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Sewing Inset Circles

There's a lot to love about circles. At least for me. But what I don't love is frustration. Or stitch-picking. Or circles that don't turn out round - Ugh! I think a lot of people end up making applique circles because they seem so much easier. But there are a couple of ways to sew inset circles that are not painful. And the circles are round.

I learned to make inset circles pretty early on when I bought a book called Pieced Curves: So Simple in 2005 by Dale Fleming. It's an amazing book, and it's still really helping me realize some of my quilty dreams. It's a method I go to again and again. She calls them 6 minute circles, but I feel like it's become second nature to me, and it only takes me about 3 minutes. I was going to share the method here, but then I realized that since it was not developed by me, but Dale Fleming, I cannot really do that ethically. So I am going to suggest to you that you buy the book (it's on Amazon for $45 )which is a little bit pricey but you can get it cheaper - just google it) to learn this particular technique, and further down, in this blog I've given you some pointers for it that I've learned in my copious use of the technique, to help it go a wee bit faster.

First, I'm going to share another method for sewing inset circles that is for me, a little more difficult, but it's worth sharing because everyone is different; what doesn't work as well for me may work better for you. It's mostly pinless, and it's really quick and requires very little in the way of materials.

All you need is your fabrics, circle templates, pins, an iron, and a marking pen(maybe). Here's how it goes:

1.Using a template, cut your circle out of the background fabric and the inset fabric.

2. Fold the background fabric in half, and press sharply. You may still want to mark the press marks with a marker if you're using dark fabric. Fold in half again, and press again, so that you have four creases that are exactly opposite each other on all four sides.

3. Take the inset circle you have cut out and fold in half and press, then fold in half and press again.

Now you have matching quarter marks on both your circle and your background.

4. Put the circle, right side up, on your sewing table. The put the background fabric on top of the circle, wrong side up matching one of the press marks. If the press marks are difficult to see, you can just mark them with chalk or a removable pen, as I have below.

5. Start at any press mark. Place the background piece on top of the circle, right sides together, matching at press marks and put the two pieces of fabric under the presser foot. Take a couple of stitches and stop. Now match the fabric on top to the curve of the circle to the next press mark, trying not to pull the fabric. While doing this, put the fingers of your left hand on the curves to hold it all in place. Match the press marks and put a pin in the fabrics at the second press mark. Slowly sew from the first press mark to the pin, maintaining the curve, with a 1/4 inch seam. Below are two videos, the first one shows how to place the background fabric onto the circle and the second shows how to sew.

6. When you get to the second press mark, stop. As you did before, pin the fabrics at the next press mark, position the fabrics on top of each other and sew to the pin again.

7. Continue sewing around the circle in this way until you have completely sewn the circle into the hole in the background fabric.

8. Press the seams open on the back, and then turn to the front and press again.

This method is quick, and it works well for many people, but as I said earlier, for some reason I have difficulty with it, as you can see from the above picture; even though the circle is nice and round, there are waves in the background, which you don't want to have. I probably just need more practice, but I'll admit this is why I j use the 6 minute circle as my go-to. It takes a little longer, but i have more success with it, so it's easier for me.

Again, please don't let my inability to master this technique scare you off. I do think it works well, and its definitely worth a try as it will be quick.

However, if you are wanting to try the Dale Fleming method, and have the book, here are some tips to help it go more quickly and to make it even easier. I've been doing this for many years, so I've figured a few things out...

They aren't necessarily in any order, but I do think they will help you if you choose this method.