Tag Archives: octave

Pattern: Bargello mini-quilt

Bargello mini-quilt, newly finished

Bargello mini-quilt, newly finished

It’s finished! Which means it’s time to share my pattern and design process with all of you. I don’t know how many people will be interested in one or both of these, but I intend on the one hand to share the instructions for making the same quilt, with measurements and all, and on the other to share the code that I wrote as a design tool to design many related quilts, in case the overlap of people who like quilting and speak Matlab is larger than just me. Actually I’ve tried to make the code pretty friendly, and I’m pretty confident that somebody that has done a bit of coding but no Matlab could use it, but I don’t want to try to be your programming 101 tutor today.

I am pretty darn happy with how this turned out, although I am less than perfectly pleased with the quality of my freehand quilting. I did everything for this project on the machine, which means a) it went super fast, b) the machine is officially broken in, and c) I was less comfortable with the method, so my freehand curves were worse than if I’d done it by hand. Photos:

Instructions for the identical (except color choices) quilt:

You will need:

  • A half jelly roll, or 20 strips of different, coordinating fabrics, each 2.5″ by 44″; mine was 2 strips each of 10 different colors
  • Backing fabric, 42″ by 38″
  • Batting, “craft” size or crib cut down to size, 41″ by 37″ (I used 36″ craft-size and stretched it a bit)


  1. Order your strips however you want—gradients tend to look nice—and number them 1-20. Color 1 will be in both bottom corners or your quilt, and color 20 in both top corners. In my quilt, colors 1 and 20 are the two lightest ones.
  2. Sew all your strips together along their length, with a quarter-inch seam allowance, lining up the edges on one end and letting the other end be jagged according to the different lengths of the strips. Press all seams open and flat. Strip 1 should be sewn to strip 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, etc., and finally strip 20 should be sewn to strip 1, making the whole bunch into a tube. It’s a good idea to backstitch occasionally to reinforce the seams, but it’s kinda a lost cause anyway, and you need to unpick some of the seams, so don’t stress about it.
  3. Cutting as straight and even as you can, cut the tube crosswise into strips, each of which will have a chunk of each fabric, according to the chart below. Unpick the indicated seam, opening the tubes into flat strips.
  4. Lining up all seams as best you can, sew strip A to B, B to C, etc until the quilt top is assembled, again with a quarter-inch seam allowance. Press all seams open. Note: I actually recommend starting at the center and working outwards—the center strips are the narrowest, so they are most susceptible to coming apart at the seams, which attaching to neighboring strips helps prevent.
  5. Leaving an inch of the backing overhanging on each end, sew the two long sides of the quilt top to the backing with a quarter-inch allowance, right-side to right-side. Press seams open or against the backing.
  6. Turn the quilt right side out and insert the batting.
  7. Turn the short ends of the backing over onto the front, making a 1/2″ edging, and top-stitch all the way around.
  8. Quilt: I chose every third color, and followed it across the quilt, curving as best I could to follow the curve implied by the pattern.


  • A: cut 3.5″ wide; unpick between fabrics 1&20
  • B: cut 3″ wide; unpick between fabrics 1&2
  • C: cut 2.75″ wide; unpick between 2&3
  • D: cut 3.25″ wide, unpick 3&4
  • E: cut 4″ wide, unpick 4&5
  • F: cut 2″ wide, unpick 3&4
  • G: cut 1.75″ wide, unpick 2&3
  • H: cut 1.25″ wide, unpick 1&2
  • I: cut 1″ wide, unpick 1&20
  • J: cut 1.25″ wide, unpick 19&20
  • K: cut 1.75″ wide, unpick 18&19
  • L: cut 2″ wide, unpick 17&18
  • M: cut 4″ wide, unpick 16&17
  • N: cut 3.25″ wide, unpick 17&18
  • O: cut 2.75″ wide, unpick 18&19
  • P: cut 3″ wide, unpick 19&20
  • Q: cut 3.5″ wide, unpick 1&20

Note: the final piece is only a little longer than a square yard, so definitely a lap quilt or display piece, not a bed quilt.

Code and some notes on use:

This code was written in Octave, the free clone of Matlab; it should also work in Matlab if you have access to it. Octave is, as mentioned, free; if you are a windows user you will probably need cygwin or similar to run it. To run, open Octave (or Matlab), cd to the folder containing the file, and run “bargello”; wait a minute or so and you should get a figure and some output to the terminal. The list “lscuts” that gets output is the cutting widths, which you can substitute in order into the chart above. Where to unpick the seams you will have to work out from the figure. The number “totalwidth” is the total width of fabric you will need; the program throws an error if you try to exceed the fabric width it thinks you have (which is set in the first few lines of code).

Code: dropbox link; make sure that you save the file as “bargello.m”.


Program output for my quilt

Presumably if you are interested in the code, you want to do more than just reproduce the same quilt; unfortunately you will need to do a bit of spelunking into the code to do so because I haven’t got a nice interface built. I’ve done my best to comment, though, and it should be fairly straightforward. The main places you want to modify are the lines that define “switchpts” and “ls”, about in the middle of the file. Fiddle around with the numbers here until you have a design worth building in fabric.

