A 4 Way Stretched Bargello

Today I finally finished this little Bargello project. A comment on one of my previous posts asked if I had ever worked on a Four Way Bargello project. I have, but not for a long time. So this timely reminder got me to revisit this lovely version of Bargello.

The design I fixed on is not a basic Four Way pattern, but an interesting variation. I like to think of it as a Stretched Four Way. The two end parts are in the traditional Four Way pattern, while the central section is just basic Bargello. Here it is.

This composition comes from one of my favourite embroidery books – Four Way Bargello by Dorothy Kaestner. Thoroughly recommended if you are interested in trying some Four Way Bargello. The author calls this variation a bench, but I prefer to call it a stretched Four Way.

The fabric is an 18ct Aida in a very pale yellowy green. The main pattern is stitched with two strands of DMC Tapestry wool. Four shades of green and two shades of blue. The blues do stand out against the greens. To finish the piece off I decided to fill in the background to make a rectangle. For this I used a single strand of Appleton 2ply crewel wool in Early English green. I chose just the one strand as I didn’t want the background to dominate.

I really like this design, thought if I were to do it again I would seriously consider extending the central section by at least one other diamond. As it stands it measures 175mm x 137mm. A bit longer and it might fit as the base of a tray with a glass top.

The stitching of the main pattern took me just under seven hours, while the background involved just under 10 hours. Anyway time well spent. I have already started on my next project, which is a simple, ordinary Bargello. Happy stitching!

5 Easy Pieces – Series 3, No 2

Another of my Bargello pieces finished yesterday. All feature five sections, hence the titles. Usually I use five different patterns, but this time I limited it to three.


For the central section I tried out an oval shape. A bit of a palaver to stitch this, but I think it works OK. This section is stitched in four shades of green. The other two colours, rose and lavender, make up a split complementary scheme to the green in the RGB colour scheme. At least that’s my story.

The three patterns are all quite different, which I hope makes for a harmonious whole. The fabric is a 14 count Aida. A soft fabric, but easy to stitch on.

The coloured threads are all from the DMC Tapestry range. A lovely wool yarn and good to work with. It worked well on the 14 count Aida, leaving virtually none of the fabric showing through.

I wanted a design that used some wavy lines. These I stitched in whipped stem stitch, using a 2ply Appleton wool in a very dark purple. Not sure if this really works. But overall I am quite pleased with this piece. Now to start thinking about No3! Happy stitching.

Free form Bargello in Blue and Yellow

Finished this piece last week. I have stitched quite a few works in this style. In this case it was partly to use up the remains of some Paternayan wool threads.IMG_0561I first came across this type of Bargello work in Brenda Day’s book, Bargello – a fresh approach to Florentine embroidery. This lovely book includes a design for a zebra cushion. I have never made the cushion, but have subsequently used the zebra pattern idea for many pieces.

The fabric is a 16ct Aida in white. The threads are all from the Paternayan wool range. I used a mixture of blues and yellows.  Sometimes I draw an outline of a design on the fabric, but this time I just stitched away with no firm plan in mind. Quite pleasing working in this way for a change. The piece was completed in 11 hours. Nice easy stitching!

On holiday now, so a little gap in embroidery for a couple of weeks. Happy stitching!

Five Easy Pieces – Series 3 No 1

I keep returning to this compositional form again and again. As you can see from the title, this will be my third go. Previously the compositions were more or less symmetrical in some way. This time I have let myself go a bit wild. Still just five sections though.IMG_0470

I have with this one at least kept to the colour scheme of two related colours and a contrasting one, which would be used just once. Though in this case I didn’t have enough of one of the colours to use twice, so I ended up having to use the contrasting colour – green – twice. Gives a different look to the finished piece. But OK.

The fabric is a 18ct Aida in pale green. The threads are all from the Fine d’Aubusson range of merino wool. This is very fine wool and is made by La Route de la Laine for Au Ver à Soie. I used two strands of the yarn for the stitching.

