Four-way Bargello takes a basic Bargello line and turns it along the diagonal lines of the area, turning it from a line into a square. Even the simplest Bargello lines get great sophistication from being turned and the resulting shapes and patterns are very compelling.
It’s not my best technique, although I’m getting better at it. But I love to look at the patterns. The shapes which appear at the corners, the sense you have of depth as the design moves towards the center, all give this form of Bargello needlepoint a very modern feel.
The picture at the top of this article is of a very simple Four Way Bargello pattern from my book, Bargello Revisited. It’s made into a pincushion.
It became popular in the 70’s through several books by Dorothy Kaestner. I have also seen examples of this technique in books from the early 1900’s. Because it works best on square items of one kind or another, it’s not great for large expanses of stitching, borders or non-square shapes.
One consequence of turning the Bargello line is that along the diagonals stitches will meet at 90 degree angles. Often this shortens the stitches significantly and hides the pattern.
I find it easiest to approach one of these patterns by looking and thinking first before I begin to stitch. Star by looking at the longest line of the pattern. There you will see a straightforward Bargello line. As the design moves toward the center, it shrinks from both sides, but it still remains the same basic line. By identifying this pattern and by keeping it in mind as you stitch, you will find the whole turned pattern makes more sense.
It’s also really easy to get off count on a four way piece. You can minimize the chances of this happening by beginning in the center of the design and working in circles, stitching in each quadrant in turn.
On a recent piece, I found that by analyzing first then stitching, and checking my stitching against the pattern in my head after I finished each quadrant in each round. I stayed on track and finished the stitching in about a day.
Usually when I stitch a Four Way Bargello I rip almost more than I stitch, throw up my hands in frustration, and throw out the piece. I hope these tips help you as you explore this technique.