Ah winter. The days are short, the nights are cold. You find yourself trapped inside for weeks on end from the mountains of snow building up outside your door. The cold whispers in through the drafty walls of the castle I imagine you to live in. There is hope however! There is talk that the skin of a dragon retains its warmth long after the passing of such a great beast. Their hides are coveted to stave off the cold of winter......
While getting a fresh hide would be ideal... going out and slaying your own dragon is a big commitment. Its a whole "hero's quest" thing...man versus beast.... the discoveries of your inner self you stumble into along the way...blah.blah.blah.
Instead, can I interest you in days upon days of sewing that will keep you so entertained that you forget about the dark and the cold completely?
I will show you how you can create your very own dragon scale hide quilt that'll pretty much be as good as the real thing. Warm, fashionable, and you can still brag to everyone about overcoming all the pins and needles that stabbed you along the way.
Let's begin our quest against winter boredom and conquer the cold!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
If you are a noble adventurer, like myself, you may not have much sewing experience. Fear not! This project can be completed by anyone that has lots of free time to slay. I personally have never made anything close to a quilt before and my sewing skills are quite basic. Luckily this quilt design is perfect for the sewing novice as it allows you to easily disguise your mistakes.
That being said, I had no idea how much material to recommend because I ended up with a lot of extra. I will provide the cutting template and trust that others, with a better mind for planning, can conjure the appropriate amount of fabric.
I made a comforter style quilt sized 53"x 72" to fit a full sized bed and used total of 88 scales.
The scales from this dragon measured 7.75"x 14"
- For the top of the scales: Quilting fabric in the colors and patterns of your choice
- For the bottom of the scales: A nice thin flannel that'll add warmth, weight, and contrast if you so choose.
- For the quilt base(the dragon's skin in this case): Anti-pill fleece to hold it all together and add extra softness and warmth. This should be the size (or slightly bigger) that you would like your final comforter to be.
- At least 2 spools of thread in the color of your choosing.
If you are going to use multiple colors for scales remember that you only need 88 total so plan this out before you buy too much material. For example:
This quilt used 15 light blue + 73 dark blue = 88 scales
The bottom of the scales were all the same color so they would be = 88
Total scales shapes to cut = 176
- Iron with ironing board
- Rotary cutter would be ideal but scissors would do
- Cutting mat or sacrificial surface
- Basic sewing machine
- Lots of pins!
- A desire to fight the winter blues and fill all your time with sewing!
I was able to get my template laser cut out of acrylic scrap. I know laser cutting is a luxury. It is a simple enough shape that you could tape the printed template to acrylic or wood and cut it out by hand or by using a jig saw. Its also possible to use a paper template, although it would be a bit more laborious.
Painless so far, right?
Lets wield our cutters and begin with shaping our scales!
Step 2: Cutting the Scales!
First you'll need to steal away to the servant's quarters and borrow the hot iron from the top of the wood stove. You'll want to use that to ensure your fabric is free of creases. Everything turns into a ragged mess if you try to cut through a crease.
Once your material is smooth and free of imperfections you will take your rotary cutter and trace the template....again....and again....and again.
Continue this until the raven caws three times at the setting of the moon....or until you have cut the totals you need. Whichever comes first.
Tip!I used previously cut scale pieces to use as extra templates to help me figure out spacing so I could use the most of my material. Demonstrated in the final photo.
Step 3: More Ironing!
Ironing is essential to good quilt making. Think of it as a "wax on, wax off" training to make you a better dragon slayer.
My scales got wrinkly as I stored them in piles so I needed to iron them out again before moving on to sewing. The quilting fabric stayed pretty flat but the flannel simply couldn't resist buckling in on itself. If you are more careful than I, then perhaps you can skip this step.
Steal the hot iron from the servants once more and iron away until everything is smooth and even.
Step 4: Sewing the Scales Part: 1
To provide the scales with the most convincing thickness and bulk possible, we are essentially going to create a bunch of tiny pillow cases.
