Dear Dresden

The Green Apricot studio has a number of options.  The studio accommodates 16 sewing machines easily, and includes outlets for each sewer, as well as space for 4 irons and a cutting station.

Yeah, yeah.  So what?  A lot of sewing studios have that.

The studio also offers a large variety of tools for use while in the studio- like about 150 rulers and templates.  All of which I like to test, and then explain them to you.

Recently I had the chance to do a program at a local guild about Dresden Plate tools that are available on the market.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know I did not test every single tool available to make a Dresden Plate.  However, I did test enough of them to be able to tell you a little about how they work, and when and why to buy which one.

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So, here’s the scoop.  First of all, not all Dresden Plates are Dresden Plates.  There are also Fans and Wagon Wheels, which technically are similar to Dresden Plates, but are not Dresden Plates.  And they may have a peaked tip, or not.  Some have blunt tips.  Some have rounded tips.  Some have three-sided tips.  Some have 20 blades.  Some have 12 blades.  Some have 8 blades.  Some are tiny.  Some are huge.  Some have a hole in the center when you make them.  Some don’t.  Some are complete circles.  Some are not.  And honestly, in the history of quilting, all of those variations add up to totally different block names, but for today, let’s just lump them as Dresdens, simply because it is the most recognizable name.

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Secondly, as far as I can tell, there are basically three ways to make a Dresden Plate.  Paper piecing is probably the least common, but in patterns such as Everyday Best by Piece ‘O Cake use the Dresden idea and expound on it.  The oldest, and probably most common, is templates.  Just Google Dresden Plate Templates and you’ll come up with lots of results, but I especially liked the tutorial on making your own paper templates at PatchworkPosse.com.  The third way is to use manufactured templates or rulers, which are usually made out of materials suited for rotary cutting tools.

Paper piecing is paper piecing, but whether you use paper templates or manufactured templates, the process is pretty much the same.  Cut wedges, sew tops, clip, turn, press, then sew wedges together into desired finished shape.  Applique finished shape to a background fabric, then applique circle over center.  Applique can be hand or machine.  Background may be whole cloth or just a block.  All depends on the desired finish.

There are two basic differences to look for in templates or rulers.  It’s all about the degree of the wedge, and how narrow the bottom of the wedge is.

The wider the degree of the wedge, the fewer blades the Dresden Plate will have.  A 30 degree wedge will create 12 plates, an 18 degree wedge will create 20 plates.  There are other degrees that are available, so just be aware that as the degree of the template changes, so will the number of plates.  And be aware that what one manufacturer calls 18 degrees may not be what another manufacturer calls 18 degrees.  If you want your Dresdens to be consistent, be sure to use the same template for all of your blades.

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Likewise, the more narrow the bottom of the wedge, the less of a hole will be created in the center of the Dresden Plate.  Most templates have a wider bottom edge, which is what creates the hole in the center.  However, some have very narrow bottom edges, which leaves no hole in the center, or at least a very minimal one.  Having a hole in the center eliminates the bulk where the seams come together, and there isn’t a concern with matching seams as they meet in the center.

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Some templates include information on cutting the circle to applique on the center, and some do not.  It all depends on the product.  Just as in with the blades, it is possible to make your own template for the center applique, but it is helpful to have a guide.  Also, the center applique does not have to be a circle.  It can be a hexagon.  A square.  A bird.  Really, anything you want, as long as it securely covers the opening in the center of the Dresden Plate.

So, here is the list of products that I reviewed, and just a little bit about each one.  I hope you find this helpful on your next Dresden Plate project!

Suzn Quilts Mini Dresden– Uses 3 1/2″ strips to create 12 blades.  Includes circle applique template.
Suzn Quilts Tiny Dresden– Uses 2″ strips to create 12 blades.  Includes circle applique template.
Marti Michell Dresden– Includes multiple tools and extensive instructions for multiple sizes from 7-12″.
Marti Michell Mini Dresden– Includes multiple tools and extensive instructions for multiple sizes from 3-5″.
Creative Grids Kaleidoscope & Dresden Plate– 45 or 22 1/2 degree triangle for multiple size blades.  45 degree makes 8 blades, 22 1/2 makes 16 blades.  Instructions included as well as online video.
Creative Grids 18 degree Dresden– Cuts multiple size blades, 20 blades per full Dresden.  Includes circle template, which can also be used to make rounded tips.  Instructions included as well as online video.
EZ Quilting 30 degree Triangle Ruler– Cuts multiple size blades, 12 blades per full Dresden.  Limited instructions.  Finishes with no hole in center.  Does not include template for applique circle.
EZ Quilting 45 degree Triangle Ruler– Cuts multiple size blades, 8 blades per full Dresden.  Limited instructions.  Finishes with no hole in center.  Does not include template for applique circle.
EZ Quilting Dresden– Cuts multiple size blades, 20 blades per full Dresden.  Limited instructions.  Does not include template for applique circle.
Stack’N’Whack 18 degree Fan– Cuts multiple size blades, 20 blades per full Dresden.  Excellent instructions.  Includes pattern.
Fast 2 Cut Dresden Plate Template– Cuts multiple size blades, 20 blades per full Dresden.  Excellent instructions.  Does not include circle template.
Clover Dresden Plate and Fan Collection by Nancy Zieman– Cuts multiple size blades, 20 blades per full Dresden.  Instructions in multiple languages.  Includes template for applique circle.  Not to be used directly with rotary cutter.  Trace first, or alight rotary ruler with the template.

