Dresden Plate Quilts Patterns

Dresden plate quilts and how they work

Dresden Plate Quilts Patterns is a circular patchwork pattern that combines pieced and appliquéd work. It is one of the most recognizable patterns from the Depression Era, during the decades of the late 20’s and early 30’s in the twentieth century. A number of wedges, traditionally between twelve and twenty, with either scalloped or pointed edges are sewn together into a circle, then this circle is appliquéd onto Dresden Plate Quiltsthe background fabric. The center of the block is usually covered with an appliquéd circle.

This is a pattern most used during the early twentieth century, however, the pattern had been in existence since the late 18th century. The Anna Tuels quilt, the oldest American-made medallion quilt preserved, has a Dresden Plate central block, with hearts appliquéd around it and an inscription.
This pattern is named after porcelain plates made in Dresden, Germany. The china plates were decorated with fruit and flower motifs. Although Dresden Plate is not the only name given to this pattern: in magazines, newspapers and books from the period, this pattern appears with slight variations and different names. The earliest this block appears in printed form is in Ruby McKim’s ‘101 Patchwork Patterns’, published originally in 1931, in which Dresden Plate is called The Aster or Friendship Ring. The Kansas City Star, Successful Farmer and others also published versions of this pattern, with variations in the number of wedges, shape of the edges and size of the central circle with names such as Sunflower, China Aster or Friendship Circle. Dresden Plate might have had its origin in the Fan block, also pieced with wedges, arranged into quarter circles. The Fan pattern appears quite often incorporated into crazy quilts of the late nineteenth century, due to the oriental influence in art and decorating from that period.

Dresden Plate is often pieced with feedsack prints, in pastel colors typical of the fabrics of the 30’s and appliquéd onto plain light colored cotton. These feedsacks featured small and medium scale floral, geometric and whimsical prints.

Making this block is fairly simple. There are available templates free on the web, and acrylic templates for sale to use with a rotary cutter to cut the wedge shapes faster. The sewing method is slightly different for making a scalloped edge plate or a pointed edge plate. To make a scalloped edge plate one must mark the wedges on the wrong side of the printed fabrics, and cut them adding a quarter inch seam allowances on all sides. They can be joined together either by hand or machine, alternating fabric colors or prints. It’s easier to sew them in four groups, then sew the groups into two, and then sew the two to create the plate. Press the Dresden Plate to make sure it lays flat with the seams opened or going in the same direction. Then, cut a circle out of lightweight non-fusible interfacing, pin to the right side of the plate and stitch all around the marked outside seam line (the scalloped edge). Clip to the inner corners, trim the interfacing to 1/8 inch of the sewn line, flip and press. The plate is ready then to be appliquéd to the background fabric. Press the background in half to create registration marks, center the plate and appliqué it. At this point, to make hand quilting easier, it is a good idea to trim the background fabric and interfacing within the plate to one quarter inch of the appliqué sewn line.

To sew the pointed wedge Dresden Plate, you will need a tumbler type template. Check the web for available free patterns. After cutting the required number of tumblers out of printed fabric, fold each in half lengthwise with the right sides together and finger press. Sew a seam a quarter inch from the top edge (wider part) of each tumbler. Clip the corner near the fold, so to avoid bulk. Flip and push the point out, aligning it with the pressed center line. Then sew the blades in four groups, and join the groups together, to create the circle. This method works well either sewing by hand or machine. Press flat, pin to the background and appliqué.

The circles that cover the ‘hole’ in the center of the block can be prepared by using a cardboard template the exact size of the circle Dresden Plate Quilts Patterns cardboard templateneeded. Cut a circle of fabric one quarter inch larger than the template. Run a small basting stitch all around the fabric circle’s edge, about one eight inch from the edge. Place the cardboard template against the wrong side of the fabric circle and gather the stitches to tighten and create a sharp fabric circle against the cardboard. Press with the cardboard template in place. Let it cool down and remove template. The circle is then ready to pin in place and appliqué to the block to finish it.

Once the required number of blocks is completed, they can be joined with or without lattices. Often times, vintage Dresden Plate quilts feature a border pieced with printed and plain wedges that create a scalloped edge. It is a beautiful way to finish a quilt made with this pattern.

For more information on making a quilting block click here!


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