(not so) EZ Dresden Quilt Challenge

So we’re now on Day 6 of the EZ Dresden Quilting Challenge and by now you know all of the details and the PRIZES and have seen some really talented quilters in the likes of Lee, Kati, Victoria, TanyaVal, and Leigh. Are you inspired yet to join the challenge, or are you still on the fence about committing (although we’ll have all summer to stitch)? If you’re already on board GREAT! But if you’re still undecided because of time, or overcommitment, or whatever, I offer the following insight that will hopefully get you to change your mind.

The Idea

I am process-driven. I am not in a race to finish a quilt a week, or even a month (as my guild members can attest at my lack of show and tell). Combine that with the fact that I am a list maker. I make lists. I’ve always been this way, but started making lists even more frequently in college. It is not uncommon for me to write something on my “to do” list that I’ve already completed just so I can feel like I accomplished something cross it off.

I currently have 18 “planned” quilts on my list. 18. That were in my head, and then made it to the list. Not to mention the fact that the list needs to be updated. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my own hobby. How wacky is that?

So when the idea came about to organize and participate in a Dresden Plate quilt challenge, honestly, I felt a little lukewarm about it. Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE Dresdens. And I love my friends at EZ Quilting, especially Darlene Zimmerman, so how could I not participate in a challenge to celebrate her 20th Anniversary of making my quilting life easier? So the big question for me was how do I fit this challenge in to my “quilt schedule?” Currently it is on the list as number eight:

#8 EZ Dresden Quilt Challenge: “Gingham” inspired, navy, off-white, grey, beige, brown, color (yellow? Red, orange (sm. Gingham))? Asian? Use real Japanese. Homemade (Gwen 37 Sketches) gingham.

How is that for a ridiculously complex description of a quilt? I clearly had some initial ideas about fabrics and colors. Although what I had in my head then, was not what I am working on now.

The Reality

Here’s what I’ve decided—I need to START COMBINING THINGS. I have another list (This one is more in my head) of “stuff” I want to “do” in my quilting to make me a better quilter. (Remember these are self-imposed goals).

  • Work with “Wa” quilting style  (more on this in posts later in the summer. I suggest Googling Shizuko Kuroha if you are curious)
  • Be more liberated (do what Gwen Marston says)
  • Cutting with scissors (which sounds funny to write. I mean cut fabric like the Gee’s Bend quilters do) (Thanks to Victoria for the push)
  • Rediscover your inner artist (make art things BIG) (from a friend, my inner artist is “in there waiting”)
  • Work small to test ideas (37 Sketches)
  • Don’t be afraid to let go. Listen to your heart.

A simple list, right? I am trying to incorporate all of them in this project.

The Process

So I started by putting some thought into this challenge, then letting my head get quiet. I went to bed one night and couldn’t sleep. An idea came to me and I got up immediately and quickly sketched this:

Then in the morning I got up and pulled a bunch of fabrics that matched my vision. This initial mix met my first objective of working in the “wa” quilt style. “Wa” is loosely interpreted as “Japanese-ness” which in quilting oftentimes translates to an indigo-based palette. I have a large selection of fabrics I purchased in Japan (see my initial color description from #8, above). My idea was starting to gel, and by now I was getting really excited. You see, I had started combining items in the quiting challenges I had set for myself. This is good. Here’s where I went from lukewarm to hot.

Then I began three experiments.

1) working on the foundation–from scraps in my scrap bin that roughly approximated the color palette (not the fabrics) I wanted to to work with, and

2) experimenting with color options for the Dresden Plates based upon my sketch.

I worked small and quickly (also on the goal list). These pieces are only about 12″ x 9″. I did all this work in a couple of hours one evening.

