Tutorial: How to make an improv Dresden block, in any size (PART 1)

*** No vlog last weekend which was completely intentional, I felt like I needed a little break but there will be a video tutorial on piecing curves this week so keep on subscribing to my YouTube channel (and you could win a precut prize)! ***

Hi everyone, today I thought I would bring you a tutorial on how to make an improv Dresden plate without the need for a special ruler. I really enjoyed making this Dresden, even if I did make mistakes along the way I had to fix! I needed to make a 30 inch block, and I couldn’t find a Dresden ruler that big, so I made my own template. You can make your template as big as you want,  and then I’ll show you how to use it tomorrow. Here we go!

A pencil
Large sheet of paper
Sheet of template plastic and scissors to cut it with
Protractor ( you don’t need a fancy one, a plastic school one works)
Tape, if your template plastic is shorter than your block size

First off, I had to decide how many blades I wanted, and divide 360 by that number to work out what angle the sides needed to taper by. It also was important to me that it was an easy number. I went with 20 blades, 360/20 = 18 degree angle for this tutorial. Turns out, this is a pretty standard Dresden ruler angle, so if you wanted something different, here’s some suggestions.

10 blades – 36 degree angle
24 blades – 15 degree angle
30 blades – 12 degree angle
40 blades – 9 degree angle

I actually decided to mix the widths up a bit so for my real example I made 2 templates – I had 10 14 degree blades and 10 22 degree blades. 10×14=140 and 10×22=220, 140+220= 360. So you can be create with the sizes as long as it all adds up to 360!

I wanted my block to be 30″, and the hole in the centre to be small. I decided the width of the narrowest point on my template should be 1/2″ finished- if I went right to a point there would be a ton of bulk. You still need to draw your template as a triangle though, to make sure the block finishes the right size and takes account of the space in the centre. I used freezer paper for my template because it is what I had to hand, but you could use any kind of large sheet of paper. Here’s what I did.

1) I started out by drawing the finished size, before adding seam allowances. For a 30″ block, I started with a line 15″ long, because I’m only concerned about the radius of the dresden for the template.

2) Use the protractor by lining up your line with the 0 degree line, and the end of your line with the dot where all the lines meet at the centre of the protractor, then mark a dot for your angle – my dot is at 18 degrees.

3) Grab your ruler again and draw a 15″ long line, making a point at the bottom, through the dot you made and until you get to the 15″ mark on your ruler.

4) Join the two top points together.

5) Get your protractor again and line up as before, but mark a dot at half the angle of your first one, so my line is at 18 degrees, so my new dot is half that at 9 degrees. Draw a line from point to dot and beyond, a few inches long is plenty. Now you can see where the centre of your plate is.

6) I know I want it to be 1/2″ wide at the bottom when finished, so I am going to line up half that – 1/4″ – with the centre line I just drew, and move my ruler until one edge line meets the 0 mark on the ruler, and the other meets the 1/2″ mark, with the 1/4″ mark meeting the centre line. Draw a line to join the sides together and create a polygon.

7) This is your template but you need seam allowances now. Use the quarter inch mark on your ruler to draw an echo line around the top and sides, the bottom (shortest edge) doesn’t need a seam allowance as this area will be covered with an applique circle.

8) Trace this outer line onto template plastic (I had to tape sheets together because I bought really small template plastic sheets) and cut out, and you’re ready to start making dresden plates!

Check back tomorrow for the tutorial on using your new template, and making the improv block.


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