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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Addicted to Dresden's...

I've always had a soft spot for traditional dresden quilts.  There's just something so 'grandmotherly' about them.  A while back I had come across a tutorial for making these beautiful dresden plates and decided to give it a go myself.  And now, I'm addicted!  They are a great way to use up scraps, but more importantly, they make such a cute little accent to home decor.  I have big plans for my dresden's.  Here's a little mini tutorial of how I make them.  Really, the trick is all in the ruler.  Invest in one of these babies for $5 and you'll never look back!  I've got several on the go!  I'm hoping to get my Etsy shop up and running this week and they will be a feature there.  I've noticed there aren't very many on etsy so I'm hoping mine will sell well!

First you need to find the fabric you want to use.  You can go scrappy, or stay with a line of fabric that all coordinates.  Next you need to determine what size of 'plates' you're going to make.  5" seems to be the standard, but feel free to go bigger or smaller.  No matter what size of dresden you make, there are always 20 'blades' in a dresden plate.  I recommend using a 'charm' pack.  It's a stack of about 40 5x5" squares of pre-cut fabric from a coordinating line. Once you've figured out these details then it's time to start cutting.  I find it easiest to cut while I'm standing for this particular project.  You need to be able to cut from both sides of the ruler. 
For this demo I'll be referring to a 5" dresden.  Place your ruler on a 5" square so that the bottom of your ruler and the 5" mark of your ruler are each on an edge of the fabric.  Have your ruler placed  as close to the edge of the fabric as you can so that you can get 2 'blades' from each charm square.  (Why didn't I have any pictures of this part?)  It's up to you whether you'd like to do 20 different patterns of fabric, or do only 10 with 2 of each pattern in the dresden.

Once all of your pieces are cut, place them in the shape of a circle to determine the order of your pattern.  This only takes a few minutes, but is very important.  Once they're all laid out the way you like them, pick one and start stacking them in a pile according to the order you placed them in. It doesn't matter which one you start with.  Once stacked I usually clothespin mine together in case my two year old decides to pop into my sewing room for a visit!  Now it's time to start sewing!

Taking the wider end (the top) of the 'blade' of fabric, fold with right sides together between your fingers and sew across the top using a 1/4" seam allowance. I suggest a few reverse stitches at the beginning and the end of each.  Now, chain stitch the rest of the blades in exactly the same way.  (Chain stitching simply means that you don't cut your threads between each piece when you sew.  This allows you to keep all your dresden blades in order as you sew, and saves lots of time and thread!)
Once you've got all the tops sewn together, carefully snip off the corner of each 'blade' above the seam allowance that you sewed on the folded side of the blade.  This is best explained by the top left hand picture above. (click to enlarge)  Be careful not to snip through your seam!  Cutting this seam allowance off will allow for less bulk when you turn your blade right side out.
Now, keeping your blades in a chain, cut the end one off the chain, turn right side out, and use something sharp to push out that tip for a nice, neat point.  I have used my seam ripper or even a sharp pencil for this part.
Once you've got the point nicely out, lay the blade on your ironing board with the good side down, and press the point by centering the seam.  Just eyeball this point..don't get too fussy, trust me, it's not worth it!  Now cut off the next blade from the chain and repeat this until you're done.  This might be the part where you drag your ironing board in front of the tv and plug in a good movie!
Once all your blades are ironed, it's time to start sewing the plate together.  Keeping the blades in order, start by sewing the first two together with right sides together along the straight edged sides of the the blades. (see bottom left picture)  A little tip I learned to make this easier:  Start from the tops of your blades, and sew the to the centre of where your circle will be.  I recommend starting your seam 1/4" from the top and then reverse stitching back up to the top and then all the way down.  This eliminates any bunching of fabric at the top.  Again, the pictures are probably more explanatory!
Continue sewing all your blades in order. 
 Once you get the last one sewn on, simply sew it to the first blade to seal the circle!  That part was easy..right? 
Now give the whole thing a really good, but gentle, press with the iron.  Start on the back and press all the seams in the same direction.  Once the back is pressed, flip it over and carefully press the front.
Ok, now on to finishing.  My ruler came with a template for the centre circle of the dresden, but if yours didn't, simply find a circular object in your home that you can trace for the middle of your plate.  I recommend tracing the circle onto a piece of cardboard first, cutting it out, and then tracing around the cardboard onto your fabric...this will make sense in a minute.  Trace this circle on the wrong side of your centre piece of fabric.  Then...this part is important my friends, cut 1/4" larger around the circle!  Did you get that...don't cut on your line, cut 1/4" larger than the line!  Once cut, get out your trusty needle and thread out, tie a decent knot in the end and do a running stitch, or basting stitch on your machine, around the entire circle.  Once you've done the stitch all the way around, place the cardboard circle back on the wrong side of the fabric, and gently pull your running stitch so that it gathers all around the cardboard.  Once it's nice and snug, take it back to your ironing board and leaving the cardboard side down on your board, iron the circle so it's nice and pressed.  Once pressed you can gently remove the cardboard and re-press.   (Sorry, no pics of this step)  Now, here's the part where you decide how to place your dresden.  I have been backing mine on felt to make little 'tablemats' for home decorating, or plate chargers, but you may want to place yours on fabric for a quilt, or runner.  For the purposes of my demo I"ll refer to felt backgrounds.  Place your dresden plate (without the centre) on the desired background.  Pin down every blade so it stays put!  Now, place your centre circle in the middle and pin it down as well.  Using invisible thread, slip-stitch the centre in place.  For a more sturdy centre, stitch right through to backing (felt), but if you're going to applique the dresden onto fabric then I would recommend stitching only to the plate itself and not the backing.  Now, give it a good press with the iron, but careful to avoid the felt with the iron.  Now it's time to secure around the perimeter of your plate.  You can either slip stitch it down as you did in the centre, or, if you're like me, I like my stitching to show a little with colorful thread so I machine stitch around the entire plate with a narrow seam.  This required a lot of pivoting with your machine, but it goes fairly fast.   If you are appliqueing  on to a larger project then you should use your favourite applique method.
Now, to finish the background as I did in the pictures take a ruler and using a white pencil crayon,  mark a dot 1/2" out from each 'valley & peak' of the plate.  Once the dots are all marked I cut out the surrounding zig zag using scissors in a 'connect the dot' fashion!
I hope to high heaven that some of this made sense!  If  you need more of a visual, go to this tutorial online:

Here is my stack of 'to-be-created' dresdens!


  1. Sweet Tut, Darling! I couldn't have taught it better myself!

  2. I love my Dresden and you've made it look so easy! might have to try this myself.

  3. I never thought of backing a Dresden plate with felt. What a great idea for a small table or plate charger. Thank you for the clearly written tutorial.


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