Sunday, July 30, 2017

In Which Following a Paper Pantograph Pattern Turns Out to be Trickier Than it Looks

Ugh, ugh, and more ugh.  

First Attempt at Pantograph Quilting!
After spending the last few months practicing my freehand quilting skills on my new APQS Millenium longarm quilting machine, I finally slapped a pantograph pattern on the back of my frame and attempted to quilt this beautiful allover feathery paisley design by simply tracing along the printed lines.  If you look closely at the photo (click to enlarge), you may see a red dot of light on the paper design.  That's a laser light that I have lined up with my machine needle location on the quilt surface so that I can quilt from the back of the machine.  You would think this would be EASY compared to the freehand quilting practice I've been doing, wouldn't you?  I mean, all I was trying to do was trace along the black line with my little dot of light.

See the Red Laser Dot?
This is the 14" Feather Waves pattern by Anne Bright Designs.  I chose it because first of all, I like it, and secondly, I thought the extended teardrop shapes and swirly points were similar to the shapes that I had been enjoying quilting freehand from the front of my machine.  My expectation was that I would easily quilt this pattern smoothly, standing at the back of the machine and "driving" with the rear handles, tracing smoothly along the lines as the machine executed the pattern beautifully on the quilt...

But when I walked around to the front of my machine to check out my handiwork, I saw that I had quilted THIS:

Instead of Feathers, I Have Quilted Ogre Toes!!!
Blech!!  Okay, so this is after exactly 15 minutes of practice.  They say "everything is difficult before it becomes easy," so I'm not about to throw in the towel or anything.  

My observations: 

Driving the quilting machine from the handles at the back feels very different from driving it with the front handles.  I'm not sure whether this is due to the way the weight of the machine is distributed, or whether I'm just really used to being able to SEE what I'm "drawing" as I quilt with a sewing machine.  It is also possible that it's just easier (although definitely more time consuming!) to quilt on a small, dense scale than it is to do large scale designs that swoop all over the place.  I feel like I need to accelerate into a curve to get it smooth, but when I do that with these big feather curves the machine gets too much momentum going and it wants to keep going when I'm ready to switch directions, if that makes sense.  So I'm going to try slowing down.

I may also have just chosen a design that was not very beginner friendly.  So after I attempt another row or two of this pattern, I'm going to try a different design and see if that goes better.  Wish me luck!

Most Recent Freehand Quilting Practice.  See Why I Thought the Feather Waves Would Be Easy?
Meanwhile, my freehand practice has been going pretty well and I played around with rulers a little bit; that went well, too. 

Experimenting with Arced and Straight Ruler Templates
And I still (still!!) haven't gotten around to scheduling my training day with my APQS dealer.  I'm compiling a list of questions and things I want help with troubleshooting, best practices for certain techniques, etc., and pantograph quilting was something I wanted to attempt on my own before I went for training.

At this point, I'm excited to get to the bottom of my monsternormous King sized practice quilt, rip if off the frame, and load up a REAL quilt.

Happy Sunday, and Happy Stitching!  I am linking up to Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts, Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, MainCrush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, and Moving It Forward at Em's Scrapbag. 


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I tried this once or twice at a show to see if I would be the least bit interested and could tell I wasn't - and the standing would have been too hard to do after awhile with the aches and pains I have. I do wish you luck though and surely with practice and your class with your dealer will help

Vicki in MN said...

I agree that it takes practice to get used to this flow vs. the flow of freemotion. I have not gotten comfortable doing pantos and I have longarmed 13 yrs! I just prefer the freehand stuff at the front of the machine so I can see what I am doing-instant gratification!! Plus seeing right away if something goes wrong. And then there are those who only like doing panto's. When I did try pantos I found, for me, that an open looser type design was easier than small tight patterns. I also never used the stitch regulator. Just some thoughts;)

Jenny K. Lyon said...

INteresting. Never longarmed before-I'm enjoying it through you!

Janice Holton said...

I can tell you're going to be a natural at this. Your FMQ looks wonderful already. That was exactly what happened to me when I test drove of a longarm using a pantograph. I was so discouraged, but I think you hit the nail on the head that getting used to the weight of the thing you're driving and when you should start "putting on the brakes" for curves and changes of directions will be the key . . . plus practice, of course! :) It has been fun watching your journey with this machine.

Bobbi @ Snowy Days Quilting said...

