Monday, December 22, 2014

A Different Approach to 4-Way Bargello

autumn explosion test sampler
Test sampler for "Autumn Explosion" 4-way bargello
Four-way bargello pictures were very popular at the autumn craft shows. This inspired me to try an approach to them that I had been considering for some time. We have considered designs that began with traditional squares, peaks-and-valleys, and domes. There are many different linear approaches we might take and I promise to devote future posts to some of them. However, instead of working with a linear baseline throughout the pattern, I wanted to begin with a definite shape in each of the four quarters of the design.

prepared canvas
Canvas prepared for 4-way bargello
I began by preparing a canvas as I usually do, finding the center square of the canvas, putting in the north/south (vertical) and east/west (horizontal) dividing lines, then drawing the diagonals. Then I tried placing various cut-out paper shapes on top of the canvas to see how they looked joined at the center and/or at the diagonals. Leaf shapes looked promising, but I chose heart shapes instead. I decided to place the heart shapes so their points met as close to the center as possible. By measuring the space between the diagonal and the nearest horizontal or vertical line, I found out how big half of the heart shape must be in order for the whole heart to fit neatly between the diagonals and for four of them to touch at the diagonals all around the design. I re-cut paper patterns until I had one that fit.

heart baseline stitch pattern
Stitch pattern for baseline hearts
The next step was to make a stitch pattern that would be as close to the paper pattern as I could make it. That turned out to be harder than it sounded. I tried several variations and finally chose the one shown here. It did not fit perfectly, but gave me the effect I wanted. I had to put in several short stitches, called compensating stitches, around the points of the hearts to make them work. I rotated the canvas ninety degrees each time so the compensating stitches would be the same in each quarter of the design. The four heart patterns formed a baseline for the design, but this one was closed, not open like the ones we worked with before.

Heart baseline stitched into prepared canvas
Heart baseline stitched into prepared canvas
I decided to use colors from the spectrum to stitch my design. I first worked from the heart baseline inward until the hearts were solid. Of course the number of stitches decreased as I worked inward and only partial stitches were possible in places. As far as colors were concerned, I was moving from red to the red-violet end of the spectrum. Working outward, I was working toward the blue-violet end of the spectrum. The spaces around the hearts near the center of the design were soon filled. As I continued stitching around the outside of the design, the tops of the hearts eventually joined together, forming a scalloped effect. 

4-way bargello in progress, first in from baseline then out
4-way bargello in progress, first filled in from baseline, then filled outward

Once I had used all the colors of the spectrum, I decided to stop and put in a solid background. The colors of the hearts reminded me of flames glowing, flaring up, cooling and fading away. This gave the work its title:”Hearts Afire.” I placed skeins of yarn in a variety of colors around he center design. Black is not my favorite color for stitching, but I chose it because it set off the vibrant colors of the hearts better than anything else I tried. I stitched each corner separately, using the basketweave version of tent stitch and rotating the canvas ninety degrees as I completed each corner. The tent stitches lie flatter than the longer stitches of the hearts. This makes the hearts stand out even more clearly against the background. You can see the finished design below. If you want to do a heart design of your own, you might do something in shades of pink and rose and lacy white, like a Valentine.
4-way bargello "Hearts Afire"
Finished 4-way bargello, "Hearts Afire", with black background stitching in place

There are many shapes you could use to devise your own design. If you choose leaves, for example, you will get a different effect if you start with the stems at the center than if you start with the tips of the leaves at the center. Flowers, bows, stars or the little butterflies on the hatband in the previous post open up possibilities for four-way designs. Alphabet letters or number shapes are easy to find in ready-made cut-outs or stencils. Some animal shapes are simple and stylized enough to use: bats, owls, fish, seated cats, etc. But start with something simple for your first effort, so that you will have a successful result. Then you can move on to more complicated projects.

Simple shapes for this 4-way bargello technique
Some simple shapes cut out of paper for this 4-way bargello technique

Be creative!

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