The lovely Eileen Hileman asked me the question last night… what’s happening with the Dresden? It’s a question I ask myself frequently and one that I have to tell the story of so far, I guess.
For those who may have only just joined me on this ‘journey’ through my life, sometime back in August, I decided to tackle my most ambitious sewing project yet (apart from writing my book, ‘Sew iconic’ which was, I have to say a fairly BIG project!). Perhaps I should change that to most ambitious quilting project. Yes, that’s definitely more accurate 🙂
This project is to make a Dresden quilt. Sounds pretty simple when I say it like that doesn’t it? I had come across the idea of making a Dresden block for a project whilst perusing the Missouri Quilt Company’s fantastically instructional video library and was hooked straight away by the mathematical nature of the design – sections of fabric with pointed ends arranged around a central circle, what’s not to love? I was determined to have a go myself at constructing something gorgeous.
I bustled off to my local fabric shop in Scarborough and spent an hour or so selecting about fifteen different fabrics to piece together in a Dresden Plate (which is what I discovered these things are called).
The colour selection part was fun and I was raring to go – it took a few days for me to acquire a Dresden template ruler but once that was secured, I was good to go. I cut the first sections out and pieced together my first block, which had twenty-one different fabrics in (I’d added a few bits from my own stash). Delighted with how this looked, I was however somewhat puzzled by the improbable maths involved. Not to get too technical – a circle has 360º right? So it makes sense to have twenty ‘blades’ with each one taking up one-twentieth of the circumference, meaning that each will occupy 18º of space. Simples! Except that this didn’t allow for my inability to sew straight and I needed twenty ONE blades, not twenty to make sure the plate sat flat. I struggled with the reasons why this was true, but in the end decided to go with twenty-one blades for subsequent blocks.
Now, at this point, I experienced something that I don’t even know what to call – perhaps a stroke of ridiculous over-confidence, maybe even megalomania, I’m really not sure what came over me! But somehow I came to the conclusion that one Dresden plate was simply not enough. Even three, arranged in an attractive triumvirate row to preside over my dining table perhaps, would not be sufficient to satisfy my glorious ambition. No, I decided that this would be a full-sized, enormous, gigantic quilt to go on our King Sized bed.
I’d made full-sized quilts before, which I’ve given as presents to my daughters. They are beautiful, made on a simple jelly-roll principle, although I selected the fabrics individually, didn’t want to buy a pre-designed set of fabrics so that my quilts are unique. I’d achieved the quilting effects by sewing diagonal lines or else ‘in the ditch’ quilting, which whilst it has its challenges, is a fairly simple method of quilting. Perhaps it was these successes that led me astray…
In order to make my full sized Dresden quilt, I calculated I needed twenty five blocks. That’s four hundred and twenty-one individual plates. Which all needed to be pieced together and then appliquéd onto twenty-five backing squares, with twenty-five central circles. Naturally, each block is different although they use similar groups of fabrics (because, hey, WHY would I make anything simple for myself?). AND then, each block would need to be attached to the batting (filling) and backing sections and then quilted together, before the whole thing gets stitched together, connected with sashing and finished with a beautiful border. I needed to get more fabric for the backing, which, again in a moment of madness, I decided required ANOTHER pattern on the reverse… so now I have twenty-five blocks, all different on the front and needing to be planned carefully so that the pattern on the back works too.
It’s possible I have lost my marbles. If you find them, perhaps you’ll be so kind as to let me know and I’ll tell you where to send them… 🙂
So… Eileen, here’s the progress report.
All 25 blocks are now pieced and appliquéd onto their surrounds. They look pretty good, which is rewarding in itself! Here’s how that process looked:
1: The Dresden plate is pinned to its backing, with the central circle pinned in place too.
2: I used my embroidery hoop to keep everything in place whilst I sewed the plate to the backing like this:
3: Using a zig-zag hemming stitch, the central circle secured the plate to the backing.
4: Then, stitching in the ditch between blades and switching to the zig-zag hemming stitch for the points, the whole plate was finally appliquéd to its backing. Yay!
This was repeated for all twenty five blocks (I’m not posting pictures of all of them, I’d be here all day!)
Now, at this point, I decided that I needed to add some ric-rac around the central circles to give them greater definition. Plus, this put off the moment when I’d have to tackle the free-motion quilting technique.
But, there’s no putting it off any longer! I’ve doodled endlessly over the past few weeks, trying to decide how each of the blocks will have the stitching applied. It takes an enormous amount of skill to properly draw with a sewing machine – not unlike drawing with a cursor in a free-paint program. I’m really not very good at it yet and I don’t want to spoil all the work that I’ve put into the quilt so far. I’m hoping my stitching will improve as I go along!
So, here’s block 7b which is nearly finished with the FMQ. I’ve got lots of threads that need trimming off, but I think I’m getting there. Once I’ve done this one, I’m hoping that my confidence will come rushing back and I’ll make more progress, more quickly, but this one is going to be a long haul!
Keep checking back with me – I will get this finished, hopefully before Christmas. This year 🙂