Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tutorial: Tiny Circles Applique

Hello there!

I knew I'd get back to my blog at some point! 

Back at the start of the Easter holidays I decided I needed a new little hand-sewing project to take away with me on a mini-break to Barcelona. I didn't have room in my hand luggage for a big project and before I knew it my brain had cooked up a little applique project, using a rainbow of tiny circles.

 Needless to say, I didn't actually sew a stitch while we were away but did spend a very happy day at home stitching it on our return. Several lovely people on Instagram asked me how I made the circles so I thought it was high time I did a proper tutorial with lots of photos.

When I started to plan this project I felt that just doing needle turn applique may not get me the perfect circles I was aiming for. So, I took an English Paper Piecing approach to it instead.

Here's how I did it:

First you need some "papers" to help you form your fabric circles, just as you'd do with paper piecing hexagons.

I used a 1 inch circle punch that I've had for ages but if you don't have this you can find something the right size and draw round it instead, then cut out with scissors and a steady hand.

Now, this is an important bit: you will need firm cardstock, an old cereal packet or teabag box would be just fine but it will need to be firm and you will see why as we go through the photos.

 Next step is to use your card circles as a template to cut some fabric circles. Lay your card circle on your fabric and cut out a circle with a generous quarter inch seam allowance - you don't have to be exact so it's fine to do this by eye. This is a great way to use your tiny fabric scraps - you only need just over 1.5 inches for each circle.

 Once you've got your circles cut we're ready for the fun bit.

 Starting on the RS (right side) of the fabric, use a small running stitch to sew a line of stitches around the outside of the circle, just over 1/8th inch in from the edge. You can use your thread double but I found it worked fine with a single strand of thread. I used contrasting thread for the photos but you could use a neutral or matching thread.

Next you need to place a card circle in the centre of your fabric circle, hold the two together firmly in the centre between finger and thumb, then start to pull the thread to gather the fabric circle around the card one.

Keep pulling as firmly as you can to really pull those gathers in - this may be where you decide you'd rather use a double strand of thread!

Once you've gathered all the way around, start to stitch through the gathers, going in the same direction as you first did the running stitch.

Keep stitching through the gathers and pulling the thread as tight as you can until you feel the gathers are firmly held.

Make a couple of small overstitches to secure your gathers and then cut your thread. Your first gathered circle is very nearly done!

If you've pulled your gathers tightly enough the right side of your circle should look like this. This is why you need firm card. Thin card would buckle and distort as you pull the gathers tight and will spoil the look of your circles.

Heat your iron on its hottest steam setting and then press both the front and back of your circles for several seconds. Just hold the iron down onto the circle, don't iron back and forth. Press them really well - you can't press them too much at this stage as this will help your circle hold its shape. I tend to gather a whole load of circles and then lay them out and press them all together to save time.

Hopefully you can see from this photo that the pressed circle is a lot flatter and those gathers are well and truly held.

Now it's time to remove the card circles. Snip through the running stitches with a small pair of scissors. You can remove all of the thread but I found it was fine to leave the thread in - as long as it's not bright red like it is in this photo.

Open the gathers slightly and ease your card circle out. Don't panic that your gathers have opened up - this is why you pressed them so well!

You can now gently push the gathered edge back down into the circle and now you need to go back to the iron and press them again for a few seconds on front and back, with a hot hot iron and plenty of steam. Just pressing down, not moving the iron at all! This will set your circles really well, ready for applique.

Now that you have all your circles ready we can play!

To secure your circles to your background fabric ready for stitching there are several methods you can use. For the mini quilt at the start of this tutorial I used a dab of fabric glue pen and then tacked the circles on with thread.

In hindsight, I would not have used the glue in the centre as it created a dip in the middle where it was stuck to the background fabric and I had to sort this out after stitching - however a couple of small dabs around the gathered edge would work.

For my second tiny circles project I just positioned the circles on the background and then held it in place with a pin while I stitched.

To stitch your circles to the background use a thread that matches or nearly matches your circle. Bring your thread up through the background from beneath and catch the edge of your circle, just slightly underneath the edge if you can, with a tiny stitch. 

You only need to catch a couple of threads in the fabric, then stitch back down through the background, again slightly just inside the edge of the circle if you can. 

The aim here is tiny tiny nearly invisible stitches like this.

So there you have it! Do have a go! They're really easy and really quick once you get going and you can have lots of fun with fussy cutting your fabric.
 These little circles are perfect for stitching in front of the tv, on the bus, in the car (when you're being chauffered), in between Easter holiday mum's taxi services for teenagers.... Tiny and portable and fun!

I also find they're rather addictive!

Happy stitching!

love

Moogs xxx

p.s. I'd love to see if you have a go and do ask if you have any questions.

7 comments:

Quinn said...

Very nice tutorial!

Moogsmum said...

Thank you Quinn! 😊

leanne said...

awesome little quilt - love it so much 💗💗

Gina said...

Hello stranger! Lovely little tutorial

Plum Cox said...

Cute quilts and a great tutorial! Nice to see you back! x

Thimbleanna said...

Those are adorable! That's exactly how I do my little circles -- although I use a reusable plastic template, but they both work just the same. The machine quilting is beautiful too!

N. Maria said...

Fantastic perfectly round circles! Wonderful tutorial! Thank you!