Hey quilty friend, are you up for trying some simple free motion quilting scallops with me? These rolling hills or "organic scallops" are one of my favorite free motion quilting motifs. Why? Because you don't need to spend time drawing guide marks and once you get into a rhythm they are incredibly fast to sew. Oh, and they are crazy cute. Like so so so cute. I almost forgot to mention that.
I filmed a beginner-friendly video tutorial to show you just how easy it is to free motion quilt scallops. This design has a unique, bubbly appearance making it the perfect quilting motif for baby quilts—which works out great because that's about as big as I like to get when it comes to free motion quilting.
Buuuut I'm getting ahead of myself. Below we cover free motion quilting supplies, tips, how to try this technique even with a small sewing space and, of course, the nitty gritty details of quilting scallops.
Simple Free Motion Quilting Scallops Video Tutorial
Free Motion Quilting Supplies
We cover free motion quilting (or FMQ) basics in a previous post, Free Motion Quilting Tutorial for Beginners. That post also has a video tutorial and is a wonderful first step if you are brand new to free motion quilting.
To get started free motion quilting you need three extra things you might not already own as a quilter. They are:
- Free motion quilting foot that is compatible with your sewing machine. Each brand of sewing machine has its own version of this foot, so you can either purchase this from the dealer who sold you your machine, or from a sewing supply store that sells multiple types of machines and notions, such as Sewing Machines Plus.
- Grippy gloves that will help you grip your quilt sandwich while moving it freely through your machine. You can purchase quilting gloves or I've even known some people to use clean gardening gloves. Since your feed dogs are down while free motion quilting, you need to create "finger feed dogs" by using something with a good grip.
- Supreme Slider so you can move your quilt sandwich freely without any friction. These come in different sizes so measure your machine before buying.
I am sewing on a BERNINA 770 QE. My machine sits inside a quilting cabinet from Tracy's Tables and a flat surface is created with a Sew Steady acrylic insert fitted to my sewing machine. This creates a larger workspace for my quilting.
Yes, it's true that a larger flat surface for your quilt to glide over does make free motion quilting easier; however, you are not disqualified from this sewing technique if all you have is a small machine and a little bit of room to work.
Two FMQ Tips If You Have a Small Sewing Space
- Try to make your sewing surface a bit bigger. Sew Steady tables can be purchased in various sizes and made to fit your exact machine.
- Small space? Small quilts! Mini quilts are how I learned to free motion quilt. If you haven't tried one of the Sew Mojo mini quilt patterns, now is a great time. Once you've maxed out on mini quilts, move on to pillows, pouches, postcards, bins, slippers, or one of the many other tutorials here on the SQ blog!
Small Quilty Projects for FMQ
How to Free Motion Quilt Scallops
There are three important things to always remember when free motion quilting scallops.
Backstitch when you start and stop.
As seen in the video I start on the left side and move to the right, sewing one row at a time. This lets me backstitch on the edges so I don't have to worry about pulling up my threads. I actually don't even have to worry about keeping my backstitching tidy at all because it will get covered up when I bind the edges of the quilt.
Sew with your needle down.
This is so you can keep your quilt in place when you start, stop and pivot. There is a button or switch to flip on your machine to change this setting so your needle automatically is down when you stop sewing.
Find your perfect pace.
You may notice in the video that I sew at a steady, slowish pace. That's the pace that works best for me so I always feel in control of the quilt.
When it comes to finding your perfect pace in free motion quilting, picture yourself as a quilting cowboy (or girl or person? Cowperson? Well that doesn't sound right.) You're riding a horse and the sun is setting over a beautiful mountain range. Ahhh... so nice.
What were we doing again? Quilting? Right! OK, so you're riding your horse at a gentle canter. Relaxation vibes are high. The open field stretches out in front of you. The thought arises, "How fast can this horse ride?" You snap the reins, dig in your heels, and bellow, "Giddy up, Bess! Let's ride!!"
The first few seconds are amazing. You're channeling Jack and Rose on the bow of the Titanic. You're flying! The wind is in your hair!
Oh dear, now the wind is really in your hair and your hair is getting in your face. Also in your mouth. A leaf just blew into your eye and you can no longer see straight. Your rump starts bouncing in the saddle and Bess does not like how hard you are gripping the reins. The Titanic is hitting an iceberg! Bess is now trying to buck you off! All of the metaphors are getting confused! Somebody stop this horse or ship or sewing machine!!
