Choosing Pantographs

I get questions about pantographs that I use on my long arm all the time. I’ve been wanting to put together a post discussing these as I thought  it would be helpful to new long armers. And here it is! I could have titled this: “Things I wish I had known before I wasted my money.” LOL! Keep in mind, I have a machine with an 18 inch throat. You will have to determine what will and won’t work on your machine.

I have posted pictures of pantos that I own and have used and will discuss what I like or don’t like about each one. Unfortunately, it is not easy to show the scale accurately. Most of these show the width of the row.

Loop the Loop is one of my favorite designs. It is simple and forgiving, but the lines are close enough together to give a great texture. This particular panto has two rows printed on it so that means I don’t have to advance the quilt as often. This makes it faster to do! I highly recommend this one.


Sumptuous is another design that gives great texture. As you can see, it is an 8 inch wide pattern. If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t buy this one because it is very similar to the next one I will show that I already owned.


I have used Fern Gully a LOT! Why do I prefer this over Sumptuous? Because it is wider and goes faster and they don’t look all that different. Both look great, this is just a speed issue and I could have spent that money on something different.


Woven Wind is a newer panto for me. It is a great example of a nesting design. What I mean by that is, the rows are not straight across, they  fit together like puzzle pieces making the rows themselves less easy to distinguish. I really like this in a design. Some have only a bit of nesting like Fern Gully, but even that little bit disguises the rows. Woven Wind gives an appearance similar to a Baptist Fan design without all the lining up that is so difficult to do. Keep in mind that even though it says it does a 10 inch row, because it nests, you won’t advance that far with each row. An 80 inch quilt will take a lot more than 8 rows!


Any Which Way is another of my favorite designs. This is another great beginner pattern. It is printed with two 7 inch rows and it is non-directional. I can load a quilt sideways and the design still looks good. Look back at Woven Wind, this would not look so good quilted sideways.


Oh, Bubble Wrap, can I get a refund? This is a cool design, but when picking out pantos, think to your self, what quilt would I use this on? Each “block” of quilting is about 11 inches. Imagine superimposing this on a quilt with say, 8 inch blocks. Um yeah, I don’t like that visual either. I used this once on a baby quilt. It also has to be shifted and realigned with each row. not user friendly.


I was given this next panto by a long arming friend. I wouldn’t have bought it myself, but it is in fact, an awesome panto! In fact, this is a perfect panto for a beginner. It goes very fast. It eats up fullness in a top and it is the most forgiving pattern of all for newbies. It won’t give super close quilting or glorious texture, but it looks good. The fact that the lines are a bit farther apart, means that if you get off track, you aren’t likely to cross over another line of stitching.  It doesn’t have any points that can sometimes cause tension headaches either.


Photon Wave #2 is a great panto for jelly Roll Race quilts and strip quilts. I have used it on other designs as well. It is fun and fast and gives great texture. It is easier than it looks! It has two rows printed on it which makes lining up those offset rows a breeze.


Eagle landing is a favorite for Quilts of Valor. It is a manly looking design with great texture. I have used this on side loaded quilts as well, but it loses the eagle talon look that way.


Flowerburst is one of the first pantos I ever purchased, not a good one for a beginner. The design is tight so if you get off your line, it is easy to cross another one and that doesn’t look so good. It also takes forever.


Ground cover is a really great looking design, but again, not so good for a beginner. The rows nest well and it is very hard to see the individual rows. It takes a long time to quilt this out.


All That Jazz is a design I have used a lot. It gives wonderful allover texture and works well on pretty much any kind of top. It is non-directional so it works well on a side loaded quilt.


If you like feathers, Plumbago is a good edge to edge design. It does have some places where you retrace over your line of stitching and that can be a little tricky in the beginning.  However, it won’t take long and then this is good feather practice.


Flying Feathers might not look harder, but it is! Those lines are very close together and this one is just a bit too wide for my 18 inch machine. I have to get the spacing just right to get it to fit. I’ve only used  this once.  LOL


This is another one that looks great, but it is not easy! Those lines are REALLY close and this one takes forever. Choose a simpler feather, at least to start with.


Lightening is a cool design, but again, it is very similar to All That Jazz and this has the disadvantage of being directional. I should have spent my money elsewhere.


This last one is also one of my oldest pantos. Every other row is offset making the design look more random than it is. The panto has great markings though to make this realignment easy. Another feature of Meadow Lyon Designs pantos that I like, they all have tiny arrows so you don’t get lost! These feathers are quite long and “swooping” and it can be a bit tricky to get them smooth in the beginning.


I have many more, but these I already had pictures of. I hope by reading this, you can get an idea of what I look for or learned from in each of these.

Generally speaking, if I were new and buying pantos, I would stay away from widely spaced designs with long swooping lines. Every wobble will be glaring. Also stay away from pantos that are way too detailed, you will drive yourself crazy. If you struggle with tension, avoid designs with lots of points, stick with more rounded designs until you get a better grip on your tension issues.

As you look at each panto design, ask yourself what kind of quilt it would work on. You want to get the most bang for your buck, especially when you are building your collection. Find one good feather design and use it for a while. Decide what you like and don’t like about it. Then you are better informed next time.

