Longarm Quilting, Quilting, quilting advice

Stacey’s Flowers

I don’t like Halloween.

I like candy, sure. Costumes, fine. Trick or treat, okay. But the rest of Halloween – haunted houses, horror movies, ghost stories – I can do without those. As a founding member of the “I don’t watch horror movies, no way, no sir” club, I’m always relieved to see October 31st in the rear-view mirror. Can’t stand all those horror movie trailers messing up my TV time.

I did like Halloween a tiny bit when my kids were little. Since we don’t do scary costumes at my house, it was always fun to let the kids enjoy getting dressed up. Emma was Bob the Builder one year, then a veterinarian for three years running. She gave up the vet costume when she got tired of everyone thinking she was just a “plain ‘ol” doctor. Grace, always the innovator, loved her Scooby-Doo costume one year and wanted to wear it again the next, but was torn between Scooby and a Princess. Her solution? Scooby wore a dress. It was awesome.

My favorite Halloween memory from when my kids were little, though, has to be the “I Don’t Like Candy Corn” song that ran repeatedly on the Noggin network. Definitely an earworm. And hilarious. The fun side of Halloween, set to music. Here’s the lyrics:

I Don’t Like Candy Corn

I don’t like candy corn,candycorn
No, I don’t like candy corn.
I like lots of other things,
But I don’t like candy corn.

I give it to my brother;
I give it to my sister.
I hope I get something else to eat
When I go out to trick or treat.
I would even eat my own feet,
I bet they taste much better.

I don’t like candy corn,
No, I don’t like candy corn.
I really like Halloween,
But I don’t like candy corn.

The song has been haunting me for about a month now. I wanted to write a blog post about longarm quilting with pantographs, but all I could think of was the candy corn song. I even wrote my own lyrics.

I Don’t Like Pantographs

I don’t like pantographs,
No, I don’t like pantographs.
I like lots of free motion designs,
But I don’t like pantographs.

I buy them and stick them in a box,
Then I free-hand the designs of the lot,
I hope the client would rather have ruler work
When she brings a quilt to my porch.
However you want it, I’ll draw it with thread
I bet it’ll look much better.

I don’t like pantographs,
No, I don’t like pantographs.
I really like to longarm quilt,
But I don’t like pantographs.

Obviously, God didn’t create me to be a songwriter.

Why don’t I like pantographs? The basic reason is that to me, longarm quilting is drawing. With thread, sure, but still drawing. And pantographs interfere with eye-hand coordination. 

That’s it.

Perhaps you are hoping for more detail. Okay. I suppose if I’d bothered to look up blogs to learn more about pantographs, I’d want some details, too. Here’s some pros and cons.

Pantograph Pros

  • There are a wide variety (about 16 million at last count) of pantograph designs to choose from, and some of them are creative and super cute.
  • Pantograph designs provide even spacing of the design over the quilt, which is nice for edge to edge designs, and for learning to space out your free motion designs.

That’s it. That’s honestly all I can come up with. Now – I’ve only used pantographs about six times, so I’m not going on a lot of data. But out of those six times – each time a different design – only one came out to my satisfaction. That’s 17%. Low odds of winning. Which leads me to the cons.

Pantograph Cons 

  • Pantographs are restrictive. You’re tracing, not drawing. There’s a difference. I don’t think they’re less creative because you’re using someone else’s design. That’s no big deal. It’s just that you’re trying to draw something – say, a flower – and it’s somebody else’s flower. That makes it awkward, in my opinion. My brain says make a flower, and my hand wants to draw my flower, so keeping my hand on the traced line of somebody else’s idea of a flower is a struggle. Maybe that’s a little strange, but I think those of you who draw will understand.
  • Pantographs prevent eye-hand coordination. On a longarm quilting machine, pantographs are rolled out on a table behind the quilt frame, and the machine is guided from the back. You cannot actually see what the needle is doing to the quilt. Unless you’re eight feet tall or have a neck like a giraffe. You have no idea what your stitching looks like until you stop and walk around to take a look. Yikes! Skipped stitches? Shaky lines? All there for you to pick out.
  •  If you don’t practice your longarm quilting with eye-hand coordination, your free-motion quilting skills won’t improve (much). You’ll improve your muscle memory, and that’s good! But you’ll get dependent on having a drawing to follow and possibly start to think that you can’t do free motion quilting. Which is a shame, because anyone can learn it.
  • That space between rows. Because pantographs are in rows, you have to be careful when advancing the quilt, so that the last row lines up perfectly with the previous row. If you’re too far away, you get an awkward, unquilted line in your quilt. Can you go back and fill in? Sure – but…what if you only have one such space in your quilt? What will you do for the rest?

