Friday, August 3, 2012

Design a Block of the Month in BlockBase

My pattern software program BlockBase is back in print. It's a digital version of my old Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, which was a print version of a big box of index cards I kept in the 1970s and '80s.
Here's one of four drawers full of index cards.

Over 4,000 cards, each with a pattern sketch,
a name and the source.

Click on the box over in the left hand column to order BlockBase from Electric Quilt. They will pay the shipping right now.

The computer program includes over 4,300 patterns, all from published sources from 1836 to 1970. I use BlockBase in many ways but lately I have been doing a lot of block samplers with a theme. Last year I did a Block of the Week as a blog "Civil War Quilts." The theme was Civil War history and I tied a first-person account of the War's first year to a traditional block from BlockBase.
See it here: http://civilwarquilts.blogspot.com/

BlockBase has a Wildcard Search button which brings up any pattern name with a particular word. For the Civil War theme I typed in words like Union and North and South.

I used several of these patterns with Union in the name for the Civil War blog.
Once I found a block I liked I clicked on it and printed out a pattern.

This pattern was given the name Union Square in the Nancy Cabot column in the Chicago Tribune in the 1930s. I printed out the rotary cutting instructions for an 8" finished block and then put them on the blog post.
Here's the post:

Beginning September 1st I am going to do another Block of the Week. This year's theme is the Fight for Women's Rights so Wildcard words included choice, dream or girl.

I tried the word Grandmother and came up with 43 patterns with that word in the name. I selected Grandmother's Choice as the name for the blog and the logo.

Click here to see the blog---first block up on September 1st.

I hesitate to tell you how easy this is in BlockBase because then you don't need a pattern designer. Anybody can work out their own theme quilts. Computers will put me out of work.

You might want to do the block of the month for your guild or your shop. Choose your state name. If it's California you have 19 blocks with that word in the name.

California---then there's Sacramento, Shasta, ocean, etc.

Any topic---how about birds
Here are a few of those with the word Bird in the name---and then you could search for geese, goose, sparrow and hen.

Here's a hint. I save those searches with the PrintScreen or screen capture key on my computer.  On my PC I hold down the Shift and the Ctrl buttons and then the PrtScrn key. I've made a copy of the entire screen. I save the screen image and copy it into an empty file. I use Photoshop but you can drop it into a new image in any picture program or a blank page in word.  I crop out what I don't need, give it a label and save it in my idea file.

Louise Townsend made the cover quilt from
blocks on the theme of "fairs"

Years ago I wrote articles for Quilters Newsletter on thematic designs like quilts for a wedding or for summer.  I'd have to spend a good deal of time reading through the paper alphabetic index in the back of my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. Now I find twenty blocks in a few seconds---one reason I do a Block of the Week rather than a Block of the Month. Too many ideas to edit it down to twelve.


  1. I have and love Blockbase, but it's not going to put you out of business. It does not contain the stories, illustrations, and links that your blogposts and books do! And the Flickr group proved how much quilters like the spirit of camaraderie of working on a big project like this with others.

  2. This info is for Sue. You can run Blockbase and EQ on a Mac if you use Parallels or VMware's Fusion. There is a Yahoo Group called EQ on Macs with many knowledgeable users to help you do this if you're interested. Visit groups.yahoo.com to search for the group.

  3. A few years ago I purchased both EQ and Block Base, telling my husband I could save tons of money by not needing to buy new patterns. Ha! I still buy patterns, but I love designing in EQ.
    In fact I did a 4th of July quilt design by using a search like you described.

  4. Does Block Base run independently of EQ? i.e., do I have to buy EQ in order to use Block Base and all of its features?

    Can I run BlockBase on my Mac if I don't use Parallels?

  5. BlockBase is a stand-alone program, Doris. It does not need EQ. But those who do have EQ can link to BlockBase and use all the blocks in EQ as well as using them in BlockBase.

    BlockBase is a Windows program. Here is a podcast giving you much more information about running PC programs on a Mac.


  6. This looks interesting. I would love to have one of my own. Thanks for a great idea.

  7. Thanks for doing a post that shows how BlockBase works. Way back when, I guess it was the 1980's I bought your 8-1/2" by 11" pattern publications and put them in a 3-ring binder.

    It's time for me order BlockBase!

    Thank you!

