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Computer Quilting has come of Age!
What does it have to offer you the quilter?

By Sharla Hicks © 2003

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Simply Quilt Presentation Gallery, click here

As computers in the home have become commonplace, the natural transition for the quilter is to explore their use in the quilt making process. Over the last 20 years this exploration has resulted in an expanding line of computer quilting software. Today the quilter can find a complete line of products that meet a variety of needs. They include full design software, CDs for printing blocks for foundation piecing, quilting stencils, patterns, aids to designing a quilt from a book, and innovative software for creating art quilts.

As the computer quilting market has expanded, a secondary market of products and sharing has emerged. You will find software support books with step-by-step how-to instructions, CDs with video demos, and quilt shops, guilds and conferences offering computer quilting workshops and lectures.

The Internet has provided computer quilters around the world the opportunity to gather together and participate in fabric swaps, block exchanges, online classes, online guilds, develop websites and participate in e-mail lists. A search of the Internet will produce links to shared computer quilting files, tutorials, answers to frequently asked questions, quilt galleries and much more.

This article is an overview of what software is available, making a selection, and has tips on how to learn to use quilting software.

Questions to ask yourself

First you need to define what computer help you want or might need.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you a book lover or class taker and want to use the computer to expand the ideas presented in quilt projects?
  • Are you a traditional or innovative quilter?
  • Do you want to design your own quilt by drawing a new block or altering an existing block from the library and then explore the quilt layout?
  • Do you wish to select blocks and borders from libraries to help you make quilt layout choices?
  • Do you wish to use software to help you create printouts helpful in making a quilt and buying fabric?
  • Are you looking to skew your quilt design into new and innovative ideas?
  • Do you want a large library of blocks only for ideas and templates and then design your own quilt?
  • Are you looking for specific block styles, for example foundation pieced blocks, mariner's compass blocks, holiday themes, or alphabet and numbers?
  • Do you want to print multiple sized blocks, templates, yardage charts, or numbered paper piecing blocks?
  • Do you want rotary cutting charts?
  • Do you want instructions on how make the block or quilt?
  • Do you want the ability to create and number a paper-pieced block?
  • Do you want a faster method than graph paper for developing a design?
  • Do you want to create memory quilts or quilt labels?
  • Do you want embroidery patterns that can be used in quilts?
  • Do you want the computer to help you organize your storage spaces, document your purchases, store class notes, and keep a diary on a quilt's progress?

Each of the following areas is important to your decision

There is something for everyone. What is available, your personal experience and knowledge level on the computer, your computer system assets or limitations each play a part in what you can use or need for computer quilting.

Evaluate your Computer System

What type of computer do you run?

More quilt specific programs are available to PC users than Mac users. Being aware of the following will help you select the best quilting software your computer will run:

Operating System: Knowing the type of OS you have is helpful in determining if a program will run on your computer.

PC Users:

  • For those of you running older operating systems note that the majority of the programs run on Windows 98 or greater.
  • Windows 95 users need to look closely at the computer requirements because many of the CDs and even some of the bigger quilting software run only on Windows 98 or XP and greater.

Mac Users:

System requirements: Always check system requirements before buying. Here are a few things to watch for.

RAM: It is a good idea to look at your memory capabilities (RAM) to be sure you have enough. Too much is never an issue, but too little can affect how well a program runs or if it runs at all.

Hard Drive: Capacity on an older computer is an issue. Newer computers have very large capacity hard drives thus program size is not as important. This is good news because it allows more options to be added to programs such as better help files and more versatility.

Video Cards and monitors: Newer computers are capable of running any of the quilting related programs out there. Older monitors and videos cards may and often do have limitations that are not compatible with new program requirements.

Printer: If you want to print your end results, owning a printer is always a good idea. The reality is if you are using a program for ideas only, then a printer is optional.

A color printer is nice, but not required. Value is key to picking out fabrics, so a printer that prints black and white grayscale is okay too. Taking a grayscale printout with you to the fabric shop allows you to look at a broader range of colors and fabric choices based on value and not be limited by color.

