Bargello (9)

My reviews are listed below, but you can also click on this link to buy & find reviews of even more Bargello Books

(Titles below are listed A-Z by author.  Check side bar for links to book reviews covering different stitch techniques.  Please feel free to add comments – especially if you disagree with me!)

BARGELLO: A Fresh Approach to Florentine Embroidery by BRENDA DAY

Although in essence a project book, this is also clearly a book that intends to awaken the stitcher’s own creativity.  Interspersed between projects are double-page spread ‘design boards’ showing the inspiration by colour and theme for the ensuing projects in full colour photos and sketches, furher illustrated by including cards wrapped with threads in co-ordinating colours.   It is a very effective way of demonstrating how ideas can be developed, and the usefulness of a creative notebook or sketchbook.

The projects further demonstrate the versatility of bargello in design, ranging from the relatively traditional to the simply innovative, wth refreshingly contemporary styling, and a good sense of colour.  Each project is clearly charted individually, but an additional glossary of bargello patterns is also provided.  Although not as comprehensive as Frances Salter’s ‘Bargello Book’ (review below), I find it far more successful in terms of suggesting creative possibilities.

As project books go, this is a very good one!


Firstly, if you are looking for a contemporary bargello project book, don’t be put off by the title: charts and instructions for 24 basic to advanced projects are included.  You can always just skip the design section, if it doesn’t interest you!  But actually, the first 4 chapters are a great introduction to bargello and understanding the principles of the patterns you are stitching, whether you are considering design yourself, or not.

The section on colour theory felt a little simplistic (& only having black & white photos does not, of course, do this section any favours!), but considering the way the finish of a fiber affects the intensity of its colour is an important aspect to consider, and something I haven’t seen specifically addressed before.

The projects each introduce  different aspects of bargello.  The instructions are written with the assumption you will not have met them before.  Obviously this is not necessarily the case, however, it makes it a very good guide for a beginner to bargello, and for those with some experience – well, a bit of a refresher course never hurts!  A lot of the patterns included are older designs reprinted from the Rainbow Gallery archives.  This means that all the fibers used in the patterns are Rainbow Gallery fibers, and a lot of the stitch guidance is dedicated to working with and the appearance of the fibers themselves.  You could change the threads to suit yourself, and none of this information would then be relevant.  More variety of threads is used in the second set of projects.

A couple of interesting suggestions occur for combining patterns, and the reader is encouraged to ‘take the charts apart, resize them, expand them and change the colours’.  You are not led by the hand through doing these things, which is possibly what you might expect from the title.  However, all the beginning information is provided,and the expectation is that you will discover your own development through experimentation, which is actually quite a refreshing assumption.  At the same time, I think it is a little idealistic of the author to assume that a budding bargello designer will want to sit and stitch through 24 of somebody else’s designs to develop their own style.  More elucidation of the design concepts behind each piece would probably have made more sense in terms of creating a guide for designers, than a how-to-stitch-each-project guide.

It is a huge shame that this book is printed in black and white, but I assume this is the result of printing costs.  Including front and back covers, there are 8 pages of colour photos, which show all the projects included within the book, as well as more gallery photos, for inspiration.  This ought to be enough – I guess we are just spoiled, in general, with the technology available in this day and age – but it is always so much easier when a colour photo is shown directly next to the relevant chart, to make comparisons, see how stitches and colour combinations appear etc.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the b&w printing do the charts any favours, either.  In Chapter 3, when a variety of different stitch patterns are charted from a base line, this isn’t a problem.  With the projects, however, when multiple colours are used, the charts are a sea of different shades of grey.  They are clearly distinguishable from each other, but they are definitely not the easiest charts to read.

One of the very first bargello projects  I ever stitched was one of the author’s Rainbow Gallery charts, ‘High Desert Stars’.  The chart isn’t in this book, but a photo of it is, so you can see why I was drawn to it.  I don’t love this book as much as I love that one pattern, but it is a very good reference, and it has sparked ideas (by default, almost, but then that’s how inspiration works).  The colour issue  is unfortunate, but it’s not sufficiently detrimental to prevent me from regarding this book as a valuable resource.


This is the one.  If you want a gude to designing bargello specifically, but in fact any kind of counted needlework this is the book you need.  It gives a comprehensive grounding in the principles of design and colour theory, as related to needlepoint, as well as practical instructions, and ideas for alternative design methods.

Instead of the standard directory of patterns given without comment, each pattern is given a full colour stitched photo, alongside a commentary dissecting its inherent and relevant aspects with relation to design.  This, in my opinion, is where more recent attempts in a similar direction fall short (this title is (c) 1972 – pre me!).  The same patterns are stitched in different ways, and each contribution is analysed for its various characteristics.

Although the patterns themselves are not especially dramatic, new or exciting, it is the analysis of how they are and can be used that makes this book one of the most valuable resources in my collection.


The follow-up title to ‘Four-Way Bargello’ by the same author (see review below), this volume looks at more 4-way patterns, this time from a workshop point of view, with the specific intention of guiding the reader through the desgn process, in order that they might change or modify any given design.

As previously, there are some very clever and striking designs, and as a project book, it’s top quality.   It teaches the basic elements of design manipulation in a very straightforward way.  It’s a great book, but I do miss the chatty reflections that were a highlight for me in the earlier volume.