3) Having opted for the combination on the right (mustard yellow on an indigo/tan background–FYI, I also tried the reverse, and will likely eventually do a reverse reverse–pink on mostly tan) I began experimenting with the plates themselves. This process is evolving. I’ve decided to not limit myself to the 18 degree ruler rule. Plus there is an innovative category, right? Really you can use a variety of sizes in the “petals/blades” to make the plate. (See: rediscover your inner artist)

I experimented with making really long blades (maybe too long–I’ll ultimately make the scale proportional to my finished quilt dimensions). So far I have come up with the following (in order of experimentation):

I’m liking thinner pieces here like in the picture above on the right. (working more liberated)

Notice how the length of the plates changes through the sequence and also how I experimented with a jagged center (and how the light changes based upon the time of day I am working). Frustrated by the 2 hours it took to make only 1/2 a plate (on the left in the last photo) I quickly cut parts for a plate using the ruler as it is intended (on the right in the last photo). It is simpler and more straightforward. Definitely “EZ”, however after some thought (See: Listen to your heart) and a sample poll from my peeps on Instagram (I’m stitchoutsidetheditch) I think I have decided to go with the more complex (read labor intensive) version. We’ll see. I might make my foundation first then reassess based upon its complexity.

So, unfortunately I don’t have a finished project for you to see but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my process. I’ll keep you posted throughout the summer so you can see how the full-size version of this quilt is progressing. Now, are you ready to get started?

Have you by dying to try out a Dresden Plate quilt (hint, hint). Perhaps, like me you’ve wanted to work in a particular color scheme, or with a different technique. I encourage you to look at your “list” to see what you can combine, and put that energy into a fabulous  quilt. I have one ruler to giveaway to a lucky reader who is up for the challenge. Just leave me a comment (anything will do, but I’d love to hear a bit about your process) and I’ll announce a winner on Thursday, June 14. And since we can’t all be winners, I encourage you to pick up a versatile EZ Dresden Ruler at your LQS or directly from Simplicity.

I can’t wait to see your final quilts posted on the Salt Lake Modern Quilt Guild’s Link Up during the week of September 1. We’ll give you all those details on June 15. Mark your calenders now and go get your Dresden on!

Here’s the schedule for your continuing daily dose Dresden:

June 1
Salt Lake Modern Quilt Guild Kick Off www.slmqg.com/

June 2
Lee: freshlypieced.blogspot.com/

June 3
Kati www.fromthebluechair.com/

June 4
Victoria: bumblebeansinc.blogspot.com/
Tanya: www.squaresandtriangles.com

June 5
Val: howaboutpinkplease.blogspot.com/
Leigh: leedledeedlequilts.blogspot.com/

June 6
Amy: amyscreativeside.com/
Elisa: www.stitchoutsidetheditch.com/ (that’s me)

June 7
Katie: www.swimbikequilt.com/
Emily: emsscrapbag.blogspot.com/

June 8
Melissa: happyquiltingmelissa.blogspot.com/
Brooke: pitterputterstitch.blogspot.com/

June 9
Nicole:  mamalovequilts.blogspot.com/
Amy: sukie.mt-wudan.com/

June 10
Elizabeth: www.dontcallmebetsy.com/
Colleen: www.thebusybean.com/

June 11
Faith: www.freshlemonsquilts.com/
Deonn: quiltscapesquilting.blogspot.com/

June 12
Angela: angelaflicker.com/
Barbie: thequiltingmill.blogspot.com

June 13
Amy: www.diaryofaquilter.com/

June 14
Jessica: sewcraftyjess.blogspot.com/

June 15
Salt Lake MQG: Wrap-up www.slmqg.com/

87 thoughts on “(not so) EZ Dresden Quilt Challenge

  1. Another ‘list’ person!! I’d be lost without my lists! My brain is always swimming with ideas. My Dresden Plate Challenge quilt is a little more traditional and required less thought. I’m a scrap quilter, and decided to keep it bright and cheery, so out came the bright and cheery scrap box! I wanted to incorporate some embroidery, so out came the graph paper tablet and the scribbles began!!

