Fabric panels present a unique opportunity to play with new machine quilting techniques in a fairly low stakes environment. After all, you likely haven’t spent months piecing the top and don’t have a lot of money invested in the panel as they are typically very economical. So, why not use them to practice upon and grow your free motion quilting skills a bit?
Many new longarm quilters start with all over, edge-to-edge quilting using a paper pantograph. The pattern sits on the back of the table and you use a laser light to trace the printed design. Whenever you are tracing a new-to-you pantograph pattern you will likely need a bit of practice using the laser over it until you get the brain/muscle connection to that particular pattern. I find it takes 2-3 passes before I feel comfortable tracing any new paper panto. Most panel quilts are pretty small, which makes them the perfect project to use when learning how a new pantograph is to be traced!
This adorable Jim Shore snowman panel was quilted with an all over snowflake, edge-to-edge paper pantograph. Isn’t it the perfect choice for the theme of the panel?
However, tracing those snowflakes the first few times on a quilt you’ve put a lot of time and money into can be intimidating. But, after stitching your snowy scene on this panel you’d be ready to load your pieced quilt top to the frame and get going right away!
Have you thought about sticking your toes into the world of machine quilting with rulers but were intimidated? This patriotic panel by Jim Shore has a printed block design behind the eagle giving you a nice crosshatching straight line grid for you to follow with your ruler – no marking needed! You can use the new ruler you’ve been wanting to try out and get to know its capabilities before trying it on your masterpiece.
As you start to explore custom quilting you may want to consider different ways to stitch out border designs but still need some practice to gain your confidence.
Many panels have printed borders perfectly suited to build your skills. The patriotic eagle panel has a generous border that gave a great space to play with rulers. Simple, echoed straight lines framing out the center is simple but can help you learn more about ruler work.
The teddy bear panel was given a piano key treatment in its border which is a great border design for all kinds of custom quilts. Piano keys are single straight lines that cross perpendicular to the border seam.
Beadboard is a version of piano key design that features a double line. We have a great video tutorial showing how you can even fill the spaces between the straight lines with free motion quilting. While you could certainly use a ruler to achieve this design you could also use the electronic channel locks found on our APQS Millie! A simple touch of a button on the front screen will lock out the machine’s wheels on either the horizontal or the vertical giving you perfectly straight lines- no ruler needed!
There are so many different fabric panels on the market today. Keep your eyes open to their possibilities. They are wonderful little sandboxes for learning designs and playing with techniques!
We’d love to see what you’ve done with fabric panels. Please post them over on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram. If you’d like to learn more about using rulers with a longarm, be sure to check out this video tutorial on our YouTube channel, too! If you’d like more information about APQS machines, contact the closest APQS store near you or your local dealer.