I recently finished quilting Kathy’s amazing Dresden Plate quilt top. I’ve been fortunate enough to quilt for her many times in the past. Kathy and I share a love for bold, colorful fabrics and this quilt is no exception. The primary feature of this quilt is the extra large central Dresden Plate created from striped fabric. Now, take a look at how incredibly well that center plate is pieced. Amazing, right? Every stripe meets up perfectly with the stripe in the next door blade of the plate. The skill level it takes to accomplish this is daunting. Right away, I was intimidated. 🙂
Kathy wanted this quilt custom quilted which means each block, border, sashing, corner, etc are all treated independently of each other in the quilting process. I wait to load a quilt top to my frame until I know about 15% of what I’m going to do on it. I trust the rest will just come to me based on what I’m doing in other parts of the quilt. Sometimes that takes a lot of courage but, believe me, the fabrics and the quilt’s design will begin to inspire you as you work on it.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the circle base of each of the Dresden plates and the circles appliqued in the cornerstones of the inner striped border. I knew I wanted to highlight those circles somehow but it needed to be fairly simple quilting as the circles aren’t that big. I also knew the checkerboard in the center of the large Dresden was going to get a continuous curve or pumpkin seed treatment so as not to take away from the piecing she did to fill that central Dresden.
So, that was all I knew going in- 1) I’d use a simple circle motif for the inner striped border’s cornerstones and repeat that simple motif in the center circles on the smaller Dresdens. 2) I’d be using continuous curves in the center checkerboard of the large Dresden. I’m not sure that even counts for 15% of a plan, eh? My point is… jump in and just trust yourself when you have a project like this.
The next decision I made was to start looking for other places to use circle motifs to soften the stripes. That was when I decided to use a double bubble border design for the inner striped border. I decided to use a ruler to do straight line chevron quilting in the outer checkerboard border. This allowed me to repeat the circle motifs in the outside border’s intersections. When I got done with the straight line quilting I thought the outer border needed just a bit more stitching in those large checkerboards so I added a second chevron line.
The next decision was about how to treat the blades of the smaller Dresden’s. I decided a simple arrowhead curl would allow me to extend the stitching up into the tip of each of the blades nicely. Kathy’s needle turn applique technique on each of those blades is fantabulous, BTW. I didn’t want to stitch on the edges of the blades because she’d done such a great job with her applique. The simple freehand curl is all it needed and suggested just the right amount of movement to the eye.
I thought about doing crosshatching behind all those smaller Dresden plates but I had a feeling I’d be doing crosshatching behind the large center plate and I didn’t want to repeat it with all those smaller ones. Instead, I chose a motif that had a blade like portion with a center circle. Again, with the circles! 🙂 Take a closer look at the elements in the motif I used on the four sides of the background squares to the smaller plates. Do you see how I’m repeating elements and reflecting back on the piecing? Repeat and reflect! It is the basis for so many quilting decisions I make.
All of those decisions led me to the central striped border and large striped Dresden. I decided to bring in the double bubble in the tip of each blade to play off the stripes while tying it into the outer striped border made from the same fabric. I then used a free motion swirl to bring it down to the base of each blade.
Finally, the purple and white stripped inner border was inspired by the shape of the tips on the motif used in each side of the blocks housing the smaller Dresden’s. I used my Twisted Arch design for this space because I needed structure there but also knew that there wasn’t much that was going to show on those stripes.
I hope that by breaking down my thought process and the order in which I made decisions on this custom quilt will help you look at your projects in a new light!