|Product Review: Quilter's
FabriCalc, Quilt Design and Fabric Estimating Calculator
One of the first questions we always get from newbies to quilt design software such as Electric Quilt is "Does it calculate yardage?" This is apparently a very important issue for quilters. Although quilting is primarily a right-brain artistic activity, it also contains a pesky math component that is disconcerting to many of us. All these squares and triangles, plus seam allowances! How the heck much fabric is this, anyway? If you're quilting from a book or pattern, you should get some help from the author in this department. But if you're designing your own, or doing a variant size or design, you may find you're getting a real hypotenuse of a headache.
Now at last there is a product on the market that takes the pain out of quilter's math without requiring you to boot up your computer. The Quilter's FabriCalc Design and Estimating Calculator is a full-featured, highly specialized handheld calculator that makes your fabric yardage calculations a breeze. Made by Calculated Industries, which designs and manufactures a wide variety of special calculators, this little machine benefits from the expertise of a well-established company that has paid close attention to the needs of quilters. They introduced the product to retailers at Quilt Market in Houston in 2005 at a suggested retail price of $39.99.
A quick look at the keyboard (see photo above) reveals a robust set of dedicated function keys related directly to quilting. The top (red) row is dedicated to overall quilt dimensions and features (width, length, borders, etc.) and the second (blue) row calculates from the block perspective (size, numbers across and down, sashing, etc.) The third (purple) row drops down one more level to the piece of a block -- squares, half-square and quarter-square triangles, and 45- and 60-degree diamonds. By pressing the right sequence of these keys, entering the dimensions, you can induce the calculator to provide you the yardages, including the total for the top (with or without borders and sashing) and the backing. All calculations automatically include a 1/4" seam allowance, which you can customize if you wish to other dimensions.
As we all know, very few quilts are made with just one fabric, so the FabriCalc is designed to separately store up to six fabrics and calculate the needed yardages of each. After you've entered the data, it will neatly total it all up for you, along with the cost of the fabric, based on a per yard (or per meter) price you enter. You can even reverse your calculations to figure out how many half-square triangles you can get out of that half-yard of batik you've been saving for a special occasion.
The FabriCalc is also fraction-friendly. It will display yardage totals in fractions (the default), decimal, or metric units. For those of our readers outside the U.S., you can set the FabriCalc to measure fabric in meters, centimeters, and even millimeters!
Measuring just 3 by 6 inches, the sleek white unit fits easily in your sewing bag or unobtrusively on your sewing machine table, yet its keyboard is generous and easy to use. It features a built-in hinged cover that protects the keyboard when not in use, and which has a quick reference "cheat sheet" printed inside. The cover can be folded all the way behind the unit so it will lie flat and can be operated with one hand.
On the back, there is a little compartment that contains a pocket-sized user's manual, so it is always available with the calculator. There is in addition a larger version of the manual that is printed in oversized type for the aging quilter who might not be able to find her reading glasses.
The only fear which rivals quilter's mathophobia is the fear of learning how to correctly push the buttons on a new gizmo. What if it blows up? As with a computer, you cannot harm the FabriCalc by anything you do from the keyboard. We had several members of the family try it out, and we were all up and running with the machine within a few minutes. The manual is straightforward and takes nothing for granted, and the functions on the machine are all clearly defined and well-labeled. With practice you will become more proficient, but there is really no significant learning curve.
Besides the individual quilter, this calculator is ideal for shop owners to assist their customers in estimating fabric needs. Many's the time we have been in a busy quilt store as the staff struggled with the math of a complicated design while other customers were waiting. Having the FabriCalc at their fingertips would have been a Godsend.
Best of all is the price. We have visited vendors at Quilt Market for several years now who were struggling to create a similar capability for quilters, but their products were all in the hundred dollar range, and based on expensive Palm handheld devices. This elegant and inexpensive solution, based on a proven technology, is miles ahead of its bleeding edge rivals.
The FabriCalc is a must for quilters and shop owners, and yet another technological breakthrough for patchworkers.
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