Electric Quilt – An Incredible Success Story

Electric Quilt Version 1 Screen Shot

Electric Quilt Version 1

The title of our digital magazine, Inspired to SEW, also happens to be our mission. For the last three years, Inspired To SEW has shared the sewing journeys of some of the of most talented, accomplished quilters in the industry. Almost without exception, they use Electric Quilt software to design their quilts.

Nancy Mahoney, Issue # 30 said, “I started quilting about 30 years ago and, at that time, I designed all of my quilts using graph paper and colored pencils. Then along came a software program called Electric Quilt. My first introduction to Electric Quilt was EQ3, which was a DOS based program. I was in heaven! No longer did I have to draw blocks on graph paper and color them one patch at a time. I progressed through EQ4 and EQ5, learning each program through trial and error. Nevertheless, I designed lots and lots of quilts along the way.

Around 2006, Electric Quilt asked me to Beta test their newest version of the program, EQ6. During the Beta testing process, I had to test every function and truly learn the program. Once EQ6 was available for purchase, I started teaching other quilters how to use the program. And, I still teach Electric Quilt as I travel around the country and on-line.

Electric Quilt has changed my quilting world. I’ve created hundreds of quilts for fabric companies, magazines, and books; all of which have been designed in Electric Quilt. I love being able to play with different blocks, settings, borders, and fabric – all at the press of a key. Knowing how my quilt is going to look, before I cut into my fabric, saves me a lot of time and money. I could never accomplish all I do without EQ.”

The list of EQ artists is like a Who’s Who in the Quilting World: Susan Guzman, Amy Gibson, Angela Pingel, Bea Lea, Beth Ferrier, Anita Grossman Solomon, Kimberly Einmo, Joanna Figueroa, Linda Franz, Kerry Goulder, Christa Watson, Donna Thomas, Ebony Love, Elizabeth Dackson, Gail Kessler, the Hoop Sisters, Pat Bravo . . . .

Penny McMorris & Dean Neumann

So — we wondered — who’s behind Electric Quilt? This brilliant idea that became an incredible success story. It’s a married couple — Dean Neumann and Penny McMorris of Bowling Green, Ohio.

In his pre-EQ life, Dean Neumann was a Professor of Mathematics at Bowling Green State University. His wife, Penny McMorris, was the corporate art curator for Owens-Corning Corporation, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. This fabulous job involved visiting New York City galleries, having artwork framed, and hanging it in offices located around the country.

She became fascinated with antique quilts in the late 1960s, as they were rediscovered by collectors, and began appearing in magazines. (Think Gloria Vanderbilt, covering a room from floor to ceiling with quilt blocks! SO stunning. )

Penny was a self-taught quilt maker. She taught a few local classes, and thinking it would be fun, she talked her local PBS station (WBGU-TV) into letting her produce and host a television series on quilting showing quilt history as well as the best of then contemporary quilts. These 26 shows aired in 1981-82 in the U.S. and later in England, Australia and Japan. Dean accompanied her on her quilt travels and took a real interest in quilts as well.

Envisioning a way they could work together, Dean taught himself computer programming to develop software that would allow quilters to pre-plan their designs. The result was the first Electric Quilt (EQ) program (1992). His software let users draw original blocks (using the keyboard, as software did not use a mouse back then). It let them color their blocks, set them into standard quilt layouts, even flip and rotate to form new designs. Patterns for sewing the blocks together could also be printed.

As Dean worked on EQ, Penny was creating another television series, “The Great American Quilt” (1992). This show proved instrumental in their company’s launch, since Penny featured EQ in a segment on technology in quilting. Her favorite story, “when I ‘demonstrated’ EQ on air, I had not yet even seen the software. Nor had I touched a computer. Dean had been up half the night working on the still-unfinished program. On set, as cameras rolled, I introduced the idea of designing quilts on computer. As the camera focused on the computer screen, Dean (unseen) came on set and worked the keyboard. He made blocks pop into a quilt layout, recolor, flip and reform design after design. When the camera focused back on my face I smiled, and said with the complete confidence of a savvy computer user, ‘Now, wasn’t that easy?’”

As that show aired across the country, viewers called wanting the software. Those first users kick-started their business. By happy coincidence, the National Quilting Association (NQA) held its annual meeting in Bowling Green that same summer and they were able to teach EQ classes there.

Electric Quilt software was totally Dean’s idea and work. Penny helped build the company when the software began selling. But since neither of them had business experience, it was a challenging undertaking and fun working in partnership. They ran the company out of their basement and bedrooms, answering their home phone almost 24/7. They hired their first employee, Ann Rutter. She is still with them today, as Dean’s right-hand assistant. Lucky hire!

Electric Quilt Staff

By 1997, the company had grown, and they were up to version 3. The city zoning inspector (one of Dean’s racquetball partners) broke the news that the business could no longer be run from their home. So they moved across town to an office close to Bowling Green State University. This made it easy to hire BGSU students as co-ops — a perfect idea, as many of those young hires are still a major part of EQ. Penny says, “We’ve watched them graduate, marry and have babies. They and other employees are not only family, but key decision makers and company leaders now. Moving the business out of the home, surprisingly, also gave us back some home life. (Any person with a home business knows how they can end up working 24/7.) It was great to ‘go home’, and stop working at 5pm.”

Have fun with EQ Mini

EQ is now in its 7th version: http://electricquilt.com/online-shop/electric-quilt-7/.

EQ7 suits both beginning quilters and professional designers. Here is a snapshot of how it works: You choose from a library of quilt blocks and fabrics (or draw original blocks and import scanned fabric). Then you choose a layout style, size it, and set blocks, color them, flip/rotate if desired. The end point is printing patterns (foundations, templates or rotary cutting), calculating yardage and even exporting an image of your finished design for blogs, pattern covers, guild newsletters etc. You can also make quilt labels, photo and t-shirt quilts, bargello, and so much more. Check out the gallery here: http://doyoueq.com/quilt-gallery/.

EQ just released a fun program called EQ Mini — (kind of a “mini-version” of EQ7). It’s perfect for quilt makers just starting to use a computer for their hobby, who want to easily play with pattern and color on-screen and want the basics of EQ7 — without needing to import or draw:  http://electricquilt.com/online-shop/eq-mini/.

Yes! Design your own quilts!

Computers in the early 1990s were thought of as “difficult to use” and for serious business only. So Dean’s challenge from the start was to keep up with technology, plus the growing wish list of quilt makers, while keeping the software easy to use. The first EQ version came before computers worked with a mouse, before Windows, before fabric could be scanned and imported; and really before the Internet and email. Now users can download fabric swatches from the Internet, or import their own scans. They can export their block and quilt designs to show on their websites and blog pages. It is so much easier to correspond with software users via email. Penny says, “we used to have to write letters!”

EQ is sold both on the Internet and in stores. Their reputation is that they are intensely interested in supporting their users to help create the designs they see in their heads. Besides the world class on-line support, and EQ Artists teaching in quilt shops all across the country — EQ also offers a hands-on EQ Academy in Perrysburg, Ohio, where they get to see their users face-to-face and have fun.

http://electricquilt.com

Comments

  1. Thank heavens for Dean and Penny and their brilliance to create EQ. I love the program and am always amazed by what it can do. I’m sure I have only scratched the surface. I’m grateful for the influence these fine folks and their products have had on the quilting industry.

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