 Pantograph Alternatives 

  • Buy a computer. There are lots of super expensive computer quilting systems that will make your quilt a work of art, and you can stand in front of the machine to make sure your design stitches out perfectly. If you have the means, and the patience to take a bunch of computer classes in order to sew your quilt…go for it! But for me, I prefer to:
  • Wing it! Free motion quilting is fun, fun, fun. Think flower, draw flower. Perfect traced flowers are pretty. But quirky, multi-sized, not-one-the-same flowers say, “Stacey made those.” I imagine that someday, my quilts will be antiques and some gal on Antiques Roadshow will be able to identify my masterpieces from their quirky and lovable stitches:

“And you can see here, Phil, the famous Stacey Flower, as it’s called. It is characteristic of the American artist Stacey Holley, who would make four to six petal flowers in random designs on her quilts in the early 21st century. Her quilts are distinguishable from others of the time simply because the designs are too random and eccentric to be confused with computer designs or even traced pantographs. That’s how you know the quilting was done with a hand guided machine…these quilts are of great value, you’ve made quite a find…”

Always dreaming.

Peace to you. And – Happy November!









16 thoughts on “Stacey’s Flowers”

  1. Great post! Yes, pantographs are “useful” I guess. At least, I’ve used them a few times. I really don’t like stitching from the back of the machine. It gives up too much control. Even when I’m doing an all-over design free-hand, I can avoid (or mash) big seam intersection lumps, or make sure there is a pretty motif in a larger unpieced patch. I’m no pro, but I don’t like pantographs, either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. You have much more control from the front of the machine. Sometimes the blocks aren’t straight, you know? And you need some carefully placed stitches to ease in some extra fabric, and, as you say – mash down some seams! 🙂 if you can’t see it, you can’t do that well. Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a fan of Halloween either and glad to see it gone as well. I don’t do scary anything either. You may not be a songwriter but you did a good job of coming up with those lyrics. Free motion means you have greater creative freedom. Pantographs are for people like me with little imagination. 😉 I would require complete instructions and an outline.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marlene! You say you have little imagination, but I read your blog, I know better! 😉 Pantographs have a place in quilting. I love to look at them for inspiration and then mimic the design. If I can see the quilt top, I can imitate the designs pretty well and add in a few “extras” when I think I need it. That makes it a bit more personal and unique, I think. For me, I’m pretty visual – I need to see what I’m doing, and I can’t do that from behind the longarm. Some people don’t have that issue and can awesome work with pantographs. Have you ever tried those “tear away” sheets that you sew through? I’d like to try those – they go on the quilt top, so you can see ‘em.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I use the wash away adhesive sheets for hand embroidery. The design stays on better till the work is done then it all washes off. Not the tear away on quilting though. I love that they have made so many different materials for all of us that need to do things in a different way from someone else. Diversity in creativity! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love pantographs! And here is my thinking: 1. I hate to draw! I am not creatively inclined that way, even though I wish I could be. 2. They are great for customers – both the ones I sew for and the ones who come to rent my machine. They can see the pattern before they start and there are no surprises when the quilt comes off the table. 3. I like the consistent spacing. Especially with pantos that intertwine the rows to make the overall effect a less linear appearance. With a little practice, advancing the quilt evenly between each row becomes fairly easy. I love the free hand quilting – I think it is gorgeous and I admit to being a little jealous of those who make it look so easy! I am glad we have so many options. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janice! You make some very good points. It is nice for customers to see the pattern and approve before you start. I often have customers send me a picture of a panto that they like – then I mimic it, free hand. The even spacing is also a huge bonus – it is difficult to learn how to quilt a whole top evenly, free handed. I’m getting better at that with every quilt, but it’s taking a lot of practice! Which is kinda my point…if you only did pantographs, you’d get good at those but maybe not realize that you could also be good at free hand work. I think it’s important that new quilters know that they don’t have to be afraid of free hand longarm quilting – it’s not that hard, you just need a little practice. 😊


