I am making a baby quilt for a new niece/nephew due in September and this has involved circles, circles and more circles.
Over this week I have - with a lot of unpicking and muttering under my breath- perfected a way of insetting a circle into a fabric background. The circle is pieced using a seam and sewn on the machine rather than appliques and sewn on top. I have tried lots of different sizes- too small is too difficult and I ended up sewing these by hand, but from about 3 1/2 inch diameter upwards (the bigger they are, the easier it gets) I have taken a method briefly described in Compendium of Quilting and expanded it, done a few things differently and made it into a tutorial - so here goes...
1. Draw a circle on your chosen fabric- at least 3.5" diameter/ 1.75", your finished circle diameter will be half an inch smaller than this because of seam allowances. You will need to have the this circle matching the grain of the framing fabric so if you are fussy cutting bear this in mind. Draw a circle the same size on a piece of paper. The paper is to help put guide marks on the fabric- it is not a template. On your framing fabric, draw a circle which has a finished diameter 1 inch smaller and do the same on the piece of paper.
Cut circle out of framing fabric, be as accurate as you can it makes a big difference when seaming the inner and outer together. You need the frame, this circle is for scraps
Cut the other larger fabric circle.
2. You can see faint marks on the pics above like compass points. I use blue chalk pencil for North, East, South, West and Pink for NE, SE, SW, NW. You need to mark these points on the right sides of the circle and the circle frame. Using the paper as a guide for this is much easier. Keep the marks small so they will disappear in the seam allowance. You can see this best on this pic again.
3. Place circle right side up and place fabric frame on top, also right side up- the grain should match- it makes sewing much easier and gives a more even circle when finished.
4. Fold the wrong side of the backing fabric over at the top, North,- right sides will now be together and there should be a mark to match up- pin with the pin point facing outwards. You will now see some different fabrics showing how to seam the circle, I hope it is not too confusing!
5. Repeat for South, then East and West.
Then pin the points between- NE, SE, SW, NW. Pins work best for me, I tried tacking and it was a disaster!
6. You need a 1/4 foot or guide on your machine. Place the fabric under the machine presser foot. so the frame fabric is on top (wrong side up) and the circle fabric is underneath.
and the circle fabric is underneath.
Using the slowest speed on your machine , 1/4 inch seam and a small stitch- 2mm, sew slowly around the edge of the circle- the smaller the circle the more you will need to stop and ease the fabrics to fit. I take the pins out just before they go under the foot and use a seam ripper to hold the fabric together as they go under.
7. With smaller circles- e.g. under 4 inches- you may need to clip the circle frame- the top layer -as you sew to ease it in. Only a tiny snip is needed!
I confess to unpicking and re-seaming where there were wrinkles and puckers that shouldn't have been there, but on bigger circles- e.g 6 inch diameter and larger, they can come out perfect first time!
8. Press the reverse with the seam towards the centre of the circle, it should press nice and flat.
You can press the other way(outwards) and the finished circle will appear to recede.
and when you turn over there should be a circle set into the fabric frame. This one is 3.25 inches diameter.
Once you get the hang of the technique, you can do circles in circles. I am setting a whole load of circles in to a big backing square of Kona snow- floating around like bubbles!
Here is a big one- over 9 inches diameter
I hope it works for you. I tried freezer paper applique and Anna Maria Horner's excellent super circle foil method but I like crispness of this method, no stitching is visible on the right side- and the fact I can sew it all on the machine. If you have any questions or problems do let me know!
Happy sewing x