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What are Extended-Width Digital Quilting Designs and How Do I Use Them?

While this type of design is not new, we as quilters may not see extended-width designs often. However, they seem to be trending in popularity as of late. Unfamiliarity with these kinds of designs can lead to avoidance, which is a valid reaction. But, as the market grows with beautiful and creative new extended-width designs, I'd like to provide some information so that you don't have to miss out on using them. 

First, we'll look at what an extended-width design is, we'll discuss some advantages and disadvantages of the designs, and then at the end, there'll be a list of video tutorials so you can learn best-practices for setting them up with your own software.

What Is an Extended-Width Digital Quilting Design?

To answer this question, let's first look at some "typical" edge-to-edge (E2E) designs that we most commonly buy online and use in our computerized longarm machines.

Above are some of my own designs with varying degrees of complexity. I wanted to show that whether simple or complex, these designs have one very important attribute in common. Each design's start and end points are on the same horizontal plane. This makes it very easy for your software to continuously begin the next motif where the previous one ends.

If you were to purchase any of these designs, the single motif (as shown above) would be the only "code" included in the design file that you'd import into your longarm's robotics software. Your software takes that one repeat and sets it into an array of repeated motifs according to the specifications you determine. This results in one continuous row of stitching, no matter how many repeats are included per row.

Now, let's consider extended-width designs.

Think of a digital extended-width pantograph like its paper predecessor. To use a paper pantograph, you would roll out the design printed on a long 12' - 14' paper at the back of your machine. The roll would include all the repeats needed for a full row "built-in" as one unit. You determine where you start and stop your machine based on how wide the mounted quilt is.

With digital extended-width designs, you get the same built-in long rows, which are typically 100 inches or wider. The nice thing about the digital format is that you can change the scale or make other adjustments with your software before stitching the design. 

Now, let's look at some extended-width design examples.

You can probably see at a glance how different extended-width designs are compared to the typical E2E designs at the top of this post. Again, you get the whole row(s) as one unit or file. They can be digitally trimmed to the width needed for the quilt you have on your frame.

Also, observe where the start and stop points are for each extended-width design. They do NOT have to be on the same horizontal plane because they don't get repeated side-to-side. I added the dotted lines for emphasis and to draw a contrast with the designs at the top of the blog post. They are not present in the actual design files.

Advantages of Extended-Width Designs

Since designers don't have to abide by the "same plane" start-and-end rules when designing extended-width pantographs, it opens up worlds of design possibilities that wouldn't be available otherwise.

The main advantage to using these designs as a quilter is that you get unique and sometimes even custom-looking results.

Design variation, maintaining spacing across a row, and reducing backtracking are the biggest advantages I see as a designer in creating extended-width designs. To further illustrate, I'll briefly touch on how each design capitalizes on these advantages.

  1. I wanted variation with the Royal design, with crown shapes pointing up in one row and down in another. Using an extended-width format made this easy to accomplish.

  2. With Fizz, the goal was to eliminate backtracking. This design could have been made fairly easily as a point-to-point (P2P) pattern, but it would have included a lot of backtracking. By using an extended-width file, I could program one wavy line across the quilt and then have it complete the shapes by continuing the wavy line on the way back to the start.
  3. My main goal with the designs Driftwood and Rich Girl was to maintain space between the organic and straight lines (respectively) throughout the entire row. 
  4. Geoglyph was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to vary the shape and direction of the echoed lines so that no part of the design looked the same. My hope is that users will flip, clip, rotate, and position the row in different ways down the length of the quilt so that it all looks random.
  5. The Cable Knit design incorporates many different elements, such as straight-line quilting, cables, and cross-hatching, in one file. This gives a project a custom look without having to cobble separate motifs together digitally or hand-guide it.

Disadvantages of Extended-Width Designs

They're Different - Because they are fundamentally different than our typical E2E designs, we might not know how to set them up in our system. Our software might even try repeating the whole row as if it's a P2P pattern, and you could have a mess on your hands! 

If you have the panto-only version of Intelliquilter, using extended-width designs is not possible without upgrading to a software version that allows block options.

For everyone else, you'll find links below to our growing resource of video tutorials showing best practices for setting these designs up according to the software you use.

Thread Breaks - Like with the Fizz design above, when the goal is to eliminate backtracking by quilting in the right-to-left direction, some machines are going to object! If your machine doesn't do well quilting in all directions, the advantage of not backtracking quickly gets overshadowed by thread breaks.

Some quilters experience fewer thread breaks when using thicker threads like Glide or Omni. Some quilters have better luck when they loosen the quilt's tension on the frame by just a bit. Alternatively, you could try a thread lubricant like Sewer's Aid in spots along your machine's thread path, which could help, too.

Some designers will include optional file formats of the same design but with stops at the end of each row so that you can start each stitching line at the left. This will eliminate the need to stitch right-to-left. In my files, all extended-width designs have a "L to R" version included in the pattern download.

Processing Speed - This is negligible with some systems and an issue with others. If your computer is slow to process or render your rows on-screen, using an extended-width file could slow you down.

If you land in the slow processor camp and use a design that gets repeated in the same manner down the quilt, consider only setting up one or two repeats, as your throat space allows. Then, when it comes to stitching your project, realign that same row or rows repeatedly as you advance the quilt. It'll likely save your computer some "thinking" time rather than having the full on-screen layout populated with rows. 

How do I use an extended-width design with my software?

With the help of Longarm League members, we're collecting video tutorials that share best practices for setting up extended-width designs according to different kinds of software. Find your system in the list and enjoy the new possibilities that come with extended-width designs! 

Quilt Path and Quilter's Creative Touch
Gammill Statler Stitcher's CreativeStudio
Pro-Stitcher Premium
Member Sherri Ramsey alerted us to this YouTube video by Kelly of Jukebox Quilts. She demonstrates using "trimmable" designs—another term for extended-width designs—starting at the 1:11 timestamp. 

Do you have any questions? Can you think of additional information about extended-width designs that we should know? Drop us a line at [email protected]

All design examples shown in this post can be purchased in our shop.


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