  2. Loving your process.
    I make lists too!
    The process to make a quilt for me is long and very planned. Color, design, texture and space are vital and considered at every stage!
    I’m enjoying the blog hop. Thanks very much for joining in.

    • I can sympathize with the long planned process. Mine evolves as I work on it. Does yours too or do you know after the planning what the end will be?

  3. I really like the way you are doing this dresden…very modern…I have made one dresden that I really liked and I hope to make more…I would really like to see your dresden when it is completed. thanks for the giveaway…

  4. I’ve never made a dresden but I’ve always liked the look of them but I love your liberated dresdens – I’d love to try them!!

  5. That’s a great looking quilt. I absolutely love Dresden quilts although I still haven’t attempted making one yet. I really need to do it soon since I do love almost every one I have seen so far.

  6. I also love lists. Only problem, I keep losing the lists. I’m ready to start a scrappy Dresden project but I don’t have a ruler. Thanks for the opportunity to win one 😉

    • I hope you win too! If not, you can likely find one at your local quilt shop,the Simplicity.com website, or other online and craft store retailers.

  7. Holy smokes. I absolutely soaked your process up. This was lovely to follow and read.
    I do a daily post-it and yes, I totally put stuff on there I can put a “star” by for completion. This was a great inspiration for people like me who haven’t quite stepped into creating from scratch yet.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks Samantha for the positive feedback. You never really know how well people will accept a different style of quilting and thinking about quilting. You can totally create from scratch. You only have your own rules to break and those rules that have been instilled in us (read: all points must match!).

      • I think you did great. I have actually never read someone’s creation and thought process and a lot of it I was nodding along. Sometimes we need these little starts of guidelines and then we feel empowered to try ourselves! 🙂

  8. Love the lists! My processing also includes researching! I have this need to learn everything I can on whatever my passion may be. Lately it’s been quilting and all the blogs have been invaluable resources!

  9. lately the overabundance of fig tree fabric and my sisters inspired me to start 4 new projects…xo
    loving all the creative ideas w the dresden….and thanks for the chance to win a ruler xo

  10. Thanks for sharing your process. I’m glad to see someone else puts a lot of thought into their work. Sometimes I am intimidated by folks who whip up new completed projects each day.

    • Thanks Kim. I don’t find it intimidating, but intrepret my own lack of a completed project as lack of progress. Was thinking about this on the way to work this morning. I’ve seen the “I took the process pledge” many places on blogs and I think process is more commonly interpreted as project pledge. I did x,y,z steps to make this quilt. Not I picked 10 fabrics, looked at them on the design wall for a week, cut some and didn’t like them, back to the drawing board, wait that’s not quite the look I was going for, redo, process pledge. We are “quilting” even with all the steps and it is a process. Keep doing what you are doing. It isn’t a race.

  11. Thanx for sharing your process. It’s interesting to see how this has evolved. I tend to be more of a plunge right in before completely thinking things out…..which might explain my large number of ufo’s……

  12. My process? I have yet to make a quilt from an actual pattern. That is not to say I am super crafty/creative, usually I see an inspiration, then go from there. I spend quite a bit of time doodling on paper and working out measurements (I became obsessed with measurements after my first quilt ended up being about 3 feet too long for a twin bed). After lots of doodling and number crunching, I still end up messing up quite a bit, but usually refuse to “un-sew”…if I can live with the mistake, in it stays. 😀
    love your progress so far on the dresden plate…I had a similar idea of using different lengths.

  13. I don’t often make lists, but I do tend to make them when I get overwhelmed with all the projects I have hanging out on my cutting table. I forget what I have going and don’t know what to work on. It helps me focus better and get back on track. Too many ideas, too little time.

