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Software Review: Quilter's Newsletter Magazine on CD

On eBay and on many of the quilting lists you often see old collections of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine for sale. Like National Geographic, QNM is one of those magazines that has a long shelf-life, and that people are reluctant to part with. Eventually, when the under-the-bed box gets full or the basement needs clearing out, quilters will donate or sell them, only to begin a new collection with the next issue that arrives in the mail.


 Now there is a better way to archive all the wonderful projects and patterns the Mother- of-All-Quilt-Magazines offers – on a shiny silver disk that takes up hardly any space at all. With the help of Quilt-Pro, QNM has now electronically published a collection of their patterns (with accompanying articles) from five recent years, 1995 - 1999. But this disk is more than a mere reproduction of the paper magazines. Through the power of digitization, the usefulness and accessibility of these patterns is greatly enhanced.

 The disk is made up of two parts. The articles and diagrams that illustrate them are presented in a nice web-based suite of pages that the user views through any standard browser. The search pane on the left of the page allows you to look for patterns based on the issue of the magazine (listed chronologically), the magazine cover, alphabetically, by quilt name, or by author. This of course beats the heck out of leafing through old issues to find that quilt you remember seeing sometime back. If you just want to browse through the designs to see what’s there, the best view is the “Quilts” view, which shows a small image of each quilt. Other navigation aids include links to previous pages, to a comprehensive list of projects, including author names, to the QNM site, and to a list of corporate sponsors of the disk. The images of the quilts and the diagrams are sharp and clear, there is a materials list for each quilt, and assembly instructions are of the quality we’ve all come to expect of QNM.

 The second part of the program is the companion edition of Quilt-Pro’s Block Factory program. Through this software, which Quilt-Pro has been improving for a number of years, you can access tools to create templates or foundations for the blocks used in the QNM patterns displayed and explained in the articles. Block Factory allows you to size any block to whatever dimensions you wish, with our without seam allowances, so that you can adapt it to your own needs. Those blocks which lend themselves to foundation piecing can be printed with numbers on the pieces indicating the order they are to be sewn. In addition, any block can be mirror-imaged for iron-on application. There are also a number of printing options. You can choose to have the template pieces printed one-to-a-page, or in multiples. The program tells you how many pages are required to print the pattern.


The two parts of the program – the browser-based articles and the Block Factory template generator – aren’t as well-integrated as I would have liked to see. Links are provided in each article to Block Factory, but these do not go directly to the blocks for that pattern. In fact, they don’t even open Block Factory, which must be opened separately, and the blocks you want found manually in the second program. This isn’t very difficult, but it’s an extra step or two which makes the program feel disjointed, or at least less than seamless. Nevertheless, the Block Factory module gives you excellent control over templates and foundations, and the ability to resize at will. While Block Factory gives the owner of this disk practical use of the blocks in these quilt patterns, they cannot be imported into Quilt-Pro’s more fully featured quilt design program, Quilt-Pro. Copyright is the reason for this, and it’s clearly stated within the program. 

The quilts in this collection of patterns are a wide variety of designs – pieced, appliqué, samplers, stars, baby quilts, tessellations, and many others. There are several of Carol Doak’s reversible paper-pieced vest designs, a charming Halloween quilt by Mary Leman Austin, Suzanne Marshall’s original “Take-Away Applique” article, and illusion quilts from Karen Combs. There are 170 of them in all, and they make a rich representation of our quilting heritage, as well as enough patterns to keep quiltmaker busy for years! 

If you have an interest in computer quilting, and can’t bear to give away any of your old QNMs, this disk is a must-have. Even if you don’t give away your magazines, the disk will serve as an electronic index that’s easily searchable for the pattern or author you’re seeking. The disk is compatible with all flavors of windows since Windows 95 (I’m running it on Windows 2000 with no problems) and is easy to install. Manufacturer’s suggested retail is $39.95, but it’s available at a discount online. 

You can find it at Planet Patchwork in our store!


(c) Copyright 1995-2012 by The Virtual Quilt Company. All rights reserved.


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