Electric Quilt 2 Review

By Mary M

Electric Quilt, Version 2.0, was delivered around 2:00 PM on the Tuesday before Christmas. I installed it and spent about 4 hours in the afternoon and another 3 in the evening just looking at and playing with the blocks and fabrics, making imaginary quilts and changing fabric colors, etc. The following day I spent another two hours still delving into those areas and still had not gotten into drawing a real block of my own, because I had not exhausted the levels of material in the blocks and fabrics. This is absolutely the most fascinating program I have ever seen, and the difference between the first version and this is like night and day. For one thing, EQ2 is mouse-driven which makes all the difference. It is a DOS program but is very well behaved running under Windows. System requirements listed on the box are: 286 or higher IBM PC, mouse, hard drive with 2.5 MB free, VGA or higher monitor, 640K RAM with DOS 5.0 or higher, and it will work with dot matrix, ink-jet or laser printers. These are not heavy requirements.

When you first open EQ2, you see a blank screen with menu choices at the top--Projects, Library, Edit, Draw, Color, Quilts, Fabrics and Print. If you just want to browse, the best place to start is Library, which includes the blocks. These are divided into categories which include Traditional, Contemporary, Applique, and Paper Piecing. Each of these categories are further subdivided, e.g., traditional has Old Favorites, Classics, Simple Blocks, Traditional 4X, Diamond in Square, Four Patch, Five Patch, Nine Patch, and 13 additional selections. All of these may be previewed as blocks, sashes, borders or diamonds, the last three of which provide some interesting perspectives. Paper Piecing blocks are those which obviously lend themselves to the paper foundation piecing technique.

The fabrics available are, to put it mildly, awesome. There are literally thousands of possibilities, again falling into many categories, including a few designer fabrics, some Nancy Crow and VIP. You have the option of viewing them as multi-color or two color, all of which may be changed at will. The manual explains the concept of changing color as follows:

"EQ2 has over a quarter-million colors. But you can only use them 256 at a time. Imagine you have 10 boxes of crayons--but you can use them only one box at a time. Now, these are magic crayons. You color the quilt block with the first box, and then put the crayons back in the box and close it up. Then you just open the second box and--wow!--your quilt block is suddenly recolored, just as if you'd used the second box in the first place."

I think that is a great explanation. I was trying to work out something in black and white fabrics and viewing everything as black and white is one of the options. A quilt or block may be printed as shaded, blank (no shading), or in color, an option not available to me without a color printer. In order to print my block with the different black and white fabrics, however, I had to export it to a .pcx file, and then pull it into a drawing program, such as Windows Paintbrush, to print it as I saw it on the screen. But I could have printed it as a shaded drawing, in various shades of gray, black and white from within the program itself, and this would have given me the general idea. The ability to export also allows you to use your blocks or quilts as clip art.

Every quilt you create in EQ2 is done within a "project." If, for instance, you wanted to do a sampler quilt, open a new project and start collecting its elements. From the block and fabric libraries, add all the blocks that you consider possibilities and all the fabrics you want to use. Now go into Color and try out various color combinations for each of these blocks. After you are satisfied with that, go into Quilts, click on New Quilt, set up your parameters, such as number of blocks across and down, and how you want these set up, straight across or on point. You may even set them into an isometric grid, as baby blocks. Talk about great perspectives! This latter is really fun to play with, although if I couldn't foundation piece the blocks, some of these wouldn't be the easiest things to put together for a quilt. You also decide at this point (although you can go back and change it later) whether you want borders or sashing. After you decide on the parameters, go back and select the blocks you want in your quilt and where you want them. Set the blocks all at once if it is a one-block quilt, set them as alternating blocks for a two-block quilt or one having blank blocks in between, or set it with all the blocks different, as in a sampler.

Drawing your own blocks is very easy and straightforward. Select EasyDraw to create any straight-line block, and you have on the screen a square divided into dotted lines. The number of these divisions may be changed to suit the block you are drawing, e.g., divisible by 7, divisible by 4, etc. Drag the mouse from point A to point B and release, and you have a line. If you change your mind, the line may be erased at that point, or you can erase your entire block and start again. To design an applique block or one with curved lines, select Applique from the Draw menu. This is probably the easiest Bezier curve drawing I have ever done, and the program makes it extremely simple to change the curve. You can clone parts of a drawing, such as the petals of a flower until you have the number needed and rotate and move them into the desired arrangement.

The manual is excellent. It is divided into Getting Started, Workbook (a tutorial), Cookbook (VERY detailed explanations of those 7 menu choices across the top of the screen) and References. There is also a glossary and index.

Electric Quilt 2.0 costs $110 plus $5 shipping for UPS Ground, and other shipping options are available. Contact information:

The Electric Quilt Company
1039 Melrose Street
Bowling Green, OH 43402
419-352-1134

At this time, EQ2 is only available for PCs, although a Mac version is planned for the future. This is a wonderful program, and I highly recommend it.


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