Your Personal Computer Experience

Knowing how much or how little you understand about running a computer and its software will help you decide the program(s) that best fit your needs.

New to computer user:

A negative experience for the first time user will turn the quilter away from computers. A positive experience will leave a new computer user eager for more.

A positive experience on the computer is essential to new users. Several programs are geared to do just that.

The program called Quilt Design Wizard leads the user through the program with clearly marked buttons. Learning how to run the Quilt Design Wizard will prepare the user for the interface found in the larger flagship program EQ when the user is ready for a more control and design options.

Screen Shot from Quilt Wizard

Other simple interface programs include CDs for paper piecing print only the block to the size you wish and are good starter programs to become comfortable using block libraries. Also look companion CDs found in a book. These CD allow a few design choices like selecting a block or blocks that can be painted and used in a quilt layout.

When the new user is comfortable with selecting blocks and quilt variables, browsing through the help menus, using a printer and more versatility is wanted or needed, then it is time for them to buy a higher end program that does more.

Familiar with common menu options: If a user is familiar with standard File and Edit menu options like print, cut, copy paste, new, open, save, save as, etc., then they are ready to tackle a more complicated program.

File MenuThe best thing about computers today is the File, Edit and Help menus are very similar from program to program. Commonly used keystrokes are the repeated, so what you learn in one program often works in another. I find this to be true whether you are using a Mac or PC. Similar keystrokes and menu commands exist between the two computer types. This makes the learning curve for new software easier.

Experienced software user: If the user has drawing experience with paint/draw programs and word processing skills, and the user's goal is to explore the complexities of a block and quilt layout, then the user will not be satisfied with anything less than a full quilting program.

How is quilting software being used by quilters

In interviewing computer quilters around the world, I found that ways of designing a quilt on the computer varied from quilter to quilter. But, all had two things in common, each saw the computer as a tool that:

  1. Added speed for quick changes.
  2. Provided the ability to see a design overview for evaluation of the design's potential.

Tiffini's Quilt

Here are some of the other reasons given for using computer quilting software.

  • Faster than graph paper because changing block coloring, resizing, manipulating a square into rectangles, skewing the block, and rotation were only a few simple mouse clicks away.
  • Quilt layout options were faster to explore with a mouse click providing instant changes in the layout style, sizes for the borders, sashes blocks and quick coloring choices.
  • Gives the ability to design in black and white or grayscale and then add the more complex variable of color once the design is finalized.
  • Ability to see the whole overview of a quilt and make design decisions for block size, sash width, and borders more easily than trying to visualize in your mind or rendering on graph paper.
  • Scanned fabric could be previewed in the quilt or block before sewing to be sure value, scale, and style worked in the overall quilt or block.
  • Easy to save multiple variations of a block and quilt for later evaluation at the end of design session.
  • Simple to print templates, quilts, outlines, foundation blocks, and yardage charts.
  • Explore secondary shapes within a block or quilt layout.
  • After doing the computer design exploration, construct the blocks or cut the patches and then move to the real world design board to make the final quilt layout and design choices.
  • Used multiple programs to design one quilt.

Learning and Supplemental help

Some programs require no learning curve at all. A full design program requires digging in, exploring and will take time.

I have a theory called need to know. Use the computer to work on a project that needs to be finished and you will take the time to learn it. Many adults resist a new learning experience because they do not feel competent and this can be very fatiguing. My advice is do NOT give up, you are learning more than you think.

Here are some suggestions on how to go about learning the program:

  • Try not to work against a deadline while learning.
  • Give yourself plenty of breaks. Stop when feeling fatigued or overwhelmed. Fatigue is a sign you have probably learned all you are going to be able to learn in that session.
  • Work for only 1-2 hours at a time over a couple of weeks. If two hours is too frustrating, back off to only 1 hour at a time. When you sit down the next time, you will be surprised by how much you remember. NOTE: Do not allow too much to time lapse between learning sessions or you will lose what you have learned.
  • Work through one concept at a time.  Understand that concept or idea before you move on.
  • When reading tutorials or help files, read ONE line at a time and complete the task. Most people who are overwhelmed when reading instructions are reading too many  instructions before starting the exercise.
  • Be patient with yourself.  It takes time and repetition to learn new information. Expect to repeat an idea or concept until the steps become easier.

