How to Use Quilting Pantographs

Pantographs involve a perpetual line design that is printed on a long piece of paper. You don’t know the length of the longarm frame, so it’s better that you don’t cut the pantograph design to a smaller size. You should leave it full-size, folding the excess out so that you can work better.

Let’s start with some tips!

If this is your first time working with a pantograph, you should stick to the patterns that don’t include any sharp angles nor travel back over themselves.

When you decide on directional patterns, it’s essential that you load the quilt the right way. As for the sizing, keep in mind that partial rows are easy to fix and difficult to avoid.

You can choose the pantograph size according to the size of your quilt top, and you should run the numbers accurately (the size of the quilt top, the size of the piecing and so on).

What are the steps to follow?

Being meticulous is one of the secrets when it comes to quilting, so, without any further ado, scroll down to learn about the steps to take when using pantographs for your quilt:

1. Load the quilt

You need to make sure that the machine is in the basting mode and that the zip is on the backing. The thread baste batting has to be in the horizontal lock, whereas the thread bastes quilt top goes along the top and the sides.

Even though it’s tempting, never use pins for basting when using pantographs. You end up constantly checking the pantograph, and it’s only a matter of time until the needle breaks over a pin.

You should drop the needle in the upper left corner of the top quilt (use the needle position button for the job). Turn on the laser light as well.

2. Time to load the pantograph

You continue with loading the pantograph onto the back table, right under plastic, lining up along the straight edge of the table.

You need to adjust the laser light so that it lines up with the lowest point from the first row of the design horizontally. It’s essential to fix it so that it’s easy for you to see where you need to hold the machine. Try to stand straight up, maintaining the pantograph lined up against the edge of the table.

You also need to adjust the laser vertically, using the starting end of the pantograph. You need to move the pantograph left to right for so that you can access the better points.

Don’t hesitate to use the ruler for better accuracy and make sure the paper panto remains lined up against the edge of the table — Double-Check before moving forward.

3. Choose and mark the starting point/ending point

You can use a clear ruler for marking your starting point. You need to do it for every single row if the pattern has more than just one row. The post-its are great to use for drawing fill-in.

Continue with raising the needle, dropping it in the right corner (upper one) of your top quilt. Use the clear ruler once again for deciding and marking the ending point. Again use the post-its if necessary.

You should drop the needle in the first starting point, identifying the start point for the last row. When the pattern doesn’t include a previous row, you drop the needle with the starting point of first full row.

4. Go to the front/back of the machine

You have to feed the bobbin thread, lock the stitches and remove the thread tails. Go to the regulated mode as well.

Once you’re done, go back to the back of your machine and start quilting, following the path. You should drop the needle when you get to the ending point. Return to the front of the machine once again, locking the stitches, feeding the bobbin and doing all the trimming you need.

5. …and repeat

You should repeat the steps for all the other full rows. When you’re done, continue with rolling your quilt.

6. Return to the back of the machine

Look for the highest point of your pantograph, while dropping the needle on the last quilted row. Some pantographs have the points marked, for more comfortable use. You can always set a sign of your own (a central point) so that everything goes faster.

7. Getting closer to the end

It’s time now to remove the belly bars or the side clamps. The needle has to be dropped in the quilt, as you keep an eye on the laser light and roll the quilt so that the laser light is lining up to the precise point on the partial row.

You continue with locking the roller bars and reattaching the side clamps/belly bars. You have to take a look at the height of rear bar while basting down the sides (if needed). Complete all the rows. More often than not, the last row is a partial row.

Let’s end with more tips!

No matter how careful or meticulous you are when using pantographs, you should always pay attention to some aspects. We made it easy for you to scroll down for the last recommendations:

  • Don’t move the head of the machine if the needle is dropped in the quilt
  • Don’t beat yourself up, trying to follow the pattern precisely. The risk for jagged lines is high when doing so. It’s better that you concentrate on feeling the motions for a smoother quilting result.
  • You can try making the backing and the batting larger
  • Use your right hand for quilting as it’s more comfortable.
  • You don’t want to run out of bobbin so check it from time to time.
  • You should use the finger for tracing the pattern before you quilt; it’s going to reduce the number of path mistakes
  • When you’re not rolling right, you may end up with overlapping rows or significant gaps between your rows.
  • In the case of an overlapping row, you may leave it that way. You can also line up and roll the right way, quilting over and removing the stitches when you’re done.
  • Should you have a gap, you can fill in space with echo around your pattern. Lining up and rolling well, quilting over may also be a solution.
  • When you’re taking the stitches out at home, it’s a good idea to mark the stitches you want to remove with chalk.

Other resources

How to Use a Pantograph – Heartbeat Quilting

What Are Pantographs, and Why Quilt with Them? – Free Motion Quilting Project

Pantograph vs. free motion quilting | APQS