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Quilting Motif 17 - Meander

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Hi quilty friends it's time to put on your quilting gloves and learn to stitch the MEANDER! This is usually one of the first free-motion quilting techniques a person learns, but I have saved it until the end for a few reasons.

#1 - It is actually difficult to be random in my opinion. The basic meander looks like random wiggly lines that never end.

#2 - The Meander looks better with nice curves and good corners. Now you have had plenty of practice with FMQ and moving your hands smoothly in rhythm with your foot and machine.

#3 - In the Nothing but Love QAL I'm using this in the borders because it does not need to match up with the other sections to look nice (plus there are 3 variations).

The most important thing to do for this design is have good preparation.

  • Press your quilt top, block, or border strip nicely,

  • Sandwich with the batting and backing sticking out a decent amount,

  • And baste VERY well!

There is ALOT of movement with this design, and if your quilt is not basted well it will certainly shrink up and get wavy edges. I highly recommend stitch-basting the edges (1/8" in) in order to maintain size and shape of top/block/border.

Get Set to Roam...

Start by setting up your machine up for free-motion quilting. I don't recall ever showing you what that looks like on my machine so here's a peek:

  1. I use a straight centered stitch

  2. I lower my feed dogs

  3. I change the foot for FMQ

  4. I lengthen my stitch to 4 or 5 mm

I know all machines look different, but once you learn where all of your controls are for these steps, it helps to have a checklist. (Just like driving a car.)

Also the machine I am using here is a Babylock Crescendo and you are seeing the computer screen that is the boss of it.

**You also want to get your quilting gloves and silicone slider (if you have them) to help move your quilt sandwich on your deck easily.

Let Your Needle Wander

As I stated earlier, the basic meander looks like a never-ending wiggly line.

As usual I prefer to start at the edge of the block so I don't have to worry about tying off my thread. It will be locked by the attachment of border or binding.

Then you look at your area to be quilted and decide a path to fill it. I usually go from top to bottom and then back to top moving in left (or right) direction.

Your waviness can be as small or large as you want, but this determines how dense your quilting will be and how much time it will take you to completely fill your area.

smaller/denser design = more time & effort to complete

**TIP - I do NOT randomly make this design.

If you trace your finger along the picture above from start to end, you will see I make large circles/ovals. That's the trick to "randomness"! Instead of drawing a smooth circle, it is made with a wiggly line. And right before the circle closes I switch directions and make another circle. Your shape can also fill in any odd shaped corners or gaps before continuing on its path until you are ready to end.

You can work your way across the quilting area as I mentioned above - so you start on one side and end on the other. Or you can start and go around some of the sides, fill in the middle (if needed), and then finish the last side which ends you back near your starting point (like my drawing).

Your path is up to you as well as the size of your "circles" - if you make them bigger your pattern will be less dense and finish quicker.

**TIP - try to keep your quilting about 1/2" from the edge of your fabric.

Here is a video so you can see it done - I do show a few other things also:

My bad patch which has the barest minimum of batting (which makes it hard to quilt), I did not originally stitch-baste my edges (which also makes it harder), and also I could not find my gloves or slider, so I had to hold the edges of my sandwich firmly and lightly float my quilt block while I quilted.

Easy, Peaceful Feeling - Watery Meander

I like this variation very much because it is not as commonly used. It is also more linear and gives a more peaceful vibe. You may think it is somewhat easier to accomplish also because there are fewer switches in direction. I think it covers more space in less time.

With this elongated design, it is definitely better to start on one end and finish on the other end.

This variation is similar to the free-motion straight lines pattern except your lines change course whenever you want. You can also go up and down at intervals, make little blips in the lines, and basically just fill in the space with long-ish smooth lines. To make it less dense just add more space between the lines/ make larger curves when you turn.

Mod Squad - Geometric Meander

In this final option you can work your way across your block/border with geometric shapes. I use squares and rectangles mostly but you could use other shapes as well.

Similar to the watery meander in that you are making longer lines in a sideways direction. This time when you want to change direction you make a boxy shape. You can turn corners, change directions, or just fill up space with a shape but end up going the same direction. It can be pretty fun (or make you dizzy)! You may want to practice on paper first.

**TIP - To make sharp corners vs. rounded corners, stop and take a few stitches before you change directions.

I am not overly concerned with this or even super straight lines and shapes, but if you want a very clean design, just go slowly and make larger shapes.

Here is another quick little video, so you can watch the geometric meander process:

Important Note: Do NOT trim your quilted borders until you have joined your quilt rows together (next week). Quilting changes the dimensions slightly so we may need a little extra border.

I'd love to see your quilty eye candy!

No judgement or criticism here - only applause! I'd love to see your work whether it is on this quilt or you're using this design on another project! You can share photos here in the comments or on Facebook or Instagram @polkadotpeepquiltsetc or #quiltingmeanders or #nothingbutloveQAL or email me at and I will share it with your permission.

If you do have additional questions, issues, or comments regarding quilting or making meanders please ask in the comments.

In case you are just finding these quilting lessons, here are all the details for you to learn them all anytime:

January 24 – Affection/GRIDS Quilting Motif 1 - Grids (

February 7 – Refuge/OUTLINING Quilting Motif 2 - Outlines (

February 21 – Joyful/SQUIGGLES Quilting Motif 3 - Squiggles (

March 21 – Devotion/PUMPKIN SEEDS Quilting Motif 5 - Pumpkin Seeds (

April 4 – Inspiration/WAVY LINES Quilting Motif #6 - Wavy Lines (

May 2 – Admiration/FRACTURED SPIRAL Quilting Motif 8 - Fractured Spiral (

May 16 – Infatuation/SCALLOPS Quilting Motif 9 - Scallops (

July 11 – Patience/PEARLS ON A STRING Quilting Motif 13 - Pearls on a String (

August 8 – Grateful/ASTERISK (INTERSECTING LINES) Quilting Motif 15 - Asterisk (

August 22 – Hopeful/ STRAIGHT LINES Quilting Motif 16 - Straight Lines (

Have a great week, stitching your meandering paths!

Be blessed my friends,


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