Program help files: Companies developing computer quilting software realize the quilter often comes to the software with little computer background. As a result program help files are outstanding, far above the industry standard. Most of the quilting software help files include high quality step-by-step instructions and some are supplemented by small videos of specific tasks. One program has taken that even further by adding an interactive mouse click that automatically jumps to the correct help section being used.

Supplemental how-to books and CDs: The use of quilting software has produced a series of helpful supplemental books and CDs geared toward the beginner and more advanced user. Electric Quilt has the richest set of supplement books. Each book and CD brings a quality learning experience to the user who needs extra help or wants to push the limits of the program with more advanced drawing and design skills.

Internet Quilting community help: The Internet itself is a great resource for learning quilting software. Many quilters share knowledge, reviews and projects on websites. Another more personal source are e-mail lists. E-mail lists are groups of quilters sharing a common interest who exchange e-mail. Questions are often answered within minutes and sharing of project files and pictures is common.

Many websites offer online classes. Some instruction is program specific and others give ideas on how to use the computer as a tool for quilting design. A very popular website for online classes is


Budget is always a consideration when looking at software. Programs costs range from under $20 to over $100.

Software and Products Available to the Computer Quilter

Every conceivable option you can image is available today. A quick overview of the types of programs and CDs available will provide you with a starting point in deciding what you can do with a computer and where you may wish to focus your attention.

Reviews in Magazines and on the Internet: By looking at the software reviews and project files that are being written on the Internet, in quilt magazines and other sources, the quilter can determine if a program meets their needs.

Overview of what you can expect from each program:

  • The vast majority of software or CDs are stand alone programs. Depending on the CD and the manufacturer, some CD's blocks can be imported into a quilt design program for further exploration.
  • All programs are visual and give you a view of the block or design you are working with.
  • Many CDs have powerful search tools to make the block, technique or help file instruction easy to find.

search dialogue box

  • Some CDs include instructions on specific techniques used to complete the block or quilt.

Printing: Some CDs print a limited number of blocks or quilts to a few specific sizes. Other CDs allow custom size printing of templates, outlines, grayscale or color printouts, and numbered blocks for foundation piecing. It varies from program to program.

Program types available to the computer quilter:

Quilt Block Libraries on CDs:

There are several different block library CDs. Some are simple programs that allow you to select and print a block and its templates or pattern to a limited number of sizes. Others allow you to resize the block to any size and print. The CD can have anywhere from 50 to 4000 blocks depending on the CD and its cost. NOTE: A full quilting software program is needed for drawing your own blocks and laying them out in a quilt.


Block Library CD

  1. BlockBase
  2. Block Factory: Mariner's Compass Design by Judy Matheison (with Screen Saver)
  3. Quilter's Newsletter Magazine CD. 5 years of past projects and associated articles.

Foundation Piecing Software

  1. 117 Paper Piecing Patterns by Debby Kratovil
  2. Building Blocks and Borders by Debby Kratovil
  3. Foundation Factory: 4 different Volumes
  4. Click here for a the most up to date list of Paper Piecing software


Fabrics Scanned on CDs:

These CDs feature the latest spring and fall collections of fabrics released for quilters. They usually work better with parent specific software as an add-on but can be used to export bitmaps to paint/draw, desktop publishing, and other quilting software programs.

Use to:

  • Select a series of fabrics to import into a program.
  • Printout a shopping bag wish list.
  • Document a personal inventory/stash of fabrics.

Fabric CD Titles:

  1. Biannual release of Stash CDs (fall and sprig) with new fabric lines


Quilt Design Programs:

Note: Paint and Draw programs can be used to design a quilt, but not as intuitively as software developed specifically for the quilter. The backbone of quilt design software taps into how a quilter thinks creating a "quilting ease" when using it.