The two central sections are stitched with three shades of pinkish colours. Though Fine d’Aubusson give them more exciting names – raspberries & cream, hot pink and magenta. For the bottom section I used three shades of Azalea/Rose. The contrasting sections are of course in greens.

The different Bargello patterns all have names, which is not always the case. They are – Ripples, Rondel, Pink Parfait, Diamond Panes and Mini Check.

I need to somehow stretch the fabric to make it as regular as possible and then think of what to do with it.

Red on Black Bargello

This latest piece is a rather unusual Bargello project. The basic design comes from a placard I saw on a TV programme about fashion designer Issey Miyake. I have used this design twice before, which you can see here and here. This time I wanted to made a bold statement so I used red threads on a black fabric.IMG_0394The photo doesn’t do justice to the piece as somehow it looks narrower on the right, which is not the case. Anyway it gives a good idea of the work. The fabric is a 16ct Aida in black. The threads are from the Paternayan Persian yarn range – a light and a very light Christmas red. I used two shades as I wanted the pattern of the Bargello to stand out, and I felt this was more likely with two shades.  To get the fabric fully covered, or at least as fully as possible, I used two strands of the wool.

Stitching on black is quite the challenge! All too easy to miss the right mesh. I needed to hold the piece up to the light to get any chance of getting this right. Worth it though as it does make a statement. The stitched area is 29.5cm x 9.5cm and it took me 23.5 hours of stitching over 15 days to complete the work.

Not sure if the final version will be as shown above or the more usual vertical version. I plan to attach a light backing to the fabric and then fold over the black edges so that only the black spaces between each row will show. Will try this first, but perhaps leaving a little black fabric all round may be better at framing the red. Time will tell.


Bargello in Reds and Turquoise

I have been quite busy, embroidery wise, recently. I had two projects on the go and then had to devote myself to a commission of sorts. Unpaid commission of course. I have managed to get myself involved in a group working on a Dundee Tapestry. As part of their work of securing funding from trusts etc they wanted a couple of samples of what the tapestry might look like. So, as the only embroiderer at their last meeting I got landed with this task. Not particularly difficult, but a bit time consuming. I can’t show any photos of this work as the group has still to get copywrite permissions.  The two samples were Denis the Menace and the Strathmartine Stone, which features some Pictish drawings. They look pretty good, so I hope to be able to show them some time in the future.

Back to my ongoing projects. One is now completed – a free form bargello design in reds and turquoise.  Here it is.IMG_0301The fabric is my usual 18ct Aida in pale green. For the thread I used one strand of Paternayan Persian wool, a lovely, soft yarn. The three reds are from their Christmas red collection, whilst the two turquoises are part of their Caribbean blue series.

As with most of these free form bargello pieces the pattern emerges as I go along. There is no design to follow. It is a fun way to work, though it does require a bit of thinking ahead. Just to make sure that there is a reasonable balance among the reds.

While I was working on this project I remembered I had done something similar with the two turquoise threads. Checking back I discovered that in March I had in fact completed another free form bargello. Then the base colour was purple. As with the current piece, the threads are all from the Paternayan Persian wool range. For some reason I didn’t post about that piece, so here it is now.IMG_8735All goes to show just how easy it is for me to forget what I have done only a few months ago! Old age is beginning to show, alas. Anyway happy stitching everyone.

Bargello Interrupted 3

Yesterday I finally succeeded in finishing my latest Bargello piece. I have titled it Bargello Interrupted as the bargello patterns are broken up by various lines. This is the third time I have used this particular composition. For the previous two I used cotton threads. This time I went for wool threads. Here is the finished work.IMG_9858I decided on wool threads as this gives the finished work a more substantial look and the threads pretty much fully cover the fabric. This is a 16 count Aida in white. The wool threads are Fine d’Aubusson, a very fine merino wool from Au ver à Soie in France. It is a lovely wool to work with and to ensure I fully covered the fabric I used three strands of the wool. For the colour scheme I went for a mixture of violet and rose.

