Baptist Fans are one of the most popular and traditional ways to quilt, both by hand and machine. It's the first pattern I learned to quilt way back in my younger years while sitting at a handmade quilting frame with female relatives.
Most of us were right handed and sewing from the upper right to the lower left is a natural movement of the arm and quilting hand. These arcs are easy to stitch, and when sewing concentric circles, they naturally become the Baptist Fan pattern. It's fast, it's easy, and when close stitching was needed to secure the batting, it was the ideal pattern to stitch. We always worked from the right across to the left, and bottom to top. After each row, we rolled the quilt forward and started at the right with a new row.
Batting available today can often be safely quilted up to 10" apart, but 'way back when' folks used carded wool or cotton, or even cotton batting (often still containing the cotton seeds), close stitching was necessary to keep it from separating and migrating to other areas inside the quilt. Very old well-used quilts will often still have little balls or bunches of batting in between the close stitching, but I like to think those are just indications of the age of such a treasure.
Below is a link to Bonnie Hunter's post on hand quilting Baptist Fans with lots of great information. http://quiltville.blogspot.com/2010/05/questions-on-fans.html Bonnie's method uses a hoop, quilting the fan all around the outside of the top and then filling in the center with fans.
I have always thought that machine quilting this pattern would be a bit more difficult so I've never tried it. Some folks mark the entire quilt and freehand over the lines as with any pattern, or use different machine quilting techniques and have beautiful results. My hat is off to them.
Longarmers are blessed in that we have many tools available to help quilt Baptist Fans. Folks lucky enough to have a computer guided system can just tell their computer and longarm machine what to stitch. Some devices work from behind the machine, such as an apparatus to make circles, grooved boards used with a stylus to guide the machine, and pantographs that can be followed with a laser. Many rulers and templates are available that can help in the spacing and formation of the Baptist Fan arcs, and these have the advantage that they are used at the front of the machine.
The newest device on the market that can help make beautiful Baptist Fans is our own Baptist Fan quilting template pictured above. The anchor post fastens to the top of the quilt in the work area, and the notched template fits over and rotates back and forth with the hopping foot to create arcs for designs. At the end of each row, 'walk' over previous stitching up to the next row.
No matter what technique or tool you use, our rotating Baptist Fan template can help make your quilt a wonderful work of art.