  14. I like to dream and sketch and calculate (I love math) — not experiment with real fabric as have too little fabric. However, I rarely plan the details of border, binding, sashing (if any), backing, or quilting until that stage. My up front planning generally is for The Block. Perhaps this is why it takes me so long to make a quilt. Please enter me into the draw for the EZ Dresden. I’ve seen how versatile this ruler can be for more than traditional Dresden plate. Thanks.

    • I love math too Marcia! It is the scientist in me. That is part of the fun in quilting don’t you think. That is why I challenge myself with being more liberated. For years I worked where “all points must match up.”

  15. I also try to combine things from my list. Like, back in the spring I did an online challenge to make a zig zag quilt. I made it a color wheel zig zag which was perfect for a graduation gift for my niece who is artistically inclined. I haven’t done any dresdens but I would love to try. Thanks for sharing your process and for the chance to win!

  16. had that same sort of “turn the lights back on and get this idea on paper” just last night! Or it would have been a shorter night. Lucky you, to have coordinated fabric to play with 🙂

  17. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, it was nice visiting inside your head. My process involves only one project at a time. I must completely finish one before starting another or else everything gets too muddled up for me. I have no current project and have never tried a Dresden plate so the timing of this contest seems to be a perfect fit. Thanks for the chance of winning the ruler.

  18. I don’t worry too much about finishing which means I often take a very long time to finish and have many UFOs. I don’t mind though.

  19. I am still a newbie with quilting. Honestly, I like kits and fabric bundles of a line because I don’t have to stress about what fabrics/prints/hues/patterns…will go together. I’ve been told that will change with time, not sure about that. I loved reading about your process and realizing you did’nt just grab and go to have it turn out but had thought and planned and pondered along the way. I love the look of Dresden Plate quilts and appreciate the chance to win a ruler in your giveaway.

  20. Love your process, thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, my process is more chaotic. I pull fabric and start cutting, then begin to winnow. Seems I always cut too much so I make more scraps that I then feel I have to use up before I can get creative again. Really like what you are doing with the Dresdens.

  21. As I have been following the blog hop, I think your jagged plates are the most exciting design I have seen yet. I love it.

  22. Also my favorite dresden-ness so far, love the jaggedness !! Thank you! Loved reading your “processing”.

  23. I am new to quilting so I do not have a process. But I do sew a lot and I keep my ideas in my head, mulling them over a lot. I also keep them on my computer.

  24. i have an idea for a dresden floating around in my head which i may be ready to draw tomorrow. that’s my process … ‘seeing’ it, drawing it, cutting it. i’ll have to draw me an 18 degree ruler first!

  25. WoW! How interesting and inspiring your post is. It really is neat to see how other’s thought process works. Although I’ve been quilting and sewing for over 20 years, my background is more traditional. I saw something I liked, I bought fabric and made it. It’s only recently that I’ve thought about creating something on my own. That being the key word “thought”. I’m not even sure where to start. I guess this is where “just do it” comes into play. hehe. I enjoy these blog hops as I always find talented and inspiring people that I want to hear more from. I loved your post and when I’m done here I’m going to become a follower. Thanks again for sharing your process, lists and pictures. ;D

    Thank you also for a super giveaway and a chance to win.


    • You can make your own design! Maybe start with scraps left over from other projects if you don’t have a stash. Possibly start small and enter in the mini category. Wouldn’t a mini quilt with mini dresdens in scraps be the most adorable quilt for a little girl.

  26. I am a list person too. It helps keep me on task. I am torn between doing something traditional with all the vintage scraps I have or doing something more edgy. I guess I will just have to wait and see what I end up with!

    • Thanks for your support Elizabeth. I haven’t been blogging long (long time quilter, recently stopped editing) so I love the support everyone is showing me in this challenge. Thanks for sharing with your friends! The more the merrier!