The dark blue lines are the interruptions.  In the previous versions of this composition these lines were just vertical or horizontal stitches in keeping with bargello embroidery. This time I wanted to try something a bit different and the two horizontal and vertical lines are made up of a simple diagonal stitch over two meshes, using one strand of thread. It worked well for the horizontal lines but not so well with the vertical lines. The stitching was fine, but I guess the extra thickness of the three stands of wool meant that when the bargello stitches were added the vertical lines got a bit compressed. Will need to think about this if I repeat the composition.

The wavy lines are stitched with split stitch, using two strands of thread. For this, and the vertical and horizontal lines, I used cotton threads from the Caron Watercolours range of variegated threads. Blueberry is the name of the thread and though variegated, there are only very subtle colour changes.

All in all I rather like the finished piece. It took me 18 hours over 12 days to complete the stitching. The size of the piece – 21.5cmx17cm – was designed to fit into the frame, which I had acquired from a charity shop.

I am already working on my next piece which features two traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs – carnations and snails.

Five Easy Pieces – Series 2

I received a gentle reminder recently from a follower of the blog that I had not been posting much. To my surprise I checked and discovered that my last post was way back in August. Not good, however I have been busy at work with embroidery. Just not posting. I put photos of my work on Instagram and if you use this app, you can see them by checking out @rutherfordalister.

While Instagram is a great tool for sharing there is a lot to be said for keeping up a blog. I find that writing about my work is good for me, as it encourages me to keep a record of what I have done and more importantly to reflect on my work. So it is back to blogging.

From late summer through autumn much of my work was devoted to Series 2 of Five Easy Pieces. This all started way back in late 2009 when out of nothing in particular I made a geometric design  – a square with five sections with a diamond in the centre. Each section was stitched with a different Bargello pattern. As the stitching was relatively simple and was made up of five sections,  I called the finished work Five Easy Pieces. This was my minor honouring of the great Jack Nicholson film of the same name.

At the time I had no plan in mind, but I liked the finished piece and over the following year I completed five more in same vein. All with five sections and all stitched with Bargello patterns.

This summer, nearly nine years later I decided it was time to repeat the exercise.  This time there was a bit of planning involved. Once again there would be five pieces and each one would be made up of five sections. However this time each piece would fit into a hoop frame. The patterns would once again be Bargello, but with a definite contrast of colours.

Two of the hoops are 20cm, while the other three are 17.5cm. Plain wooden hoops, nothing fancy and fairly cheap. The fabric is a 18ct Aida canvas.  I used a wide range of threads for this series, though DMC cotton was the most used. While the hoops were circular, only two of the pieces have circles for the outer rim. The various patterns come from embroidery books on my shelf.  All except two, which I found on the Bargello Needlepoint website. Here are the five easy pieces.

No 1IMG_8506

One of the 20cm hoops, this piece has and outer and an inner circle with four quadrants. Mostly stitched with three strands of DMC cotton, with Anchor cotton for the inner circle.  This was stitched in greens to provide a contrast with the purples and pinks of the outer sections.


The only piece to be stitched on a pale yellow canvas, the first of the 17.5cm hoops. A diamond shape was used for both the outer and the inner sections. Paternayan wool was used throughout this piece, one strand only. Yellows and orange in the centre provide the contrast to the blues and purples in the outer sections. The way the finished work was fitted into the hoop gives a slightly different look to the Bargello patterns.


This is the most unusual of the five pieces. Instead of four different Bargello patterns for the outer sections, I have used just one. An adaptation of a four-way pattern from Dorothy Kaestner’s Four Way Bargello book. The finish is very different from the other four pieces. The outer rim is a circle and the centre is a small octagon. For the four-way pattern I used Anchor Pear Cotton No 5, in greens and purples. The octagon was stitched with six strands of Rajmahal ArtSilk thread in blues.


