Quilt Design Program Mini-Reviews

This page contains a brief description of the various quilt design programs now available on the market, to assist buyers in making a decision about their purchase. The author is not affiliated with any of these companies. The descriptions here are as accurate as I can make them, but aren't warranted against error.


Electric Quilt 5

Electric Quilt 5, or EQ 5 as it is known, is one of the oldest of the quilting design programs, but has been through several major upgrades since its introduction. The first version of the program was published in 1991 by well-known quilter and teacher Penny McMorris and her husband. Version 5 was published in 2002, and is a major upgrade from earlier versions. It is a full-fledged Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP program.  It contains more than 3,100 quilt blocks, 11,000 fabrics, including designer fabrics from Benartex , P&B, and Hoffman, to name only a few. The program also contains libraries of quilt designs, embroidery designs, and quilting stencils that can be used in the quilts. For sheer richness of features it is hard to beat EQ5.

The program  has two major drawing modes, known as EasyDraw and Patchdraw. EasyDraw is an excellent simplified straight-line-based drawing module, which works with a mouse. PatchDraw allows you to make patches and applique designs through the use of curved line tools and ready-made shapes such as hearts, teardrops and leaves. The program uses a pull-down menu system and is moderately configurable by the user.  The program will calculate yardage and print quilting templates, including those for paper piecing. The new version contains strip-quilting and one-patch layout modes for such designs as bargello, grandmother's flower garden, and water color quilts, and has great flexibility in the setting of blocks and sizing borders. It can also import scanned fabric designs into its fabric library, as well as photos which can be set in memory quilt designs.

Strengths: Large block, fabric, and color libraries, good draw programs. The most robust libraries and feature set of any quilt program.

Weaknesses: None.

Special: Occasional online publication of "The Floppy Gazette" for registered users. Availability of an electronic maillist for EQ users. To subscribe, go to http:// planetpatchwork.com/info-eq.htm (List not sponsored by the company). Three supplementary books, large additional fabric libraries, BlockBase block program.

EQ Website at http://www.electricquilt.com

System Requirements:

Price: $110 plus shipping.

For the Macintosh: EQ and its companion programs are available only for the IBM-compatible platform. They will work on a Macintosh using Virtual PC or other Windows emulation software.

EQ products are available from Planet Patchwork's Schoolhouse Enterprises Store.

Quilt-Pro for Windows v. 4.0

Quilt-Pro for Windows was first published in 1994 by James Salamon and Miriam Neuringer of The Colony, Texas. Version 4.0 was released in 2001. It is a full-featured quilting program designed to take full advantage of the Windows environment. Nicely integrated and intuitive, it is highly configurable by the user. It has a large fabric library supplemented by a several CD-ROMs of designer fabrics and contains hundreds of blocks. Any bitmap file can be imported into the program as a new fabric design. It is the major program competing with Electric Quilt 4.1 in the Windows environment. 

The program's drawing tools are robust, including line, curve, and patch drawing capabilities The patch tools contain a variety of common shapes which can be sized and manipulated to make a quilt block, which can then be laid out in a quilt.  The program will calculate yardage and print block templates, including paper-piecing templates. Included in the latest version are rotary cutting instructions available for certain quilts/blocks. 

Strengths: Very good context-sensitive help, extensive set of wizards for easy setup of designs. Intuitive Windows interface, nicely designed screens, moderately large block and fabric libraries. Free fabrics and blocks available online at Quiltstash.com

Weaknesses: Occasional video problems, some awkwardness in user interface. 

Special: Fifty quilting stencils from The Stencil Company built into program. Demonstration program available for downloading online, or from company for $5. Paper piecing templates, free fabrics.

For the Macintosh: Quilt-Pro also now has available a version for the Macintosh. Will work on Macs and Power Macs, and is very feature-rich. Said by users to be the best Macintosh quilt program, with many of the same features as the PC version.

System Requirements:

Retail Price: $99.99 plus shipping

Quilt-Pro website: http://www.quiltpro.com/

Quilt-Pro is available from the Schoolhouse Enterprises Store

QuiltSOFT Version 4.0 (Formerly Quilter's Design Studio)

QuiltSOFT, from QuiltSOFT software in San Diego, California is a Windows-based quilt design program which has been out for several years. The Program is now out in version 4.0, which was released in early 1996. QuiltSOFT was the first quilt design program made for use in Windows, and has steadily improved in quality from early versions, which were buggy, resource-intensive, and difficult to use. It now comes with a large selection of fabrics on CD-ROM, a fairly good selection of quilt blocks, and a number of sample quilts.

QuiltSOFT has some nice features, like a block selection screen that displays many blocks at once. However the program remains very sluggish in refreshing its screen and other complex graphic activities. It is prone to frequent and often cryptic error messages and sometimes parts of quilts will drop out (leaving white background) for no apparent reason. It is also very awkward moving back and forth between the quilt design and block design modules. You can only color a quilt block in the quilt design mode, unlike the other major programs where you can color either in the block or in the quilt. Overall this program is distinctly inferior to other Windows-based quilt design programs. Not recommended.

The program is a "full-featured" quilt design program with block libraries, fabrics, etc. It prints templates and calculates yardage. QuiltSOFT also offers a program for the Macintosh, but it is generally considered not as good as Quilt-Pro's offering for the Mac.