  27. Hi Elisa – I, too, am process driven. I like seeing how you worked through this one, especially how to combine other goals you have with this new project. My process always starts with a “starter” fabric – it could be a single fabric or it could be a line of fabrics. I put the fabric on my design wall – pinned so I can see a large piece of it every time I walk by. As I live with the fabric, I get inspired on how to use it. I use my design wall as a sort of “idea” wall – there are at least 40 pieces of fabric up on it right now. Two of those fabrics are screaming “Dresden!” at me right now…

    • I love how you say you “live” with the fabric (head nodding up and down). I frequently pull a group (I mainly work from stash, rarely collections) and let it sit for a bit, adding and subtracting. I really enjoy that part and how my thoughts about it change. I do most of my quilting at night so I leave stuff up on the design wall to see what it looks like in the morning light. It is amazing what a difference the light makes. Can’t wait to see which of the “Dresden fabrics” wins out!

  28. Your idea of uneven blades is very inspiring. I’ve started a traditional Dresden plate lap quilt recently but am THINKING about jumping into this challenge.

  29. For me, this would be a valuable exercise in being creative and NOT having to ‘do it right’. playing with the dresden ruler, and exploring color groups… I’m leaning towards purple greens and oranges… shades of them. I did a similar type shape for my table using these colors and they look so beautiful togehter. just like the colors in my yard right now, with the lush green from our spring rains, the purple rhodedendron and the orange poppies…

    thanks for the chance to win.


  30. This looks great! Thanks for sharing the process! Sometimes I have an idea and I start a project, then it finds its way to the Ufobox and then suddenly after a (long) while I take it out and am able to finish it.

  31. I make lists for groceries, and lists for quilts. Like missf above, I have to “live” with the fabrics for awhile. I have many many sketches, and lots of words. I am not a very good sketcher, so I make a little doodle, and describe in detail….what I am thinking….and when I decide on a design I want to make, I pull a bunch of fabrics, stack ’em up…add subtract….cut , sew, quilt… sometimes those stacks of fabric end up in a box, with my notes, to save for a later date. sometimes they get made as originally planned, sometimes they change. I have three projects on the desing wall, and I have lost count of the stacks I have going right now 🙂
    Your uneven plates are fantastic, I have not yet made a dresden, actually just joined a swap to make some, and then found the challenge…..thanks for the inspiration.

  32. Love your creativity. Amazing. I have thought about doing a dresden for a long time, but it is still on the to do list for now……….

  33. Really like the variety of lengths you are using which has me thinking… My process is typically driven by fabric. I find something I really want to work with and then let it influence the design. Think I’m going to try the challenge. Thanks for sharing your process!

    • We work in the opposite. I think of the design, then pull from my stash fabrics that will work. I’m glad you are joining the challenge. It is sure to be fun!

  34. I liked how you tried out the fabrics in tiny pieces. I often find laying the bolts out in the store can be deceiving along with the lighting issues. I will give this a on on my next project. Thanks for the ideas. Enjoy your trip!

  35. Process? I need to find one! I dream and plan in my head, sometimes buy some fabric for the project, occasionally get round to doing some cutting and sewing before getting carried away and sidetracked by the next great idea…….. I’m looking to change and finish a few UFOs 🙂

  36. I AM enjoying your process. Wow, you are an artist, for sure! I love your lists – I’m usually a list maker but you have inspired me to be much more detailed and to really look at all I want to accomplish in quilting. Besides, that I am going to be following you as soon as I finish this comment. Thank you, I’d love to win the ruler.

  37. Thanks for a chance to win! I do enjoy seeing inside other people’s heads, and how their processes go, too. I made a list too, recently, on my personal blog, of quilts I have planned or would like to do. Also on my to-do list is to start a public blog for my own sewing and quilting, like all you amazing people!
    My processes usually take a long time. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I take my time sewing. It’s my hobby and my passion, after all! I read blogs, flip through my pattern books and magazines, find blocks I love in my Quilt-Pro program, sometimes drawing them in myself if it’s not in the library, then design my quilt in the program. I find a color scheme I like with the colors/fabrics in the program, then take it to my local stores, often taking several trips, to find fabrics that are similar and that I want to use. I play with colors and color layouts within the blocks a lot, and sometimes those get changed as I go along.

