Thursday, November 12, 2015

Torture circle heaven, chopsticks, and a speed demon: a tutorial

If that title doesn't draw you in, you're living a really exciting life or you have no curiosity.

Ping is basking in the glory of my circle making...
I've had many requests about how I made my circles.  For many years, the dreaded torture circle was low on my list for putting on a quilt.  While I love the shape, making it round and look good is another story.  I own many templates (on a side note - my GOSH----why haven't I bought stock in Lucite or Acrylic plants?  Because my inventory of rulers alone has made some crusty old guy with no idea or love for quilting... a fortune) and tools to make circles....but they never seemed to work that well.

Finally...I saw the light.  Somewhere (and I'm very sorry I'm not able to remember who or where so I can credit them) I saw someone make a circle this way.  For me - it was the light bulb moment.  If you've seen this before - then congratulations - you've probably been in some kind of circle heaven of which I've only recently been  accepted.  But if you haven't...and you suffered in torture circle purgatory like me...then here's your ticket out.

Circle tutorial:


  • the swatch of fabric you wanted to make a circle
  • Pellon SF 101 
  • something to create a circle with - template, bowl, your neighbor's kid's ear guage plug
  •  something to mark the fabric
  • scissors
  • walking foot on your sewing machine
  • chopstick
  1. Process:
  2. Pellon SF101 is a fusible interfacing.  Fairly Merry ((famous quilter and close personal friend in fabric) find her at @FairlyMerry on IG) turned me on to this stuff about a year or so ago.  It's fantastic for lining bags, as well as the bomb for circle making.  I got mine at JoAnns.
    1. There are two sides to SF101 - a rough side and the smooth side
    2. The rough side is the glue /fusible side - the smooth side is the "right" side of the fabric
  3. Take your piece of fabric and mark a circle on it.  Be accurate in your marking as you will be cutting on this line.  You will be sewing a quarter inch around the circle - so keep that in mind if you are trying to make a specific size of circle - factor the quarter inch.
  4. Cut the circle out.  Be accurate here - it will be important as this is the guide for your sewing.  I'm an improv kind of gal and LOVE to fudge things or sew loosely.... but this is where tedious accuracy pays off.
  5. Lay the right side of your circle on the smooth side (also the right side) of the SF101.
  6. Install your walking foot.  I'm telling you - another point not to ignore or skip.  It will make a huge difference in result (positive) if you use your walking foot.  You will be sewing a quarter of an inch - but you could sew wider if you wanted. I line the edge of my fabric with the edge of the inside of the foot.  It's easy for my eye to follow it.
  7. I like the needle down position - you want something holding it in place when you stop to adjust the fabric.  Also, (this is the much anticipated speed demon reference....) slow your roll.  I push my speed down for this sewing and go slow.  You must understand... for my entire quilting existence (right at 20 years), I've had to sew in between everything else in my life.  Mom duties,  wife duties, work, work, work, etc.  So I have always had to make the most of my sewing time and have fallen into the habit of sewing like a speed demon.  Circles require a zen like presence.  Be one with your machine ... slow down.
  8. I sew slowly and adjust frequently.  I keep my foot right on the edge of the fabric and take my time.  I meet at the end and sew a few stitches over the start of the circle.

  1. Sorry - this was supposed to be a video.  You'll just have to be patient with my technical skills...
  1. I use pinking shears to cut the circle out.  Be careful - you don't have a lot of room for error here.
  2. I pull the SF101 off the circle and take a little snip with my pinking sheers - probably a 3 inch cut.  This is so I can turn it inside out.
  3. I make my husband take me out for hibachi and grab an extra set of quilting tools while I'm there.  Seriously - chop sticks are fantastic tools!  I use the end of the chop stick to slowly push out and almost crease the fabric.  If you find you have a flat spot on an edge - you can take a needle and kind of pull out the fabric a bit.   Or chop stick it, again.
  1. Dang it....another riveting video I couldn't get uploaded....
  1. I look at all my edges before....steaming the snot out of the circle.  For those of you who are faint of heart when hearing about using steam - I say - be gutsy.  I steam everything.  I live on the edge all the time and in all my years have never had a quilting incident (shrinkage or bleeding, etc).  You don't have to use steam (in fact - I'm not positive about the actual instructions for use of the SF 101 - but I've been steaming since I started using it and no problems to report).  The mere act of ironing it will activate the fusing on the SF 101 and it will create a lovely little bond to your circle.

  1. Look at how lovely it is.  Now why would I have ever doubted my ability to create circles!
  2. Attach the circle in the method you prefer.  I machined mine on to my quilt using a button hole stitch on my machine.  I match the thread to the circle as the majority of the thread lands on the circle vs. the background.  I included the close up of the appliqu├ęd circle so you could see how the thread disappears.
I use the single thread button hole stitch

This is the back of my quilt

Button hole stitch

Button hole stitch detail shot

Now . go forth - create circles and have no fear!

And here is one more teaser...I'm working on quilting this one and then I'll show it when it's done.

I'm linking up with Amanda Jean of CrazyMomQuilts today - check out all the great stories here: Crazy Mom Quilts

And Sarah of Confessions of a Fabric Addict here:  Can I get a Whoop Whoop!!