We focused on the Dresden Plate quilt in the Jan/Feb issue of Quiltmaker, where you’ll find three quilt patterns that each use this traditional design in completely different ways. For starters, you may want to watch the video tutorial showing how to make a Dresden Plate. We include the best hints and tips we’ve learned along the way!
How-To: Dresden Plate Quilt
We cut our blades from strips. An acrylic Dresden Plate template makes this a snap! We love the EZ Dresden tool and the Marti Michell Dresden Plate set. You can also make your own templates using our printer-friendly patterns found at the bottom of this page.
The main consideration for fabric is the amount of contrast between the Dresden Plate and the background on which it appears. In other words, the background fabric should be enough lighter or darker than the Dresden Plate so that the plate is visible.
Here’s an example of a Dresden with too little contrast:
And below is the same plate on a lighter background, so you can see the difference:
As you can see, the sides of a Dresden wedge or blade are angled, and that angle is measured in degrees. If the sides of each blade are straighter (fewer degrees), then it takes more of them to complete a 360º circle or plate. If the sides of each blade are more angled (more degrees), it will take fewer to complete a plate.
If you’re using a pattern or a commercial template, it will tell you how many blades to make for each Dresden Plate. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to measure the degrees of your blade using a protractor. Then divide 360º by the number of degrees for each blade, and that’s how many blades you’ll need for each plate.
Example: If one blade is 18º, 360º divided by 18º equals 20. You’ll make 20 blades for a complete circle or Dresden Plate if the blades are each 18º.
Reducing and Enlarging
At first glance, it would seem that you’d reduce or enlarge a Dresden Plate quilt by adding or subtracting blades, but that’s not it. You make a Dresden Plate larger by extending the length of the blades from the wide end.
If you want to reduce a plate’s size, shorten the blades in the same way, from the wide end. The number of blades stays the same.
You can alter the size of the center “hole” by shortening the blades from the narrow end, as shown below. The more you take off the narrow end, the larger the center hole will be. In lieu of shortening the blades, you can change the size of the circular center patch to whatever you like, as long as the patch is large enough to cover the raw edges of the blades.
If you make the center patch very large, you’ll want to trim away the excess blade fabrics lying beneath it. It’s interesting—and sometimes surprising—to experiment with various sizes of blades for different effects.
Here’s a printable document that contains Printer-friendly Dresden Plate templates in three sizes: 22.5° wedges (16 to make a complete plate); 18° (20 wedges to make a complete plate); and 10° wedges (36 to make a complete plate)
Quiltmaker‘s Content Director, Carolyn Beam, makes Dresden Plates from 5″ charm squares. She demonstrates her dresden plate quilt method in a short video you can view below: