quilt 8 – one of the best tools in my sewing room. The fabrics used in bargello designs and the way in which you order them play a huge part in the effect of the finished piece. For example, the placement of the Oakshott fabrics in this cushion from light to dark have a gradient effect on the design. When using ten colours, I like to go for two colour ways – on twenty fabrics for a quilt, I would go for four colour ways. I love the way you can play around with this particular pattern, using just ten fabrics or twenty, it’s extremely customisable”

This project was first published in Today’s Quilter magazine. You might also like our guide to How to make a Bargello quilt, or dive into our full collection of quilting patterns.

Bargello patchwork cushion tutorial

Fabric requirements

  • Ten (10) fabrics (A-J) graduating from light to dark or warm to cool – 4½in x 21in of each
  • Calico – ¾yd
  • Backing fabric – 24in square
  • 20in cushion pad
  • Sewing machine
  • Basic quilting kit

Fabrics used

We’ve used Oakshott Colourshotts in Sandstone (A), White Sand (B), Tromso (C), Chara (D), Gemma (E), Foxglove (F), Bizzie Lizzie (G), Fleur (H), Sea Green (I) and Lichen (J). 

Finished size

  • 20in square


  • Use ¼in seam allowance throughout.
  • Press seams to one side.
  • RST = right sides together.

You Will Need

  • Fabric (See fabric requirements)
  • Calico
  • Cushion pad (24in)
  • Sewing machine
  • Basic quilting kit

Total time:

Cutting out

Step 1

From each of the colour fabrics, cut three (3) 1½in x WOF strips.

Step 2

From the calico fabric, cut one (1) 20½in square and two (2) 12½in x 20½½in rectangles.

Step 3

From backing fabric, cut two (2) 12½in x 20½in rectangles.

Making the cushion front

Step 1

Take your fabric strips and sew them into two (2) sets, A-E and then F-J, sewing together along the length of the strips. Make three (3) of each. Keep the sets separate for now as it is easier to cross cut a strip set of five (5) fabrics (Fig 1).

DIY Bargello patchwork cushion
Figure 1

Step 2

Subcut each strip set in the widths specified in Fig 3. For each of the strip sets of A-E and F-J, you need to subcut two (2) strips of each required width. Sew these pieced strips end to end, alternating so that the colours run A-J twice (Fig 2). Press seams in one direction.

Bargello patchwork tutorial

Step 3

Now cut the strip sets for the first row so they measure 11/2in wide. Join into one (1) length as described in step 5. Now pin it onto the calico square, placing it along the left hand edge, right side up.

Step 4

Cut and stitch the second row 1¼in wide. Unpick the fabric J square from the bottom of the row and then stitch it to the top (Fig 3).

Press the seams in the opposite direction to row 1.

Bargello patchwork cushion Fig 3
Bargello patchwork cushion Fig 4

Step 5

Place this strip onto your first row, RST and pin into place, matching the seams. Sew together with a ¼in seam through all layers. Press strip open.

Step 6

Keep adding your rows as in Fig 3 and Fig 4. On row 3, unpick two (2) squares from the bottom and add to the top. On row 4, unpick three (3) squares, and so on. The colours should stagger up or down by one (1) place each time, pay careful attention to the diagrams when unpicking your squares.

Bargello patchwork cushion Fig 4

Making the cushion back

Step 1

Take one (1) rectangle of each calico and backing fabric. With RST pin and stitch across the length of the 20½in side. Turn to the right side, press and top stitch into place. Do this to both pieces. 

Step 2

Place the cushion front right side up on the work surface. Lay one backing rectangle right side down on top, aligning raw edges at bottom edge and sides. Add a second backing rectangle on top, right side down, and align the raw edges at the top edge and sides. Then pin in place. Note: the folded edges should overlap at the centre.

Step 3

Stitch around all four (4) edges. Add a line of zigzag stitches within the seam allowance on all four (4) edges for additional strength. Clip the corners.

Step 4

Turn right side out and insert an 20in square cushion pad

Top tip: Check your strip set is still square after every four cuts. You may need to trim the edge occasionally to keep your cross-cut strips straight.
How to make a bargello patchwork cushion

About the designer

Sally Ablett has been quilt-making for nearly 30 years. Within this time, patchwork has developed from a hobby into a full-time job. She has extensive experience teaching courses and day workshops, as well as giving regular talks using her own collection of quilts to demonstrate patchwork techniques and pass on tips that she has learnt throughout the years. Sally does freelance design work, as well as working with Lewis & Irene to design quilts and produce patterns that are used to showcase new fabric collections.