Dresdens Decoded Tutorial

I’ve been surprised to meet so many quilters recently who haven’t tried a dresden yet, including some who’ve been quilting for years! Just never got around to it, or perhaps have been intimidated by the fact that it’s round (round = scary!), or because it’s a reeeeeally, really traditional block.

Well I have news for you! Dresdens are SO EASY and can be SO MODERN. They are my favorite block of all time! Seems like no matter what fabrics I choose, they end up looking crisp and just plain pretty.

So this tut’s for YOU (you know who you are!).

First off, you must get Darlene Zimmerman’s Easy Dresden Tool. It’s just a few bucks, avail at any quilt shop, and is the key to unlocking all things dresden!

Next, pick out your fabric (my favorite step of any quilting project, by far!). If you want each blade to be different, choose 20.

Now you’ll need to decide what you’d like the height of each blade to be. For this tutorial, I did 5″ blades, which I think is a really great standard size that fits well on a 16″ pillow form or a 12.5″ quilt block. This size is also great because it’s perfect for charm squares (you can get 2 blades out of each charm).

Line your tool up so that a clean cut edge is on the 5″ mark (or whatever mark you choose).

Now use your rotary to cut around the edge, as accurately as possible. Helps if you stick some InvisiGrip to the underside of your dresden template to keep it from slipping.

Repeat until you have 20 blades. YUM!

Now, take a blade and fold it in half lengthwise, right sides together.

Stitch 1/4″ seam along the top edge (it’s to your right in the above photo), being sure to feed the raw edges first (not the fold).

Now, quick as a bunny, chain stitch all 20 of them without stopping!

Next, clip them all apart and turn them right side out. Use your semi-pointed scissors to push out the points and make them nice and crisp.

Finger press the the folds so that the seam is centered, and then press with an iron. A shot of heavy starch wouldn’t hurt at this point too, since your seams aren’t quite on grain (starch is our friend!!!)

Btw, I say bypass “clear starch alternatives” and go for the real deal- Faultless Heavy. Makes your fabric BEHAVE, and your quilt will soften right back up in the wash.

Ok, enough of my starch rant. On to more fun- lay out! Arranged the blades to your liking next to your machine, for easy access.

SO PRETTY! Valentines Day is here early!

Now pick up 2 blades that are next to each other, place them right sides together, and sew a 1/4″ seam down the right side, making sure the top corners points meet (don’t worry about the bottom edge- it won’t show).

Continue adding blades until you’ve used all 20. Then sew your first blade to your last blade, in the same fashion, to complete the circle.

Begin to press your dresden flat, smoothing the seams to get a nice flat, round shape. If your seam allowances aren’t all exactly perrrrrfect, it’s ok- this step will usually hide any flaws.

Yay! You made a dresden!! Now time to add your center.

Decide how big of a circle you want in the middle, keeping in mind that a larger circle will make the blades appear shorter, like a big ring, and a smaller circle will give longer blades and more of a flower effect.

This bowl seemed about right, so I just traced around 2 layers of my fabric with a pencil.

Now, you could cut this out with scissors, but I say, bah, too much work…my small rotary can do the job so much faster.

Next, pin the 2 circles right sides together, and sew a 1/4″ seam around the entire thing (I did 1/2″ seam on mine since I decided I wanted my circle a bit smaller). Clip the seams.

Now pinch the fabric on one side to separate the 2 layers, and make a 2″ cut in it with your scissors.

Turn your circle right side out and press.

You’re ready to applique! Either pin or temp fabric glue your dresden and center to your base fabric, and sew around each with your preferred stitch (zig-zag, straight, satin, or blanket would all work great). I did my last one using a zig-zag with invisible nylon thread and you can’t even see the seam!

Congrats! You can finally check this off your bucket list!



  1. I must be odd-woman-out – my very first quilt was a dresden design! Daunting for a newbie but looked so good when finished it gave me confidence to carry on and try other things! I recommend starting with something you’re not sure about and then going on to the ‘easier’ options!

    Love your blog, tutorials and patterns! Happy sewing!

  2. Marilyn Shade says:

    Thank you for this, Amy. I really enjoyed making my first Dresdens with your 2012 BOM, and next year’s block exchange in our quilt guild is going to be Dresden blocks! I’m sending them a link to your excellent tutorial.

