SOFTWARE REVIEW: Quilt Pro 3 for Windows 95/98/NT

Quilt design on a computer can be easy and fun. If you’re not using the right program for your needs, however, it can become frustrating. Quilt Pro 3 is one of the new design programs among which you can choose, and on the whole it’s a fairly decent package. It may or may not be right for you, though.

Quilt Pro 3 is reasonably easy to understand. You’ll most likely be able to do all of the basic stuff after either thirty minutes of experimenting or about ten minutes of reading the manual. It’s also a versatile program. It should serve you well whether you want to draw up a quilt that’s already clearly laid out in your mind or to develop a new quilt within Quilt Pro as you go along.

I do have some reservations about this program, which I’ll go ahead and get out of the way.

The feel of this program is different from others currently on the market. You need to have several windows open at once in order to work on a quilt: a quilt layout window, one or more blocks, a fabric palette and a toolbox. The fabric palette and the toolbox insist on being in front of all of your working windows, which can be annoying. You can banish them entirely (don’t do it without being sure of how to get them back), but they cannot be sent to the back or minimized. This is a matter of preference; you may like having everything visible at once. Certainly if you have good eyesight or a large enough monitor, the necessity of having multiple windows open is not such a problem. Personally, though, I find it all a bit claustrophobic.

Also, Quilt Pro 3 crashed, twice in fact, while I was trying it for the first time. Perhaps the fault is with my computer, but it’s a Pentium and only about 2 years old. I wasn’t running anything else in the background except Windows 95. I’m not saying the same thing will necessarily happen to you, but I would advise you to save your work often.

This is still an awfully fun way to design quilts, though.

Quilt Pro 3 opens in block mode. You’ll need to select “Layout” and then “quilt” to start a new quilt. The maximum number of blocks is twenty horizontal by twenty vertical. Each block can be between one and three hundred inches (twenty-five feet), which ought to be ample room in which to maneuver!

The collection of blocks is both sizable and varied in style. There’s an especially nice selection of applique blocks. The paper pieced block folder has seventy-three items in it, although many of these are variations on fairly common blocks such as flying geese, log cabins and so on. The “basic” blocks are ideal either for use as is or for modifying to make your own variation. There are also forty-eight quilting stencils available. Of course, you can also modify the blocks or create your own from scratch.

One interesting point is that there are a variety of hexagonal blocks as well as square to choose among, but the quilt layouts are designed for rectangular grids – straight, diagonal or on point. Perhaps a later version of Quilt Pro could make it possible to design quilts on a hexagonal or a triangular grid. That would certainly open up new options.

There are over one thousand fabrics available. Of these, you can keep sixty-four open in the fabric palette window at any time. Most of them, honestly, are not all that attractive. This is partially to keep them simple (most are only two colors) and easy to modify. Some of the fabrics are more detailed than average and are quite nice. The types and colors of fabrics are quite varied. So if you’re designing a quilt with specific fabrics in mind, you should be able to adequately approximate them.

Of course, if you do have specific fabrics chosen, and if you have both the technology and the motivation, you can just scan them in. I haven’t tried this, but it seems straightforward. Simply scan in the fabric and save the image as a Windows bitmap (*.bmp) file.

This is a pretty easy program for even a computer and/or quilting novice to run. It does have its problems, but it will allow you plenty of freedom in designing exactly the quilt you want. Plus, it’ll free you from countless pencil and paper design sketches. It’ll even estimate the yardage for you, which avoids a lot of needless math. Quilt Pro 3 may just change the way you go about designing quilts.

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