Laura sort of hit a wall on meandering, which I think is a common experience when quilters first try this pattern. (It seems like it should be so easy, right?) She asked me about keeping the pattern even, how to see where you are going across the quilt when you are working one small area at a time. She said she felt like she was quilting an area and then drawing "a long lonely line" to get to the next area.
I emailed her my advice (this was, ahem, ages ago), and wanted to bring the subject up here too. Some suggestions I'd like to share:
- Keep trying! Meandering looks so simple but it really takes a fair amount of practice. There are easier pattern for beginners to start with, so don't feel like you have to meander right out of the gate. If meandering is getting you down, stitch something else for a few quilts.
- Sketch a lot. Every day. BIG sheets of paper if you have them. Paper is way cheaper than fabric and with meandering you have to get your brain used to figuring out where to go next while keeping the pattern curvy and consistent like you want it. This is just like any other skill, it improves with practice. Use a colored marker and you could reuse your sketch paper for wrapping paper!
- Let the edges of any area you're stitching be curvy. That way when you stitch the adjacent area the "join" between the two disappears, and it looks like one cohesive unit instead of two separate areas. Stitch in blob shapes.
- Make a plan before you start about how you will move across the quilt. Leah Day of the Free Motion Quilting Project talks about how she sections a quilt in this video. I like the way Elizabeth of Oh, Fransson plans her quilting, shown in this picture. Or you could just meander in wide (6-10") rows across the quilt, keeping the edges curvy on each row so the next row can nestle up against it. This lets you practice meandering while just moving in one general direction (to the right) instead of all over the quilt.
- My own personal epiphany: when stitching, try to add twosies (two-lump units) and threesies (three-lump units) as you go to keep from getting into a crazy long wiggle. Whenever I get the feeling that "oh no! this wavy line won't stop!" I toss in one of these to get me off on a new direction.
Other snippets of advice:
- If you get ahead of yourself and don't know where you are going next, STOP and take a breath and decide. I could save myself a lot of ripping if I always followed this advice.
- My meandering, and probably most people's, tends to loosen up a bit as I go, with my curves getting bigger the longer I quilt. To counter this I try to purposely make my stitching bigger and more open as I start. And every 10 or so minutes I find the area I started with and hold it up against the area I'm currently working, to see if I am loosening up too much.