One of the cool things about owning an APQS longarm machine is that you can look like a master quilter, even if you feel you don’t have an artistic bone in your body! All you need to do is trace! With literally thousands of pantograph designs available today, you can quilt anything from a simple swirling pattern to an elaborate cityscape scene across your quilt.
The key to successfully quilting a pantograph design is understanding that the laser and the needle represent the same point in space. Whenever you look at the laser, imagine that you are also looking at the needle. To illustrate this, I aligned the needle with a point in a pantograph design that I just stitched in Photo 1. When you look at the laser dot, it corresponds to the same spot on the paper pattern that matches my stitched design.
It helps to select patterns that provide a “ghost” design reference line to help you determine row spacing. The lighter line in the photo above is the “ghost” design. It represents where a previous row falls on the paper so that you can position the next row in relation to what has already been stitched.
While there are several different ways to execute a pantograph, this method uses a dry erase marker to identify the edges of your quilt directly on top of the pantograph cover. This will allow you to quilt partial rows on the top and bottom of your quilt so that the design “spills off” the edges on all sides. Be sure to use a “partial or full float” quilt loading method so that you can safely quilt off the edges of your quilt. (Click here to learn how to float a quilt.)
Stand on the pantograph side of your quilting machine and move the needle over the right side of the quilt. Move the needle along that edge, and sketch a line on the pantograph cover as the laser moves down the pattern.
When you reach the corner of the quilt top with the needle, continue moving the machine along the quilt edge and drawing a line horizontally on the pantograph cover. Finish by marking where the left edge of your quilt falls on the pantograph cover in the same way.
Now place the needle back on the right side of the quilt where the design first enters the section you’ve marked off as your “quilt”. Stitch the design lines that fall “inside” the marks. When your laser meets one of the dry erase marks, simply guide the laser along the dry erase mark until you meet another pattern line that extends into the area you’ve identified as your quilt top. The stitches that fall along the dry erase marks will be along the edges of your quilt.
After you’ve completed this partial row, it’s time to advance the quilt so that you can complete a full row. You’ll also need to erase the long horizontal line drawn on the pantograph cover since you want to stitch a full row. Leave the marks on the left and right sides of the quilt. You’ll still want to stop your quilting along the edges to give the illusion that your design spills off all sides of the project.
Roll the quilt forward, ensuring that you can get a complete pantograph row inside the throat. If your pantograph pattern rows nest together, be sure that you leave enough room to allow the nested sections to fit together into the previous row of stitching. Now choose a reference point on your actual stitched row that you can easily identify. In my example I’ve selected a sharp point in the pattern. Move the machine until the needle is directly over this point. Feel free to lower the needle in the point to keep your place.
Now you must readjust the laser beam so that it corresponds to that exact same point on the ghost rowof your pantograph pattern (refer back to Photo 2). You won’t actually quilt the ghost row, because it represents the row you just completed. Since the designer has already spaced the rows out for you, simply move the machine back to the right edge of the quilt again, and study where to begin stitching. Remember that the dry erase marks represent the edges of your quilt, so you don’t need to stitch past those when the laser beam meets them.
Continue in this manner all the way to the other end of the quilt. When you reach the bottom, align the needle with the lower edge of the quilt and redraw the long horizontal reference line on your pantograph cover as before. This will allow you to “cut off” the pantograph row at the bottom without quilting well past the edge. For more details on this process, be sure to watch the video below.