One January evening Laura Henneberry was designing a quilt in Adobe Illustrator and growing increasingly frustrated with the tedium of making design changes. Her husband, Gar Liu, a web developer, looking over her shoulder, remarked, “I could code something that would do that for you in one click.” Laura’s eyes lit up.
That simple exchange was the genesis of PreQuilt, a new quilt design web app the couple launched in early July. In its initial iteration, PreQuilt is a color explorer for quilt design. Users can play with color combinations within a quilt pattern producing interesting, and often surprising results. But Laura and Gar have a broader vision for the app hoping to one day develop it into a comprehensive tool for quilt pattern creation. They’ve chosen to begin simply, mastering the color manipulation tool first, then add on step-by-step with user feedback as their guide.
Gar Liu and Laura Henneberry in their home in Toronto. They have two children, ages 5 and 7.
“This is like writing a book,” Laura explains. “It’s one chapter at a time. By the end, we’ll have an app that allows you to make a great quilt design, whether you’re buying someone else’s pattern or starting from scratch.”
Once a pattern is uploaded to PreQuilt users select colors to create a warm and cool palette, then apply those to the shapes within the blocks. The “remix” button recombines the colors endlessly. Add or remove single colors with a click or simply start over. For each combination, users can see the amount of fabric required to make the quilt.
“Circus Tent” by Laura Henneberry is the first quilt pattern available on PreQuilt.
Right now there’s one pattern available, “Circus Tent” designed by Laura. The color palette available is Free Spirit Designer Solids and the quilt size generated is a baby quilt. Patterns from a second designer are coming to the app soon and the couple plans to open the platform to more designer collaborations shortly. Future plans include adding the Kona solids palette as well as prints from major manufacturers and more quilt sizes.
For designers, offering a pattern on the PreQuilt app gives their customers an obvious value-add – the ability to easily see how the finished quilt will look made in an infinite array of different colors. It’s often challenging for customers to visualize how a pattern will look in colors other than those pictured on the cover photo, but PreQuilt makes it easy and fun.
This is the starting point with no colors selected – an empty quilt.
Select custom colors to create a warm and cool palette.
The cut list for this quilt.
The ability to be responsive to the community’s needs and build a tool that’s truly useful is something that Gar and Laura are particularly excited about. “Unlike downloadable software that you need to install, we can push out small changes every day,” says Gar. “We wanted to try something and put it out there and then be able to change it.” The next version of PreQuilt will roll out in a few weeks and will include the ability to manipulate half square triangles, an idea that was suggested by a Reddit user.
Gar and Laura’s respective skillsets seem perfectly paired to build a quilting app. For the past nine years, Gar has worked as a freelance front end developer creating projects for advertising agencies through his company, Lonely Datum. “I’m always doing side projects in my spare time to practice new technologies and because I’m curious about fun ways to use the internet,” he says. One previous side project was Randomise.me, a Wheel of Fortune-like app for quick decision-making.
Laura is trained as an industrial designer, but her work in project management left her without a hands-on design opportunity. Quilting filled that hole. She made her first quilt in 2013 as a baby gift for a friend and was hooked. She now serves as the Communications Officer for the Toronto Modern Quilt Guild.
Laura hopes it will be embraced over time by the wider quilting community. “I’ve always loved to buy fabric,” she says. “My dream was to one day own a fabric shop because I love building community around quilting. And that’s what I hope to do with PreQuilt. That’s my ultimate goal.”
Check out PreQuilt and get in touch with Gar and Laura if you’d like to collaborate or offer feedback.