Dresden Plate

Chapter 3: Wildwood Flower (the end)

Wildwood Flower - finished

It took about two months, with lots of breaks in between to make decisions, but my mini-quilt is bound, signed, and ready to hang. It’s been named Wildwood Flower after the lovely Carter Family song of the same name. Well, it’s not an original Carter Family song, but they did it so wonderfully and perfectly that it became their song the minute they recorded it. No one’s ever been able to top it and I doubt they ever will. I don’t know a lot about 30s music, but The Carter Family is, in my head, what the 30s must’ve sounded like. These fabrics look like how The Carter Family sounds: simple but beautiful, bright and cheerful but ever so slightly faded.

Plus, I’m a music nerd and I just can’t help naming stuff after songs.

Wildwood Flower - finished

A few notes about this project:

– Every dang stitch of this – piecing, applique, quilting, and binding – was sewn by hand, and with almost no real modern tools. Just scissors, cardboard templates, needle, thread. This was not a plan, it was a little bit necessity and a little bit accident. Being away from my machines, I knew I’d be sewing by hand, but I didn’t really consider what I’d do without a rotary cutter, a big cutting mat, that sort of thing. I pretty much figured it out as I went using ordinary household materials. Cutting small patchwork pieces was a cinch with little cardboard templates and a ruler; I even used a wee strip template to mark 1/4″ seams on everything. Cutting the large cream pieces was more difficult – I was terrified I’d mess it up and have no more to work with (I was very strict about using only materials and tools that I already had for this project).

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Having recently been to the amazing quilt exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, this mini-quilt gave me a cool little glimpse of what quilting must’ve been like before all our modern fanciness. I’ll still use the tools that I have, of course, but it did make me think that a lot of them are really not necessary. Sure, they speed up the process, but where am I in such a hurry to get? It was nice not to rush through a project for once. I admit those tools can help with precision as well, but I’m convinced my cardboard templates were just as accurate.

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Except the center circle of the Dresden Plate, all of the prints came from a 30s-themed jelly roll (ordered from The Quilt Room about a year ago). I love pre-cut fabric packs – they give you a lot of design bang for your buck, especially if you’re trying to craft cheaply, and they force you be creative with their limitations. But then, I do tend to love small projects, or at least projects with small pieces – it’s like knitting socks: when working small, you get a lot of entertainment out of a small amount of material.

Wildwood Flower - finished

I’ve been reunited with my machines and I’m already back to whipping up some quick projects (see yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday photo for a little peek), but I do hope I continue to sew by hand here and there. I loved every minute of this project and it gave me what I think could be a really great idea for the future. More on that in good time!

(More photos in my Flickr photostream!)

Ch.2: In which I curse the weather and ponder quilting options

Dresden Plate top finished

Is anyone else wondering what happened to the summer? I think we scared it away. Now it’s all rain and cool temperatures and, most importantly, crappy light for photos. My already deep respect for other crafty bloggers has gone up by at least 36% just in the last few days, as I’ve tried multiple times to grab a few decent photos during the 10-minute not-as-dark intervals we’ve had. (We had a lovely day earlier this week, perfect for photos, on the one day I was busy all day. Of course.)

This is what I’ve learned about crafty blogging – it’s darn tricky to get good photos when the weather won’t behave. Sometimes weeks will go by with nothing but photo-worthy skies, and then sometimes the weather is just an unending pit of gloom. I’m learning how to adapt, but I’m sure there will be some less-than-awesome photos posted here along the way. I snapped these during a weird gorgeous pocket yesterday, smack in the middle of a day of downpours. That’s how we roll in Amsterdam.

Dresden Plate top finished

My Dresden Plate mini-quilt top and back are now finished! The only photos that came out even a little usable were the close-ups, so you’ll have to wait until I’ve finished to see the whole. These should give you the idea of how the border worked out – not nearly as tediously as I’d expected, given that every stitch was sewn by hand. I’m really loving this hand-sewing thing; I hope I still do some projects by hand after I’m reunited with my machines.

Dresden Plate back finished

The backing has just a simple pieced strip, same as the borders on the top. I’d love to say there was some really well-reasoned idea behind that, but it was actually because I’d accidentally left myself no piece of the cream fabric big enough to cover the back. But as Bob Ross used to say, there’s no mistakes, just happy accidents. I like the stripe, it’s pretty and I’ll like knowing there’s a little something going on on the back even though no one will see it.