I used a slightly different green fabric for this piece. Instead of circles I went for a hexagon for both the outer and the inner rim. For the colour scheme I decided on some colours that I use very rarely. No point in them sitting in boxes forever. So the outer sections are in red coppers and old gold threads. Three strands of DMC cotton. The central section is in black and greys. Two strands of Appleton wool. Quite like this colour combination.

No5IMG_8434For the final piece I went back to a 20cm hoop, with the pale green fabric. This has an outer octagonal rim and a circle in the centre.  Cotton threads for the outer sections, mainly DMC cotton with some Anchor threads. For the centre I used one strand of French wool – Fine d’Aubusson. The reds in the centre contrast sharply with the light blues and aquamarines of the outer sections.

All in all I am quite pleased with this second series of Bargello medleys. Quite an effort trying not to repeat any of the patterns, but I just about managed. I may do another series sometime in the future, but probably not with Bargello patterns.

Bits and Pieces 1

Though I haven’t posted for over two months, I have been pretty busy.  Lots of small pieces and some unfinished pieces. Some of them are for the Guild’s exhibition in St Andrews which starts in October. I had in mind to include, for sale, a couple of embroidered candle holders. The first was started way back in April and I took it with me to Switzerland, hoping to make some progress. Little was made and I then discovered that I had gone and left the piece behind. Not too damaging as I can finish it off when I return in September. An 18ct aida fabric with DMC cotton threads in pinks.  Here is glimpse of the Bargello pattern.IMG_7455The other candle wrap I have managed to complete. Another Bargello pattern in blue and turquoise. Also on the same 18ct aida fabric with DMC cotton threads.IMG_7749This one is not quite finished! I glue the embroidery on to the glass jar, but in this case some air bubbles remained, visible at the top and bottom. So I decided to cover the top and bottom with ribbon. The lower part is done and I have still to attach the top ribbon. I want to include a bow on this part, hence the delay.

The other pieces relating to the exhibition are two biscornus. In a moment of weakness I agreed to run a workshop on biscornus during the exhibition run.  Which meant I had to do a dummy run with a couple, just to be sure they could be completed within the allotted time. Stitching the biscornus is fairly easy, the difficulty or time consuming part is sewing the two parts together. So I went for fairly simple designs. The first is a blackwork design. The second was originally a complex design for Breast cancer awareness.  I have reduced the design to just the ribbons. Mine are in yellow as a mark of solidarity with the Catalan political prisoners. This time I used 16ct aida fabric and DMC cotton threads.



A (slightly) unusual 4way bargello

This was to be my final small piece to get me over the holiday period. Alas it turned out to be not quite so small. With one thing and another I have only managed to finish the stitching today. It is another Four Way Bargello piece from Dorothy Kaestner’s wonderful book of the same name.  However as you will see it is slightly different. IMG_7341

Regular, common garden four way patterns are in the shape of a square.  While this one is very clearly a rectangle. Which means that the four way pattern only emerges at both ends. In compensation the centre is somewhat elongated. There are a few of these patterns in the book, which Dorothy Kaestner refers to as a bench as opposed to the usual square.

My original idea was to do a very, very much simplified version of the pattern. But once I got started and discovered that I had enough fabric to more or less complete the whole pattern in the book, I was hooked. I am quite pleased with the finished piece, both the elongated shape and the colours.

The fabric is my usual 18ct Aida in light green. Most of the threads are Anchor cotton, thought a couple are from the DMC range. What I find interesting is that the ecru colour really stands out, though the outline is stitched with a dark wine colour. The very dark sections are not black, but black brown. This slightly softer black fits in better, I think, with the rest of the colours.

Christmas and New Year is well and truly over. At the moment I have only a very hazy idea of what projects will emerge over the year. Wish me luck!