Mini Tute: Really Good Circles21
I feel like I've been sewing circles for a while now, but have never really mastered it. There are so many methods for making circles. Each have their merits. I've tried drawing a circle on fabric, sewing two pieces together and clipping. I've tried piecing. I've tried the clip and glue around cardboard. I've tried quite a few methods. When I launched into my applique project and realized that I needed 32 perfect circles, I turned to google. I found a number of different methods. I found what worked for me was a mix of a few techniques. Super easy. Mostly fast. Perfect circles.
It's a relatively simple concept, but I thought it was worth sharing as others might be struggling like I was.
- heavy white card stock or ironable Mylar
- something round or something that makes round things (details just below)
- spray starch or sizing
- thin applique needle
- thread fabric
Step 1 : Make or Buy Your Round Template
I made mine using heavy white card stock. You can use anything that will withstand the heat of an iron and the sogginess of a lot of spray starch. If you are a gizmo buyer, you might prefer to buy something like Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Circle templates. If you are lazy, several paper template companies sell cardboard circles. If you are cheap, grab some cardstock and trace something round then do your best to cut a perfect circle with scissors.
I've had a neglected circle rotary cutter in the house for ages. I was excited to finally use it. It's got a ratchet which helps you get a full 360 degree rotation without letting go. It takes a bit of practice, but was quite fun. I used that to first cut out cardstock circles. Don't skimp and use paper. It's not stiff enough to hold the shape.
You want your cardboard or mylar template to be just scant of the final size circle you are after. The scantness gives room for the folded fabric edge. If you need a 3" finished circle, your template should be marginally shy of 3".
Step 2: Cut your Fabric Circle
Now that we have our circle template, we need to cut our fabric out. Your fabric circle should be round 1/2" larger than your finished circle size. This allows for a 1/4" seam allowance on either side of the template. For example, if you final circle is 3" then you fabric circle should be cut approximately 3 1/2". You don't have to perfectly measure your fabric circle. It doesn't even need to be a perfect circle. It should be mostly round and generally 1/2" larger than the template. Larger seam allowances will be a bit bulkier, but that's always better than cutting seam allowances short.
Step 3: Make a Running Stitch
Loop a thread through a needle and tie both ends together in a knot or use a quilter's knot to secure the thread ends together. Having the thread looped will allow you pull the thread tautly later without it breaking. Starting from the back side of the fabric work a running stitch about 1/8" from the edge of the fabric. Your stitches don't need to be perfect. You can do it by eye, but try to make them even. The smaller your stitches, the smoother your final circle will be. It doesn't matter which direction you stitch in. Work all the way around the circle.
When you get to the end of the circle, keep going again past your first running stitch. This will help with a smoother circle later on. I leave the needle in place for now so that it doesn't pull out, snag on something or poke me.
Next place your template in the center of the fabric circle. If you've put the slightest amount of tension on your thread, it may fold up like a pie crust.
Step 4: Pulling the Circle Taut
I couldn't juggle the camera and circle for this step.
Not shown: The next step is to pull the circle taut. Put one or two fingers on the template and hold it in place. If your needle is currently pointing to the left, use your right hand to do this. If you went the opposite direction then place your left hand on the template. Now pull the needle and thread the circle taut while holding the cardboard template. This will wrap the fabric around the circle evenly. Continue pulling until the entire circle lays flat. You may need to use your fingers to slide it around and make sure it's centered.
If you flip it over now, you'll see it's a smooth circle. If they are any points that don't look smooth, then slide the fabric along the running stitches with your fingers to smooth it out.
Step 5: Ironing
At this stage, you you want to starch the circle into place. I like to use a heavy dose of Crisp Spray Starch because it's readily available in Australia and it smells good. You might like homemade starch or a sizing that doesn't leave any residue.
Many tutorials say you should use a paint brush and paint the starch or sizing onto the fabric with a paintbrush. Really, who has time for that and who wants to wash paintbrushes when quilting? I just drown that thing in a heavy spray. Then I press with the iron from the reverse while continuing to hold the needle and thread taut. Once that's set, I flip it over for a light press from the front. Then I wait for any residual starch to dry.
You can see the iron flattens things out. The heavy dose of starch makes the cardboard a little waffly but it doesn't distort enough to lose the circle. This is why you don't want to use paper.
Gently remove the template and trim away the thread and needle. Press again lightly from the front if you've manhandled the circle while removing the template.
As you can see, you get a nice thin circle without any extra bulk. The starch has made it stiff enough that it will be easy to applique without doing fussy needleturns.
Grab a thin eyed needle and a threader and you're ready to applique.
Super easy. Mostly Fast. Perfect Circles
There are many ways to make circles. I've found this method works great for me. As always, I encourage you to experiment with your crafting. Try a few things and decide what method works best for you. I hope you enjoyed this mini-tute.