Search the Web

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Problem with Pantographs

A Pantograph is a quilting (stitching) pattern. It happens to be six-to-eight feet across, and anywhere from eight to 24 inches high. It is a mass-produced item distributed to machine quilters when they purchase a long-arm or short-arm quilting machine.

(By long-arm, I mean the BIG names: Gammil, and APQS. There actually ARE other companies, but these are the largest. By short-arm, I mean a machine such as Husqvarna which comes with a quilting stand that is eight to 12 feet wide, just like the big ones, but the throat depth of the Husqvarna is only eight inches.)

Wow - sounds really technical, and what I really wanted to complain about were the pantographs!

So, when you buy a machine quilting setup, the companies give you a whole bunch of these lovely Pantographs. They are "all-over" quilt designs. That means this pattern is usually used from top to bottom and edge to edge over an entire quilt.

Which is wonderful, very easy for the machine quilter, actually. It takes someone operating an APQS machine approximately four hours work to cover a quilt completely with a pantograph pattern. Four hours, start to finish.

And for this, they have the gall to charge by the square foot, or by the square inch, for their services. So the average queen size quilt covered all over by a panograph design costs you $120 - $180.

I have to say, it isn't a lot of work for an awful lot of money.

I don't care for pantographs. I once attended a LOVELY quilt show in Ottawa - huge show. I stood in one row and looked at three beautiful quilts, each queen size or larger. The quilts were totally different quilt patterns, hand-pieced, perfect in every detail, completely unlike each other.

But they were ALL quilted in the SAME pantograph.

I couldn't believe my eyes that the people who installed the show put them up all in a row! To my mind, it cheapened the look of each of the quilts to see it next to the other two which were identically quilted! Why not at least display them far away from each other!

It turned me off machine quilting by pantograph on the spot.

And the worst offence I noted was in the case of one of the quilts, the size of the pantograph's repeat was SO CLOSE to the quilt it was on - it would have taken five minutes to adjust the pantograph so its design could have lined up with the blocks in the quilt - but no! It had the distasteful effect of a "moiré".

I simply cannot bring my self to use pantographs, which is why, as a machine quilter, I don't make much money!

I'm a graphic designer in my day job. I can look at a pattern and stretch it here, shrink it there, tizzy it up or calm it down - to make it fit the quilt.

And I cannot imagine the mind of a quilter who allows his or her quilt to be ruined by a pattern that doesn't FIT the blocks!

I look at the quilt. I talk to the quilter. What's the inspiration for this quilt? Does the quilter have motifs he or she likes, or motifs he or she dislikes strongly? Is there a particularly beautiful motif in the main fabric they would like to see repeated in the actual quilting? What colors would they like to see? Is there a feature that would benefit from some sparkly metallic? How about a "this" design in the center and a "that" design in the border?

That's how I like to quilt! So what if I have to stop my machine? So what if I have some threads to trim? At least, by the time I'm done with the quilt, the quilting looks like it BELONGS there!

I know two professional machine quilters who do use pantographs and their work is STUNNING. Beautiful. Perfect. I am insanely jealous! I have no idea how long they take to do quilt tops, but I suspect it is a good deal longer than four hours!

I've never made anything with such perfection, and I seriously doubt I ever will! But I simply cannot apply a single pattern, however lovely, uniformly across a quilt top. To me, contrast is a tool that can't be restricted only to the choice of colors and shapes in the quilt top - there needs to be contrast in the stitching as well.


A Design in Motion said...

Are we talking computerized pantographs or as we in the Gammill word call e2e?

Do you really think that I can take a queen size quilt, measure front, back batting; size the design to compliment the quilt, wind nine bobbins and load the quilt on the machine in less than four hours! Remember - the quilting has not even yet begun.

I did spend almost one week on a twin quilt but a queen takes usually 8 to 12 hours if done carefully and professionally and that's with the ad of a computer.

You are judging too broadly.


Deborah said...

I was just starting out, and didn't have a longarm machine. I had what they now call a shortarm machine. I was assured by several longarm quilters that four hours was the average - I too found that to be awfully quick.

My complaint was specifically about the three different quilts which had been quilted in the same pantograph being hung right next to each other. And as for the one where the pattern repeat was off by barely an inch, it ruined the look of the quilt in my opinion. But being a designer in my day job, I don't find it difficult to change a pattern.

But thank you so much for posting! I actually got your comments about two days ago - April 2, 2012, and the date says it was posted August 25, 2010.