Friday, October 25, 2019

Longarming a 1930's Dresden Plate Quilt

"Oh, What Shall I Quilt on Monday?"

Just a tiny tongue-in-cheek, but not really true in this case. I just actively began taking in outside quilting. Not enough to be bombarded, but figuring 15-20 hours a week would be a nice pace for me. It's been most enjoyable so far, and I've met some talented quilters. But the person who pieced this quilt top is gone, and she or he left behind a legacy for future generations. Lucky me, I was asked to finish it.

Without a doubt, it's a 1930's style quilt when you consider the fabrics and pattern. Who knows exactly when it was done though, as many quilts aren't finished the year they're started. Don't we all know that? This quilt may have been on hold as the quilter ran out of enough Nile green to complete the border. Off with the old, and on with a pin stripe green in a slightly lighter shade. 

While I waited for the fabric to wash--as all the fabrics in this quilt had been well washed before piecing, and shrinkage on a border is unthinkable, I contemplated spacing between the Dresden plates. The quilt was surprisingly square overall, but the plates had quite a bit of irregularities. I had several ideas of motifs that would be suitable for a 75-90 year old quilt, and it was time to try a digital layout.

Using designs straight from my ProStitcher bank of motifs, I came up with this layout over the next week. There would be some fussing with the actual spacing on the quilt top to allow wiggle room for adjustments, but I was satisfied.

The lovely border was on, quilt loaded, and I started with a quick ditch stitch to keep things straight. I'd never quilted a quilt of this age, and wasn't quite sure what to expect. Next came the piano key swag border set just off the ditch line. Spacing your motif 1/4" out keeps things looking neater than if you miss the mark. This is a good rule of thumb with any quilt. Though you may have a quilt perfectly square, you are working with fabric, and fabric shifts as well as the distortion caused by rolling. 

Next were the Dresden plates. I spent the time adjusting and testing the design on each plate. When it would be in the middle of a blade on one side, it would be off somewhere else. One would come to the edge of the tip and another not so close at all. Finally, I settled on making sure the last pass around the center was within the plate, and not the white feed sack. Many centers were oblong more than circular, and I had to suck it up and move on.

Stitching out the large motifs for the first time made me giggle right there. 

The scale was slightly different between the two types of feathers, but it was still good. I might see this kind of quilting motif on a vintage quilt, and often they used different scales in the day. As I added the connecting quilting, I debated about filler around the plates, and if I was to do anything in the centers. As I had a customer budget, I was working within that as well as the wonkiness of the quilt blocks. I'd wait until the end to decide.

Several blocks had tiny basting stitches left in that I removed. Also, the back of the plate was not cut out, and I left it for stability. The feed sack was in wonderful shape except for some slubs in a few blocks, and some darkening where there had been seams. I was fairly sure they had truly been feed sacks when I removed the borders. There was significant fraying on the edges. Often these sacks were washed and whitened with bleach to get the dye stamps out, and I wasn't sure how fragile this fabric actually might be. 

The one hiccup I had was the corner motifs. I had the top ones stitched in, and knew they didn't work. The scale was off. I pulled quilt from the frame to turn it for the opposite borders, and sent pictures to my quilting besties. They confirmed what I knew. So I ripped and spritzed oh, so carefully, and I hunted something else.

This one?


How about this?

Then Beth from Cooking Up Quilts suggested cropping out the curls from the feather I'd already used, and it was an ah-ha moment. Yes! Turning that motif to fit, though, meant it would be smaller in a corner, and also would change the scale once again. Thankfully, those feathers appeared about the same size as the center motif feathers. I had lucked out!

I had about 17 hours of working with the quilt at the frame by this point, but I was happy with it. I decided not to fill around the plates, and that any design I would put in the centers would draw the eye to the skewed circles. It was enough.

Lovely! This old quilt top will live on, and I imagine there is a quilter in heaven as pleased as Punch.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.

Linking up with~
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?


  1. Lovely finish, you make it look easy too.

  2. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your process.

  3. Lovely; you've done that old quilt proud.

  4. It’s very eye opening to learn what you go through to get such an important project like this just right. You’ve certainly done this beauty justice! It’s gorgeous, Julie!

  5. Wow. You did a great job quilting this. Well done.

  6. It is so great that one more vintage quilt is done! You did a lovely job. Are the feathers something that can be programed in your machine so they all come out the same? Changing that corner design was a good idea. The way you ended up looks wonderful. I have a double wedding ring that a friend's grandmother pieced. Some of the fabrics are vintage, but others are not. I was in rough shape when I got it. It had been quilted, but horribly. It was the last quilt grandma ever pieced and it was pieced pretty bad. When the quilting was removed along with the spray basted batting, it didn't even come close to lying flat. There were folds and there is no way I could quilt it. I ended up taking it apart, recutting the arcs, melons, and center then sewing it back together. I was going to machine quilt it but the lady said her grandmother would have hand quilted it so that is what I am currently doing when I can find the time. You are so lucky the quilt was as flat and squared up as it was.

  7. Beautifully done! What a gorgeous heirloom for the family.


Thoughtful comments are Honey to My Heart! Thank you for taking time to leave such words. Feel free to email me directly with any specific questions at
Pink Doxie Mama