  4. I’m with you on the pantograms and not caring for Halloween. Glad it is gone and my pantos are in a drawer:) I realize they are good for some people but not this quilter. I even bought an attachment to help me with pantos but I find it cumbersome and the pantos restricting. I’m not very good at the free motion things and really love rulers and an occasional template. Although I digitize and sell designs for the computerized quilters I don’t use them myself. 🙂 Thanks for your blog. From one Minnesotan to another – happy quilting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Loronda! I love rulers, too. When I first started quilting, I used them all the time, and they gave me the confidence to do more freehand quilting. I still use them often. I like the way they smooth out my arcs and straighten my wobbly lines. I also draw on the quilt top a lot with chalk or water soluble ink, to help me space out my design. It’s cool that you digitize and sell designs. I’d love to know how you got into that kind of work – I just spent some time on your website, and you have some great designs and quilting instructions! I’m curious how you digitize the designs. You must be a computer engineer, or graphic designer – or have a magic wand! 🙂


  5. Great post! I agree with you on Halloween. Not my favorite holiday, as I think things get carried too far at times. But, some of it can be fun. Same with pantographs. I think they have their place. As a beginning quilter, I love being able to quickly and fairly easily stitch a quilt with even patterning. It is quite the confidence builder! This will lead me to lots of finished UFO’s.
    But I also see the downside of stitching behind the machine, being so focused on the design and that tiny little line that you don’t get smooth lines and circles, etc. After doing a couple pantographs, I was ready to tackle “going freehand” to stitch a custom quilt (and it came out great!) Now I know I can choose between the two – pantos when I just want to quilt and finish a project, and free motion when I really want to invest myself creatively in a project. What a wonderful world! I love options.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yay for you! There is a confidence that I get from freehand quilting that I never got with pantographs. It seems to me that it opened my mind to the possibilities – a freedom, if you will, to mix and match designs, techniques. I particularly like ruler work, but I’m moving into feathers, and my circles are so much smoother now that I have more of my own rhythm. To each his own, I suppose. I like that people have such a variety of different ways of being creative – It makes the world a fun place! 🙂


  6. “I Don’t Like Pantographs” – that was awesome! As not a long arm machine quilter, the only think I knew about pantographs, when I was “quilting by check” is that the long arm quilter charged me less if she used a panto 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tierney! I didn’t really explain what they were, did I? I suppose my mental audience for that post was specifically longarm quilters. Sorry about that – but thanks for mentioning it, I’ll do some editing later. Quick explanation: it’s a tracing pattern for a machine quilting design. Longarm machines have table in the rear on which you stretch out a long paper pattern. The machine has a laser light and handles at the rear, and you guide the laser light over the pattern – which (when the machine is on and sewing) guides the stitching. Pantographs are billed as faster for quilters because they are designed to be continuous lines…so no stopping to tie off and bury your threads. Also, they are typically “edge-to-edge” designs (no separate borders, or customized blocks, etc.) so they sew up quick. That is, if you can get the hang of using them well! Which, obviously, I have not…😄 Often, pantos are less expensive because the quilter doesn’t spend as much time on those designs, and has done them many time before. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you brought your beastie. Love her!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Stacey! Are we actually sisters, separated at birth? I’ll bet you ARE my long lost sister. We share the same opinion about Halloween. Every single point you shared – you’re spot on sister. And the same thing with pantographs, although don’t give up your day job for song writing. As your sister, I can say that honestly. Leave song writing to the song writers OR try a different genre. Having used ZERO pantographs or even a longarm machine for that matter, I really shouldn’t have a dog in this fight. However, being your sister, I do have an opinion that matches yours. ~smile~ What is the point??? Ooh, you can trace a line. Wow. That’s talent. Me and my dog are going home now, to practice my FMQ so I get as good as you one day. So I can say I knew her when, and we’re related. Happy Happy Friday! ~smile~ Roseanne

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Roseanne! You’re the best. 😄 Your fantastic support has encouraged me to try a new song genre! Yes….you can probably guess….rap! Next time I’ll do a rap. LOL I love music. Have absolutely no talent for it, and can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I still love it. Except for rap. I dislike rap more than pantographs. 😄 Happy Happy Friday to you, too, sister.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s