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Thread: Designing quilt patterns using Excel and Paint

  1. #1
    Super Member LucyInTheSky's Avatar
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    I use Excel and Paint to design most of my quilt patterns (or the back of an envelope, lol), and someone suggested a post a tutorial on here for how to use them. So here it is! For this, I used Excel 2003. 2007 and 2010 work mostly the same, just things are in different spots. I have access to both, so let me know if you have any questions on where to find things. If you donít have Excel and donít want to pay for it, Open Office is a free software that is similar to Microsoft Office, and it has a spreadsheet program. For designing quilts, it works just as well.

    First off, open Excel. I resize the cells to squares. Left click between the A and 1. That highlights everything (pic 1). Then left click and hold on the line between the A and B (pic 2). Drag to resize to a square. By clicking between the A and 1 first, youíre adjusting the size on everything. Do the same thing between the 1 and 2. Now you have squares, yay!

    If Iím designing without a specific fabric in mind, I highlight the squares I want to be one color. I then click on the paint bucket in the top right and select the color I want. It turns them that color (pic 3). I usually have the squares representing 1Ē or 2Ē. Then I know exactly how many inches I need (donít forget your seam allowance). If you want to see each individual square, highlight the area and click on the border button and click the one that shows all lines filled in (pic 4). For my puzzle quilt, I wanted thicker lines to show the blocks. So I just use the highlight the block and click on the thicker line borders (pic 5).

    If I have a specific fabric in mind, first Iíll draw the skeleton diagram without any fabrics. Then I will get the picture from the website and copy it (right click Ė copy). I will then paste it into Excel and move it to its proper spot (pic 6).

    If I want to resize the image, I will open up Paint, paste the image into Paint. Then I crop it (much easier on a Windows 7 machine). I click the dashed rectangle and make a rectangle around what I want. I then click Ctrl+C to copy it. I can now paste my cropped image in whatever I want. (pic 7). In pic 7, you can sort of see the highlighted section. When I copy/paste it, I wonít get anything thatís not in the top section.

    To draw specific shapes, first add the Drawing Toolbar (youíll only have to do this once). Click on View -> Toolbars -> Drawing (pic 8). The drawing toolbar appears at the bottom (pic 9). You can then select a shape or draw a line by clicking different parts of the toolbar (pic 9 again).

    Once you add a shape, you can change its color by right clicking on the shape and clicking format autoshape (pic 10). Select a color you want (pic 11). Right below that is how to change the lines on the shape if you want them darker or dashed. I know Office 2007 and 2010 are much easier to use shapes in here. I donít know how to get specific fabric swatches in the non-rectangle shapes, just colors.

    The last few attachments are a few Excel patterns Iíve designed just to give you an idea (help yourself if you like the patterns). The ones that say .ods are the Open Office Spreadsheet program. Mine open fine in Excel. There are a few Wizard of Oz ones where I wanted to use specific fabrics. The puzzle quilt one was a general pattern.

    So thatís Excel in a nutshell. Let me know if you have specific questions. I absolutely love Excel and in college got my Excel certification so, at least on 2003, thereís not much I donít know how to do. I have access to 2007 and 2010, if you have questions on those.

    Highlighting the entire sheet
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    Resizing to be square
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    Changing the cell colors
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    Editing a picture in Paint, so it fits better into a pattern
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    Adding borders
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    Adding thick borders
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    Pasting fabric into a shape design
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    Adding the drawing toolbar
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    Adding shapes and/or lines
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    Changing the colors and line textures on a shape
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    Part 2 of changing the colors
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  2. #2
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    oooohhhh...I can dream about quilts at work and play on excel during my lunch breaks! Thanks for the tip

  3. #3
    Super Member sawsan's Avatar
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    Thank u Lucy 4 this wonderful tutorial what a nice idea
    I have to read it carefully so I save it

  4. #4
    Power Poster nativetexan's Avatar
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    boy that's a lot of work. i do well to get the new version of Excel or Word to work. very interesting though.

  5. #5
    Super Member kathymarie's Avatar
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    ...thank you soooooo much....I can't believe how quickly you responded...what a nice person you are.....thanks for sharing....

