Reviews of Quilting Software

This review appeared in rec.crafts.textiles.quilting on 20 March 1995. I submit it here for your information. Please bear in mind that several of these programs have since come out in new editions, and are likely to have slightly different features. Contact information for publishers is listed at the end of the page.

More on Design Software: Demos, Notes, Links

As I previously posted, I have been comparing features of different Quilting design programs. I'd like to thank all the reps for their help and information. Here is the main part of the program I will be presenting to my guild on Monday night (Mar 20th). I hope you all find it helpful. Just remember, this is only my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions! :) :)

I evaluated five programs, three whole programs, and two demos. These are strictly my own opinions, you make your own. For the most part, this is a comparison of features.

The first program I will discuss is called Quilter's Design Studio. I've had this particular program for several years. QDS requires Windows to run. QDS enables you draft blocks or use those in the library. You can draw ellipse, pie shapes, rectangle or standard lines. Sections of the block can be copied, flipped, and rotated. I found the drawing section to be easy to use. It's simple to retrieve blocks from the library. They can be set on point or straight, with or without sashing.

Border choices are very limited. If you want to do other than very simple sets, it becomes difficult to use. You can use one of two color palettes, or create your own colors. There are no fabric patterns available, but there are some black and white patterns, which can be colored. Coloring the blocks is difficult, since you have to click on the space you want to color, then on the color, then back on the next space and then back to the color, even if it's the same color. Coloring the block is done on a very small block, so if you have a block with a lot of pieces, it's nearly impossible to color.

I do have some difficulty with laying out the whole quilt, due to the way the program uses it's memory. If the quilt is at all complex, or uses more than one or two colors, I am unable to lay out the whole quilt. I have heard this complaint from other users, so it's not just me.

Qds will estimate yardage, and will print out templates, although the size of the template is limited to 6 inches, and will print only one template per page. Online help is available, but is slow to get in and out of, and many times I could not find the answer to my question. The manual is very limited. Admittedly, there may be a more recent version which addresses the problems, but discussion on the internet leads me to believe not. I called and left a message on the machine at MicroSOFT, but didn't hear back from them in time for this report. To summarize, and this is totally subjective on my part, I wouldn't give this program to my worst enemy.

The other program I tried which also uses Windows, is called QuiltPro. The version of QuiltPro I tried is a demo version, and therefore somewhat limited. It does give you a good idea of what the program can do, and certainly whets your appetite.

Quiltpro uses a different drawing method than the other programs. Instead of connecting straight lines, you fit together shapes, although drawing the traditional way is an option. I liked the way the color palette is set up, with 256 colors grouped in shades, that you can scroll. Quiltpro contains a fabric library of over 250 patterns, each in three colorways. You can also import any bitmaped image file to create your own fabric, although I found no way to design it in the program. The block library contains over 250 blocks, including applique, curved two patch, hexagon, and traditional favorites. Over 100 border and sash designs are also included.

Another feature is over fifty quilting stencils, courtesy of the Stencil Company. Imagine being able to print out a border stencil to fit the exact dimensions of your border! Quiltpro prints accurate templates for any size block. If the block exceeds the size of the paper, it simply prints on multiple pages which you have to tape together. Blocks can be set in up to ten blocks in each direction, either straight or on point.

Quiltpro will calculate yardage for the top, back, blocks only, or borders and sashes only. It will also report the number of patches for each color and template, and the size of the finished quilt. It will always give the least yardage as 1/8 yard.

On line help is available, is easy to get in and out of, and fairly comprehensive. I was able to find all the answers I needed. Quiltpro also has a representative on the internet who can answer any questions, and a phone number for if you're in a hurry. It comes with a 150 page manual that includes a tutorial. To summarize, I found Quiltpro to be easy and fun to use.

The third 'full-service program " I tried was Electric Quilt- 2. Eq2 is an MS-DOS based program. EQ2 is a great program if you want to quickly compare how a quilt will look with various changes. It allows you to easily draft blocks for patchwork or applique. The block library is extensive, containing over a thousand blocks, including blocks which can be used to create multiple pieced borders. And with the addition of a new upcoming feature, will be even more so. EQ is working on a new program called BlockBase. It's supposed to be an electronic version of Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. EQ2 will be able to import these blocks. One of EQ2's features is the fabric library, which contains fabric packets of actual fabric designs, as well as an extensive color library. You can also purchase the new fabric packet pattern disk to have even more designer fabrics available to you. EQ2 prints accurate templates, several to a page, but is limited to the size of the page. It also prints full blocks, which is great for paper piecing. The program will also figure your yardage for you and give you the number of pieces you need for each template and fabric. As far as on line help goes, the program features the smart mouse. You point the mouse at anything on the screen, hold down the right mouse button, and EQ2 will tell you about that item. The manual is clear and comprehensive. Most of the people I talked with had good things to say about EQ2. The worst thing I heard was that they thought it was not intuitive. It is true that you have to learn how it thinks, but that's not difficult to do. Layout of the quilt with EQ2 was extremely easy.

