My adventure in longarm quilting took off in 2004, and at that time I longed to be able to stitch out a pantograph. Alas, I did NOT seem to have any talent for producing a pantograph. I was totally “Pantograph Challenged” which was a blessing, unbeknownst to me, in disguise. But during that time period it was sadly, quite clear pantographs and Lisa weren’t going to be friends.
My inability to stitch a panto forced me to initiate my work from the front of my machine. It became apparent if I wanted any of my designs to come alive on fabric I would need to start the process off this way. I took baby steps, to begin it was just a meander. Next I incorporated stars, loops, and hearts to this meander. As my baby steps grew, the strides in designs grew. Over time I was no longer taking steps; I was running! My confidence finally paved the road to implementing feathers, feathers flew into custom, custom brought about stitch in the ditch…and so on, and so on, and so on.
Being “Pantograph Challenged” was fate. I truly believe that piece of my quilting journey drove me to become the quilter I am today. If creating pantos had been smooth sailing from the get go I often wonder where I might be now.
So this raises a question to many quilters: Are Pantos a Good Place to Start?
They aren’t necessarily a bad place to begin. I encourage my students to become more familiar and comfortable standing in front of the machine, rather than behind the machine. Starting in the front of the machine will help in a couple of ways:
- Gaining insight and understanding regarding “proper balance”. Was the quilt evenly quilted or did it become smaller and tighter on one side?
- Hearing the sound of the machine when things go awry. With some machines the sound changes, (i.e tension) In addition, being positioned in front of the machine will provide the ability to SEE the stitches. Obviously having a visual will allow immediate access to viewing issues.
After about a year, I became proficiently decent at pantos. I vividly recall completing an entire row of quilting, only to spend an unpleasant amount of time ripping out the that row due to tension issues. Yes, I had heard the machine, it sounded a little different. Yes, I chose to ignore it. And yes, I ultimately paid the price for my lazy choices. What took 15 minutes to establish, took 3 hours to eliminate. That most definitely was not a good quilting day.
Are you new to your machine? If so I would ask you to consider working from the front of your machine for a couple of months prior to diving head first into attempting any pantos from behind. Then let me know how the transition went.