Personally, I find freehand easier than following a paper panto. Of course, I've spent a lot more time doing freehand, too.

A few tips I've heard for paper pantos:
- Look ahead at where you're going, not at the dot.
- Stand to the side of the machine and only use one hand.
- Concentrate on keeping your grip relaxed.

Maybe a simple stipple design would be an easier one to practice on? It has lots of changes in direction to help you learn, but won't be so obvious if something isn't just right. I'm sure you're going to get great at it!

Karen in Breezy Point said...

I think you are smart to try out all the different quilting methods before your training so you know what questions to ask and where you need more help and instruction. I've found that it's very difficult to maintain smooth quilting on a long sweeping line using a panto, so I try to only use designs that have shorter "runs" that seem to me easier to follow. Think of trying to trace over a long straight line with out a ruler as opposed to a very short one on a piece of paper--kind of the same principal. Good luck on your quilting journey!

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca,
I am enjoying your posts SO much about your new long-arm experiences. I don't know that I'll ever get that advanced to have or try long-arm quilting . . . but this sure makes for interesting reading. I am behind you, encouraging you to keep trying. If it was easy, everyone would do it and it wouldn't be special. So hang in there! ~smile~ Roseanne

jann said...

That looks really hard! I tried tracing your line with my little mouse hand and couldn't do it. You do such beautiful work that I'm sure it will come with just a little more practice. Even so, a pattern called "Ogre Toes" should be a big hit!

Mimi said...

I am an APQS dealer and I think you know that practice makes perfect. Do a few dry runs on the panto with just your finger for "muscle memory" and I hope you are using your stitch regulator when doing your panto. Remember that the lines are mainly to be used as a guide. You don't have to be perfectly on that line.....what you want is a smooth line and get sharp points when you get to that directional change. If your shoulders are tight, shake it off and relax or walk away for a few. It's supposed to be fun...and it will be. I, too, have the Millenium and I don't feel a difference in weight from the front or back of the machine. Do you have Bliss? That is a tremendous help when it comes to doing diagonal directions. Believe me, your pantos will become second nature before long. Try a simplier panto like "popcorn" that has shorter lines instead of the long curvy lines. Sometimes that presents a problem when you aren't used to it. I wish you luck with your new machine. YOu will love it and the pantos make for quick quilting in the long run. Just know you will get it. Good luck!

The Joyful Quilter said...

LOL!! Been there, done that. With the same mediocre results!! I believe they say you are supposed to look AHEAD of the red light for a smoother finish. I've had my new-to-me Millie for over a year now. That first panto is the ONLY one I've tried. Too many other techniques to try (with better results!!) Best of luck with mastering the various types of quilting.

Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts said...

I giggled when I read the title of your post because I knew where this was going - speaking from personal experience! And then 'Ogre Toes' just cracked me up! I had the same thoughts, follow the line with the laser, how hard can it be? Right. It's fun to follow along on your journey and realize that someone else is experiencing the same issues as I am. I know with practice we will get better, so hang in there! I love that you loaded a king size practice quilt. That was so smart. I agree with Bobbi's comments: It was easier for me if I looked ahead to where I wanted the light to go rather than at the light, and standing off to the side and using only one hand to guide the machine.

Anonymous said...

Really appreciate hearing about your longarm experiences - I am living vicariously through your adventures. Brenda W

Jennifer said...

Pantos are hard! I go to advice when I started LA quilting to go with big designs, lots of repetition. I can do them, but still prefer freehand to pantos. The good news is that you get a little better with each pass, so now, i start at the bottom of the quilt and work my way to the top!

em's scrapbag said...

There is a definite learning curve. I can free motion on my Bernina but really struggle on my friends long arm.

Julie said...

My first test run piece on my long arm was full of 'eyelashes' on the back. I was terrified trying to learn about tension! I think getting everything perfect on a long arm is like a sit down machine times 10. But I really wanted to pipe in about pantographs. Grrrrrr. I think they're punishment sometimes. I just finished a quilt with a 5.5" wide panto that means it's 6-7 minutes of tracing a paper pattern with a red light (laser), and then stopping to measure, realign, and roll the quilt. A 60" wide quilt needs about 12 roll turns like that, and it feels like playing musical chairs moving around the machine constantly. It does produce a great edge to edge, but it's boring as all get out for the quilter. I'm always stunned by the actual time investment in a pantograph. Not always the easy way to go. My humble 2 cents. I'm with you!