November 17, 2010

Free Motion Quilt Along: Meandering

Meandering may be where a lot of quilters start their free motion journey but that doesn’t mean it’s instinctual. Meandering requires you to constantly choose your next direction while keeping consistent spacing and filling in areas fluidly. That’s a lot to focus on! It takes a fair amount of practice to do this without getting yourself worked into a corner, crossing your own lines or leaving gaps of unfilled space.  So if you’ve tried meandering before and it hasn’t worked out, be gentle with yourself. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad quilter. It means you need practice!

For the quilt along I reserved two of the five remaining areas on the wide strips for meandering. I chose the two adjacent to my starburst and spiral block. You can choose whichever designs you’d like. If you’ve never meandered before you'll probably want to just start there. If you’ve done your fair share of meandering then maybe branch out and try one of the variations. By all means get the feel of the pattern with a few minutes on a practice pad. But don’t be afraid to move on to that quilt top!
Because I wanted to try a few designs, for each of my square areas I stitched two different designs. In one I did a plain meander and the angled meander. The angled meander is very forgiving, the only thing I struggle with is not pausing too long at the corners.

Then I did loops and the watery meander. At first I didn't put enough "ripples" in this one but by the end (the far edge) it was looking nice and watery.

My advice about meandering is to go at a medium to fast speed. Too slow and your curves will look jerky. Too fast and you’ll feel like you’re riding a wild horse. You should try and have an idea where you’re going next and if you suddenly don’t know where you’re going, stop stitching and reassess the situation. I always get myself into trouble by continuing to stitch beyond that moment of “oh no! too fast!”
Proceeding with your stitching in a way that doesn’t look repetitive can be a challenge. I try to work in a way that is not straight up and down or side to side. I try to swing out in arcs occasionally to leave pockets to come back and fill in, though that is easier to practice in larger spaces than we have on this little quilt. Oh, and I'd suggest working from the inner edge toward the outer edge, to decrease the potential for puckers.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't let you know what BarbH had to say about the post on meandering designs
To be precise, "...stippling and meandering are the same thing, but meandering is on a larger scale and stippling is very concentrated stitching. Stitching is...regulated in order to have equally-distanced, non-crossing (and non-touching) stitching overall." Many of the examples you posted today are beautiful filler designs for quilting but are not technically meandering since the lines cross each other. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't meet the definition of meandering. Just wanted to clarify this for your followers. 
Barb brings up a good point. All the designs in this post proceed in a meandering fashion, and so they are filed in the same place in my head. But it's true, only some of them meet the definition of "meandering". In my quilting I certainly don't worry too much about rules and strict definitions, and I'm perfectly happy to go around annoying serious quilters saying things like "loopy meandering", but I don't want to lead you astray. Apparently I don't get to redefine words arbitrarily as the mood strikes me. So thanks to Barb for pointing that out!

Have fun stitching - this is starting to look like a real quilt! Only three squares and two strips to go. I had thought I would be donating this quilt but now I think I may be keeping it as a kind of personal stitch library. There is a lot of great work popping up in the Flickr group. See you next week with vines and feathers.


BubzRugz said...

Thanks again.... I haven't kept up with the practice.... on my list to do a practice 'quilt' like you have displayed there....
Have a happy loopy meandering rest of the week.....

Carol said...

You make everything look so easy. I started practicing free motion yesterday and I learned that I have to go slow because I was moving way too fast. Thanks for all your posts on free motion quilting.

Sarah Craig said...

I try not to cross my wanderings in meandering, but if I find that I have an area that is really too empty and the only way to get back to it is to cross a line, I do it! Rules in quilting only matter if you are going to be judged - if you are comfortable with it, and it makes it look better, go for it!

Gene Black said...

Ha....I ignore the "rules" -after all I am making a personal work of art. It has to express me, not some arbitrary person or group who appointed themselves "quilt police"

Cheri said...

I've just lately begun quilting, though I have pieced for years. I really appreciate your's given me courage to try new stitches and I also like your definitive word changes.

MamaDaniel said...

thanks for sharing all the tips.. :)

Diane said...

I have been practicing . . . and failing miserably UNTIL yesterday. I'm stitching along and thinking (This is looking OK) and then "thunk" and I take it out of the machine and the tension on the back is all messed up and looks awful. But I know now that I can adjust my tension and try again and (perhaps) end up with something I won't have to hide. Thanks for all the great tutorials!

Kay Lynne said...

Thanks for getting me to think outside the meandering! I love all the textures we can create with just a little design change. Also thank you for all the time you put into your posts.

Vicki @ DottyJane said...

Thanks for another informative post. I love the wandering loops!
I was having trouble with the speed for meandering, so I set my machine to the fastest speed I am comfortable with. That keeps me from accidentally “stepping on it” and racing out of control. This is one of the features I really like on my newer machine.

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