  6. #6
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    thank you i will try it. i have eq and never used it. i have lots of neat tools and never use them ....lol i guess it's just a quilting thing anything new i gotta have.

  7. #7
    Super Member helou's Avatar
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    thank you very much!
    I saved and printed the instructions. I have to read them slowly and practice. I love learning new skills (even on the computer) loll

  8. #8
    Super Member Happy Tails's Avatar
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    OMG I suffer from that too.....We need to be committed!!!!
    Quote Originally Posted by dotski
    thank you i will try it. i have eq and never used it. i have lots of neat tools and never use them ....lol i guess it's just a quilting thing anything new i gotta have.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the great tut. Never thought about using excel for making quilting patterns. Sure am glad we have such smart girls around here. thanks again

  10. #10
    Junior Member countryone77's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LucyInTheSky
    II donít know how to get specific fabric swatches in the non-rectangle shapes, just colors.
    I think that I found the answer to getting fabrics into the shapes (I happened upon it quite by accident):

    Using Fabrics in Shapes

    Microsoft OfficeMac 2011 - Excel
    1. Find a fabric online, select it and copy its image.
    2. In Excel, Paste Special -> Picture
    3. On SmartArt tab, click Shape and select any shape, for example the heart from Basic Shapes. Your fabric picture will change to the selected shape.
    4. To change the shape, repeat step 3.
    5. To change the fabric, right-mouse-button click on the fabric and select "Change Picture".


    Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows - Excel
    1. Find a fabric online, select it and copy its image.
    2. In Excel, Paste Special -> Bitmap
    3. When the bitmap is selected, Picture Tools shows on the Title bar and a Format tab is shown. Select a shape from Picture Shape on that Format tab.
    4. To change the shape, repeat step 3.
    5. To change the fabric, right-mouse-button click on the fabric and select "Change Picture".


    Open Office 3.2.1 on Mac - Calc
    1. Find a fabric online, select it and save its image to a location on your disk, at which you can find it later.
    2. In Calc, View->Toolbars->Drawing Object Properties (one time only).
    3. Select an object from the Drawing toolbar, at the bottom of the screen, and draw the object in your spreadsheet.
    4. From the Drawing Object Properties toolbar, at the top of the screen, and click the Color arrow to open its menu and select Bitmap.
    5. Click the Area bucket, which is now just left of Bitmap and do the following (this step can be skipped if you have already added your fabric picture).
    ⁃ Click Bitmaps tab
    ⁃ Click the ImportÖ button, find your fabric picture; select it and click Open; Name your fabric and click OK.
    ⁃ Click OK.
    6. Select your fabric from the menu that is immediately to the right of Bitmap on the Drawing Object Properties toolbar. At first it should just be a blank menu -- click the arrow to select your fabric.
    7. To add another fabric, repeat step 5.
    8. To change a fabric, repeat step 6.
    9. I did not see a way to change an object's shape, so I presume you would have to remove the unwanted shape and add a new object of the correct shape.

  11. #11
    Super Member alleyoop1's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing these directions with the Quilt Board. I already plan my quilts in Excel...so I know where you are coming from. It's a whole lot cheaper than buying quilt software - although it's probably not quite as flexible and easy to do. I have problems with triangles in Excel - need to work on them a bit more.

  12. #12
    Member gmasandee's Avatar
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    Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!!

  13. #13
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    Thanks for sharing all this information with us. I'm going to have to give it a try. I am very computer challenged!

  14. #14
    Junior Member Jagsd3's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing this will definetly be checking into this deeper.

  15. #15
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    Thanks. Your instructions are clear.

  16. #16
    Super Member MaggieLou's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tute. I am pretty familar with Excel 2003 but haven't tried to do quilt blocks with it. I haven't used Paint much so this will help.

