How to Use a Pantograph

23rd Jan 2019

(If you have taken our rental class, please ask us how you can get a printed version of these instructions.)

1. Choose pantograph

  • If you’re just beginning, look for patterns that don’t have any sharp angles and that don’t travel back over themselves to achieve the best results.
  • Directional?
    • If the pantograph is a directional pattern, be sure to load your quilt onto the machine appropriately. 
  • Sizing
    • Partial rows are typically unavoidable, but easy to remedy.
    • You can use the pantograph sizes to find one that will mathematically fit the size of your quilt top, by considering the size of your quilt top, the size of your piecing, etc.

2. Load quilt onto machine.

(Refer to class packet for full instructions.)

  • Zip on backing.
  • Place machine in basting mode.
  • Thread baste batting in horizontal lock.
  • Thread baste quilt top along top and sides.
    • You should never use pins to baste while using a pantograph. Your eyes will be looking at the pantograph, not your quilt top. This makes it too easy to break a needle by running over a pin.

3. Drop needle in upper left corner of quilt top using needle position button.

4. Turn on laser light, if not already on.

5. Go to the back of machine and load pantograph onto back table, under plastic.

  • a. Line up along straight edge of table.

6. Adjust laser light to line up horizontally with the lowest point of the first full row of pattern.

  • Move laser light only, while keeping the machine head in one spot.
  • Be sure to adjust it to a spot that is comfortable for you to see from where you hold the machine.
    • You don’t want to twist your back while quilting. You should stand straight up.
  • Keep paper panto lined up against edge of table.

7. Adjust laser light to line up vertically with a good starting point for the edge of your quilt top. Ideally, you would use the starting end of the paper design. If not:

  • You’re looking for a point in the pattern where, ideally, the edge of your quilt top only passes through the pattern once per row.
  • Move panto left to right to access better points in the pattern.
    • Use the clear ruler to help, if needed.
  • Keep paper panto lined up against edge of table.
  • Straighten out the rest of the panto when you’ve found a good spot.
  • Double check your alignment before continuing.

8. Using the clear ruler, select and mark starting point with a post-it note.

  • If pattern has multiple full rows, repeat for each row.
  • Review pattern path to fill in along starting side where needed.
    • Use post it notes to draw fill-in, if needed.

9. Raise needle and drop it in the upper right corner of the quilt top.

10. Using the clear ruler, select and mark ending point with a post-it note.

  • If pattern has multiple full rows, repeat for each row.
  • Review pattern path to fill in along ending side where needed.
    • Use post it notes to draw fill-in, if needed.

11. Drop needle in the first starting point.

  • Determine start point for the previous row.
    • The partial row at the bottom of the pantograph is the previous row.
    • The partial row at the top of the pantograph is the next row.
  • If pattern does not have a previous row, drop needle using first full row’s starting point.

12. Return to the front of the machine.

  • Bring up the bobbin thread, lock your stitches and trim thread tails.
  • Switch to regulated mode.

13. Return to the back of the machine.

  • Begin quilting!
  • Follow the path as practiced/drawn.

14. Once you have reached your ending point, drop the needle.

  • Return to the front of the machine.
  • Lock your stitches, bring up your bobbin thread and trim.

15. Repeat steps 11-15 for any remaining full rows.

  • Once you’ve quilted all full rows, it’s time to roll the quilt!

16. Return to the back of the machine and drop the needle on the last fully quilted row, in the highest point on the pantograph.

  • This point should also be visible in your previous row, as this row will become your previous row when you roll.
    • Some companies mark these points to be helpful.
    • Consider using an easily identifiable point, like the inner point on the swirl in the picture below.

17. Remove side clamps and/or belly bars.

18. While watching the laser light, and with the needle dropped in the quilt, slowly roll the quilt so the laser light lines up to the same point on the partial row.

19. Lock the roller bars and reattach side clamps and/or belly bars.

20. Baste down the sides where needed and check height of back bar.

21. Repeat steps 12-20 until all full rows are complete.

22. When you’ve reached the last row, chances are, it is a partial row.

  • Don’t forget to baste along the bottom of your quilt top before this next step.
  • To verify, sink the needle near the bottom edge of the quilt top and return to the back of the machine to see where the laser light lines up on the pattern. You will have two options.
    • If you have enough backing, you could simply follow the full pattern for that row.
    • If you do not have enough backing, or if you would rather, you could use a ruler to mark the horizontal line of the bottom of the quilt and skip the parts that aren’t on the quilt top.
  • Whichever way you choose, once you’ve done your stopping stitches, check over the back of the quilt to look for any spot(s) you may want to revisit before removing it from the machine.

General Pantograph Tips

  • Be VERY CAREFUL that you don’t move the machine head while the needle is dropped in the quilt. You risk damaging your quilt!
  • Trace the pattern with your finger prior to quilting to lessen simple travel path mistakes.
  • Don’t try too hard to follow the pattern exactly – this can result in jagged lines as you try to quickly return to the path when you find yourself straying. Focus more on feeling the motions for smoother looking quilting.
  • Try out quilting with your right hand. You may find this position to be more comfortable. Just remember which buttons do what!
  • Consider making your backing and batting larger and bringing some practice fabric for the first one or two rows.
  • Remember to look over at the quilt top a few times during each row to be sure you don’t run out of bobbin. This will prevent you from ghost quilting an entire row without any bobbin thread. Always a bummer!

  • Since you’ve most likely run off all sides of your quilt top, it is recommended to do a stay stitch around the perimeter of the quilt, prior to trimming off your excess backing and batting. You can do this at the studio in regulated mode or at home on your standard domestic machine using a straight stitch.
  • If you roll incorrectly, you do run the risk of either overlapping rows or large gaps between rows.
    • If you have a gap, you could simply fill in the space with an echo around the pattern, or line up and roll correctly and quilt over, then remove the stitches at home.
    • If you have an overlapping row, you could leave it as is, or line up and roll correctly and quilt over, then remove the stitches at home.
    • If you decide to remove stitches at home, it could be helpful to use chalk to mark which stitches you will be removing so you don’t get confused.