I’m nearly ready to quilt, but I have no idea how. I had originally thought I’d use a thicker thread with some sort of light color so the quilting stitches would be a little more visible. But now I think that would just be too distracting, so I guess I’ll stick with a cream thread of some type. As for the design … I got nothin’, any ideas? Well, I do actually have one half-formed idea, but I’m not impressed with how that will look on the back and I can’t decide if that matters. I think I’ll just baste my quilt sandwich tonight and stare at it for a while, in the hopes that some amazing idea will present itself to me, all worked out and ready to go. It could happen. I already know exactly how I’ll do the binding, I’ve got some ideas for how to sign / tag it on the back, and I’ve got two potential names for it already picked out. So if the quilting fairies would please drop an idea into my head, I’d be very grateful.

Ch. 1: In which I write my first post and take the Process Pledge

After a week of pondering the topic of my very first post here, it was suggested by a very wise friend that I should just write it already. Don’t make it a momentous occassion, don’t try to find something deep to say. She was right – I decided to just jump in and show you what I’m making right now.

Dresden Plate pieces

But wait one second – let me stop here real quick, before I get into any details, and take The Process Pledge. Like the hundreds of other blog writers that have linked back to that post by Rossie, I agree that it would nice – and beneficial – to share more about why we make the crafting decisions we make. Yes, that pledge originally referred only to quilting, and this will not be a strictly quilting blog. But I take this pledge and apply it to all topics covered here. Over the past several years, I have learned so much just from reading about why someone chose the materials they did, or why they used a certain technique, or simply how they came to pick the colors they did. Where possible, I want to contribute, and I pledge now to do my best.

The Process Pledge

It’s only been in the last few months that I started learning about quilting – mostly by reading trusted bloggers – and trying things out for myself. Somewhere along the way, I saw a Dresden Plate and was smitten but afraid of trying one for myself. It looked like you really needed years of skillz before you could try that. And then I saw Oh, Fransson’s tutorial at Sew, Mama, Sew! – she made it look so easy. Dude, I could totally do that!

I knew immediately that I wanted to use my 1930s reproduction fabrics. Because I love ’em. Not much of a reason, but it’s true, and fitting since the Dresden Plate was a popular pattern in the 30s. My initial plan was to pick out pinks and blues in order to have my little mini-quilt match a painting that hangs in my bedroom, but in the end I just picked all my favorites. Because I love ’em. If it looks nice next to the painting, that’s where it will hang. If it doesn’t, there’s plenty of places it will – I’d rather make something I love than something that just matches. I reduced the template pieces a bit to make use of jelly roll strips, cut all those little wedges, and sewed up all those tiny points. By hand.

Dresden Plate start

Oh, did I not mention? I’m currently in a location with no sewing machine access. I’ll be reunited with my trusty machines soon, but for now, it’s all by hand, all the time. For me, this is not a problem – I actually find sewing by hand to be relaxing. I feel like I’m always trying to get a million things done, and always trying to get them done faster. Machine sewing lends itself to getting things stitched up as quickly as possible but, by hand, I can only go as fast as I can go. There’s no point rushing, it’s a slow activity and that’s just how it is. It’s nice to take your time sometimes. So I patiently stitched all the wee wedges together into a lovely circle. It turns out it wasn’t so intimidating after all.

Dresden Plate backing

My plate spent some time pinned to the uncut backing fabric, taped to the wall with masking tape. Classy. I just couldn’t figure out what to next. A lot of pinning and taking down ensued, mostly just resulting me getting really frustrated and not wanting to look at it at all. Finally I turned to the amazing Quilt Explorer and took inspriration from a few original 1930s quilts. I noticed several with borders of very thin strips pieced together. I cut a million tiny rectangles and the plate suffered a few very unfortunate mock-ups that I sadly don’t have photos of, until we finally worked something out.

Dresden Plate pinned layout

I love those tiny strip borders, so meticulously pieced together, but it was just too wide and distracting for a mini-quilt like this (the plate itself is 11″ across). Fed up, I rotated all those little rectangles as a last-ditch effort and, viola!, it worked. You might notice the right and bottom border strips are sewn, though not yet ironed. When the other two sides are done, I’ll tape it to the wall again and start the process over to decide what’s next.