Machine Quilting Circles – The Perfect Solution

During almost a year of sharing quilting ideas with you via the Quilting Daily blog, I've noticed something interesting: circles are popular. Whether the circles are sewn with hand stitching or machine quilting doesn't matter. Every time I write about circle motifs, the post gets a big response.

libby lehman
machine stitched circles
Libby Lehman shows how to machine stitch perfect circles.

First there was this post on how to Hand Sew a Fast and Scrappy Felt Circle Pillow. This Felt Confetti Pillow by Lisa Cox attracted me because it combines two of my favorite things: felt fabric scraps and hand sewing.

Next, I wrote about how to Hand Stitch a Bevy of Boro Bobbles. Victoria Gertenbach's Boro Bobbles, tiny embellishments made from fabric scraps and hand stitching, are the perfect thing to work on while you watch soccer games or TV.

My post featuring how to make Helen Gregory's patchwork place mats with free-motion stitched circles also a hit.

It's fairly easy to free-motion machine quilt circles like the ones on Helen's place matsassuming you don't want perfect circles. And many art quilters do prefer the hand-drawn look of free-motion stitching.

But when you're looking to stitch machine quilting designs in precise circles, or machine appliqué fabric circles, it's very helpful to use a circular embroidery attachment on your sewing machine.

In her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video Perfect Machine-Stitched Circles with Decorative Stitched & More, well-known art quilter, teacher, and author Libby Lehman shows how to machine quilt perfect circles every time.

machine stitch a circle
Machine-stitch circles easily with a
circular embroidery attachment and
Libby's expert tips.

In the video, Libby demonstrates how to choose the right machine quilting thread and how to prepare the fabric with stabilizer. Then she shows how to use the attachment and guides you step-by-step through the process of making a quilt featuring appliqué blocks and decorative stitching.

Libby offers so many tips and tricks to getting perfect circles every time. If you like machine stitching circlesor have been hesitant to tryPerfect Machine-Stitched Circles will having you going in circles just for fun.

P.S. Do you use circles in your machine quilting designs? What tips do you have for machine stitching circles? Leave your advice below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Machine Embroidery, Machine Stitching, Quilting Daily Blog

9 thoughts on “Machine Quilting Circles – The Perfect Solution

  1. Don’t they still have those attachements that are used to make perfect linear lines? why not use the attachment as the center point and go around it.
    they are adjustable I beleive.

  2. Skip the attachment and use a thumbtack with a flat head instead. I tried both and the thumbtack worked just as well and saved me big bucks. Just tape it upside down to the bed of machine half the distance of the diameter of the circle. It will leave a small hole in the fabric but with cotton fabric, that will close.

  3. Nancy, would you please explain the thumbtack trick? I am scared half to death to free motion circles, so your thumbtack trick would guide my machine to make circles depending on half the diameter of the circle I wish to free form?

  4. Nancy, would you please explain the thumbtack trick? I am scared half to death to free motion circles, so your thumbtack trick would guide my machine to make circles depending on half the diameter of the circle I wish to free form?

  5. I’d like advise on how to do this kind of specific design FMQ on a twin size quilt. I have read all the tips and suggestions, but have never seen anyone actually doing it on a twin size quilt. I do all the things suggested, but still can’t get the bulky sandwich to move free enough for these kinds of patterns. i do meandering okay, but specific designs…just can’t get that movement of the quilt going…suggestions?

  6. I’ve been using a variation of the thumbtack quilt to applique circles with good results, using a pin instead of a tack. I’m using a circular cardboard template marked on one side with two perpendicular lines that meet at the exact center of the circle. I cut fusible web with that template, then use “windowing” to fuse the circle to the background. I press freezer paper to the back for stability. Then I use painter’s tape to place a pin pointing up on my sewing machine. I put the pin through the sticky side of the tape, then poke the pin through the exact center of my template. Using the lines, I place the template with its edge at the needle and its center exactly to the left of the needle, then press the tape down and remove the template. I put a small bead over the needle. I use my template, another pin, and a temporary fine marker to make dots at the center of the circle on the upper and lower sides of the block. Then I position the block with the pin on my sewing machine through the center dot and stitch away with a zigzag or decorative stitch. If my placement is not absolutely perfect or my circle is not absolutely round, I can “steer” just a bit by holding the pin with my left hand and tilting it to the right or left. The bead gives just enough room to allow steering. Voila, lovely circles. Note that this isn’t a technique for quilting, only for applique on reasonably small blocks. Good luck.

  7. I have been piecing and “sandwiches” but have very poor luck with actual quilting. I bought a Singer Advance from Walmart when my Janome died in the middle of a project. At what price level do feed dogs drop? I found no way to cover them like I did on Janome. I am entranced by the circles you show. My hands are limited by disability so I feel stuck!

  8. Here is a hint for coffeebreak about free motion quilting on bed-size (twin and up) quilts. I assume you are using a home machine, as I do, not a long-arm machine. I suggest you do the quilting in sections, then attach the sections together. I just finished a twin-sized quilt in September. I quilted it in five sections: two for the top of the bed (a head part and a foot part) and three for borders. (The design did not include a border at the head of the bed.) Leave a good bit of extra batting and backing at the edges of each piece. When quilting, do not go close to the edges–leave at least two or three inches unquilted. To combine the sections, stitch the top with a 1/4 inch seam as usual. I hand-stitch the batting together with a herringbone stitch after trimming so the edges just meet. I fold over one edge of backing and hand-sew with a blind stitch. Then I finish the quilting by free-motion quilting over the seamed areas (where I had stopped short of the edges). If you leave bigger margins, it is easier to blend in the new quilting with the previously done quilting. This is the hardest part, but it isn’t too bad if you add the seamed-area quilting right after you attach two sections together. My quilting design used circles: two or three concentric, slightly overlapping circles to simulate a coil of rope on this Western-themed quilt. They were NOT perfect circles by a long shot, but fairly smooth and much easier to do than when working with the weight of the entire quilt pulling on the working area. If you already have your top together, you can still piece the batting and backing: Just add them to one section first, and proceed by sections. This helps because it reduces the weight you are working with in the initial stages. Good luck!