This review examines Pattern Maker for Cross-Stitch Standard and Professional versions and Cross-Stitch Clipart for use with Pattern Maker for Cross-Stitch©, Volume I and how it can be used to aide the quiltmaker.
Issue 11: 2001
Standard version with Machine Embrodiery Add On: $180.00
Professional version with Machine Embroidery Add On: $240.00
These products are intuitive and easy to use. The features are well documented. The software design blends the traditional world of cross-stitch design and the contemporary world of computing. Designing beautiful counted cross-stitch charts with Pattern Maker is easier and more versatile than designing charts in the real world. I especially liked the Professional version importing and exporting capabilities.
From the Professional version I exported charts in Windows® metafile file format (.wmf) and enhanced metafile file format (.emf), but could not universally import those files as readable graphics images into some programs.
Editor's Note from Sharla Hicks: Exporting is always a hit miss and trial with every program and in Janet's experiments, some worked and some did not. Experimenting is the only real way to know. Wmf and .emf files seems to be the most problematic. The wmf/emf Pattern Maker files could not be imported into Quilt-Pro, this is probably because Quilt-Pro does not import a texture filled graphic but will import solid color fills objects.
Overall Pattern Maker's import capabilities are good and converted images into charts while retaining subtle coloring and texture of my original graphic. When scanning a photo with some very dark areas at 300 dpi, the resulting chart conversion lost detail in the dark areas. This was even more pronounced at 100 dpi. It is possible to work around this minor problem through scan settings or in a graphic program if needed.
These easy-to-use software programs provide quick transition from favorite photo or drawing to needlework pattern or center design for quilt or quilt block. Both versions beat out the traditional grid paper and colored pencils for design and add a great deal of value and fun to the design process. Additionally, I found they applied well to some specific quilt uses--such as bargello, colorwash, medallion, redwork, and Celtic knotwork cord designs.
Both Standard and Professional versions of Pattern Maker and the clipart installed quickly with easy-to-follow installation wizards.
Pattern Maker users will want a working understanding of basic cross-stitch and/or needlework terminology and techniques. For example, you will want to know a French knot, a backstitch and the difference between whole, half and quarter cross-stitches. You will also want basic computer skills, in particular, comfort using a mouse and Microsoft Windows.
Of course, you can design cross-stitch using graph paper and colored pencils or pens. You can use spreadsheet or graphics software to create a chart and choose from limited colors and some symbols (from fonts). These methods prove tedious and time-consuming when compared to the ease and simplicity of a well-designed cross-stitch program. They lack export capabilities, backstitch design, and many juicy features included in HobbyWare's products.
Pattern Maker adopts the Windows graphical environment to give cross-stitch designers many tools found only in complex graphics software.
These include options to display multiple canvases on the screen and to cut and paste elements between them, to easily import graphics in a variety of formats, and to control printed designs. The pull-down menus and tool bar buttons give easy access to a wide array of editing and graphics tools.
Multiple zoom levels enlarge chart areas or give a broader view. With multiple views of a pattern displayed you can make changes on an enlarged view and see the effect of those changes on the overall pattern.
To create a design you start with a pattern area of any size and resolution and determine your grid. You "draw" with stitch types, color blocks or symbols on a blank chart. Record specific information for your pattern―pattern name, designer, pattern sizes, and notes and include it on printouts. Select floss colors from numerous lines (the entire DMC, Anchor, and J&P Coats lines) and any color canvas. Canvas sizes go to very large dimensions. Use Windows fonts for stitch or color symbols. Copy one or more clipart motifs from the library to compose a design; these can be edited, too. One particularly nice feature lets you select a stitch and a color and "paint" by holding down the left mouse button. So, rather than clicking on individual "stitches" or squares you color an area without using the paint bucket, which may color too broad an area. Erasing colors and stitches is just as easy. "Undo" remembers an astounding 100 changes. With the many printout options you print charts in color or black and white with symbols. Chart printouts include pattern information and show floss colors, symbols, strands, type, color number, color name, and estimated skein usage.
The default recommended is 100 dpi on the scanner to match a 10-point cloth. Products like Adobe Photoshop allow you to scan in photos and translate them to colored squares as CMYK or RGB colors. Pattern Maker lets you scan in photos and converts them to colored squares on a chart and assigns color values to match floss colors. You specify the number of colors, color palette, stitches per inch, and fabric color and size. Some really dark areas lose detail when scanned at the recommended resolution. The Professional version allows you to adjust image quality when importing and can make many correction. But if additional improved detail in dark areas of the images import is needed, adjust the image with your scanner's image editing tools or another graphic program before importing it into Pattern Maker
Quilters don't always just quilt. In our quilts we are more inclined to mix techniques, particularly needlework. Redwork, silk ribbon embroidery, and cross-stitch can all be found embellishing many quilts and individual quilt blocks. Pattern Maker can create both cross-stitch and redwork designs. After importing a drawing or graphic as an over/underlay you trace the image in stitches to convert it to a design chart. Use resulting redwork designs in individual quilt blocks. Cross-stitch charts for a central medallion design on a quilt contemplate using fabric squares instead of stitches on a canvas.