To Order: QuiltSOFT
P.O. Box 19946
San Diego, CA 92159-0946

Telephone: 619 583-2970
Fax: 619 583-2682

VISA/Mastercard Accepted

Price: $99 plus shipping and handling (price subject to change)

VQuilt v. 2.0

VQuilt came on the market in late 1994, and version 2.0 was released in 1996. Designed by quilter Sarah Hisley and her programmer husband, VQuilt has more modest aspirations than the quilting programs outlined above, although in recent versions has added features which make it more "full-service," such as the ability to estimate fabric yardage. The program is informed by the philosophy expressed by its designers in the documentation:

Rather than attempting to "computerize" quilting, what we wanted to do was produce a quilt design program that "facilitated" quilting . . . a subtle but distinctive difference. We believe a quilter should spend more time working with fabric than sitting in front of a computer screen!

VQuilt's major strength is its simplicity and speed. It is a good tool for quilters to visualize layouts and get an overall feel for a design. It doesn't come with designer fabrics and other bells and whistles of the more expensive programs.

It is a DOS-based program, although it will run under Windows 3.1 and WIN95. It has a quite capable and simple set of drawing tools for designing blocks, and will lay out those blocks in a quilt top of virtually any size or number of blocks. Its color palette can be customized and colors "mixed" to reflect individual tastes. Borders and sashing can also be generated. Quilt blocks and quilts can be saved and templates can be printed. My remaining major gripe about the program is its lack of anything more than the most minimal of online help. The manual covers the program's operations adequately, but I like to be able to click and feel my way through a program, and VQuilt is not as intuitive as some.

If you're looking for a quilt program to help you visualize what your quilts will look like, and to print templates, but don't a lot of extras, then this program may be the one you want.

Strengths: Low price, requires minimal computer resources, fast performance, good price-to- performance ratio.

Weaknesses: Lack of online help, no fabric libraries.

System Requirements:

To Order: Computer Systems Associates
P.O. Box 129
Jarrettsville, MD 20184-9998

Telephone: 410 557-6871 Fax: 410 557-7928

Price: $39.99 plus $5 shipping (price subject to change)

PCQuilt for Windows

First programmed for DOS and sold in 1987, PCQuilt is the first dedicated quilt design program ever made. It had been eclipsed in recent years by more capable and sophisticated programs such as EQ and Quilt-Pro, but a new version, completely reprogrammed for Windows, was released in late 1996.

This new Windows program has the unique feature of being able to view the block editing window and the quilt layout grid on the same screen. This is helpful, but also makes for a somewhat crowded screen. The program has about 250 quilt blocks and 20 fabric patterns, plus many color palettes. The toolbar and color and fabric selection bars are nicely arranged at the top of the screen, and the online help is very good and thorough. This is quite a sophisticated program, with a nice drawing module and the ability to edit and create new fabrics. With its small libraries of blocks and fabrics, it is at a competitive disadvantage with other Windows programs.

Strengths: Elegant Windows interface, good tool bars, excellent online help, speedy operation.

Weaknesses: Small block and fabric libraries, some awkwardnesses and extra steps in moving from one operation to another. Limitations in the number of blocks that will fit in the block library window.

PCQuilt website: http://www.pcquilt.com/

To Order: Nina Antze
7061 Lynch Rd.
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Price: $75.00 (introductory offer; price subject to change)


Block Base by the Electric Quilt Company is a Windows electronic version of Barbara Brackman's legendary catalogue of pieced quilt blocks, "An Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Blocks." This handy and easy-to-use program provides a well-organized display of blocks that can be viewed, sized, and printed as stencils, foundation piecing patterns, or with rotary cutting instructions. The program can be used as a standalone, or it is compatible with Electric Quilt 5. 

The program has a very powerful search function and also allows you to do a "quick quilt," showing you your selected block in a simple quilt layout. Contains over 4,000 quilt blocks from 1860 through 1970. The most comprehensive catalogue of quilt blocks available.

See also:

Organized Expressions for Quilters
Redwork on a CD!

Checklist for Judging a Quilt Design Program

The following quick list provides a summary checklist of questions you should ask about a quilting program:

1. Compatibility--

Will the program work on your system?
What are its minimum hardware requirements?
Is it designed for your platform (Macintosh, IBM-compatible Windows or DOS)?
Does it run using a minimum of your system's resources and without conflicting with other programs?

2. Functionality --

Will it do a lot?
Will it allow you to design quilts with a large number of blocks, or is it limited?
Can you change colors/fabrics easily?
Can you change colors/fabrics in layout mode, or do you have to return to block design mode?
Can you change the set of a quilt easily?
Do you have a lot of options for sashes and borders?
Does it have a large block library?
Can you draw free-form applique?
Can you draw and print stencils?
Will it measure yardage for you?
Will it do paper-piecing patterns?
Can you design your own fabric?
Does it have a large fabric library?

3. Ease of Use --

Is the program easy to use?
Will it work with a mouse?
Is it structured logically so it is easy to move from module to module?
Is it integrated (i.e. do the parts fit together well?)
Is it easy to learn?
Are the steps between going from one process (say making a block) to the next (laying out the blocks in a quilt) minimized?
Does it have a good help system?
Is the help system context-sensitive?
Does it have good written documentation (a manual?)
Is it configurable by the user?

4. Pleasing interface --

Are the screens attractive and pleasing to the eye?
Is the type on the screen easy to read?
Are the screens laid out in a logical and easy-to-use way?
Will you be able to stand looking at this program for the many hours you will be using it?



(c) Copyright 1995-2012 by The Virtual Quilt Company. All rights reserved.


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