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!