Dresden Tutorial

It was no surprise to me when Kat came to me a few weeks ago and threw an idea at me — to do a Dresden tutorial on the blog. For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of knowing Kat, she’s a Dresden expert and has designed many popular Dresden patterns. Take a look here – her designer name is Cottage Creek Designs.  I’m always looking for good blog post ideas, and as I’ve been feeling up to a challenge, here we are.

The “Dresden Plate” is a traditional American quilt block that is made using a combination of patchwork and applique. It has a versatile design and looks great in both traditional and modern colorways. Although the curves may look intimidating, it is a fairly easy technique to pick up – especially with the right tools!

So, off we go. The first step to making a dresden block is to get your hands on an EZ Quilting “Easy Dresden” ruler. We sell them in our shop and online store. These rulers include really great step-by-step instructions to help you through the process as well.

Next, pick out some fabrics that tickle your fancy. You can really shape the overall dynamic of your block with your choice of fabrics. You can go high-contrast, tonal, scrappy — you name it. You’ll need a total of 20 “blades” to make one Dresden circle (10 for a half-circle, 5 for one “fan”). If you want a scrappy look, you can pick 20 different fabrics, or choose just a few fabrics and make several blades of each color.

Now pick a size that works for whatever project you’re working on. I decided to keep it simple and make a pillow, so I did a 4 ½” blade. The instructions booklet in the Easy Dresden ruler has a handy chart that tells you how big your finished Dresden Plate will be for each blade size. For example, it says a 4 ½” blade will make an 11 ½” finished plate.

Next, cut your fabrics into strips the same width as your blade size. Then, using your rotary cutter and Easy Dresden ruler, cut all the “blades” of the dresden, alternating the direction of the ruler each cut.

Time to sew. For this first part only, shorten your stitch length to get your stitches tighter than normal. Grab one blade and fold in half lengthwise, right-sides together. Sew a ¼” seam on the “top” end of the blade (the longer side), being sure to sew from the raw-edges to the fold. Chain-piece all your blades.

Snip your blades apart. Next, finger press the center crease, or use your iron if you want a really defined line.

Then, put your pointer finger “inside” the blade, thumb on the top and pinch your fingers together, flattening the seam open.

Then, turn the blade right-side out and use the tip of your Dresden ruler to push out the point.

Before you press flat, match the center of the open seam to the center crease to make a perfectly proportionate blade.

Next, lay out your finished blades into a circle, distributing your fabric colors/patterns as desired.

I panicked a little when I got to this point. I wasn't expecting the center "hole" to be so HUGE! Thinking the same thing? Don't fret. The hole shrinks down as you sew your seams. ALSO: Notice anything missing? How about that pretty white meander fabric I had picked out? Once I pressed my white blades out, I realized you can see right through the fabric and can see all the folds on the backside. That won't work! I had to make one more of each of my other colors to compensate for the loss. Oh well!

Before sewing this next part, remember to put your machine back to your regular stitch length. Take two adjacent blades, put them right-sides together and match the top corner points together. Bottom-edges won’t show, so it’s not as important that they match up.

Starting a ¼” down, backstich to the top, then sew down to the bottom using a ¼” seam. This hides your threads and secures the top of the stitch. Be careful which blade sides you sew together! After laying my whole dresden out just how I wanted it, I started sewing the wrong sides of the blades together and ended up with something totally different from my original plan. Oops!

Join the rest of the blades, making a full circle. Then, press your seams in one direction to get your dresden to lay flat.


Woo! Almost done. Pick a center fabric and decide how big you’d like to make your inner circle. A small circle will give you a flower-y look and big will make your dresden blades look more like a decorative border around the center. Making your center circle can be done using any applique method that you prefer.

If you are working with transparent fabric, like white, here’s what to do. Draw a perfect circle onto the wrong-side of two pieces of your center fabric. Fancy-schmany Perfect Circles by Karen Kay Buckley will give you a wide variety of sizes to choose from, or a bowl or mug borrowed from your kitchen work just fine, too.

Cut out your circles. Place them right-sides together and sew about a ¼” seam all the way around. Clip the seams. Cut a 2” slice into one of the circle-fabric pieces. It helps to pinch both sides and pull apart as you are cutting. Turn your circle out through the hole and press flat. Kat warned me that this method will make your circle look more like a dodecahedron. She was right.

If your fabric isn’t transparent, Kat suggests cutting a perfect circle out of your fabric, applying a few layers of freezer paper, then use starch around the edges to turn under your edges. You’ll get more rounded edges this way, although it seems like it takes some practice to make it perfect!

It’s applique time! Position your dresden where you want it. There are about a million ways to applique these babies down, so do whatever you prefer. We like to dab a bit of Quilter’s Choice Basting Glue at the end of each blade to temporarily attach it before we applique. Then, machine or hand-applique everything down. Pick your favorite stitch — blanket, zig-zag, satin or just straight.

Hmm..I think I should change up the center color. Maybe black?

Now that you know how to do a dresden, get sewing! There are a gazillion cute projects out there. We created a Pinterest board full of Dresden projects to pick from. Dresden Rose & Dresden Fans are some favorites of Kat’s designs. Check ‘em out! The Easy Dresden ruler comes with a free pattern, too. Need a smaller project to get you started? Try a placement, table runner, pillow, pouch or just frame one block for some sewing-room art.


Dresden Fans





Dresden Pouch


















— Posted by Stacy


3 responses to “Dresden Tutorial

  1. Now doesn’t that just make it easy….dresden is my most favorite pattern and I have fought those tips for ever, not any more. I think I’m going to run home and see if I can take the same concept to my rounded plates….thanks!!!!

  2. Pingback: Meet Our Staff | Quilt Expressions Blog

  3. Thanks, this makes it look so easy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s