Lift your foot off the pedal (we are no longer cowpeople.) Readjust. Shake out your shoulders and start again. Slower. You got this. It's OK to try out new speeds. The goal is to feel in control whether that's fast or slow or slowish, like me.
Do you enjoy free motion quilting? We'd love to hear your tips if you've got 'em! We'd also love to know if you plan on trying this free motion quilting scallops motif!
20 thoughts on “Simple Free Motion Quilting Scallops (with Video Tutorial)”
Thanks for this video Suzy, it makes it look less intimidating! Quick question: what stitch length settings do use for this technique?
I’m so happy to hear that! With free motion quilting stitch length is determined by your sewing speed and how much you move your quilt around. My BERNINA Stitch Regulating free motion foot does help keep my stitches around 2.5 in length.
Thank you for the idea about this style of machine quilting. I don’t send my quilts out to be quilted, but do it all myself. The usual meanders, the loopy, straight line quilting, following seams and / or
following parts of the fabric prints…but I love the arched style you showed today! Your daughter’s grin is SO sweet — you have beautiful children!
I will try the little hills. I really love free motion quilting but have only done a tiny bit and would love to do more. Working on a quilt I have embroidered for my youngest son and his sweetly of their 5 month camping trip and relocating to Chicago. I really like the humps as I think they will fit right in with this quilt. Thanks again you gave me inspiration and hope for FMQ
I do all my quilting also. I love this pattern. I am currently working on a throw size quilt for a little boy. The motif is Raiders and 49er’s and what quilting pattern could be better for a sports themed quilt then rounded ? I do think I will amend the pattern somewhat to appear more rounded than humped but I love this idea and thank you profusely for the video and instructions.
I had success with this motif, thank you so much for sharing. It was pretty meditative as I moved along!
Hi! Great Tips! I also like your post on 4 Tips for Quilting with Minky or Faux Fur 🙂 https://suzyquilts.com/4-tips-for-quilting-with-minky-or-faux-fur/
Hi Ellen! We had some website functionality issues yesterday that made the “Read more” link in our newsletter not work correctly. Luckily, to get to the Minky post from our newsletter, you can just click on the main graphic that says “4 Tips for Quilting with Minky or Faux Fur.” People are loving that post already!
Was trying to find your tips on minky but free motion quilting.
Hi Sheri! We had some website functionality issues yesterday that made the “Read more” link in our newsletter not work correctly. Luckily, to get to the Minky post from our newsletter, you can just click on the main graphic that says “4 Tips for Quilting with Minky or Faux Fur.” You can also always find our most recent blog post at the very top of suzyquilts.com, and here’s a direct link for you! https://suzyquilts.com/4-tips-for-quilting-with-minky-or-faux-fur/
Couldn’t find the tips about sewing with minke—lots of other quilting tips
Hi Janet! We had some website functionality issues yesterday that made the “Read more” link in our newsletter not work correctly. Luckily, to get to the Minky post from our newsletter, you can just click on the main graphic that says “4 Tips for Quilting with Minky or Faux Fur.” You can also always find our most recent blog post at the very top of suzyquilts.com, and here’s a direct link for you! https://suzyquilts.com/4-tips-for-quilting-with-minky-or-faux-fur/
Ahhh, so that was the problem. Thanks so much for the great article on minky quilting and the responses from other quilters was very helpful. I have made many minky backed quilts but working on a lap quilt for us this time. So biggerspace and a bit anxious. But I spray basted and pinned so here I go!!! Thanks so much for your great blog site!!!
Did I miss the 4 tips for quilting with “Minky”??
Hi Joan! We had some website functionality issues that made the “Read more” link in our newsletter not work correctly. Here’s a direct link for you! https://suzyquilts.com/4-tips-for-quilting-with-minky-or-faux-fur/
Stunning! I am motivated to try free motion quilting again with the Bernina 770QE after watching your video (rather than with just zig zag or other standard curve stitches). Thank you! If you would, what fabric is that adorable backing fabric? Thanks again!
Thank you and I wish I knew the name of this fabric! I bought it years ago and haven’t seen it since.
Thank you! Love the video.
Love the video….thank you. Do you have the pattern to the quilt pattern in this video?
Thank you! It’s the Gather pattern and can be purchased here – https://suzyquilts.com/shop/gather-quilt-pattern-download/