Serendipity

Materials

  • 2.5m (2.75yd) floral blue batik
  • 1m (1 1⁄8yd) light pink batik for background to smaller stars
  • 2m (2 1⁄4yd) cream/pink batik for remaining light backgrounds
  • 1.5m (1 3⁄4yd) dark green batik for setting strips and binding
  • Approximately 20 batik fat quarters or eighths in four different greens, deep pinks, oranges from bright to dark, deep yellows, turquoises, purples and deep reds
  • Approx 10m (11yd) in total of a large selection of patterned batik scraps
  • Backing fabric 235 x 235cm (92 x 92in)
  • Wadding 235 x 235cm (92 x 92in); Anja recommends cotton wadding
  • Foundation piecing medium of your choice
  • Template medium of your choice
  • Sewing thread for piecing
  • Metallic and invisible thread for quilting

Finished Size

Approx 229 x 229cm (90 x 90in)

Skill Level

Advanced

We hope that over the last three issues you have been following the piecing instructions for Anja Townrow's stunning Serendipity quilt. In Part One we made the Centre Star and Flower border, in Part Two we made the Star border and in Part Three we completed the quilt top with the Flower and Outer borders.

Preparation

Open out your wadding fully and leave it to rest on a level surface for a few hours or overnight, to reduce creasing. Wash and press your quilt top and backing fabric before layering and basting

Quilting Serendipity

Anja used machine quilting throughout, in straight lines around the patches and with free motion quilting in some areas. You can, of course, hand quilt all or just part of the design if you prefer, but in a project of this size it is still a good idea to stabilise the quilt first with machine stitching along all the seam lines.

If you find the idea of all that quilting just a little daunting, there is an alternative open to you called 'long arm quilting'. Long arm quilting is a professional service that can help you with all or just part of the quilting stage. If you plan to do the quilting yourself, just follow Anja's helpful tips to help you achieve the best results and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

Wadding and Backing

Anja recommends cotton wadding for successful machine quilting of a large quilt, but you can use any wadding of your choice. It is best to use a single large piece if possible, to avoid ridges or lumps in the finished quilt.

For backing, use a soft quilters' cotton. If you are buying 110cm (44in) wide cotton, you will need three times the length of the quilt plus about 20cm (8in) extra for the edges.

It may be more economical to buy special quilters' backing fabric, which is available in a greater width of around 270 to 280cm (106 to 110in).

Any surplus backing fabric can be used for a hanging sleeve if you are planning to have one. Surplus backing fabric is also very useful for making practice quilting sandwiches, which are essential for checking your tension.

Layering Your Quilt

  1. Press your backing fabric. Join the fabric until you have a backing measuring at least 235 x 235cm (92 x 92in). A few inches extra all around will make the layering easier. Press again.
  2. Clear a floor space so that you have an area large enough to accommodate this backing size, plus extra 'crawl space' for you to move comfortably around the quilt as you are basting it.
  3. Tape the backing to the floor, wrong side up, ensuring the fabric is taut but not overly stretched. Lay the cotton wadding on top of the backing. Starting in the middle, smooth the wadding over the backing and stroke it out towards the edges until all the creases have been smoothed out.
  4. Press your quilt top carefully and ensure that it is square. Trim if necessary. Lay the quilt top carefully onto the wadding. Gently smooth the top over the wadding, stroking it out towards the edges.

Handy hint Always use a new needle when you start a quilting project, and remember to change it after about every eight hours of sewing or when a 'popping' sound is heard as the needle passes up and down through the fabric.

Pinning The Layers

  1. Secure the three layers together with quilter's curved safety pins, starting from the centre. Be careful not to cause any bulges in the top. From the centre, pin to the edges quartering the quilt, then pin in a grid in the quarter sections, always out towards the edges.
  2. Pin at intervals of about every 15cm (6in), or closer in areas you want to secure a little more, for example, one pin in every star point, or in every background patch of the stars.
  3. Undo the masking tape and lift the quilt off the floor by folding it gently from the bottom to the middle then from the top to the middle. Next fold it in half and then fold in the sides. Carry the quilt over to your sewing machine, with minimal disturbance.

Practise your Quilting

  1. Before you begin to quilt, it is a good idea to make a trial quilt sandwich of at least 25 x 25cm (10 x 10in) with the same backing fabric, wadding and quilt top fabrics that you are using for your Serendipity quilt. This helps you to practise your stitches and check the tension.
  2. For quilting, you might like to loosen the top tension, down from 5 to 2 1⁄2, depending on your machine. If you have automatic tension, try that first.
  3. Wind the bobbin and insert. Adjust stitch length to 4. Fit the walking foot. Thread your machine with invisible thread on the top. Set the machine to half speed and use the 'needle down' facility.
  4. Sew a length of stitches and check that all is well. If the stitch does not look good, consider these possibilities:
    • Is the stitch length too long/too short?
    • Is the top tension too tight/too loose?
    • Is the bottom tension too tight/too loose?
    • Am I using a fine enough bobbin thread?
    • Is my machine clean?
    • Have I threaded it up correctly?
  5. Sew another length of stitches and check again. Keep going until you have the nicest possible stitch. Make a note of your settings, in case you reset your machine for another project.

