So several of my friends have asked me to give more explanation on my use of Microsoft Excel to plan my quilting and cross stitch patterns. I'm not sure how much information I have to give you, but I'll be as useful as I can. Feel free to ask for clarification in the comments too.
Basically, Excel is wonderful for anything that is based on squares - perfect for the kind of block designs of my video game quilts or the quotes I do in cross stitch. I learned to design my own cross stitch patterns from my wonderful Mother when I realized at about 15 that most patterns are way, way too cute for my taste. (And yes, Subversive Cross Stitch is one of my favorite things.) Back then, however, I spent hours taping together pieces of graph paper and would get really frustrated really quickly. I am not patient enough for that!
So being the giant geek that I am, I was working on data in Excel one day and suddenly realized it would be perfect. The first pattern I did was this one:
And yes, that border was evil to do and to put in Excel. I actually copied it off a costume a friend had made that just sat on my desk while I painstakingly put it into the cell borders. Obviously, each cell is a block on your fabric or an X if you're making a transfer pattern.
The first step for this is making all the cells a uniform size. If you click that empty square in the top right corner of your sheet (or press CTR-A on the keyboard), you highlight the entire sheet. Either drag your cells so they are the same size or right click and go to properties and set them to be the same size.
For cross stitch, I use two methods:
1) For full stitches, I just shade the entire square - the button that looks like a paint bucket. (Half and quarter stitches don't work nicely in Excel - I usually put in an X in the color the half stitch will be and try very hard to remember what I'm doing when I go to stitch the pattern.)
2) For back stitch, I use the "draw border" function and click on the edge of the cell where I want the line to be. (Click on on the little arrow next to the "Borders" button -> "Draw Border")
3) For something like a motif or a border, once you have the initial horizontal or vertical iteration done, you can copy and paste it in to make life faster. So much better than drawing it over and over!!
Moving on to Quilts
Creating block quilt patterns is not much different, though I do a few different things to make life easier while I design the pattern. Do the same first step, so the squares are the same size. In my case, I make them 10 pixels wide, because it's easy - they can really be any size.
1) Decide the size of your quilt and figure out how many inches that will be. For this method, each cell on the spreadsheet will represent one inch.
2) Leaving a few blank rows above and to the left, highlight the correct number of cells across and down. You can do this in landscape or portrait direction - it doesn't matter for the program - whichever is easier for you to work with. (In recent versions of Excel, when you highlight many rows and columns, it will tell you next to the cursor how many you have highlighted.)
3) Click the little button next to the "Borders" button and select "Outside Borders". I will sometimes also go to the "Line Style" option at the bottom of the menu and make the border really thick, so it's easy to see no matter what colors I'm working with.
4) This lets you mess with the size of your squares as well as your layout, so you can try your design in any size you like. To insert the lines that represent the edge of your blocks, you can either use Draw Borders again or highlight 3 squares for 3" blocks and hit Outside Borders again. Play around with it to see what method you like!
You should have a grid that looks like this if you did 3" squares. (In may case, I put a 1" border around the edge just because - it eventually turned into a 3" border in the final design stages.)
5) Now, you can just highlight the cells inside those squares and use the fill button to make them any color you want. If you need to undo your work, just select all and hit "No Fill" on that menu with the little paint bucket.
The initial plan for the Space Invaders Quilt looked like this before I made it pretty:
There was really never any question that the background was going to be black for this one, so I eventually filled it in and made it pretty.
Hope that is a better explanation. If it's not clear, leave a comment and I will do another post or respond to your questions.
Using Excel for quilt planning and cross stitch design has been a huge help to me. I hope it is as much fun for you!
Till next time,