  17. #17
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    Thanks for the tute! You did a great job laying all the instructions out.
    I use Excel 2007 to design blocks and whole quilt layouts. I have not needed to use Paint as I use fabric from my stash and put the actual picture of the fabric on to the design page. I put a memory card in my computer slot, scan the fabric I already have, and a window opens up for me to save the fabric. I save it in a blank Word document, use the snipping tool in my start menu under accessories, and save that snippet to a picture file. (Options all come up automatically, I just do what is asked when the windows pop up.) I also use the shapes option in Excel, insert that into the page, then press insert, shape fill, picture, and it brings up picture file where I can insert the fabric. It goes directly into the shape I put on the page. I then save it. That shape can be moved around the page anywhere you want. You can copy it and paste it to create many shapes on the page. You can also click on edit shape (listed in box with the actual shape drawings) and click on convert to freeform. This allows you to re-create that shape in different forms. Play around with editing and it is amazing what you can do.

  18. #18
    community benefactor Parrothead's Avatar
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    For those that are having trouble with triangles in Excel try designing in PowerPoint if you have it. I use both programs for designing. I also like Excel for the layout on a scrappy quilt. You can see if you have too many of one color close together or too many stripes, plaid, etc. It really helps if you do not have a design wall. (I live in an RV so no design wall here.)

  19. #19
    Super Member LucyInTheSky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nativetexan
    boy that's a lot of work. i do well to get the new version of Excel or Word to work. very interesting though.
    It depends what you're doing. And once you know what you're doing, it's fairly quick. To each his/her own :D

  20. #20
    Super Member thrums's Avatar
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    Thank you so kindly for this tutorial. I realize it took you a very long time not only to design the process but to put it into a tutorial. I appreciate your time and willingness to share.

    I have tried to download the Wizard of Oz link but it is not working. Could you repost it please.

    Thank you. :D

  21. #21
    Junior Member countryone77's Avatar
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    [quote=countryone77]
    Using Fabrics in Shapes ...[quote]
    My previous post should have been titled differently for the Microsoft Office part: Fabrics in Graphic Shapes. That's because you insert a graphic and change its shape.

    However, the original question was how to use fabrics in shapes -- not graphics. Use the following instructions to use fabrics in a shape in Microsoft Office.

    Using Fabrics in Shapes

    Microsoft OfficeMac 2011 - Excel
    1. Insert menu - > ShapeÖ; draw the shape.
    2. With the new shape selected:
    ⁃ Format tab -> Shape Fill (left side -- not the text fill on right side)
    ⁃ Fill Effects
    3. On the Format Object dialog:
    ⁃ On left, select Fill
    ⁃ On Right, select the Picture or Texture Tab; click the Choose Picture button; select your file and click the Insert button.

    ▪ Alternative step 2: Right mouse button on shape and select Format Shape.


    Microsoft Office 2007 for Windows - Excel
    1. Insert tab - > ShapeÖ; draw the shape.
    2. With the shape selected, Format tab -> Shape Fill -> Picture; select your fabric picture and click the Insert button.

    ▪ An alternative to step 2:
    ⁃ Right mouse button click on shape and select Format Shape
    ⁃ Select Fill on the left; select Texture or Picture Fill on the right; Select Insert from File; select your picture and click the Close button

  22. #22
    Super Member Ilovemydogs's Avatar
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    Good job! I use excel and paint often!

  23. #23
    Senior Member Lois-nounoe's Avatar
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    I'm not so puter savy. I got the Quilt Design Wizard and do most of my stuff with it. Gives you different patterns and fabrics to add to favorites in the program each month and you can change everything to your tastes. Cost less then $25 and can be purchased at JoAnns now. Only thing is everything is squares or triangles. No curved lines or applique but you can improvise. LOL Can do on point, with or without sashes, and any size quilt, runner, or wall quilts. Lots of fun and easy as pie! Also gives you the option of rotary cutting or templets to print out. Once you get your quilt formatted you can also print out how much fabric you need of each color. Lots cheaper then the QE programs.

  24. #24
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    Very interesting.

  25. #25
    Super Member LucyInTheSky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thrums
    Thank you so kindly for this tutorial. I realize it took you a very long time not only to design the process but to put it into a tutorial. I appreciate your time and willingness to share.

    I have tried to download the Wizard of Oz link but it is not working. Could you repost it please.

    Thank you. :D
    My guess is it's because it's in OpenOffice format and you only have 2003 without the .xlsx patch? I tried to resave it as an Excel file, so it should hopefully work. Sometimes I have issues converting from OpenOffice to Excel

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