(NOTE: I reviewed the "Baby Block" demo version, which can be downloaded from various servers on the Internet. It has the print and save functions disabled, so I could not check the accuracy of the printed templates.)
First I should say that I have been using a Macintosh computer for several years and am very familiar with it. I have also used real drawing programs like MacDraw and Adobe Illustrator for simple projects. So I knew that any quilt drawing program would probably seem quite limited to me and PCQuilt was no exception.
However, if all you want to do is quickly draw up some simple blocks with straight-line piecing and play around with different color combinations in a rectangular quilt format, PCQuilt works just fine and is much faster than graph paper and colored pencils! You can use one of the blocks from the library included with the program and experiment with color or design your own block.
Okay, here are the things that bug me:
The main thing I miss is the ability to draw curves. So you can't design applique patterns, curved piecing patterns, or quilting designs with PCQuilt.
The design area is quite small and there is no ruler in the program so you can't make a block with two-inch pieces or any other arbitrary shape unless you chose to make the "grid" visible--however, if you do, your block will be "sewn" out of lots of little squares, as each square on the grid acts like a separate piece. I tried to color in a pattern that was designed on top of a grid and discovered I had to click on each little square of the grid individually. It would be very difficult to design a block with hexagons or other odd-angle shapes in it, since you must "eyeball" each shape.
Another odd quirk came when I tried to color in the various shapes of the House block that came with the demo program. The color insisted on flowing over the edge of the diagonal line on one side of the roof, so I could not make the background a separate color. This did not happen on the other side of the roof. When I designed a block with diagonal lines, this also happened at random times. I guess this is because it is a "bitmapped" drawing program, which does not make solid diagonal lines.
The program gives you a "palette" of blended colors. You choose a color by positioning the cursor in the area that looks like the shade you want. The palette is tiny so it is difficult to pinpoint an exact shade. However, once you do, you can reproduce it by using the eyedropper tool, so you should save any block that has a color you think you'll want to use again. You can also apply patterns to colors--however, they are the standard Mac patterns (tile roof, etc). It would have been fun to have "fabric" patterns instead. I did not find any way to add custom patterns to the palette.
After you design a block, you can choose three different "sets" and the program pops copies of your block into the rectangular quilt layout. You can combine two different blocks into one quilt layout, and they can be set straight, on the diagonal, or alternated. If you change a straight block to a diagonal, it shrinks so it fits in the same height row. (There does not appear to be any way to retain the original size.) You can't change the width of the border or sashing. The overall size of the quilt can't be changed either. In fact, I found no mention of the overall dimension of the quilt I was designing--perhaps in the manual that comes with the real program there is more information about this.
Once you have a layout you like, the next step is to color in the sashing and border. The full quilt is displayed practically instantly but it often took several seconds to color in just one piece of sashing. This became quite tedious when coloring the sashing in a quilt that had corner blocks, so each piece had to be colored individually. You can save your blocks into the library so you could come back later and design a different quilt with the same block, or try different colors, etc. Since I could not print from the demo program, I could not test how accurate the templates are or how long they take to print.
So who would like PCQuilt? Kids. My six-year-old daughter had a blast designing blocks and quilts with this program. It has cute sounds and is simple enough so she could figure out how to draw a block and color it after I showed her a few things. The Mac interface is not bad, either.
And if you are a beginning quilter and/or a beginning computer user, PCQuilt would be a fun way to try designing quilts and blocks without a long learning curve--you can sit down and design a gorgeous, if a bit simple, quilt in a few minutes, without even reading the manual. At $35 PCQuilt is very inexpensive, but if you are over the age of 12, you can expect to "outgrow" its limitations pretty quickly.
Cost for full program: $35, that includes a 100-block quilt and border library, and technical support.
7061 Lynch Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472.
(c) Copyright 1995-2012 by The Virtual Quilt Company. All rights reserved.
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