Hmmmmm. Green Apricots. And Sarah. Who knew?

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Well, as the story goes, my husband loves green apricots.  With salt.  In late spring he would climb the trees that grew on his family’s property and eat his fill.  He looked forward to it every year as a boy, but he hasn’t eaten any green apricots in a very long time.

This year we happened to have the opportunity to be in southern Utah in late spring.  We were visiting family and taking care of some business, and while we were in town we looked for some green apricots.  And we found them.

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I have actually never eaten an apricot.  Except dried.  And maybe canned.  So this was going to be a new thing for me.  I was surprised at how small they were.  And by how much Jeff enjoyed eating the really, really green ones.

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So I tried them.  A green one.  A not-so-green one.  A ripe one.  I was starting to feel like Goldilocks.  Turns out that when it comes to apricots, I’m a Momma Bear kind of girl.  The green ones were way too firm and tart for me, and the ripe ones seemed to be lacking in flavor a bit.  The right kind were a pretty shade of orange, with just tinges of green.  Right texture.  Right flavor.  Just right.  Like a banana with just a bit of green still left on the skin.

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But all of that is only part of the story.  The trees that Jeff used to climb are no longer in the family, so his brother hooked us up with a sweet friend named Sarah who owns these trees.  Sarah is a character.  Sarah is 92.  Sarah is a smart cookie.

As we were taking pictures, eating apricots, and other such shenanigans in the orchard, Sarah came out and asked why we were so very interested in her apricot trees.  My sister-in-law explained a bit about The Green Apricot, and Sarah wanted to talk to me.  So we chatted for a minute.  Turns out Sarah’s a retired quilter, if you will.  She asked if I had one of those big quilting machines.  I told her I did not yet.  Then she looked at me earnestly with those clear, blue eyes and said, “Well, you should get one.”

Then she said “I want to show you something.  Come on in the house.”

I dutifully followed her inside, where I met her pup and descended into the coolness of a sitting room.  We were surrounded by plants and paintings.  She began to dig through piles of pictures, looking for just the right one.  As she dug, she told of a flood relief effort she had been involved in in the 1990’s.  A phone call here, a smile there, a good natured push in the right direction and this woman had gathered materials and man power to make enough quilts to cover the floor of the Dixie College sports arena.  Six times over.  And, as if that wasn’t enough, found a way to have them all delivered to the correct distribution spot with the Red Cross.  She carefully controlled the slight curl in her nose as she expressed her gratitude for the yards and yards of cotton-poly blend fabric donated for the backing of the quilts.  She told of logistics miracles, and then the pictures started to emerge.  Photos of a woman 22 years younger, with a grin almost as large as the stack of quilts she was standing with.  Who knew?

A few minutes later we said our good-byes, and she looked at me with those eyes and said “Get you one of those machines.”

Well.

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What I learned at Spring Quilt Market 2015- Minneapolis, MN

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By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts by Siobhan Rogers

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This book is SO. MUCH. FUN.  By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts by Siobhan Rogers and published by Interweave (F+W Media) is stinking loaded with great projects for everyone from the novice quilter to the maker who is “time-poor,” as Siobhan describes in her introduction.  The directions for each project are clear, with plenty of diagrams for the spatial learner, such as myself.

"Wild Horses" by Siobhan Rogers, page 119 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

“Wild Horses” by Siobhan Rogers, page 119 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

As I perused the pages, I found that there were 11 projects that I was seriously contemplating making.  Like immediately.  But I had to pick one.  Ugh.  If you ever want to know about someone’s commitment issues, ask them to pick a quilt pattern or a piece of fabric.

"Go Big or Go Home" by Siobhan Rogers, page 47 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

“Go Big or Go Home” by Siobhan Rogers, page 47 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

I finally settled on “Go Big or Go Home.”  I mean really, who wouldn’t love a quilt named that?!?  And besides, how can you go wrong with huge HSTs?  So, I got to work.  The hardest part was picking fabrics from my stash that were worthy.  See the comment above about commitment issues.  The fun part was the arranging.

