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 descriptions here are as accurate as we can make them, but aren’t warranted against error.

Electric Quilt 4

Electric Quilt 4, or EQ 4 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 4 was published in early 1999, and was a major upgrade from the earlier DOS-based program to a full-fledged Windows 95/98 program.  It contains more than 1,500 quilt blocks, hundreds of fabrics, including designer fabrics from VIP and Nancy Crow, and dozens of color palettes. For sheer richness of features it is hard to beat EQ4.

The program now 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 modules for such non-traditional quilts as watercolors, and has great flexibility in the setting of blocks and sizing borders. It can also import scanned fabric designs into its fabric library.

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

Weaknesses: A few awkwardnesses in installation, particularly if you want to bring earlier EQ projects into the program. Some limitations on backward compatibility (EQ2 is not at all compatible; EQ3 presents a few glitches, but nothing insurmountable).

Special: Occasional 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)

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

System Requirements:

  • 486 or higher IBM compatible PC
  • Mouse or compatible pointer device
  • Windows 95/98
  • Hard disk with 3 megs of available space
  • Works with all printers through Windows

For the Macintosh: EQ and its companion programs are available only for the IBM-compatible platform.

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Quilt-Pro for Windows v. 3.0

Quilt-Pro for Windows was first published in 1994 by James Salamon and Miriam Neuringer of The Colony, Texas. Version 3.0 was released in 1998. 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 4.0 in the Windows environment. 

The program’s drawing tools are based on the concept of a “patch” rather than on lines to draw a quilt block. Some users like this feature, while others find it awkward and prefer a line-based drawing module. 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. Straight and curved lines can also be used to make applique blocks. The program will calculate yardage and print block templates, including paper-piecing templates.

Strengths: Intuitive Windows interface, nicely designed screens, moderately large block and fabric libraries.

Weaknesses: Buggy and sometimes unstable. 

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

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:

  • 386 or higher CPU
  • 4 MB of RAM
  • EGA, VGA, or Super VGA Monitor (color not required, but recommended)
  • Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 installed
  • A mouse 5 MB of hard disk space available
  • Dot matrix, inkjet, or laserjet printer

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

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

Website: http://www.quiltsoft.com

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

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:

  • IBM-compatible 286 or higher CPU
  • 550K memory
  • VGA color adapter and monitor
  • Mouse
  • 2 megabytes of hard disk space
  • MSDOS 3.0 or higher

Website: http://www.vquilt.com

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

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

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


Block Base by the Electric Quilt Company is a DOS-based catalogue of quilt blocks from the Barbara Brackman catalogue. It is not strictly a quilt design program but rather an electronic catalogue.

The program does interface well, if not quite seamlessly, with Electric Quilt, and effectively increases the block library of EQ4 by several thousand blocks.

The basic metaphor of the program is a card file, and blocks can be searched by name or by the Brackman numbering scheme if you have the hard copy catalogue.

This is the only product of its kind on the market and can be quite valuable as an electronic resource

For contact information see Electric Quilt 4 above.

What Are Some Popular Quilt Design Softwares?

For the PC:

  • Electric Quilt 4
  • Quilt Pro 3.0 for Windows
  • QuiltSoft (formerly Quilter’s Design Studio)
  • VQuilt
  • PCQuilt for Windows
  • PC-Patch
  • Block Base
  • Foundation Factory Foundation Piecing Software
  • Sew Precise! Foundation Piecing Software
  • Sew Precise with Shirley Liby

For the Macintosh

  • Quilt Pro for the Mac
  • Quilter’s Design Studio for the Mac
  • PCQuilt for the Mac

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