Easy Piecing Dresden Plates

by Debby Kratovil (reprinted from a past issue of QUILT Magazine)

Easy Piecing Dresden Plates
by Debby Kratovil

Of all the patterns popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Dresden Plate seems to be very near the top of the list. It is a perfect block for using up scraps, as each of the “blades” can be cut from just a small piece of fabric. Some plates are more sophisticated in that they combine a curved blade with pointed ones. The traditional method for piecing this block calls for turning under the raw outside edges of each blade, making for a lot of hand work and use of a hot iron.We would like to share with you a simple and fun way to sew these blocks - all by machine!

Our magazine pattern is for a 12" (finished) block. Because we design on a Macintosh computer, our templates will print smaller for those of you who are using a PC. But you can convert any Dresden Plate template in your pattern files to the quick-piecing method. As you can see, our template closely resembles a large Tumbler unit. This makes for quick cutting blades from strips.

Diagram 1 shows a standard Dresden Plate template (seam allowance included). Lay this on template material, extend the side lines upward beyond the tip at least 1/4”. To create the top seam allowance necessary for our quick method, draw a horizontal line joining the two side lines, making sure you have 1/4” beyond the tip of the FINISHED blade. Cut out and use for your favorite size block or use our instructions below to make a standard twelve-blade 12” Dresden Plate Block.

Fabric Requirements for 9 Blocks:
1 yard solid for background
1/4 yard (9” x 44”) each of four colors
3-1/2” strip yellow for center circles

1. Transfer pattern pieces to template material and cut out. Seam allowance is included for blade Template A.
2. From each of the four colors cut two strips 4-1/2" x 44". Using Dresden Plate Blade Template A cut twenty-seven blades from each color. Flip-flop the template as shown in Diagram 2, top to bottom.
3. Fold your first blade in half lengthwise, right sides together and sew across the wide end using a 1/4" seam. See Diagram 3. Backstitch at the folded edge for the needed reinforcement.
4. Clip the corner as shown in Diagram 4. This eliminates extra bulk in the seam allowance.
5. Finger press the folded edge. Turn the sewn blade right side out and line up the seam with the crease. Press with a hot iron. (Diagram 5 shows the blade from the wrong side.) Repeat for the rest of your blades.
6. These blades can be chain sewn, one right after another, without clipping threads between. This is a fast way to piece all these units requiring the same seam.
7. Join the blades together, alternating colors. Use four colors per Dresden Plate block, with three blades of each color in each Plate. (See Partial Piecing Diagram) Sew twelve blades together into a large color, ending by sewing blade #1 to blade #12, forming a large circle of blades. Press all the seams either in one direction or press them open. Either way your plates reveal no raw edges! See Diagram 6.
8. For the yellow center circles, trace the Circle Template onto the wrong side of the yellow fabric. Add seam allowance for cutting out. You can use your favorite appliqué method to attach the circle - hand applique, fusible interfacing, or self-face the circle, thereby turning the raw edges under by using another piece of yellow fabric or plain interfacing.
9. From your background fabric cut out nine 12-1/2" squares. Fold the squares along the centers in both directions and finger press. Align the Dresden Plates with the creased lines on the background squares as shown, being careful to check all points north, south, east and west. Pin Plate in place. Using nylon thread, machine applique the Dresden Plates to the background fabric. Add the yellow center circles and applique in place. You may want to trim the background fabric from behind each plate or you can leave it in place for an extra layer.
10. To make nine blocks in this manner for a small quilt, join your blocks together into three rows of three. Add outside borders of your desired width.
11. Layer quilt top, batting, and backing. Quilt as desired. Add binding for finishing and enjoy your new, quick method for piecing a Dresden Plate block!


As you can see in Diagram 7, you can take your Dresden Plates one step further by dividing the blade in half vertically. When two contrasting fabrics are used in each blade, the resulting block is quite stunning! This can be achieved in the following manner:

1. Find the center point of the top and bottom of the Dresden Plate template. Draw a vertical line on your template. This will be your guide line for cutting out the blades.
2. Sew together two strips of contrasting fabric and subcut into wedges as shown in Diagram 7. These wedges should be at least 1/2" longer than the vertical length of your template. This will aid you in placing your template accurately.
3. Center the vertical line drawn on your template with the seam of the two fabrics. Cut out your blade. Please note: Be consistent in your cutting, whereby one fabric always sits on the left and the other sits on the right, or else your blades will have irregular shading.
4. Continue piecing your Dresden Plate blocks as described above.

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