Full capacity quilt design programs are the most comprehensive software available to the computer quilter. Collaborations between quilters and the developers of the software have produced programs that logically follow the steps needed to create a quilt.

  • First: Draw or select a block or blocks.
  • Second: Add color or fabric fill to block or blocks
  • Third: Make quilt layout choices
  • Fourth: Add block to the quilt layout
  • Fifth: Tweak block or quilt as needed

Check reviews and program details for what each program will do. This is a partial list of what quilt design programs allow you to do

  • Libraries of quilt blocks

block library

  • Libraries of fabric palettes

fabric palette

  • To draw a block, setup graph paper grids and patch guides. The grids have optional snap-to tools that the automatically grab the next grid point making drawing easy and precise. Each program has a unique set of grids ranging from traditional squares, to isometric, star, or circle grids. One program allows you to create your own custom grids.

grid examplegrid example
Grids and Patch Guides vary from program to program

  • Each program has a unique set of drawing tools. Use them to draw, resize, rotate, flip, mirror, or paint patches in a block.

Tool barTool bar

Tool bar

Tool bar

Tool bar
Drawing Tools vary from program to program
block rotation example
block rotation example
  • In the quilt layout, the rotation tools make quick changes possible. Rotate, flip or mirror one or all the blocks at the same time.
    Quilt with block rotation example
    Quilt with block rotation example
  • Color Tools used in the quilt layout allow all same position patches to fill at the same time or the same color or fabric in all blocks can be swapped for another color or fabric.

  • Calculate and print yardage and rotary cutting charts, templates, blocks and quilts. Blocks can be resized in the Printer dialogue box. Print options include templates, full color, outline, grayscale. Some programs allow you to number and section foundation piecing patterns.
    Template Printout
    Use full design software like Electric Quilt, Quilt-Pro and PC Quilt to number paper piecing block
    Use Paper Piecing CDs to print to size blocks with foundation piecing order number

  • Some programs have a kaleidoscope effect that can be used to create motif repeats around a circle.
    Example of kaleidoscope effectExample of kaleidoscope effect Example of kaleidoscope effect
    This design style can be done in Electric Quilt, PC Quilt and Quilt-Pro
  • Some programs include a layer option to separate the pieced block, appliqué, and quilt stencils making it easier to manipulate complex designs.
    Layers can be done in Electric Quilt and Quilt-Pro
  • Wide range of layout and block placement for the traditional quilt. Each program provides it own list and way of making layout choices.
    Layout typeBlock Placement

  • Custom/freeform quilt layout options for the multi-sized block quilt.
    Freeform Style layout
    Freeform style quilts can be created in Electric Quilt and Quilt-Pro
  • Import scanned fabric.

  • Import Clipart, photos and other images to be used when designing a quilt. Not all programs do this, so research your choice closely to be sure it will do what you want or need.

  • Help files and tutorial style manuals shorten the learning curve.

Full Quilt Design Software:

  1. Electric Quilt
  2. Perfect Quilt
  3. Quilt-Pro for Mac
  4. QuiltSoft
  5. PCQuilt


Theme based quilting software:

The end quilt project is geared to a very specific quilt style. It can be associated with a quilt book presentation or a specific technique used to create a quilt.

bargello design
Quilt examples
Screen shot

Theme/Styled Quilt Software Titles:

  1. Bargello Designer 32
  2. Dear Jane Design CD
  3. Books with CD that include Design Software:

Rotary Cutting emphasis

  1. Perfect Quilt Express
  2. Quilt Design Wizard (Beginners software with excellent rotary cutting instructions included.
  3. Electric Quilt
  4. Perfect Quilt
  5. Quilt-Pro for the Mac
  6. Quilters Newsletter Magazine CD


  • Quilt Labels and Photo Transfer: Use to document your quilt or create a memory quilt.
Quilt Label Example
Created using Virtual Quilt Label

Programs that add special effects to a quilt design:

These titles are used to manipulate quilt designs into new innovative ideas. They are sought after by the innovative quilter who wants to push the boundaries of the traditional quilt by exploring more deeply layout variations, adding kaleidoscope effects, tessellating effects and skewing the block and quilt design. Each takes a traditional shape and skews it into a new variation that is often very difficult to come up with on graph paper alone.

