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.

3 thoughts on “Dear Dresden

  1. Pingback: Dear Dresden: Small Bets | the green apricot

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