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I chose to use two different large scale fabrics to go into this project, and I loved playing around with the effects of placement.  I was actually not having the best day, and was really excited when this last arrangement showed up on the design wall…

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Now to pick out fabrics for the next project… Maybe “Deco” on page 95- nestled log cabin hearts, which isn’t normally my thing, but hello, this one is cool.  But wait, “Wild Horses” uses fat quarters, and I just got that Alison Glass FQ pack from Spool…

See ya.  I got some sewing to do.

Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt! by Sue Bleiweiss

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I really like art quilts.  I know it isn’t everyone’s thing, but I have to say that I love being able to cross back and forth on that bridge from form to function.  A lot of times I like to hang out in the middle of the bridge where they both come together, but sometimes I really like to have dinner and a movie on the form side.  Not just a casual relationship, but a little more intimate experience.

So, when I had the chance to review this book, Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt! by Sue Bleiweiss and published by Interweave (F+W Media), I was actually pretty excited to READ it.  I know, that’s not normal for me.  I don’t read books like this often.  I mostly look at the pics, dive into a project, then figure out afterwords everything I should have just read in the first place.

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“Windows Arise” by Deborah Boschert on page 28 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

But this book has wonderful information about hand dyeing fabric, creating a fusible fabric to work with, and basic understanding of how to form an idea for a final project.  I especially loved that with each chapter Sue included works by other artists using the techniques that she teaches in that section.  While her techniques and style open the windows to let the fresh air of inspiration in, being able to see how others have used her techniques took the roof off the building.

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“City Skyline” by Sue Bleiweiss on page 77 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

Sue uses only her own hand dyed fabrics for the projects presented in Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!, and creates each fabric collage by using a fusing technique that actually differs a bit from my own experience.  I was intrigued by the section that discussed no-reverse applique, and I had to try the technique to make “cookie cutter outlines,” as Sue describes it.  I decided to make a small block for the Our Neighborhood project using Cherrywood Fabrics and this method.

I started out by creating the background through a method of improvisational applique.  Then, using the technique Sue teaches in her book, I created a freeform tree representing The Green Apricot.

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I was pleased with the results, and I was thrilled to have learned a couple of new techniques.

I also liked that Sue included projects other than art quilts in Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!  For instance, there are patterns and instructions for bags, pillows and other small projects.  Really, a great way to try a new method and have a finished product.

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“Full Circle” tote bag by Sue Bleiweiss found on page 99 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

The “Our Neighborhood” Project

Swaps, bees and challenges really do act as a kind of creative prompt for our quote-unquote tribe.  I love them.  They give me the chance to make for someone else.  An opportunity to tap into inspiration that otherwise might have been left by the wayside.  A way to stretch a bit.  Learn something new.  Perfect something old.

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But I think maybe the best part is the global neighborhood that we might not have even known we live in.  Through the groups I have worked with I have been able to chat with makers in Germany, England, Jersey (a tiny island in the UK that I didn’t even know existed), all over the US, and quite a few in Australia.  I mean really, what other excuse would I have to chat with someone on the other side of the pond, or even on the other side of the globe?

So, I got to thinking.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have a neighborhood quilt?  One that was made of bits of this amazing global neighborhood we belong to.  Inspiration…

I don’t know actually what to call this.  It isn’t exactly a swap, or a bee, or a straight-up challenge.  So, I guess we’ll call it a project.  The “Our Neighborhood” project.

Interested?

Here’s the deal.  You make blocks of things that are in your neighborhood, or at least represent things in your neighborhood.  It can be your country’s flag.  A house.  Apartment building.  Dogwood tree.  Feral cats.  Mailbox.  Grave stone.  Creek.  Rainbow.  Grass.  Sand.  Cloud.  Sun.  Get it?

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Then you send those blocks to The Green Apricot, and I will redistribute them back out to you.  So, if you make and send four blocks, you will get four blocks back.  If you make or send ten blocks, you will get ten back.  You will have until May 29 to send your blocks if you are in the US, and May 22 if you are international.  I will then send your blocks to you no later than June 10, 2015.

But that’s not all.  I am notorious for collecting blocks from swaps that I never actually put together into a finished project.  So here’s the deal.  We are going to have an “Our Neighborhood” online quilt show.  That will be judged.  With prizes.

Get ready, ’cause this is the challenge.  I will send your blocks to you Priority Mail, and you have until July 10, 2015 to finish your quilt and post a picture to our online quilt show.  Then our judges will scan the posts and respond to a survey about the projects, which will result in prizes.  Just like a IRL quilt show.  Except I don’t know what the prizes are yet.  Just being real here.