kaleidoscope effect
Kaleidoscope Effects added to a photo
Created in Creative Impulse
Symmetry drawing
Symmetry Drawing
allows the repetition of a design drawn
in one quadrant to repeat in all quadrants
Created in SymmeToy
Creative Impulse Example
Created in Creative Impulse
Creative Impulse Example
Created in Creative Impulse

Alternate quilt layouts not possible in traditional quilt software programs

Below Manipulation done in Repligator
original photo
Original Photo & Manipulation examples

Repligator adding special effects to photo
Repligator adding special effects to photo
Repligator adding special effects to photo

Manipulation done in Repligator

Below is detail generated by Paint by Numbers
Great for Appliqué

Detail generated by Paint with Numbers
detail generated by Paint by Numbers
Paint by Numbers closeup

detail generated by Paint by Numbers
Paint by Number with OutlinePaint by Numbers with outline only
detail generated by Paint by Numbers

Programs that add Special Effects the Innovative Quilter will find interesting:

  1. KaleidoKreator
  2. Creative Impulse
  3. Repligator
  4. Gliftic
  5. SymmeToy
  6. Paint by Numbers
  7. KaleidoMania
  8. TesselMania
  9. Paint and Draw programs like Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator, Free Hand, Paint shop Pro and others
  10. There are many more that can be added to list

Clipart CDs. Clipart CDs come in several types. All are stand alone files that can be printed. These are picture files that can be quilt theme specific. The files can be added to word processing, paint/draw programs, and some quilting software. How you use the file depends on how the picture was created.

The quilting software that allows the import of Clipart uses two methods to create the file, one is a bitmap and the other is vector objects. When Clipart is a bitmap (a solid picture) the bitmap can be used as a fabric scan. In some software, it can be used as a section of the quilt. When the Clipart is vector based (individual object/patches) then some quilting software allows you manipulate each object/patch directly. This is great for appliqué. If being able to use a bitmap or vector based image is important to you, check to see if the quilting software you are interested in will import either or both.

Organizational Software: Use to document purchases, storage location, projects, class diary, quilt diary and documentation.

Organized Expressions Screen Shot

Organization and Documentation Software

  1. Organized Expressions™ A Notebook and Diary Software for Quilters
  2. Virtual Quilt Label Plus Quilt Registry

Products that can be helpful to computer quilters:

Books & Instructional CDs, DVD & Videos: (SEE BELOW)

These CDs offer quilts, blocks, digitized embroidery CD and more. Some CDs come with video demos. Others come with instructions only that are to be printed out. Pattern CDs include blocks, quilts and any templates or shapes to be printed as needed. Usually multiple quilt patterns come on the CD.


Computer quilting is a personal experience that will be based on your style of quilting and what role you want the computer to play in your design process. It is a design tool that can be an end to a means or a part of the process. Use it any way you wish as an aid to creating quilts. With the full range of available programs, what you need is here, ready to be used.

Remember, have fun and enjoy the ride!


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Tangled Fashionista
by Sandy Barthlomew Stein
Color and make paper dolls
Zentangle 11
Zentangle 11
Lettering, Quotes & Inspirational Sayings
Workbook Edition
by Suzanne McNeill, CZT
Zentangle 12
Zentangle 12
New & Advanced Techniques in Black & White
Workbook Edition
by Suzanne McNeill, CZT & Cindy Shepard, CZT

Doodling Ideas using Books & Stencils
Helpful to create your own ideas for creative art with line / texture.
Excellent for Fabric Painting, Foiling & Stenciling Ideas, Quilt Labels, Designer Fabric, Scrapbook Pages, Journaling & More

60% off
I love to quilt
I Love to Quilt Stencil
Workstation Example
All-Purpose Inks & Workstations

