Better Free Motion Meandering/Stippling on Quilts

Every day, almost, we hear from quilters who visit our shop and have a fear of free motion quilting their beautiful quilt tops at home. I think this is so wrong! We want everyone to be able to achieve this skill. Having a quilt project sandwiched and quilted by a long-arm professional, although beautiful, is a service you have to fork out additional money for. It can take a few weeks or even months to schedule a long-arm professional to quilt for you. For small to medium-sized quilt tops, you can start quilting them at home using the domestic sewing machine that you  already have. Think of the money you can save by learning to quilt your quilt tops at home by yourself!


It’s not so scary if you consider quilting your project in four areas, breaking down the job into four zones to tackle. Many quilts you see these days at shows and in glossy magazines are assembled with all-over gentle meandering and look awesome. Free motion quilting and stippling is like a doodle on your quilt. Some doodle experts take to this method readily because they are used to using that creative part of their brains. Some of you structured “left-brained” quilters stop short on this random approach. Relax, here’s a tip to help you join the fun that the rest of us are having whilst completing our quilts and getting more quilts completed!

Step 1:  Grab a doodle pad and draw a VERY large, VERY simple stipple line first (refer to the  blue wavy line in the diagram below). This wavy line is similar to a winding snake or piece of cooked spaghetti. You can do that, right? When you are ready, draw a wavy u-shaped line on the surface of your quilt sandwich with a water soluble marker.


Step 2: Stitch your meandering back and forth across that blue line to fill the spaces as evenly as you can with an irregular meander. (Refer to the red line in the drawing.) Work your way around the whole quilt top without getting stuck in a dead end anymore. You now have a path to follow that doesn’t look like you followed a straight line. Work on one of the four sections of your top at a time.

Try this out for a while and after a some practice and a few different projects, you may not have to draw the blue line. See if you can get to the point of visualizing the winding meander.

For the time being we hope that following a curvy line will take away the stress of having to figure out which way to go next. Come join the fun we are having doing free motion quilting and getting quilts finished. Go for it!



5 thoughts on “Better Free Motion Meandering/Stippling on Quilts

  1. Thank you for this Tip. I would love to learn 1 or 2 free motion designs. Somehow, I always lose where I am on the quilt. I’m going to try your tip.

  2. Dear Hamels,

    There is so much joy entering your quilt store! Knowing there are knowledgeable and friendly staff makes the experience memorable.

    Keep up the excellent work!


  3. I agree, you just have to start or practice. I am of the left-brain order, but started my meandering initially just in the borders of my quilts & then when I became comfortable with that, ventured further. I DID have to overcome my “it has to be perfect” syndrome. Remember, only YOU see perceived “mistakes”. The person receiving your quilt will be overjoyed – even another quilter! That has been my experience, anyway. Keep doing it!

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