Perfectly Round Circles

Back when I wrote this tutorial: How to Applique a Leaf . . . I also said I’d someday post a tutorial on how I applique perfectly round circles.

Well, someday is here!

I’m posting this to help those who are doing the “Bouquets for Hazel” quilt-along, but thought it might benefit others as well, so I’m posting it here. This employs the hand needle-turn method of applique.

My usual disclaimer goes here: This is just my way of doing it, so you can take it with a grain of salt. Always feel free to just do your own thing and use your own favorite method.

And here we go . . .

You’ll need some sort of stiff paper, like card stock. I use plain old index cards, since I usually have plenty of those on hand. You don’t want anything too stiff, but plain paper is not stiff enough.

I also have a circle template that I use to draw my circles, so if you’re lucky enough to have one of those handy little things, now is a good time to put it to use.

If not, you can just trace your circle on to your card stock from your applique pattern, either by cutting it out of the paper pattern and tracing around it, or tracing it from beneath with a light table. You’ll want to trace as smoothly as possible.

So . . . draw your circle on your card stock . . .

. . . and cut it out.

The smoother and rounder you cut your circle out of the card stock, the smoother and rounder your finished circle will be on your block, so cut carefully.

Then trace your template onto the wrong side of the piece of fabric you’ll be cutting your circle from. I “fussy cut” my circle from a floral print.

Cut the fabric piece out 3/16″ outside the drawn line.

Thread your needle with thread that matches your fabric, and tie a knot in one end.

Holding the fabric piece wrong side up, bring the thread up from the bottom (right side) somewhere along the edge of the circle, halfway between the drawn line and the cut edge.

Make a running stitch, not too large and not too small, all the way around the circle, keeping your line of stitching halfway between the drawn line and the cut edge.

When you get back to where you started, put the needle down to the bottom so the knot and the thread tail are next to each other on the right side of the fabric. Don’t cut the thread or tie a knot just yet.

Place the piece of card stock on the wrong side of the circle, matching it up with the drawn line.

Pull the thread tail to gather the fabric around the paper circle.

Tack it in place next to the knot so the gathers can’t come loose.

Cut the thread. Tie a new knot in the end so you can start again.

Turn the circle right side up, and bring the needle and thread through to the top by barely catching the edge of the fabric circle, but don’t catch the paper.

Position the circle on your applique block where you want it.

Holding it in place with your thumb, begin stitching around the edge of the circle.

Go down in the background fabric, travel over about 1/8″ on the back side, and push the needle back up through the background and barely catch the folded edge of the circle, but not the paper.

Continue around the circle . . .

When you get back to where you started, push the needle down through to the back side.

On the back side, just inside the edge of the circle, take several little tacking stitches on top of each other to secure the thread. Cut the thread.

Now you need to remove the paper. Being very careful, snip a slit in the background fabric behind the circle, about 3/16″ inside the line of stitching.

Cut around the circle to cut the background out from behind the circle, leaving about 3/16″ of the background fabric around the edge.

Now you can see the paper circle.

Use a straight pin to “hook” the paper and pop it out.

Turn the block over, and there you have your perfectly round circle!

This works on nearly any size circle you’d like to applique.

I use it on very small circles, but when I do really tiny ones, I press the circles after I’ve gathered them around the paper, and then pop the paper out before I stitch them down, just using the pressed line as my guide.

On really large circles, I applique them without using any paper, just as I would applique any other piece. I just make sure to pin them in position carefully before I start.

I hope this helps you make your own perfectly round circles. Let me know if you try it and how it works for you.

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Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great tutorial, Shelly! Yesterday, I got some round, plastic templates that I’m going to do this with for an upcoming project for me. I’m going to press and starch the circles and take the plastic template out before stitching the circle on. That should work well, too, I think. 🙂

  2. P.S. The plastic templates are heat resistant. Thought I better say that in case someone reading my comment might also give it a whirl.

  3. Hi – I have also found that flat metal washers from my local hardware store are an economical way to do the same as the more expensive plastic. After you have ironed them (caution – they get HOT), let them cool, remove your basting threads and the washer and applique your perfect circle. Was able to buy flat washers in a myriad of sizes for a fraction of the price of the plastic sets.


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