Bargello as a design element tends to be striking.  4-way bargello multiplies that effect with kaleidoscopic results.    Kaestner has a great sense of colour, and the dimensional effects of some of the patterns are really enhanced by this skill.

This is a stunning collection of patterns for anyone who would like to experiment beyond a traditional bargello ‘filling pattern’.  The most appealing thing about thisbook for me, however, is its chatty tone of voice, which talks through the design, the inspiration, the practical stitching of the patterns.  It’s not an analytical dissection of the work, yet offers real insight into the design process as well as allowing the reader to get to ‘know’ the author/designer.

Rare in a craft book, this is one of those wonderful books that you can just sit down and read, from cover to cover.  That doesn’t make it a better book in terms of the projects it includes, but as the projects are such top quality to begn with, it is really just the icing on the cake.  This book makes me smile.  🙂


As the title implies, this is a beautiful, lavishly illustrated book.  The intructions are thorough.  The patterns are very traditionally styled and traditionally finished, but one of the glorious things about bargello is that you can use a basic pattern in whatever context you like, and they are well-charted.  There are some more complex and original patterns included in this book tha are often found.

The colour combinations are wonderfully rich.  Surprisingly (with knowledge of kits once produced by ‘Beautiful Bargello’), all the patterns in the book are charted for Madeira threads (hmm, sponsorship, perhaps?) without any overdyed shades or other embellishment at all.  However, as bargello is worked in colour ‘families’ an tonal shades, itis usually fairly easy to substitute your own favourites.

There are some nice extras, such as the history/mythology/psychology of the colour themes used, but really, this is just a wonderfully lavish project book. The patterns are, of course, adaptable.


Okay, this is not an exciting book.  It is not full of beautiful projects; if you have no background in or knowledge of bargello, it is unlikely to float your boat.  It isn’t even really a creative guide.  However, it is a very practical book, essentially a directory of filling patterns.

There is a full page colour photo of a stitched sample on each left hand page, and a guide chart with any further instructions on the right.  Each pattern is given a difficulty rating of 1-3.  I don’t know how useful that is, as personally, I would just stitch whichever pattern creates the effect I want, and as a technique, bargello is really pretty straightforward, anyway.

There is also a beginner’s introduction to needlepoint/bargello, covering materials and techniques.  This is mercifully brief, and I think most people would just skip it, anway.  If you were an absolute newcomer to needlepoint, it could be worse (although there are no diagrams in the intro , which I think would be more useful to a beginner), but I dislike such prescriptive statements as: “Choosing the right yarn for the canvas is quite important.  You should use 100% wool.”  I’m not saying you shouldn’t use wool, simply that there is a huge variety of yarns for needlepointing available, and stating wool-only is potentially a little limiting!

But if you do any needlepoint design, or are just looking for a more ‘interesting’ background for a piece you have stitched, this book really is a handy reference tool.   And the thing about bargello patterns is that they are infinitely adaptable, so you can use one of these as a starting point to create your own.

This is not my favourite bargello book, nor, in my opinion, the best.  However, it is a good reference & starting-off point, and a solid addition to any stitcher’s library.


Learn how to create and stitch one of the most liberating forms of needlepoint!  There are no boundaries, restrictions or formality, only te limits of your imagination.  Bargello is a very traditional style yet this 1977 publication gives it a whole new lease of life.

This is a book you need to sit down and read in its entirety.  It is not a dense, scholarly work, rather a very practical guide; however it is not written in a point by point manner (as perhaps a more modern book might be?) and skim-reading is probably not the best way to get the most from the text.

Lots of pictures are included for inspiration (bothcolour and black and white) so that you can begin to see the possibilities; in addition, there is lots of practical advice and design suggestions which you can potentially develop or spark off from.  A number of line drawings are included as starting points, but the emphasis is on finding your own creativity.  Hurrah!

GOLDEN HANDS BARGELLO: A PATTERN BOOK by MARTYN THOMAS (originally published in the UK as ‘Zigzag Stitchery’)

Published in 1972, this book is full of wonderfully striking, retro colour schemes and styling.  The pattern diagrams are easy to follow and offer advice on adapting pattrns to create new patterns and colour combinations.  A lot of practical advice is also offered, in terms of canvas coverage, yardage, thread types etc.

Charts are provided for specific projects, for everything from a wallhanging to an eyeglass case to a wastepaer basket to some very funky bags.  Finishing instructions are provided for all these things and more; however, the assumption seems to me to be that the stitcher will be able to adapt the patterns provided to suit almost anything they might wish to stitch.  A 4-page spread of “fashion ideas for florentine” will be of interest to any student of vintage fashion (very Twigg-esque models!), as well as bargello – awesome!  A surprisingly inspiring book.

Here are links to some more blargello books that I don’t own, but you may find useful/interesting. Although I don’t currently own them, I have actually owned most of them at some point in the past. I don’t think this qualifies me to review them fully, as above, but I will add one or two notes that may or may not be useful to you, depending on what I remember of them:

BARGELLO STITCHERY by JO IPPOLITO CHRISTENSENNEEDLEPOINT BARGELLO by DOROTHY KAESTNER The author’s other 2 bargello titles (see reviews above) are possibly my favourite books on the subject.  I’m sure I recognise the cover of this one and had it on my shelf at some stage, but for the life of me can’t imagine whyI didn’t keep it, if I did.  I will have to re-purchase for the sake of investigation, I think…!BARGELLO PLUS by MIRA SILVERSTEIN

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