With My DIY Block Design starting next week, I know some people are starting to wonder how to best go about designing their quilts, so allow me to be of assistance by sharing the pros and cons about these various quilt design tool options.
The cheapest, easiest method of designing quilts is with a good ol’ pencil and paper that I know you’ve already got lying around. It’s great to jot down your ideas and draw out some rough sketches quickly without having to think about quilt math and accuracy.
But that can also be the con – it’s hard to go to the next step of working out the quilt math using rough, not-to-scale drawings. Which is why the next option is your best bet for a free or low cost option.
Free or tiny cost
Using graph or grid paper is the best option if you’re going for the manual option, as it will help you draw your designs much more accurately. It will also help you work out the quilt math if you draw it to scale, where 1 square represents a certain amount of inches, ie. 1 square = 2″. You can find plenty of printable options around the web, or pick up a cheap notebook next time you’re near a store that sells office supplies! I highly recommend 5mm, or five lines per inch paper.
The main con of this method is that it can mean a lot of mental acrobatics working out the fabric requirements for larger projects beyond a few quilt blocks! But using this method is perfect for designing quilt blocks, as it easy to see the proportions of your block, and thus work out the quilt math for your block. It is also the method that I recommend and walk you through in DIY Block Design.
Free – $4.99/month or $39/year
I’ve previously shared about Pattern Jam on here before, and it’s just kept on getting better with age! The free version offers set block designs, the full fabric library, ability to upload 5 fabric prints from your stash, a full resolution image of your finished quilt design, and fabric calculations/yardage requirements. That is an amazing deal for free! Here’s Country Picnic, a quick quilt design I made up using mostly Pie Making Day by Brenda Ratliff. TIP: Use the 1″ border option to make a mock binding!
And the downloaded PDF providing fabric cutting and yardage requirements!
The Premium version offers the full block library, the ability to rotate your blocks, unlimited fabric print uploads, and so much more! You can pay $4.99 per month, or $39 a year (save over $20), and in fact there’s a special deal running at the moment, where you can receive a free 30 day trial when you have a play and create a quilt design.
If you’re happy using the blocks available on Pattern Jam, this is definitely the best free option! But you do need to be able to interpret for yourself the fabric cutting measurements provided for each block and how to construct the block. And it could be that you would rather construct the block in a different method than the cutting measurements suggest, so that is something to remember when looking at the pattern.
A popular option is the Quiltography app for iPad. This isn’t something I’ve personally played around with, as I use a different software option, but Lynne from Lily’s Quilts uses it for all her designing, and she definitely knows what she’s talking about!
I’ve had a look at it on the App store, and it does look very impressive Photograph your own stash, over 180 block templates, yardage calculator, and more. The cost varies depending on what country you’re in, but it’s under $20 for most countries, I believe. It is only available for iPads though, which would be a problem if you don’t have one!
The premium of all premiums, Electric Quilt 7 (aka EQ7) retails at $189.99. This is the king of all quilt design options, as it includes all the options you need as a quilt designer. While the learning curve can be a little steep at first due to all the different things it can do, it is definitely worth pushing through, plus it’s available for both PC and Mac!
It has an extensive block library already inbuilt, as well as a variety of fabrics, plus the ability to import your own fabrics, whether that’s by purchasing EQ’s downloadable stashes, scanning the fabric yourself, or importing JPGs that some manufacturers provide like Moda. It can be used for standard quilt designs, foundation paper piecing designs (and templates), curves and applique, and more. It will also provide the fabric yardage requirements for each fabric you use in your quilt! For example, here’s what the block I drew out on plain paper looks like in EQ7, with the quilt view and fabric yardage needed for the quilt.
But it’s price tag is a big one, and it is definitely something to only consider if you want to really make a go of designing your own quilts.