By Jessica O'Connell
Special to NurseZone
For hundreds of years, women all over this planet have been sewing quilts to keep their family members warm. For all of these centuries, women had to do all the work "by hand," meaning their production was severely limited by the large number of hours required to design and sew a quilt by hand.
Today, though, computer software is available to do much of the tedious work for us. Modern software takes much of the tedious work out of designing a quilt and it even streamlines the cutting process. If you also own a quilting machine, the bulk of the labor can be handled by it, without sacrificing the quilt maker's pride and creativity.
Here are four of the most popular quilting software systems:
PC Quilt for Windows
PC Quilt is not intuitive or easy to use. The interface requires some direction and unless the quilter is familiar with how to use the program, she will most likely have to invest hours of her time just figuring out how to operate it.
On the plus side, it has a drop-down menu that offers classic quilting patterns like leaves, petals, tulips, stars and moons. If none of those suit you, you are able to design your own with tools that even make it possible to draw circles. An added bonus: you can scan in your own fabrics and see how your finished quilt will look before you set a single stitch.
Advertised as the only quilting software made for quilters by quilters, PC Quilt is a simple, yet powerful program. It allows easy creation of blocks as well as an excellent ability to create ready-to-print-out templates, allowing the quilter to execute ideas more easily. The major drawback is the relatively difficult interface, making an inexperienced user spend a few days before figuring everything out. You can even print templates that include seam allowances. It does everything for you but the cutting and sewing.
Quilt Design Wizard
Quilt Design Wizard is a simple program. The database includes 200 quilt patterns and 3,000 fabric samples, which allows you to experiment with huge numbers of combinations on your monitor before even buying your thread. It's inexpensive and easy to use but it has a major limitation—you cannot create your own patterns. Thus, it is less versatile than other quilting software that are available.
Bargello Designer 32
Bargello Designer is specifically for bargello quilts, rather than block or appliqué. It is simple and easy to use and includes 23 bargello templates, nine of which are in the classic "flame" design. Its interface is quite simple to use—the quilter chooses such options as number of rows, strips, fabrics, pattern, height and width and with the click of a mouse, her pattern is ready for viewing. These are the default settings and the user can design their own bargello quilt with the "Custom Bargello Setups" options.
On the downside, Bargello Designer doesn't have a fabrics’ library of its own. However, it does allow the user to view other quilt patterns, bmp files, jpeg files and more. Still, this is a cumbersome way to handle the fabric issue and a built-in fabric library would be an improvement.
Creative Impulse 2000
Creative Impulse 2000 states up front that if the user wants thousands of blocks and large varieties of fabric to choose from, this software is not the right choice. Instead, it bills itself as being perfect for "traditional" quilters who want to take classic quilt blocks and combine them in large numbers of new patterns. The user chooses a few traditional blocks—then the software uses mathematical equations to rapidly rotate these same blocks through huge numbers of patterns. Just like a kaleidoscope, a slight turn creates startling new patterns out of the same original materials and shapes.
In addition, there are settings such as "distortion," "tessellation" or "manipulation" which increase the variations, allowing the program owners to claim that the quilter can create an "infinite" number of possible quilt patterns—all from traditional blocks that have been in use for centuries.
Quilting software has undoubtedly expanded the creative possibilities of today's quilters. Rather than relying on a single picture in a magazine or book as the pattern or inspiration for a new project, and then hoping that the chosen colors will do well in that design, the quilt maker can see [in advance] what her new creation will look like. More traditional quilters scoff at the use of software but that's an outdated prejudice. Software only increases creative possibilities, rather than reducing them.