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Giant Dresden Circle Quilt Tutorial

on Jul 23, 2012 in Blog, fabric stash, quilt, tutorial | 1 comment

Hello all! We are gearing up for our big move to Texas, but in the mean time- I’ve been sewing! Big surprise, I know. I wanted to share with you my scrappy boho baby quilt. The Dresden Circle is about 35″ diameter, appliqued onto a solid piece of Kona grey cotton 44″ x 54″. (This tutorial, or how-to, is how I made it. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to do this.)

The Inspiration: This past year I have worked on two new book titles, which will both release next Spring (2013). In doing that, I made and bound LOTS of quilts. When I realized how much binding I had leftover from these quilts, I decided to come up with a projects that would use most of my 2″ or 2 1/2″ cut scrap strips of binding. Of course, you could use a jelly roll for this design if you prefer a more tidy & coordinated look.


For this project, you will either need a ridiculous surplus of leftover binding, an assortment of 2 1/2″ strips cut from your stash, or one pre-cut 2 1/2″ wide Jelly Roll. I used leftover bindings.

You will also need background fabric. I used 1 1/2 yards of solid grey fabric.


I had to gather a few other pattern making supplies. Super sophisticated lined paper leftover from last school year, tape and a sharpie. You will need a ruler later in the drafting steps. It isn’t in the picture below. Basic rotary cutting supplies are also needed..

Step 1:

Trace the Dresden ruler onto the paper, marking the ends at the 1 1/2″ mark.

Step 2:

Connect the short end of the template using a straight edge. Measure the length, 14 1/2″ from the short end using a quilter’s ruler. Note that the distance in between the parallel ends is 14 1/2″ NOT the length of the template’s slanted side edges. (Though really, it wouldn’t matter, as long as you were consistent with your design.)

Step 3:

Extend each of the template sides. Then extend the wide end of the template to intersect those side lines to complete the shape.

Step 4:

Cut out the shape. I also recommend writing what the shape is and how many to cut (just like a commercial pattern) so you can save this template for future use.

Step 5:

  • Press all that leftover binding open, if needed.
  • Stitch the strips together to form rows. My binding is different widths, so it added a bit of variety to the design. If you use a pre-cut 2 1/2″ strip jelly roll, the strips will be much more uniform and will create intersections in the finished Dresden circle. Also, with a pre-cut 2 1/2″ strip set, your rows will be 7 strips tall.
  • The collection of strips, once sewn should be at least 14 1/2″ tall and about 92″ long, once it is complete. Since I used bindings, the strips were already joined into LONG pieces. I did have to join a few additional strips to make the total row long enough, though.
  • Press the seam allowances down, in one direction.

Step 6:

  • Fold the fabric in half, so you will cut through two layers of horizontal rows at a time.
  • Lay the template on the rows, ON YOUR CUTTING MAT, and using a ruler, rotary cut along the template’s edge.
  • Flip the template, matching one side with the previously cut edge, and make the second cut with the rotary cutting tools.
  • Cut a total of 21 Dresden wedge shapes.

Step 7:

Lay the wedges out in a radial design and carefully sew them along their diagonal edges. The edges may want to stretch a bit as you stitch, so stitch carefully. Press and starch each seam allowance in one direction. I pressed on about every 4th-6th seam or so, so I wouldn’t have to keep going to the ironing board over and over and over.

Step 8:

Using any method you prefer, create a 7″ diameter circle to applique over the large opening at the center of the Dresden design. I used a straight stitch to applique my circle to my Dresden circle shape.

Step 9:

Once the center circle is appliqued, either by machine or by hand, the shape is almost complete. At the ironing board, working from the wrong side, press the outside edge of the circle 1/4″ towards the wrong side. I heavily starched at this step because I didn’t want any of those folds coming out while I worked my way around the whole perimeter. Again, you can use any applique method you like to prepare the circle for applique onto the larger background fabric.

Step 10:

  • Press then lay out the background fabric.
  • Position the Dresden circle in an off-center location. Pin around the edges.
  • Applique the circle to the background. I used a machine straight stitch to applique, of course.
  • Cut away the background fabric from behind the shape, leaving about 1″ from the stitching line, for stability.

For finishing this quilt-? I plan on using the abundance of negative space to practice my quilting and try out more motifs from the Angela Walters book. I considered also, doing a raw edge fusible applique of a baby name in the blank space- but I’m not sure about that quite yet. Once I get rolling on it, I’m sure there will be another blog post. Stay tuned.

    1 Comment

  1. thank you – I am so going to give this a whirl. I love how you used the negative space to quilt yours up, and will have to try something similar

    What Comes Next?

    August 10, 2012

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