Before computers I used to design my quilts and blocks with pencil and graph paper, but I have been playing with Electric Quilt since its first incarnation and I’ve upgraded every time since so it never seems quite so expensive, although over the past twenty-plus years it probably has been. I must confess I’m not a huge fan of version 8 but largely because the layout is so different from previous versions. The functions are all exactly the same, just all the tools are in different places – very confusing for some of us! Those who are new to it however will love its simpler interface and the fact that it looks and behaves more like a tablet app than a ‘proper’ computer program.

Why should you buy it? Hmm. If you enjoy designing your blocks and quilts then doing it on the computer is easy with this program. If you are a teacher then creating handouts is a doddle. If you are a perfectionist and you fret over points that don’t meet then fret no more – they always meet in a virtual quilt! Just look at these three blocks –

It makes it easier to try out different colourways in a block or quilt before you make it. It calculates how much fabric you will need to buy for the quilt you just designed. It prints out the templates, rotary cutting instructions or foundation piecing sections (ready numbered) at whatever size you specify. . . .!

Quilt-Pro, it is true, is cheaper and does many of the above, but differently. I have both programs and use both, but my favourite is EQ. Others prefer Quilt-Pro. You can download apps onto your tablet or phone that will do many of the above as well, but none that do everything quite so comprehensively as these two programs. Both EQ and Quilt Pro have cut-down, cheaper versions of themselves as well.

But, as EQ8 is a give-away prize on the website, let’s look at how it works in a little more detail. When you first open it you have a main screen which will prompt you to start designing either a block or a quilt. But I would check out the libraries first. There’s one for blocks, one for fabrics, one for quilt layouts and others for threads (for quilting) and for embroidery designs.

Let’s play with a simple quilt – first we need a block so we go to the block design screen. Having chosen a Log Cabin block from the library and saved it into our sketchbook we can opt to edit the block – which puts it on the block design page. From here we can add or subtract lines or we can just change the colours, which is what we will do. And then save the changes into the sketchbook. From the Block Design screen we can also choose to export the block as a jpeg or as a metafile to use in handouts, or we can print the block, its templates or cutting instructions to our chosen size.

Now we can use that block in a quilt, so we go to the Quilt Design screen. We will use the simple default design of a 4 x 4 block layout and put our Log Cabin blocks in all 16 squares. We can turn the blocks around as well to make a more pleasing pattern (several in fact) and save any we like the look of. We can also play with the colour choices – change just one or two colours or change the whole palette. We can change the sizes of the blocks here as well. Having saved our chosen quilt(s) to the sketchbook we can add a border or several by going to the Border Design screen. Choose the width of border and the type of border required and then we return to the main Quilt Design screen to add colour or more blocks, depending on what was chosen.

From the Quilt Design screen we can again export a picture of our quilt as a jpeg or we can export a section of it as a metafile which is useful for writing instructions.

You can find out a little more about EQ and what is available from their website or from their shop. Our UK distributor is Lawrence at Rio Designs (whose help is invaluable).

By the way, if you already have EQ8 and are thinking that my screen doesn’t look like yours, that’s because I have customised mine so it looks a little more like EQ7 – I’m happier that way!