What to Consider when Selecting your Quilt Pantograph

June 6, 2023

Selecting Your Quilt Pantograph

I’m Meghan from A Piece of Quiet Quilts and I am excited to share with you what to consider when selecting your quilt pantograph. I run a longarm quilting and quilt pattern design business. I love working with quilters to make their vision of their finished quilt a reality. One of the most exciting parts of finishing your quilt with a longarmer is selecting your pantograph, or quilting design.

If you’re new to this, know that a simple online search would unveil an entire universe of pantograph designs. From seasonal novelty patterns to whimsical florals and modern geometric shapes, you will be spoiled for choice. Most experienced longarmers maintain a rich library of designs to accommodate a variety of tastes and preferences.

Choosing the ideal pantograph is an art that hinges on several factors. To guide your selection, here are a few quick tips:

  • Harmonize your angles: If your quilt has many 45-degree angles, avoid overly angular designs. Likewise, a quilt laden with vertical seams may not pair well with pantographs featuring vertical lines.
  • Balance your design: Curved pantos can soften the visual impact of a square or angular quilt, offering a more balanced aesthetic.
  • Echo your quilt’s theme: Consider whether you want your panto to reflect the theme or vibe of your quilt. For instance, a ditsy floral fabric could be beautifully complemented by a large floral pantograph.
  • Trust your instincts: It’s your quilt, after all! While it’s rare for a pantograph to completely clash with your quilt, your longarmer can guide you if they think your choice might not achieve the aesthetic you’re aiming for.

However, there’s an often-overlooked aspect that can significantly affect your quilting project’s outcome: quilt density. Regardless of your pantograph choice, how the quilt is stitched makes a world of difference.

**Get my free tips on communicating with your longarmer here**

Quilt density, or the space between your quilt’s stitching lines, is something you’ll want to discuss with your longarmer. It’s something to consider, even if you’re venturing into machine or hand quilting. The design you envision for your pantograph can appear radically different depending on the quilting density.

We categorize density as Open, Medium, or Dense, and there can be variations within these. Since there’s no standardized density measure in the quilting world, this guide will enable you to communicate your vision more effectively to your longarmer, or even apply it to your personal quilting project.

Pantographs have their inherent density – some are designed with large, open loops, while others feature closely stitched details. However, your longarmer can scale the pantograph to produce a distinct effect.

To help my clients visualize this, I maintain samples in my studio demonstrating different densities using the same pantograph. These 12” squares allow clients to feel the difference firsthand. Let’s delve into an example of a single pantograph stitched out at what I consider open, medium, and dense density.

Quilt Density

Open Quilting:

Open quilting is when there’s plenty of space between stitch lines, resulting in a looser, puffier quilt. It’s often recommended for baby quilts or couch throws. Here’s why:

  • It gives the comfiest/snuggliest feel
  • The quilt tends to be puffier and softer
  • It pairs well with a fluffy batting such as wool or high loft

Loose quilting creates a soft and fluffy baby quilt.

Loose Quilting

(pantograph is #propelpanto from @longarmleague)

High Density:

High-density quilting involves compact stitching, often used for art quilts or quilts that will be showcased in exhibitions. Here’s what to consider:

  • Can feel more stiff, especially when new
  • Gives a beautiful texture that photographs well
  • Helps quilts lay flat (great for hanging!)
  • Can be expensive as some longarmers will charge more for high-density work

Dense quilting gives great texture

(pantograph is #featheredspiralspanto from @longarmleague)

medium density

(pantograph is  #timewarppanto by #patriciaritter for @urban.elementz)

Medium Density:

Medium density is a common choice among my clients. It offers a balance between the soft drape of open quilting and the textured finish of high-density quilting. Here’s why it’s a popular choice:

  • Provides a compromise between soft drape and beautiful texture

  • Extends the life of a quilt as it crosses and locks in more seams

  • Isn’t always as expensive as high-density quilting

Best of both worlds: Medium quilting
(pantograph is – #sunriseskatelandpanto by @juliehirt)

Batting choice:

Your batting choice should also be considered when deciding on your quilt density. Check the packaging for the recommended quilting distance. If your quilting exceeds this distance, the batting may not hold together once the quilt is washed, leading to a lumpy mess. Moreover, if your quilting is very dense, it may not take full advantage of a fluffy wool or high loft batting, which could result in a stiff quilt. When I am quilting densely, I prefer a batting with a smooth drape, like a bamboo/silk blend or a lower loft cotton.

medium density

Freya June Quilt featuring Medium Density on Quilter’s Dream wool batting
(pantograph is #petalpursuitpanto by @redwillowquilts)

The bottom line

Think about what you want from your quilt and discuss it with your longarmer. Ask to see samples, bring or send photos of what you like, and be clear about:

  1. Wear & tear, washing & durability needs
  2. Preferred aesthetic (denser quilting gives a more modern feel)
  3. Batting selection

Establishing clear, upfront communication about your quilting needs and preferences not only helps in creating a quilt that truly mirrors your personal style and use, but also fosters a stronger partnership with your longarmer, paving the way for fruitful collaborations in the future.

A Piece of Quiet Quilts

Are you ready to make your quilt dreams come true?

I hope you enjoyed what to consider when selecting your quilt pantograph. If you’re ready to reach out to a longarmer, I am currently taking on new local and mail-in clients! You can find out more here:



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