  38. Thank you for sharing your creative process! I’m not too adventurous yet and tend to stick with prints from 1 collection/line. Hopefully, I will venture out soon!

  39. That was actually very helpful. I find I am often overwhelmed with my to-do list and I loove the idea of combining things where possible.
    I am off to re-fine my list and see how I go at making it smaller.

  40. You are my last hop for the evening. I am filled with Dresden Plate images. I think what I like most about yours is the choice of color. Kind of monochromatic but full of texture. After all of the amazingly creative designs I have seen, I am thinking more along the lines of color than design. I have a pile of Ghastly fabric from Henry something or other. It is mostly gray and black with pink inserted here and there. The little girl’s hair ribbon, the woman’s cheeks, etc. It is Halloween fabric but it tells a story of a lot of people. The thing that attracted me to this line was really the drawings, and especially the faces. I think I will fussy cut out pieces of the amazing scenes and make all of the Dresden blades out of the same fabric. I might put the full plates on a pale pink or gray background for my neutral. But there are some outstanding pink and gray pieces that I bought at the time, not knowing what I would do with any of it. Maybe the quilt can be bordered with blades, alternating directions to make a straight border of the coordinating stuff, scrappy. How’s that for process. I thunk it up right here on your blog. Night! Lyn

  41. Post-script: I dreamed my design! The scenes include a dinner table with Ghastly guests. I will make a table, viewed from overhead, with six place settings and a runner in the middle. My main goal is to have the option to feature faces and scenes rather then cut them up. This will be a Ghastly Dinner Party. Whatdaya think?

    • I absolutely love it Lyn! And the Alexander Henry Ghastlies fabric is an excellent choice. I have been thinking of getting some myself. I doI love their faces. Reminds me of the intro to a PBS show I used to watch as a kid (was it Mystery?). Except the mauve/gray makes it unexpectedly sweet. AH is one of my favorite companies. The design team are the nicest they come and so creative. My stash over flows with them.

      I loved the sponenaity of your process and the though that maybe I triggered it :). I can’t wait to see your design.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments and reply.

  42. Oh!!! I see one of my mystery fabrics in your Dresden!! It’s the shiny dot one. White (pearl) on white. Its my favorite fabric & I want to get more!
    Anyone know the line/designer?
    So excited to learn someone’s process! TFS Elisa! I can’t wait to make dresdens, those are my favorite.

    • Thanks Kimberlee. The fabric you are asking about (although it is a shade of yellow) is from the Mirror Ball Dot line by Michael Miller. It came out years ago, but I think it is being reprinted.

  43. I have an “impossible” list that I have named as such. This simple title takes the crappy gradue off the tasks on the list. Since i’ve officially deemed it “impossible”, I feel more empowered to know that not everything will be completed on the list today…or tomorrow…or the next. It has given me permission to slow down my quilting process and enjoy the process and journey more than the finished project and the defined “end”.

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  47. My Dresden quilt “Over The Horizon” started as tonal overlapping dresdens ( fans basically ). Then tonal stripes to the finished design.
    A few days of playing with already cut Dresden wedges was a bit risky, but I wanted a challenge. Once the top was pieced I basted it and started quilting with an irregular wave – I hated it. The batting was too thin and the waves looked horrid in the contrasting threads that I had chosen. Unpick! Try new batting. Try quilting again… Unpick 2 more times before finally settling on the straight lines following the zig. Once I finished quilting I decided to add what would have been the Dresden centres. Then to quilt the spots or not? I tried and unpicked twice again. I was Finished! Well I thought I was, until my three year old told me tonight that I still had more work to do!
    It is a process that evolves – I love that it keeps me thinking.
    Hope to see you tomorrow – hubby comes in from OS – so may just pop in and collect the fabric from Barbie.

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