  8. Sounds like a fun BOM, I still need to finish what I started and a deadline on a ring pillow for my DIL, so hopefully I will feel better next week and get caught up.


  9. You Blockbase is one of my favorite quilting tools! I use it independently of EQ all the time...

  10. Dear Barbara,
    I follow your blog for a while now and I love the way you manage to incorporate quilt history and a lot of indispensable knowledge about fabric and fabric choices when making reproduction quilts. Thank you for the succinct yet very engaging way to tell the story of quilting through the times.

    I've just checked out "BlockBase" and it seems to be a Windows based program. As I am a Mac user (like some of the previous commentators) I would like to know whether you plan to have it in a Mac version as well. Please, consider the Mac people ;-)!

    Note for Sue: EQ does not have a Mac version and they do not intend to make a Mac version - I know because I explicitly asked them whether they would not be catering to the ever growing Mac users community among quilters. Their rather rude answer was along the lines of "we could not be bothered" and I am being extremely kind when I render their answer here. This in itself made me very determined to never deal with the company. I now have a Quilt-Pro for Mac and it seems a pretty decent program.
    Word of caution if using Windows based programs on a Mac: though it is possible to do, it is never as straight forward as you might be let to believe, just follow the discussions on internet fore devoted to the topic. Also, consider your own level of computer competence when making a decision - do you want to get into software compatibility nightmare, or do you just want to enjoy the benefits of computer assisted quilt design.

  11. Hi Barbara,
    I was stunned to read your comment about The Electric Quilt Company. I've been involved in quilting for 45 years and people who know me (including Barbara Brackman) know I would *never* give an off-handed and rude answer such as "we could not be bothered" to a question of creating a Mac version. I understand your point of view.

    We have tried in the past to develop a Mac version of our software. In fact we worked with a developer who worked for Apple, who actually wrote a program. He even traveled to quilt shows with us to talk to quilters as he worked for three years. But unfortunately, by the time he finished his program, technology and the "wish list" had changed, and we all decided it was not a marketable program. We knew that if we brought it out it would only result in a stream of complaints and insistence that it do everything that the then current EQ did.

    Like many companies in the quilt world, we are quite a small company. We have one major programmer who works 6 days/week. The reality is that we have almost more than we can do to simply keep up with technology and support on one platform. Were we Adobe, it might not be a problem. But we're not.

    So although we agree that Macs are wonderful computers (I own a MacbookPro for my own personal computer), we are just not a large enough company, with a large enough staff to program for them and support them. I understand your point of view. And I'm sorry if you felt you were treated rudely.

    Penny McMorris
    The Electric Quilt Company

  12. Years ago, after struggling with using EQ on a MAC with a PC emulator, I also asked EQ if they were going to produce a MAC version of their software. I remember the response being "NO, because we want to offer a quality product." That felt like a rude reply at the time, but thanks to the info above, I can see that EQ is not CAPABLE of producing a MAC version, so there was no MAC/PC value judgement involved. Too bad the company is too small to create two versions of this product.

  13. I am so glad to see this will be available again. I have copy of the encyclopedia from the 1980s mimeographed and in a huge notebook. I'm hoping I''ll be able to order it.

  14. Excuse me if I get a little emotional but I loved Blockbase when I had my PC years ago. It was so much fun and since getting my MAC I've gone back to the book version which I adore as well. I loved doing the searches and seeing what came up. It is a wonderful tool - thank you Barbara! Take care, Byrd

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  16. I love this post. Such a great review.

  17. Books of quilt designs are my lifeblood almost, and yours is by far the most dog-eared. I added a link to the BLOCKBASE software on my quilt design bibliography, thank you so much for the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS, and behind that, all those exquisite index cards you assembled with unbounded devotion! Your compendium, via its sources, leads to other books — recently found the PPP and have greatly enjoyed the freedom of spirit there. There's a whole century and more of community in the book sources and BLOCKBASE is an extended and very modern part of it all.

  18. These images look like kaleidoscope and QR Code images, I love these plaid pictures.

  19. I had Blockbase and I loved it. I've upgraded my computer to Windows 10 and it won't work now. I thought there might be a new version and I looked it up and it says it is compatible with Windows 7 and NT. Has anyone else had that problem? I've tried to reload it and it seems to be there but it won't work.