There are a number of quilt design software packages available today. We have used three of the quilt design programs currently available, and I sell one of them: Electric Quilt. The program runs on Windows XP SP2 or newer, including Vista.

Libraries. There are libraries of pre-drawn blocks and fabrics. The blocks get you started, and the fabrics add realism to your designs. Colour palettes can be chosen or created to give you a range of colour choices. Your quilt designs and custom drawn blocks can be saved and reused.

Fabrics. The program doesn’t scale the fabric designs. If you zoom in or colour a large patch area, more of the pattern is visible. Zoom out or view a fabric in the quilt layout and less is visible. As a result, small ditzy fabric patterns work best. The program uses fabric images saved in the standard Windows .bmp format so you can scan or download samples or buy the scans on CD.

Tools. Drawing tools are used to create or modify straight line or curved pieced blocks and appliqué blocks. Quilt layout tools let you choose straight, on point, medallion, etc. layout. The number of borders and sashes can be easily adjusted. Block and border sizes can be chosen to give the desired size of finished quilt.

Printing. Blocks, templates, paper piecing patterns and quilt layouts can be printed accurately with colour or black & white printers. Fabric requirements are calculated and can be printed with colour or gray scale reference patches.

Technical. The programs make relatively modest demands on processing power and hard-drive and memory resources compared to many other programs. Installation is simple and straight forward. Support is good and available by phone, web, or e-mail. Forums provide a place to share ideas and obtain up to date information. The programs come with well written, easy to follow manuals.

Block Base from Electric Quilt is an electronic reference to over 4,000 pieced block designs.

The Electric Quilt folks issue a STASH CD full of fabric samples twice a year. The latest STASH – Spring 2001 has over 5,000 current fabrics illustrated. The images are in bmp format and are suitable for use with Electric Quilt or Quilt Pro (Windows). Quilt Pro also offers fabric images on an associated web site.

Dear Jane by Electric Quilt is a wealth of tools and features for “Janiacs”. Based in part on Electric Quilt, the program features design hints, construction tips, and illustrations of quilts from Janiacs around the world. A Project Wizard helps you create your own Dear Jane designs, or you can work directly with the libraries of blocks, fabrics and layouts.