Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Easy Dresden Plate Tutorial Using Kaye England's Cut for the Cure Specialty Ruler

My First Dresden Plate!
Happy Almost-Thanksgiving, everyone!  Before I get wrapped up in other things and forget, I wanted to do a quick post to show how quickly and easily my Dresden Plate came together using Kaye England's Cut for the Cure 22 1/2 degree wedge ruler.  Honestly, the most difficult part was choosing the fabrics.

Cut for the Cure Wedge Ruler, available here
There are probably other companies making similar rulers for Dresden plates, but I really like the way that Kaye's rulers give such great visibility and accuracy, and that a portion of the proceeds from every sale benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  I was lucky enough to take a class with Kaye when she was in Charlotte last month and she was such a hoot -- one of the most informative and entertaining teachers around. 

So, how does this ruler work?  Well, you start by cutting your fabrics into strips based on the size you want your Dresden plate to finish -- notice I said the size you want your PLATE to finish, not the size you want your BLOCK to finish.  There's a little reference chart with instructions that comes with the ruler, advising you that your plate will finish approximately twice the width of your strip, plus 2", so I cut my strips 5" wide (5" + 5" + 2" = 12") and I ended up with a Dresden plate that has a diameter of 12" and needs to go on a 14" block.  Which is fine in this case -- I like seeing so much of my pretty fabric prints, but I should have cut 4" wide strips for a 10" diameter plate if I wanted them on 12" blocks. 

Once you have your strips cut to the correct width, you just lay your ruler down with the skinny edge flush with the cut fabric edge, and cut wedges all the way down your strip, rotating the ruler 180 degrees after each cut.  I'm right handed, so I cut from left to right:

Cutting Wedges from my 5" wide Strip

...And Cutting More Wedges from Another Fabric
The cutting really goes fast once you get the hang of it.  I think I had four layers of fabric that I was cutting through, but as long as I had the ruler carefully aligned with the cut fabric edges, every cut was accurate and precise.  I just love that bright pink fabric with the "plates" on it.  Plate fabric for a Dresden plate, get it?  ;-)

Here's the stack of wedges that I ended up with:
Cutting Complete and Ready to Sew!

Isn't that just the cheeriest thing you ever saw?  The yellow floral fabric and the butterfly/tulip prints are my favorites.  And the pink plate fabric is also my favorite, and the deep blue fabric with cherry blossoms are my favorites, and the yellow fabric with flowery polka dots and tiny birds is my favorite, too.  Don't even get me started about all of the favorite fabrics that I couldn't include...  Using a 22 1/2 degree ruler, you get plates with 16 spokes.  I could have used just two different fabrics, four fabrics, or sixteen different fabrics, but after playing around for a LONG time I ended up with these eight fabrics for my plates.  I was determined to only use fabrics that were already in my stash, and I tried to balance the colors, values, and scale of the prints.  Those little precut flowers will be appliqued to the center of each plate after they are assembled, but before I applique the plates to the background blocks.

Sewing the Outer Points of Each Wedge
The first step is to fold the outer (wider) end of each wedge in half, right sides together, and sew straight across with a 1/4" seam allowance.  This goes really quickly if you're chain piecing (see above) and you have all your wedges lined up next to you, ready to go.

Inner Corner Clipped about 1/16" Away from Seam Line
Then, you clip the inner corner to remove excess bulk, turn the corner and press your point, taking care that the seamline is centered:

Turned and Pressed
...and then you match up pairs of wedges and chain stitch them together at the sewing machine, again using a 1/4" seam allowance.  It's important to stitch these from wide to narrow, making sure that the outer edges match up perfectly.  If the strips don't match up perfectly at the center of the plates, it won't matter because those raw edges will be covered by the applique.

Chain-Piecing Individual Spokes Together
The only challenging part about this is staying organized so your wedges end up with the fabric placement the way that you intended.  I did have a couple of oopses where I had to get out my seam ripper because I sewed two pieces together that weren't supposed to be adjacent on my plate.  By the way, I'm using 50 weight Aurifil Mako cotton thread for piecing, with an 80/12 Universal needle, a straight stitch plate, and my #37 1/4" Patchwork footsie.  No pins necessary!

Some directions will tell you to press these seams open, but I chose to press each seam allowance towards the darker of the two fabrics, just in case a dark seam allowance might show through a lighter colored fabric in the finished plate.  Once I'd clipped these units apart and pressed them, I paired them up again for chain piecing:

Chain-Piecing Pairs of Wedges Together

...Until I had four quarter-circle units completed, like these:
Quarter Plates Finished

Once you get to this point, you just sew the four quarters together, press the seams, and then you're done:
Ta Da!  First Plate Completed!

In vintage Dresden plate quilts, the raw edges at the inner circle are sometimes turned under when the plate is appliqued to the background block, allowing the background fabric to fill the center.  In other versions, a circle is appliqued at the center of the plate to cover the raw edges, often in a bright solid color like yellow or red.  My plates are going to have a red flower machine embroidered applique design at the center, and since I wrote these Dresden posts in backwards order, you'll have to click here if you want to read about that.

So far, I've just made this one plate, but I have at least 10 or 11 more flowers and lots of wedges cut out for the plates, so I'm going to stitch up a bunch more before I begin appliqueing them to the background block fabric.  I'm planning to alternate my plate blocks with a vintage pieced block design that dates back to the same period as the Dresden Plate heyday, but that's another post for another day.

Meanwhile, I've got some pie crusts and cranberries crying out for my attention.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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