Tips for How to Appliqué Circles

Last week I blogged about tricks for machine stitching in circles. Today, I thought I'd share how to appliqué a circle.

applique quilt table runner by brigitte heitland
Curved piecing and hand appliqué make this
table runner by Brigitte Heitland distinctive.

Whether you hand appliqué or machine appliqué, the trick to getting a nice, smooth edge on the circumference. You want to avoid puckering and pleating.

In her tutorial on how to make this Marbles Table Runner, Brigitte Heitland shares her tricks for getting smooth curves on the background pieces and the circle appliqué patterns. Here is the how-to for the circles, adapted from the article, which appeared in International Quilt Festival/Quilt Scene 2011.

1. Cut circles the desired size out of freezer paper.

2. Iron the shiny side of the freezer paper circles onto the wrong sides of assorted print fabrics. Leaving a ¼" seam allowance around each freezer paper shapes, cut out all of the circles.

3. Sew a row of running stitches close to the edge of the fabric circle. Pull the running stitches carefully to gather up the edge of the fabric circle around the edge of the freezer paper. Press, creating a sharp, folded edge.

4. Carefully pull out all of the freezer paper templates. (Alternatively, you can use a cardboard circle template and, after pressing, loosen the gathered stitches slightly to remove the cardboard.)

5. To hand applique the circles to the background, position the circles onto the runner and pin them in place.

6. Using a matching thread, slipstitch the appliqué edge in place by passing the needle through the folded edge of the appliqué and then through the background fabric. Proceed to blindstitch all around the shapes. (Alternatively, if you prefer to machine appliqué the circles in place, use an invisible thread and your sewing machine's appliqué stitch.)

It takes a little more time and fussing to create the circles using the freezer paper. But many quilters find this technique makes the circles easier to appliqué and yields a smoother, more professional finish.

You'll find so many tips like these, plus projects and gorgeous quilt galleries in past issues of Quilt Scene, now available in the International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene 2009-2011 Collection.

P.S. Do you hand or machine appliqué quilt? Share one of your tips with us!

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3 thoughts on “Tips for How to Appliqué Circles

  1. I like to use applique circles but have found that just one layer of freezer paper is not enough to keep edges crisp. I use either 3 layers of freezer paper fused together. Because I do a lot of applique circles I have made mylar templates in various sizes and reuse them. I find the firmness of that material gives me a crisp edge and stability when drawing up the gathering threads.
    Sharon Wasteney, Something Stitched

  2. I like to applique by hand and also use mylar templates to gather the circles. Some years ago I was taught to use gray silk for appliques because that color blends with many colors. Since then I’ve accumulated many silk colors and prefer to applique with silk because it is strong and so fine it sinks into the fabric and is almost invisible.
    Pat H., Indiana

  3. I stitch my circle right side down on a used dryer sheet (collected from my neighbour) . Then I cut a slit in the centre of the dryer sheet part and turn right side out through the slit and press carefully. I use a skewer I through the slit to help get everything lined up. Perfect circle every time and the dryer sheet is so thin you hardly notice that it is in there.