Wednesday, 7 September 2011


File:Pantograph animation.gif

A pantograph is an instrument for copying a drawing on a different scale using a system of jointed rods. It was a drawing room activity popularized by the Victorians. Now machine quilters with quilting frames use pantographs to copy a line design from a piece of paper onto their quilt tops.

It works like this. The line design is placed on the table beside the sewing machine. There is a stylus attached to the sewing machine carriage. The stylus can be simple like a metal rod or high tech like a laser. As you trace the design on the paper with the stylus, the sewing machine 'draws' the line design on the quilt. It's not quite as easy as this sounds.

What makes a line of stitching look good is the smooth flowing movement of the sewing machine on the New English Quilter carriage. This is true for free motion quilting. It's also true for copying a line design with a pantogaph. It's difficult to maintain the smooth flowing motion when you are trying to follow a line exactly. Try slavishly to follow a specific line, whether a pantograph design or even a line design marked on your quilt top, and your movements can become slow and jerky. This is turn gives an uneven and jerky line of stitching.

Following a line is a bit like riding a bike; you need a certain amount of speed to stay on. If you are too timid then you're more likely to fall off. The way round this is to practise tracing the design with the stylus over and over again. Practice is necessary to create a bold and flowing line of stitching and practice will give you the confidence to maintain the necessary speed. So you treat the pantograph design just as you would a free motion quilting design; practise tracing the pantograph design over and over again. These repetitive movements will develop your kinetic 'muscle memory'. Spend a full 10 or even 20 minutes on this 'brain patterning' activity before you start stitching and you pantograph designs with be much smoother.

There are many places on-line to purchase pantograph patterns. Try Golden Threads. It helps if the line design is not too complex. It's better to attempt something simple and execute it well. So start simple!

This is Karen - and the pictures above show Karen's pantograph practice. Looks great to me!


Ullan tilkut said...

Hi! Greetings from Finland! The quilt looks lovely! Have a nice day!

Martha said...

Thanks Ullan! Karen emailed me about your comment. She was so pleased that you liked her quilt. It was Karen's very first quilt that she made for her daughter.