However, I do know who the judges are.  Giuseppe- aka @giucygiuce.  Kristi- aka @schnitzelandboo.  Chris- aka @frecklemama.  Lee- aka @maychappell.  Karie- aka @karie_twokwikquilters.  Ummmm, yeah.  Like, that’s awesome.

So, here’s the rules in relatively short form.  Relative because I always talk too much.

1.  Register to participate by clicking here.  *****There is a small fee for shipping your blocks back to you.  $6 for US residents, $20 for international participants (It’s expensive and takes a lot of time).  This fee is not refundable, and is required if you want your blocks to be mailed to you.

2.  Make your desired number of quilt blocks that represent your neighborhood.  You may make the same block multiple times, or you may make all different blocks.  It is up to you.  Use your best fabrics and your best skills.  Don’t be sketchy because I will just send them back to you or send you other people’s sketchy work.  You may use whatever technique you would like.  Blocks can be no smaller than 2 1/2″ UNFINISHED, and not larger than 8 1/2″ UNFINISHED.  (To clarify- blocks do not have to be square, as long as they are no smaller than 2 1/2″ on any given side and no larger than 8 1/2″ on any given side.)  Label each block with a small piece of paper pinned to the block including your name and where you are from.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Use the hashtags #tgaourneighborhood and #makeitlikeyoumeanit and/or tag The Green Apricot when posting progress.

3.  Mail blocks by May 29 for US residents, May 22 for international participants- AT THE LATEST.  I am not responsible for blocks lost in the mail or not received before June 10- the date that I am mailing out to you.  I suggest you mail them as soon as possible with tracking, and that if you wait until the last minute, which is what I would do, then use expedited services such as Priority Mail, UPS or FedEx.  The mailing address will be made available to you in a confirmation email after you register.  DO NOT SEND ANY EXTRAS.  Note- I will use USPS Priority mail with tracking to send your blocks to you on or before June 10.  Again, I am not responsible for blocks lost in the mail, although I will probably feel really bad for you and make you some more myself.  Or not.

4.  Wait on pins and needles for that package to come from The Green Apricot.

5.  When you receive your blocks, get to planning and to work.  You will only have a couple of weeks to finish your project and post it to the online quilt show.  International participants will have even less time.  You may add whatever you want to the blocks you receive, but please indicate what blocks came from whom.

6.  Post pics of your completed project in the online quilt show by July 10.  Projects should be complete with quilting and binding before the pics are to be posted.  Information for posting will be included in the mailing of the blocks.

I am totally aware that I am doing this at a crazy time of year.  And totally aware that this is a real challenge.  And totally aware that you can do it.  Between now and July 10 I have three trips that require an airplane, a child graduating from high school, and a camping trip with about 200 teenage girls.  I’m sure your list is even longer and more consuming.  But remember, sometimes we just need to reach a little further to win the prize.  I can’t wait to see what you do…

It’s all ’bout dat bag… The Betsy Travel Bag

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The Betsy Travel Bag by Kristi McDonough of Schnitzel and Boo is crazy popular right now.  It’s all over Instagram, and the pattern release from Rebel Craft Media on April 1 has been a huge success.  Through the happy circumstance also known as The Stash Bash, I actually met Kristi last year.  It was at that same event that Kristi and Elizabeth Dackson of Don’t Call Me Betsy decided to start a #SwapOfEpicProportions, a bag for a mini, if you will.  In fact, the mini that Elizabeth made for Kristi is on loan at The Green Apricot and is adorning the studio with its awesome sauce.

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It’s the pink, yellow, turquoise and black starry one. Pretty fab, huh?

The bag that Kristi made for Elizabeth became The Betsy Travel Bag, and there’s lots of info about blog hops and background stories on Schnitzel & Boo’s site.  There’s even a sewalong on Instagram- check out @schnitzelandboo and #BetsySewAlong or #TheBetsyTravelBag for more details and to see everyone’s progress.

Kristi and I were chatting about her bag pattern last Fall, right about the time that The Green Apricot studio was starting to form.  So, I asked her if she would be willing to come to The Green Apricot to teach, and she said “No way.”

Just kidding.

So, here we are- just a couple of days away from The Betsy Travel Bag debut workshop at The Green Apricot, and I don’t mind telling you I am pretty excited about it.  I feel so very blessed to be surrounded by such talented people, and I am thrilled to have Kristi coming to the studio.  I am also excited about learning how to make this crazy bag.  Because it scares the crap out of me and I know I wouldn’t even try to make it without her help!  Hardware and gussets and zippers- it’s got it all.

It’s going to be epic.

Saturday Sew-In featuring The Betsy Travel Bag
Saturday, April 18, 3-9 pm
Nonmembers- $30, Members- 6 hours
More info about the studio and membership? Click here.