A few years back, sewing and I were on a break, Ross and Rachel style.
It wasn’t the first time, but it was the longest time to date and I quite quickly started to get ‘creative withdrawals’, keen to do something with my hands that wasn’t as involved as we all know sewing can be. Like every single maker in the world, my first port of call was Pinterest.
Always desperate to be one of those talented people who has the attention to detail to be able to create striking, embroidered pieces, I decided now might be the time. After nearly getting repetitive strain injury from all the scrolling, I suddenly came across these striking vintage pictures of cushions created using something called ‘Florentine stitch’. Keen to know more, I popped the term into the search bar.
And that was it, I was hooked.
After some very in-depth research (thanks Google) I learned the more common term for the stitch was ‘Bargello’, defined as ‘A type of needlepoint embroidery consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create motifs. The name originates from a series of chairs found in the Bargello palace in Florence, which have a "flame stitch" pattern. Traditionally, Bargello was stitched in wool on canvas’, it had a brief resurgence in the 70’s and let me tell you, if you love orange and brown as a colour pairing, you’ll want to look up some of the amazing projects from the era. Since, I’ve made it my mission to know everything there is to know about this bright, bold, retro craft.
My first ever project was a 25x25cm cushion using come DMC threads, a piece of aida and a bit of imagination. Honestly, looking at that poor little cushion now, it’s quite awful but it took me 7 long months and it makes me smile because I enjoyed every minute of its creation.
And really, that’s my favourite thing about Bargello. Unlike other forms of embroidery, there really isn’t that many rules. Avoid knots, stitch in one direction and being about to count to around 6 or 7 is about as difficult as it gets, which means that it’s the perfect craft to sit in front of the TV with and lose yourself in - it’s mindful making at its best.
During lockdown, like many others, I fell out of love with sewing (again) and before I knew it, I was Bargelloing my heart out daily. In fact, it almost became addictive, the repetitive motions and structure of the stitches helping me to stay in some sort of routine and the clashing, but matching colour palettes making me feel a sense of achievement when I paired together the weirdest combinations that just seemed to work.
Impressed with myself (as always) I shared a post in Instagram and people lost. their. minds. I realised that like Pinterest had done for me, I’d just shared Bargello with my little digital part of the world and they were just as enamoured as I was. Not one to miss an opportunity, I started to offer Zoom workshops and over 100 people learned the magic of Bargello in just a few weeks and have since fallen just as hard as I did.
Fast forward to now and The Bargello Edit is about to be born so that I can do my part to make this super underrated craft more mainstream. I mean, what’s not to love, it’s simple, cost-effective (unless you get carried away like me) and once you know the basics, the sky really is the limit as long as you have a bit of imagination.
When it comes to sewing, I’m always about adding my own special touches to a pattern to make it feel more me or even sometimes in an attempt to unleash my inner fashion designer I use it as a base to get extra-creative. Enter the Tamzin dress. This version was created using the pattern exactly as it comes, but instead of using the fabric to create the neck facing, I cut it out in aida and stitched my design first, then finishing the dress as it was intended to be.
The belt ties were a stroke of genius, using aida again and then ‘blending’ the two fabrics together with some extra stitches and a LOT of pins.
I think this dress is a really good indication of what the world can expect from my vision for this craft, there are some amazing brands already doing great things, but I’m keen to make sure that I release products and kits like you’ve never seen before – which when you consider the book ‘Bargello’ by Geraldine Cosentino features a bargello tortoise footstool, I guess I’m setting the bar quite high, but I really do like a craft challenge.
The Bargello Edit launches in late September with a range of online workshops, kits and supplies – think of it as your one-stop bargello shop and as huge a thank you to Elisalex and the By Hand London Team for their support since day one of workshops, when you sign up to the newsletter you’ll receive a link to watch our’ Basics of Bargello video’ for free which is valid until Sunday 13th September and it also means you’ll the first to know when everything is ready to launch so you can become an official member of the #bargellogang.
I was lucky enough to join one of Nerrisa's lockdown Zoom classes, and the gently meditative repetition of Bargello, along with Nerrisa's infectious passion and way with colour immediately sucked me in. Nerrisa, I am completely bowled over by how you've embellished the neckline and ties of the Tamzin dress with Bargello - it's above and beyond anything I imagined when I was designing that pattern! I'm so excited to see where you go with The Bargello Edit, and I will 100% be coming along for the ride!
Comments on this post (2)
This is beautiful! I have dabbled with hand embroidery as I was looking for something to do in front of the telly at night – I will definitely be checking out the Bargello Edit. Thanks so much for sharing this gorgeous craft :)
So great to see a modern take on bargello work. I must admit that I was previously put off by the oranges and browns used so often in earlier decades. Your colour choices have made me think again and I will certainly be giving bargello a try. Just one question, though: did you have any problems with the bargello border shrinking or warping when you washed the dress?
— Jean Moore