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While most of my quilt designs start with colored pencil doodling on graph paper, I now use quilt software as well to render finished designs.
Quilt software makes it easy to arrange block designs together and audition fabrics for a completed quilt before cutting. Not to mention, most quilt software can calculate required fabric yardages and print templates.
Before purchasing the software I now use, free quilt design programs helped me understand what features I wanted in software and whether it was something I even wanted to learn to use.
Want to learn more?
Check out this list of the best free quilt design software to see if you find something you like!
Best Free Quilt Design Software
I will first say that no free quilt programs will do as much as paid programs.
If you don’t plan to design hundreds of quilts a year or do more than play with color palettes, though, you may not need that fancy program.
I used free programs for years before I started more seriously quilting. I ultimately purchased Electric Quilt 8 when I wanted to do more.
And, as a note, I’ve listed only free quilting programs that are available online or on PC or Mac. There are several free quilting apps to check out that I’ve compiled in another post, so I’ve left those out of this review round-up.
Lastly, these aren’t necessarily in a specific order but rather just a list for you to check out!
PreQuilt is one of the most popular free online quilt design software. There’s a free demo version and then a monthly subscription fee option.
If you just want to preview colors and design quilt blocks, you can do that easily with the free version. You don’t even have to sign up or log in. Just click to start, and your quilt canvas is ready to be filled with blocks.
However, once you want to start saving work (either a completed quilt or a block), you must upgrade. There are other features behind the paywall, including access to over 1200 pre-loaded blocks.
For reference, to access more features, you can subscribe to their basic plan for $7.50/month or $50/year.
If you like binge quilt designing, this is a great option to subscribe for only a month. I don’t know about you, but once I pick fabrics and design a quilt, it then takes me several months to cut and sew it!
Overall, freemium PreQuilt software is easy to use once you get the hang of it (I say this as a very computer-savvy gal, however).
For those with more difficulty learning the program, PreQuilt also has a YouTube channel filled with helpful tutorials.
The biggest downfall of the free version is obviously the inability to save and return to a quilt layout design.
I always like to “sleep on” my designs before starting to cut, and often I’ll return to saved quilts to make changes when the inspiration strikes. This is impossible if you’ve already closed the program window in the free version.
To run PreQuilt software, you must have a phone, tablet, or computer installed with Firefox, Edge, Chrome, or another up-to-date browser. The bigger your screen, the easier it will be to visualize your blocks and grids.
PatternJam is one of my favorite free quilting programs when I’m looking for inspiration from other quilters.
Once you’ve created your account, you can view other users’ finished quilt designs that they’ve made public. You can then download their PDF patterns!
Or, if you like the pattern but want to customize it, you can do that, too. There are no piecing instructions if you are a quilting newbie, though.
To start creating patterns, you have to register with your email address. (They’ve never sent me emails after the day I registered, so don’t worry about spam.) Also, PatternJam only works on my computer, NOT my phone, so make sure you are accessing it that way.
To create a pattern, click “Create Pattern” on the left side of the screen and get to work!
There’s a small library of basic built-in blocks and fabric choices, and you have control over block size, border, size, sashing size, and the number of rows and columns. In the end, the program gives fabric estimates based on the quilt you want to make.
This is a great free quilt layout program if you don’t want to create blocks from scratch and only want to preview colors and block configurations.
The biggest downfall of PatternJam is there aren’t super detailed user instructions to teach you to use the software (just one 2 minute YouTube video). But, there is a Facebook group for help, and you can find other quilters’ video tutorials on YouTube.
Almost all features of PatternJam are entirely free, which is excellent! You can even save patterns for free and return to them later.
I recently saw they added a subscription cost if you want to upload fabrics for block preview. (I honestly don’t know how they pay their server costs if they don’t have some premium features or ads!)
If you don’t have ideas for quilts to design yourself, definitely take a look at the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of free quilt patterns in AccuQuilt’s quilting software. (I didn’t even know this gem existed until recently!)
“Software” might be a bit of a stretch as this isn’t a full-fledged program per se but rather a way to customize pre-made quilt patterns.
When using Accuquilt’s free quilt planning software, you must register or sign in first if you want to save or use your stash.
Then, click to “Create a New Project,” choose the pattern you want to work with, and select your color and fabric options. You can upload pictures of your fabric stash for extra added personalization if you’re registered.
When searching for patterns, you can sort by difficulty, compatible fabric cutter, the technique (EPP, applique, or pieced), and size or type.
After your quilt pattern is perfected, you can download the pattern and piecing instructions. (The instructions are not super basic for complete beginners.)
The instructions include a step-by-step tutorial for using the pattern with a rotary cutter OR an AccuQuilt (plus which AccuQuilt dies you need.) In addition, they provide the yardage required for each fabric.
As I have so many AccuQuilt dies, this free quilt software is something I love to use when I’m planning to replicate one of their quilt patterns and only want to preview fabric colors. (This is much easier than getting the pattern to my EQ8.)
One thing I’d wish they’d change with the program is to let you sort by die (you can do this on the website). That and showing the dies required for a quilt as soon as you open the project rather than after you’ve already saved it.
MyWebQuilter is an older free online quilt design software that still has great functionality. It’s worth bookmarking as a free quilt calculator for sure! (For instance, you can calculate the fabric needed for sashing, binding, backing, borders, and more.)
And, you can browse their free quilt block library for inspiration and use the “Easy Quilt Designer” to create quilts.
Choose the ” Advanced Designer ” if you intend to do anything more complicated than a single block in one or two colorways, though.
There are also several onsite in-depth quilting tutorials detailing skills like creating binding and quilt borders. Since this software is limited in function, there aren’t many exhaustive tutorials I can find for actually using the design tools themselves.
Quilt Assistant is a quilt design software free download to convert photos to quilt patterns.
What’s unique is instead of creating a pixel quilt from a photo (basically, deconstructing a photo into small different-colored squares and sewing these “pixel” squares together), the software helps divide photos into pieces of different shapes and sizes.
Thus, you can create unique paper pieced blocks and quilts from images. I always find these quilts to be some of the most creative when I go to quilt shows. (If you’re in a browsing mood, check out the “My Quilts” section of this site and prepare to be amazed!)
While this software is in no way a replacement for robust software like Electric Quilt 8, you can draft some quilt blocks in Quilt Assistant and export them to EQ8. (I also like to take paper piecing patterns and import them to my embroidery digitizing software and have my machine piece them.)
One caveat: This program has not had a reported update since December 2012, and the forum hasn’t had activity since 2016.
For embroiderers, Inkscape is the best free embroidery digitizing software, and it’s also a great find for quilters with vector graphics experience.
Inkscape is an open-source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. It’s not perfect as it’s contributed to by random code writers worldwide, and it’s also not designed with quilters specifically in mind.
However, if you are already familiar with this software, it’s easy to learn to design and edit certain types of quilts in Inkscape.
Otherwise, there’s a learning curve to mastering quilt design. (I recommend this YouTube live for a basic Inkscape quilting tutorial.)
Gimp is a popular open-source GNU image manipulation program. It’s always free, and many users create artwork, edit photos, and more with it.
For the more technologically-inclined quilters out there, GIMP is also a great option to design fabrics, design quilts, and test out fabric colors.
It’s a complicated program for quilters who aren’t graphics savvy, and I recommend this helpful tutorial for users just getting started.
Free Quilt Software – Final Notes
While EQ8, produced by Electric Quilt Company, is my favorite quilting software these free quilt design software options are worth checking out for quilters learning the possibilities of designing quilts on the computer!
Software comes and goes, so please let me know if there are other free programs or if one of these is no longer available.