5 different colorways
12 Jars per set
40% off
Clipart on CD
Flower Doodles
Flower Doodles

by Design Originals
Brushes act as rubber stamps in Adobe® Photoshop® programs
20% off Book
Oodles of Doodles
Oodles of Doodles

by Tonya Bates, Andrea Gibson, Donna Goss, Emily Adams, and Jaime Echt
20% off
Dots & Doodles
Dots 'N Doodles,
Over 300 Designs
by Cyndi Hanse
20% off
Letter Better
Letter Better
by Cyndi Hansen
Doodling Guide, 280 Patterns

How to use Templates & Stencils

Doodle examples using stamp & Ink
Create Backgrounds & Fabrics
using Tsukineko Inks, Pens, Foil


Also see: 10% off
Crafters Workshop Stencils

Crafters Workshop Stencils

See Video
Cedar Canyon Textile Stencils
Cedar Canyon Textile Stencils
Regular Stencils

Zentangle Index
General's White Pastel Chalk Pencil

Zentangle Tiles,
Supplies, Kits, Pens, Pencils,
Books & More


Large selection of
Zentangle Books

20% off
One Zentangle a Day by Beckah Krahula
One Zentangle A Day
by Beckah Krahula

20% off
Time to Tangle with Color
Time to Tangle with Colors
by Maria Browning

CD, DVD, & Video

Page 1
Embellish with Beads, Paints, Pens, Inks, Dyes, Stamping, Doodling, Print Making, Collage, Foiling & More

Page 3
CD: Digitized Machine Embroidery Designs for Quilters

Mixed Media
Learn Collage, using Paint Sticks, Paints, Foil, Dyes & More
Quilting Software that includes Digitized Machine Embroidery Designs
Page Sage Videos Carol Duvall Books with Digitized Machine Embroidery Designs
Doodling Clipart
use with paints, pens, paint sticks, stenciling, foiling, glitter & more
Herky Jerky Design on CD (stain glass)
Shiva Paint Sticks: Books, DVD, Supplies Jenny Haskins Machine Embroidery Digitized Designs on CD, Creative Expressions Magazine and Books

Page 2
Applique, How to Make a Quilt, Quilting Process, Crochet, Knitting, Music & More, (some with books & rulers)


Books with CD/DVDs or Companions CD/DVDs

Books with CDs
Jodi Barrows SQ in a SQ DVD, Video, Books & Rulers

Quilting Software Index & Reveiws

Quilt & Applique Instructional CD's, some with Books Quilting Software Index & Reviews
Books with Quilt Blocks Printed from CDs
Crochet & Knit How-to CD
Interactive Design CD's & Some with Companion Books
Hand & Machine Quilting DVDs, some with books
Music CD's for Quilters
Paper Piecing Software
Quilt Patterns on CD
Sewing CDs & Fabric Textures


To return to the
Simply Quilt Presentation Gallery, click here

Reviewed Quilting Software, DVD & CD Index

Electric Quilt Products
EQ Flagship Program
Electric Quilt PC
Quilt Wizard (Beginners)
EQ Stand Alone
Stash (fabric scans)
Dear Jane Design
Quiltmaker Collection Quilting Designs
Stitched with Love BK/CD
EQ Paper Piece
EQ Foundation Sheets
EQ Printables
bulletFoundation Sheets
bulletInkjet Fabric Sheets

Quilt-Pro software
Foundation Factory (PC & Mac)
Standard Editions
spacerCarol Doak Edition
spacerCompanion Bk
Block Factory:
Mac Quilt Software
EQ for the Mac
Foundation Factory

Digitized Machine Embroidery Index
BulletIndex to Digitized Designs CDs
BulletJenny Haskins Mag, Bks, CDs
BulletIndex list of books with Design CDs
Quilt Label Software
BulletVirtual Quilt Labels Plus
Other Quilting Software
BulletBooks with Design CDs
CDs for Quilters
Too many to list individually
BulletIndex List for Helpful CDs
quilt techniques, musics, embellishment CD & more

Site Map
& Picture Indexes
10% TO 60% OFF

Books & Patterns

Threads, Ribbons, Yarns & Angelina Fibers, Roving

Feedback and questions are welcome!


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