  3. Amy: I didn’t discover the Craftsy BOM until mid-November and have been having a ball catching up. I had what I thought was a Dresden template in my supply so set about making 20 blades and sewing them together. Although I never was in love with looking at Dresden designs, I LOVED making one only to discover that I’d used a 15 degree template, and for 20 petals to make a circle, it needs an 18 degree template. (Or 24 petals) Anyway, with a little extra sewing around the seams at the center, it lays flat, has a 1″ center hole, and I absolutely love it. It’s 8″ in diameter. Petite and charming.
    I’ve signed up for your 2013 BOM, and can’t wait to see what you come up with.
    Thanks so much for your inspiration.

  4. Hi Amy – what a great tutorial, but even more, I love the fabrics you used. I’m making a baby quilt for a little girl coming into the world next May and her mom has requested pink – can you tell me what you used? Thanks so much!

  5. Dresdens always make me smile!! I made a dresden out of the sweet scoop fabric on blue denim-like cotton fabric just a few weeks ago and it turned out wonderful! I just don’t know where I want to take it next. I was going to make it into a pillow but it is so cute I want to show it off so I may make it into a tote bag.

  6. I took a dresden plate class a few years back & I loved how it went together so neatly. I made one for my dining room table I loved it so much. This is one project I am very happy is no longer on my UFO list. Your idea about valentines day is a good one, once you get the hang of the project you can make one for each special day, birthday, holidays, tea parties, etc.

  7. I have been watching your Block of the month videos on Craftsy and you are an awesome teacher! I just started sewing in November and your class gives me confidence to quilt and I love it, Thank you!!

  8. wow – best tutorial ever!!!! thanks heaps :) ive found my way here after starting to work on your craftsy block of the month. thanks!

  9. Kayo Scacci says:

    Dear Amy:
    You have made it so easy, your instructions were so easy to follow. I have never made a Dresden before, I’m so happy with the results.

  10. Amy,
    Can you add to this how you would add this to fabric to make a block

  11. love it will give it a go. thank you.

  12. Sherry Fram says:

    I think your tutorial is the easiest to follow of all that I have read about Dresden blocks. I have made one and if I had read your tutorial first I would have saved myself a few less ripping out of seams!! lol Thanks for sharing it with all of us!

  13. Deborah French says:

    Amy your tutorials are timeless!! I originally learned with you through your first Craftsy BOM – but came back for a refresher!! What I was really looking for is a conversion chart of sorts to tell me the “completed” size each blade would make. You answered my question because I wanted one for a 16″ pillow form, but would love o determine other sizes. I will keep looking, but any suggestions? Thanks as always, you have taught me so much!!!

  14. Betty Orr says:

    Question: Is there a way to sew the outside circle of dresen plate to background
    fabric & turn to make it easier than having to turn under 1/4″ & applique??

  15. How is the center circle size determined? I want a tiny dresden plate and am trying to figure out the math components and height to wide ratio of blades. LOL

  16. Inger Rasmusson says:

    I am one of those quilters you first mentioned. I have been quilting for more than 30 years, and I made my first Dresden plate quilt last year! Since then I have made a few more, both by hand and on my machine. I love both ways, and now I try to have one going all the time, alongside my other projects. Your fabrics are fabulous!


  1. […] endroit, on coud, on coupe le petit triangle afin de mieux retourner… Une pointe est prête (un tuto ici) ! A faire à la chaîne, cela va si vite ainsi […]

  2. […] to cut mine. I cut them the whole 8 inches. Amy Gibson has an excellent tutorial for making these here. Just remember that you are only doing a half circle and only need the 10 blades instead of the […]

  3. […] was that it was fiddly. I don’t do well with fiddly. Remember I’m lazy. So then I found this tutorial which had another approach.  Sew two circles together, cut a hole in one and then flip it inside […]

  4. […] were to use clear brights and a black/white center circle. Cindy recommended THIS tutorial, and the use of Darlene Zimmerman’s Easy Dresden […]

  5. […] every circle quilt need one?  I’d been making them for my bee groups.  We used *this tutorial* and sewed them on the sewing machine (although I used my version of the centers, and machine […]

  6. […] *this* tutorial, and again borrowing from Rene’, Cindy went with a rainbow Dresden plate, with a […]

Speak Your Mind