I still remember the quilt named Best of Show at the 1998 Vermont Quilt Festival. This outstanding medallion-styled quilt had a rose motif center made up of 1" squares of fabric. The design was adapted from a counted cross-stitch chart. Its maker framed this central design with appliquéd borders. Quilters who want to compose center medallion motifs (even a pet's photo!) will find Pattern Maker a useful tool. A cross-stitch chart may be used in ½" scale (1 chart square equals ½" fabric square, finished), 1" scale, 1½" scale, 2" scale, et cetera. Miniature quilt designers may want to use an even smaller scale for their masterpieces!
Pattern Maker can be used to create bargello and colorwash patterns. Since it doesn't restrict you to using squares, you can change the basic chart unit from a square to a rectangle. To design a bargello quilt or bargello border I first created a canvas with 5 stitches per inch vertically and 10 per inch horizontally.
I chose this setting to represent ½" width increments and 1" height increments for finished quilting strips. Viewing in solid "stitch", I then painted a single stratum. I copied and arranged the strata to form a bargello design. I then cut and moved areas to form a rectangle suitable for a quilt center as I would by opening seams in a fabric strata and reassembling them. Voilá―a bargello pattern! The chart is now ready to guide sewing my bargello quilt.
I found the grid perfect for creating Celtic knotwork patterns. It is possible to color only 1/2 of each square (1/2 square triangles?). I think quilters might want to print design charts in solid view on photo transfer paper or colorfast fabric sheets to use in quilt blocks and borders. Pattern Maker could prove valuable to quilters and complement virtual quilting design programs such as Quilt-Pro and Electric Quilt®.
Pattern Maker works nicely to design a watercolor-style quilt. By choosing a palette with colors ranging from white through dark navy, I created a value map or chart for a colorwash. I established graduated values palette (you could do it all in grayscale). I made a chart to use as a guide for comparably valued fabrics--lights, light-mediums, mediums, medium-darks, darks, reachies and smoothies. To sew a colorwash block or quilt from a Pattern Maker design chart you will want to match your fabric values to the values on your chart. The squares can represent any size finished fabric square--from ¼" or ½" squares to 1" or larger squares, depending on block size and number of squares in your finished blocks. You could even design for 6" squares for large bed-sized colorwash quilts.
Ease of use
I found both Pattern Maker Standard and Professional versions pleasing, fun, easy to use and well designed for their intended use. I found the standard Windows menus, familiar tool bar icons and other buttons, and dialogue boxes logical and easy to navigate with clear directions and online help when stumped.
I found the clipart a nice addition to the creative process. It really helps to create quick designs.
You will find the Pattern Maker programs utilize a format familiar to cross-stitchers. The screen layout shows a pattern design window that looks like a blank cross-stitch chart and a color bar similar to a floss palette. The tool bar contains buttons with easy to read standard symbols for full, half and quarter stitches, as well as backstitches and French knots. You can view and print your charts in stitches, symbols, or solid color.
Support material (help, manual, help desk)
Pattern Maker includes the same user's manual for both Standard and Professional versions. The user's manual fails to provide a glossary of needlework terminology used. However, for both software versions the manual and online help give clear and easily understood definitions for their many features. Both manual and online help contain a clear and fairly complete table of contents and index. The manual lists tool bar buttons and short-cut keys. Before using the software, I read the user's manual to familiarize myself with features and gained quick understanding and excitement to go forward with using these programs. I found the manual easy reference for any questions during learning.
Pattern Maker's user's manual provides contact information for technical support, including their physical address, telephone number, fax number, email and web addresses. One question arose while I was reviewing the Professional version. I emailed my question to HobbyWare; that same day I received an "on point" reply with step-by-step instructions. Based on this exchange, I would rate their help desk as responsive, courteous, and prompt.
Minimum Computer Requirement:
Janet Ward Sattler uses her computer experience from a quilter's, needleworker's, designer's, and consumer's perspective to review Pattern Maker for Cross-Stitch. She brings over forty years sewing, cross-stitch, needlepoint, petitpoint, and embroidery experience and over fifteen years experience in quilting, French hand sewing, and fine embroidery to this review. She has won awards for her quilts and needlework and has recently started publishing her quilt designs.
She tested the Pattern Maker programs on a desktop computer with Pentium III® 550 megahertz processor; 128MB RAM; running Microsoft Windows ME©, with a 17 SVGA monitor, color scanner, digital camera and a color printer.