I hope you have found this helpful. Let me know if you have any questions. 

Linking up with The Quilting Room with Mel

About katyquilts

I am a wife, mom of four amazing adult kids, and a former librarian. I love making everything from traditional quilts to art quilts. I am thankful to God my Father and Creator for the gift of creativity!
This entry was posted in Long Arm Quilting, Longarm Quilting, Pantographs, Tutorials. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Choosing Pantographs

  1. I don’t have a way to do Pantagraph’s on my sit down long arm, but I still gained inspiration from your post. Perhaps I could freemotion something with ideas from a pantograph.

    I am goi going to enjoy this group.

  2. Rebecca Grace says:

    This is awesome. In picking my very first pantograph to try, I did the exact OPPOSITE of what you recommend for beginners! Long, swooping curves, tightly spaced lines, and backtracking were not a good idea when I was still getting the feel for how my machine moved. I was so disappointed when I walked around to the front of my machine to look at my quit after quilting the first row! Hah! I’m surprised that you rated Woven Wind and Photon Wave as easier ones for beginners. I would have thought that those two designs needed to be stitched extremely accurately with perfect curves and straight lines in order to look good on the quilt! Anyway, I’m so glad you linked up this post with Long Arm Learning today. I just finished digging through my collection of second-hand pantographs (bought them from a couple of other quilters who had upgraded to computerized systems) and ultimately decided to try one of the ones that’s probably a little LESS beginner friendly, but a lot MORE interesting. Wish me luck!!

  3. Thanks for assessing some of the pantos in your collection. Most of my pantos came with my machine, but I’ve only tried ONE of them in four years! I appreciate the pointers you’ve shared. Now I’ll have a better idea of which panto to try next.

  4. Zenia Rene says:

    This is great info! Thanks Katy!

  5. Arlene says:

    Thank you! I’m trying to decide which pantograph to begin with. It never occurred to me that some were easier than others. You helped me decide where to start. Great information!

  6. Rosenberg Diana says:

    I’m so glad that I came across your article. I am very new to long arm quilting and looking for ways to quilt efficiently and beautifully. There’s a lot to learn! With this informaiton, now I know what to look for when buying my first few pantographs. Thank you. This is just what I needed to learn.

  7. Thanks for this post! There are plenty of video tutorials out there explaining the nuts and bolts of how to stitch a pantograph design, but when I tried it for the first time yesterday it looked AWFUL when I walked around to the front of my machine! I had picked an 18″ feathery nesting panto with those long, sweeping curves and could not stay on that line to save my soul. Jaggedy mess, very disappointing!! I’m going to choose a more beginner friendly design based on your suggestions and give it another go.

  8. Terri Bertalan says:

    Very, very educational!!! Thank you Katy for your advice. I’m going to try and print this and keep in my journal 🙂

  9. Jasmine says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing this. I have only done freehand or digital pantographs, but this info will be helpful.

  10. Very interesting post–thanks!

  11. lois92346 says:

    That’s was an invaluable tutorial on pantos, Katy (not that I’ll ever have one). You did an excellent job.

  12. Super informative post! I am bookmarking it should I ever have a machine that uses pantos!

  13. C Reed says:

    Great info. Wish I`d known this when I purchased my pantos!

  14. Janette says:

    This is very helpful. I have been longarming for many years, but only do freehand and ruler work. I tried a panto a couple times when my machine was new and did not like the results. You have inspired me to give pantographs another try. I love seeing all of your quilts and your beautiful quilting. Thank you for so generously sharing your life and quilting adventures,

  15. Val W says:

    Great advice for all the new longarmers who struggle to choose pantographs. Your quilting is always so well-done and appropriate to the quilt. Now we see why!

  16. June Fowler says:

    My Gammill machine is now 22 years old. It is a “converted” Singer, and could be looked upon as a real “dinosaur”. My old panto patterns are only 6 inches, and are on a 12 foot roll! I am amazed at these new and latest patterns. What a big difference. Unfortunately, I have not quilted with my “dinosaur” for two years, due to health reasons. I enjoyed todays post very much!

  17. Carole S. says:

    This helps a lot! I have a couple of pantos, neither of which I really like much, and I’ve been hesitant to purchase because I had no idea where to start. Your explanations make perfect sense, and I now have an idea what to look for!

  18. I have a pretty large pantograph collection, and am not sure I will ever buy anymore. I have now added the Quilt Gallery to my A1 when I sent it in for the new platinum upgrade, and it has several built in patterns to choose from. I have yet to play with that part, as life in general lately has kept me too preoccupied to be able to have the time I need to concentrate on it. Even though I have a computerized option, I don’t see myself getting rid of my paper patterns just yet. I’ve always enjoyed stitching them out by hand. If it’s a pattern with a good flow, I find it somewhat relaxing. Turn on some music, and get in the groove with my machine, lol. I wanted to say this is a great post! Like you, I wasted money on a few here and there, for the same reasons. Too time consuming, not user friendly, wrong size, etc. I enjoyed reading it and am sure many will find it helpful.

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