You'll want to pay close attention to the "good" side and "bad" side of quilting fabric. You'll want to make sure the "good" side is facing the flannel. That way, when we flip it inside out to hide our seams and make a lovely pocket, the color we want to see is on the outside! Honestly, I didn't think about this until I had done three of them and I had to start all over.... learn from my mistakes! Better to make mistakes here than when fighting a real dragon.
You'll want to pin all around the outside so the two pieces don't wander from each other while you are sewing.
Finally, sew the long edges with a 1/4" margin. The template has already accounted for this loss in material. Only sew the sides in this step so we will still have an opening to turn our material inside out. We'll close up our little scale pillows in the next step.
Step 5: Sewing the Scales Part: 2
Now we get to flip our pocket inside out and seal it up. I asked the family seamstress if it was necessary to sew the top closed since that would be hidden under the overlapping scales. I learned that flannel tends to fray and fall apart at the edges. So this step will ensure a much longer life for your quilt to tuck and secure the edges.
- Flip it inside out
- Smooth out the sides and get the corners as pointy as you can (you can use a chopstick to help)
- Fold the raw edges into the pocket by about a 1/4 inch
- Pin it closed so things don't get any ideas of wandering again
- Sew with a 1/8th margin.
You did it! That's one complete scale...time to do that 87 more times.....
Step 6: Sew. Sew. Sew Some More
Here is where you really keep the boredom at bay during those cold, candlelit nights. Nothing helps you forget the cold like slaving over a sewing machine and arming yourself with countless pins.
It took me a few weeks to get all the scales sewn. I usually only managed 5 a day, 10-15 on the weekends. A few days got skipped here and there.....rescuing maidens and conquering warlocks and the like.
I ended up deciding to do half scales for the sides. Its the same sewing process after cutting the scale shapes in half. I used a 1/8th margin all the way around to help them stay a little larger.
Alas! It is time to see the sweat of our labor come together and form the dragon hide of our design!
Step 7: Design Your Dragon Hide
You finally get to see what your dragon scale hide will look like.
After laying out your full length of anti-pill fleece you can begin laying out your scales a row at a time. Then you can mix and match until you get a good balance and design of your accent colors.
After countless hours of work its finally beginning to look like something!
Once you are happy with your layout, carefully gather your scales row by row being careful to keep them in order. If you work your way from the top down then you'll be ready to sew from the bottom up!
Step 8: Sewing Scales to the Hide
We are calling for aid upon our allies, the sewing pins, yet again!
The bottom row was stitched so that the scales hung over the edge of the fleece by about ten or twelve inches. This extends the size of the quilt and allows for more scale like movement at the bottom. One row was pinned at a time, with all scales being sewn at once with one straight stitch across the whole quilt. The amount the scales overlap is more a general rule of thumb than anything precise. Its supposed to be from nature, its allowed to be a little organic! We simply lined up the tip of the scale to the end of the flat line seen between the scales of the previous row. Its...hard to explain with words, the diagram I made does a better job.
You'll need lots of space to sew this, and like any good quest, a noble companion to help out. The sewing machine moved to the floor to have access to enough space and the castle seamstress would run the machine and I would help lift the weight of the quilt.
You'll also need to roll the material from both sides so it can fit through the machine and still be manageable. As you add rows of scales it'll get heavier and heavier making it harder to manage. Eventually we resorted to building up a sewing table from the ironing board and the cutting surface.
This part goes by much faster but it'll still take a night or two.
Pinning, sewing, unpinning, new row.
Step 9: Finishing Touches
The top edge of the quilt was created by folding over the last six inches of remaining fleece, then folding it again over the ends of the scales. This created a six inch spacer to hide anything that might have gotten uneven and made the quilt's last row of scales look in proportion to the rest of their comrades. This also created a nice top edge and a very soft material to snuggle up under your chin when you need to pull it tight against the drafty cold.
If you left any material at the sides, now it the time to trim that away too.
That's it! You may not have gone head to head with a fire-breathing dragon but you did conquer boredom and armed yourself against the cold in one fell swoop!
Step 10: Celebrate Victory Over Winter!
Congratulations needlework warrior! Now you should warm yourself by the hearth and entertain all those who will listen about how many times you got poked by a pin and shed blood in the fight against the reaching claws of winter.
Runner Up in the
Sew Warm Contest 2018