I’ve included a couple of designs that I was playing with today; what’s currently in the code is the S-shaped quilt I made (albeit mirrored because I was not paying attention when unpicking my seams), and there are two other designs that are simply commented out: a design with a single central peak and a design with wavy diagonals:

The code is general enough to make larger or smaller quilts: the first block of definitions tells the code how much fabric, and of how many colors, you have. The third chunk (the second chunk is devoted to choosing colors) is also related to the size; it tells the code how many vertical bars to use in the pattern. The fourth chunk starts to define the shape of the pattern, telling the code where to put high points and low points in the pattern, and the fifth sets the strip widths. The remainder is the work-horse part of the code, but you shouldn’t need to mess with it unless you are doing something really complicated.

I have to admit I’m really curious if anyone will even touch the code (or, for that matter, put in all the work to make a quilt designed by an internet stranger) so I’d love to hear from you if you find any of this useful.

Journal: 4 October 2014

Shawl worked in Tunisian simple stitch and honeycomb stitch

Shawl worked in Tunisian simple stitch and honeycomb stitch

Since my last journal post, I finished the Tunisian-crochet shawl that I was working on, and set to work on two new projects that I am pretty excited about. Actually everything I am going to talk about today will probably eventually get its own pattern post, but in the meantime I want to share what I’ve been up to.

tunisian_yarnFirst, the shawl: this is another project from my big box o’ random yarns. I had three variegated yarns that more or less coordinated and more or less formed a nice gradient from light multi to dark reds (see photo). For the curious, this is Premier Yarns/Deborah Norville Serenity sock weight in “saffron”, “paprika”, and “purple spice”. I also had, not pictured, some of the same brand’s solid-color yarns, including “soft white” and burgundy. I also had a ginormous Afghan hook, although it turned out not to be long enough—I started with a 9″ J hook and replaced it halfway through with a 13″ J hook. My last real journal post talks about how I constructed it; the colors ended up working out such that the last variegated yarn gave out just at the end of a TSS section, which was convenient. I edged it with the burgundy yarn: a row of single crochet and then a row of double crochet shells worked on an H hook. I blocked it to stop it curling, and got an extra 10″ of wingspan out of it. Photos:

Because so very much yarn went into its construction—because of how thick and fluffy Tunisian crochet is, even when you go up several hook sizes—this beast is quite warm and snuggly; I am looking forward to the coming cooler months to wear it.


Honeycomb mitts in progress

As soon as I put the shawl out to block, I set in on my next Tunisian crochet adventure, a pair of mitts, even though I still have another pair of mitts stalled on needles. This was inspired by a honeycomb section of the shawl where the multi yarn happened to line up such that several rows had orange/pink for the posts and green/blue for the back chain, which I thought was just the most beautiful thing. I wanted to recreate this effect in a more deliberate way—using one dark color for all of the posts in a piece and a different, variegated color for all the back chains. This requires working in the round, I believe, which requires a double-ended, proper Tunisian style crochet hook. I had one on hand in size H.

mitts_hookThe yarns are two that I had on hand, (you guessed it!) more serenity sock weight yarn, this time a solid purple and the “teal tease” multi left over from my first pair of knit socks. I think if I were to start again, and start from the yarn store rather than my stash, I would choose a darker solid, either black or a dark grey, and a brighter multi. Part of the inspiration for this project was the stained-glass-like effect you get from framing bright colors in dark, and that is not really coming through in the project. I do really like the sections where the backing yarn is the bright teal, though.

Finally, I have a sewing project I am super excited about. Like, received the fabric on Monday, halfway done with a (lap-sized) quilt by Friday excited. I have been taking a break from the Great Five Shirts Project, so this gets to be the project to break in my new sewing machine.

I don’t know how many of you will be familiar with the Bargello quilting style—if you’re not, do an image search right now. A friend of mine mentioned these to me a while ago and I am a little obsessed. Like, break my post-queen-sized-fully-handstitched-scrap-quilt moratorium obsessed. Like, throw my ethic of “all quilts should be scrap quilts” out the window. The style is so beautiful, and the execution is so clever, that I had to try it myself.


Color pallette

The bargello quilt starts with a bunch of strips of coordinating colors, so I picked up a half jelly roll—turns out you can get Bali Batik half rolls for $15 from amazon, in a whole range of colors. I picked up a green one that doesn’t seem to be available any more. I got 20 strips, each 44″ or longer and 2.5″ wide, in ten distinct batik patterns, shown at right. Step 1 was to sew them together, lengthwise, in some sort of coherent way; I arranged them in a gradient from light to dark of the yellowish greens and then from dark to light of the bluish, then repeating. You actually sew them together completely, into a tube, and then to make the flat quilt you unpick some of the seams.

Quilt mock-up in octave

Quilt mock-up in Octave

The second step is planning the cutting and construction: all basic Bargello quilts start the same way (although there are variations that don’t), but the next step is tricky. The sewn-together tube is cut into strips, crosswise to the original strips, of varying widths, and then sewn together at an offset, creating steps. The widths determine what the pattern will be. I needed a way to mock up the quilt and decide on the widths; I decided to do this in Octave (free knockoff of matlab), which I am fluent in and which has decent graphics capability. It’s a very small piece of code—I gave it a set of colors, and set the widths manually, and it plots a bunch of rectangles of those colors and widths, and warns me if my widths would exceed the total fabric width. After many iterations of adjusting the widths, I settled on one I like, shown above.

bargello_asplodeI’ve done the cutting and started the re-assembly process; at right is a photo of the semi-exploded quilt top. Some of the strips at the center are sewn together. The next step is sewing the rest of the strips together; then I will need to sort out batting, edging and backing, and try out the quilting foot that came with my sewing machine. The final piece will be about 36″ by 40″, plus whatever border happens, so definitely a lap quilt or display piece.