This week's technique is the scallop stitch. Many of you probably have this stitch built into your machine. It is a satin stitch that forms a shell like shape. I'm not one to use decorative stitches all that often, but this particular stitch can add a really interesting finish to a hem or raw edge.
The technique requires basic materials. My machine came standard with a monogramming foot; this foot has a bit wider opening to accommodate the wider stitch. You will also need a sharp pair of scissors for trimming the scallops. Spray starch, an iron, and tear away stabilizer can also be helpful.
Here's a look at the stitch on my sewing machine screen.
Sewing the stitch is as simple as pressing the machine foot, and guiding the fabric through the machine. The machine really does all of the work for you. As you can see, the stitch is made up of zig zag stitches in varying lengths and positions. Because the stitches sit closely together, the stitch does a good job of finishing off raw edges. After creating the scallop stitch, the fabric is generally trimmed right up near the stitching line.
The stitch is often used as a decorative finish on handkerchiefs. Some other applications for this stitch are decorative elements on blouses, and collars. I personally think that this would be an adorable way to finish off a layered infant skirt (more on that tomorrow). Wouldn't it be cute on the edge of a flutter sleeve of a girl's dress?
You can adjust the stitch width and length to create slightly different scallops. My favorite stitching is when the stitch width is dropped down next to nothing, it creates a much tighter stitch that in my opinion is prettier. Using decorative thread can also dress up the stitch.
My sewing machine manual said that the stitch was often used on collars. I thought that I'd practice sewing the scallop on a curve. Following a gentle curve was no problem, I simply had to keep the fabric lined up with the same place on my presser foot. In the photo above you can see that my fabric was aligned with the inside metal edge of the right side of my presser foot. Keep your fabric in the same place, and you should follow the curve exactly.
So, I didn't have any problem following the curve, buy my quilter's cotton didn't seem to do to well. Some sort of stabilization was needed, so I tried to find the best possible solution. I tried three different methods of stabilization: spray starch and press (recommended by my manual), double thickness of fabric with featherweight fusible interfacing in the middle, and double thickness of fabric with tear away stabilizer underneath the fabric. Here are my findings...
Simply spray starching and pressing the fabric prior to stitching did improve my stitching success. My stitching was more regular and my fabric puckered less.
Using a tear away stabilizer under the fabric was also very successful. If I were using this technique on a handkerchief, or something that only used one layer of fabric, I would choose tear away stabilizer.
Once you achieve a nice even scallop stitch, you simply trim near, but not through the stitching line. There should be very minimal fraying with the small amount of exposed fabric. Any fraying would stop at your stitching line. If fraying is still a concern, you could always add a bit of fray check to your raw edges.
**Have any of you ever had the problem with your decorative stitches piling up on top of one another? I find that if this happens, it is helpful to reduce the tension on my presser foot. I have a specific dial on my machine that reduces and increases the amount of pressure applied by the presser foot. See your sewing machine manual for information specific to your machine.