The other two programs I tried are not as extensive as these first three. They are designed to be a tool for visualizing a quilt, and are extremely affordable. They each have features to consider.

V-Quilt is a color and pattern visualization tool that is easy and fun to use. There is no on line help, because the designers of the program believe that if you need on line help, then the program is too difficult to use. They also felt the program had to be affordable.

Vquilt uses two screens, the block design screen, and the quilt design screen. The block design features are simple, but more than adequate. Vquilt allows you to draft straight lines, circles, and freehand. You can color the blocks with the colors provided or you can mix your own colors and save them. Although there are no fabric patterns available, the color mixing capability does provide a certain amount of texture and contrast. Once you color your block, one click takes you to the quilt design screen. This screen allows you to set your parameters, such as what kind of setting and so forth. I am told by the designer that you can draft a pieced border, but it sounds very labor intensive. That feature will be included in the next version, as will the ability to figure yardage. Vquilt will print the block or quilt in outline, grey scale, or color. It will also print templates in multiple pages that can be taped together. Templates can be printed in any size from 1-20 inches. Block images are printed actual size up to 8 inches, which is great for paper piecing. Block images larger than 8 inches are automatically scaled down to fit the size of the printer paper.

VQuilt is a native MS-DOS program that looks and feels like a Windows program, and can be fun under Windows in a DOS compatibility box. This is handy, because you can export images to a pcs file, and then import them into a graphics or desktop publishing program.

Overall, this is a very nice program. It was not the intent of the designers to have a program that will show you in the minutest detail what the finished quilt will look like. The idea was to draw the blocks, mock up the quilt, see what the patterns and colors look like, and get back to the fabric. This is one of those programs that you have to see to appreciate.

These first four programs have some things in common. One of these is that you must use a mouse to operate them.

PC Quilt is a keyboard driven program. PCquilt allows you to draft geometric blocks, and includes a small block library. The coloring palette has a selection of colors that you can edit, and a small fabric palette. You can design fabrics, as you also can with EQ2. PC Quilt allows you to set your blocks straight, on point, and with or without sashes. It allows multiple, pieced borders, which were actually quite fun to design. It does come with a small selection of border designs. Since you have to move the cursor for every function, coloring was slow until I learned the shortcuts.

I was a little frustrated at first because I was used to the mouse, but with a little practice I was moving right along. The program is fun to use, although it does not perform functions such as estimating yardage, or printing templates. It will print whatever is on the screen with the touch of the print screen button on the keyboard.

To summarize... All of the programs will perform the task of allowing you to color blocks and set them together to make color and block choices a little easier and faster. Each of these programs has features and abilities I didn't cover. What I suggest is that you contact the company of whichever program interests you and make your own decisions. But be on your guard. It's enormous fun to play with design and color, and it can be as addictive as a video game.

The following is a reference chart to compare features. Again, each program has features which may not be listed.

Feature              QDS     EQ2    QuiltPro  VQuilt  PCQuilt
Draw blocks          yes     yes      yes      yes     yes
Draw curves          yes     yes      yes      circles yes
Block Library        yes     yes      yes      yes     yes
Fabric Library       no      yes      yes      no      yes
Design Fabrics       no      yes      no*      no      yes
Create Colors        yes     yes      yes      yes     yes
Border Library       no      yes      yes      no      yes
Multiple Borders     yes     yes      yes      no      yes
Pieced Borders       no      yes      yes      no**    yes
Stencil Library      no      no       yes      no      no
Set on Point         yes     yes      yes      yes     yes***
Block Coloring Easy  no      yes      yes      yes     yes
Calculate Yardage    yes     yes      yes      no      no
Print Templates      yes     yes      yes      yes     no
Print Blocks         yes     yes      yes      yes     no
Print Whole Quilt    yes     yes      yes      yes     yes
On Line Help         yes     yes      yes      no      no
Manual               yes     yes      yes      yes    yes****
Max Block Size      size of  size of  200"   size of   no
                    paper    paper           paper   setting
MAC Version         no       soon     yes     no       no
* QuiltPro can import Bitmap files
** Designer says this can be done manually, but it is a lot
   of work.  Will be included in next version
*** Turns entire setting on point, then adds corners
**** Manual is in the program, you print it out 

Software Sources

Quilter's Design Studio
P.O. Box 19946
SanDiego, CA 92159-0946
The Electric Quilt Co.
1039 melrose
Bowling Green, OH 43402
$110. + $5.00 S&H
Linda Breshears
1850 San Clemente St.
Fairfield, CA 94533-4022
$95.00 + $5.00 S&H
Computer Systems Associates
P.O. Box 129
Jarrettsville, MD 21084-9998
$39.95 + $5.00 S&H
PC Quilt
Nina Antze
7061 Lynch Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472

My thanks to for allowing me to use this evaluation of these software products. --DDuperault