Quilting in the Ditch

Quilting in the ditch is done to stabilize the layers of the quilt. By 'ditch', we mean the seam where the patches meet, specifically the side were there is no seam allowance underneath, as you will have pressed the seam allowances to the other side. Ideally, that's where your stitches should land, close to the seam.

Handy hint Anja recommends using invisible thread in the top so that any mistakes don't show, because it can be difficult to hit that ditch consistently!

  1. in the centre of your Serendipity quilt by outlining the octagon formed by the deep purple patches, then stitch around the turquoise star points, around the light pink octagon, around the orange triangles, around the blue batik star points, then around the centre square. You will be able to do all this without breaking the stitching. Just keep going around the edges of the patches, turning the quilt as you go. Make sure the needle is down in the fabric at each turn, to keep your stitches even.
  2. Now outline the star blocks in the corners. Stitch in the ditch, following the dark green strip around the centre square and around the flower border. Stitch around the main outlines of the flowers, separating the flowers and leaves from the background.
  3. Stitch around the outside of the green strip surrounding the flower border. To stitch around the star blocks, start at the point of a block and keep going to the point of the next block, then turn and make for the point of the next block, thus making a zigzag trip around, so you can keep going without stopping the stitching.
  4. Next follow the ditch around the green strip on both sides and quilt in the flower border as before. Then quilt around the next green strip.
  5. To quilt the final border, stitch in the ditch around the blue triangles, then stitch around the foundation pieced blocks, overlapping some of the 'stitch journey'. This won't show because of the invisible thread, and will do no harm if you are using a long stitch as recommended.
  6. Finally, stitch in the ditch of the green strip and outline the corner blocks. Your quilt is now stabilized and ready to be quilted freehand in the relevant areas.

Free Motion Quilting

  1. Free motion or freehand quilting allows you to 'draw' your quilting stitches in any direction, using your needle as the pen and your thread as the ink. To do this you need to prepare your machine. First drop or cover the feed dogs. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for your sewing machine if you are not sure how to do this. Fit a darning or freehand quilting foot. You can use a hoop to hold a section of the quilt for free motion quilting, or just use your hands. A hoop gives greater control if you are following a drawn line or when stitching intricate motifs and helps to avoid sore hands or aching wrists and shoulders.
  2. Thread your machine with a fine metallic thread such as a fine metallic variegated red/gold, or Superior Metallic colour 31. Set your tension and bobbin as before. If your metallic thread seems brittle, rub on a drop of Sewer's Aid to soften it. Practise on your trial quilt sandwich to achieve the swirly patterns given here. If you like, you can practise on a piece of paper first, to get the feel and rhythm of the movement.
  3. Cover the relevant areas with free motion quilting, starting where indicated and following the direction of the arrows. Again, have frequent breaks and try to relax as you sew. Don't worry too much if you feel you are not achieving perfect results, the overall quilted effect will be fine! Tidy up ends of threads as you go, to prevent snarling and breaking.
  4. Quilting ideas are given for the centre block and star border. These motifs can also be repeated in the relevant parts of the outer border.
  5. In the turquoise and blue floral batik patches, Anja quilted with a thick metallic thread such as YLI Candlelight. This needs to be wound on the bobbin, as it is too thick to go through the needle. You then need to quilt your design from the back, so that the metallic thread on the bobbin appears on the front of your quilt. If you wish to try this, make the following adjustments: thread blue cotton number 40 thread on top and return your tension back to normal. Wind blue Candlelight thread onto the bobbin, with the bottom tension loosened. It depends on your make of machine how this is done, so consult your manual for guidelines. Turn the quilt upside down and work the quilting from the back. You can identify the areas easily, because of the in the ditch stitching lines.

Binding

  1. When all the quilting is complete, trim the backing and wadding even with the quilt top. Prepare continuous binding by cutting binding strips 2 1⁄2in wide across the width of the fabric. Join them with diagonal 1⁄4in seams, to a total length of approximately 380in.
  2. With wrong sides together, press the raw edges together along the length. Place the raw edges even with the raw quilt edge and stitch with a 6mm (1⁄4in) seam. To mitre the corners, fold the binding up and away from the corner at 45 degrees, then fold back down and stitch. Continue around your quilt.
  3. Turn the binding to the back, leaving about 6mm (1⁄4in) showing at the front. Pin and sew to the backing by hand, with a neat blind stitch.

Hanging

  1. If you wish, you can make a hanging sleeve to display your quilt at a show. Cut spare backing fabric about 1in narrower than the finished quilt and about 20cm (8in) deep. Turn the short edges in 1⁄4in and stitch. Fold in half lengthwise to create a tube, right sides together, and stitch along the length.
  2. Turn the tube right side out and press. Pin the sleeve to the back of the quilt, just below the top edge. Stitch it into place with a neat blind stitch, leaving a little fullness for a hanging rod to pass through. As you stitch, catch a little of the wadding, but make sure not to stitch through to the front of the quilt.

Congratulations! Your Serendipity quilt is ready to be admired and enjoyed for many years to come.

First published in Popular Patchwork December 2007