3 ways to machine applique circles onto a quilt

Yesterday on QUILTsocial we compared curved piecing in art quilts – traditional vs improvisational. I found that I loved how both methods worked for creating components of my art quilt. Northcott’s Stonehenge Elements fabrics are so beautiful and lovely to work with that today I’m really excited to try out 3 ways to machine applique circles onto a quilt.

The finished curve pieced background

Finishing up my background

I trimmed the curved pieced section and then arranged my Drunkard’s Path blocks along the left side of the background.

The Drunkards path blocks arranged along the right side of the bakground

I sewed the Drunkard’s path blocks together and then sewed them to the curved pieced background.

Using an interfacing to prepare your applique circles

There are many ways to applique shapes onto a quilt, but for the purposes of my art quilt, I want to try out 3 fast and easy ones that I can sew with my machine. Don’t get me wrong, I love hand work but I’m in a bit of a time crunch with this project and using my sewing machine to put these circles on my quilt sounds like a great idea!

The first method I want to try is using an interfacing on the back of my circles to turn the raw edges under so that they can easily be appliqued onto the quilt. I found this video on YouTube that explains this process very well.


Applique – Interfacing Prep – Quilting Tutorial from ConnectingThreads.com

Ready? Find a lightweight interfacing. I like the fusible kind, but that’s not required. See below, in the pressing section, for an explanation of the pros and cons of fusible or not. If you are using dark fabrics in your project, I recommend a dark interfacing – it’s often available in black or gray as well as white.

Making my fabric circles

I decided to use a couple bowls from my kitchen as templates for my circles. I used a permanent marker to draw around the bowl onto the paper side of the fusible interfacing.

Using a bowl as a circle template

After cutting out my interfacing circles I was able to use them as patterns for cutting the circles of fabric.

Use the interfacing circle as the pattern for cutting the fabric circle

I layered the interfacing circle and the fabric circle so that the right side of the fabric was facing up and the adhesive side of the interfacing was facing down. The circles were then pinned together to prevent shifting.

Layer the interfacing and the fabric circle so that the right side of the fabric is facing the adhesive side of the interfacing

Next I sewed the two circle together with a ¼” seam and then cut out and removed the center of the interfacing. I clipped the seam all around the circle close to the stitching. Next the circle was turned right side out and pressed.

Sew a ¼” seam around the edge then cut out the center of the interfacing

Using a pressing sheet

Back in June on QUILTsocial I showed how to use a silicone pressing sheet when doing fusible applique. Today I used this same pressing sheet to protect my ironing board cover when I pressed my circles after turning them right side out. Since the interfacing I used has a fusible backing, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fuse them to my cover!!

The finished circles ready to applique

Using a turned edge technique to prepare your applique circles

I tried needle-turn applique many, many times and I have to admit, it’s not my favorite thing to do. But it does look really nice when it’s done right. Kathy Wylie does an awesome job of explaining how to do turned edge applique so check out her QUILTsocial post “Turned-edge applique made easy with Apliquick!” on May 7, 2015.

Use fusible web to prepare your applique circles

I’ve talked about fusible applique lots of times on QUILTsocial, so if you want more info check out my QUILTsocial posts during the week of June 6-10th to see the whole process.

Adding dimension to the quilt

For my art quilt, I’d like the circles to pop compared to the background. So I’ve decided to use the interfacing method to make a few different size circles to applique onto the quilt. To further enhance the dimensional aspect of the circles, I’m going to machine quilt the background and then applique the circles on the quilted background.

Quilting the background with a walking foot

I layered my quilt top, batting and backing and since the quilt is fairly small I’m going to quilt it on my home machine using my walking foot. The walking foot does a great job of quilting gentle curves on a quilt so I think it’ll work well on my curved background.

A walking foot was used to quilt wavy lines from the top to the bottom of the quilt

Now that my background is quilted, it’s time to add the applique circles. I’m going to stitch them down using invisible machine applique. Here’s a video I found that explains it quite well. I’m going to use my 505™ adhesive spray to stick the circles onto the quilt and then use matching thread for the stitching.

Invisible Machine Applique – YouTube

Join Karen as she demonstrates machine applique, using a variety of machine stitches. To view the entire Applique series by Karen Johnson, of Connecting Thre…

Appliqueing my circles

Since my circles have the fusible interfacing on the back of them, I arranged them on my quilt and gently pressed them in place. I also used a few pins to make sure that they weren’t going to shift around (or fall off) as I was handling the quilt.

The circles are fused in place with the iron

Finding the right stitch

Now that the circles are in place, I’m going to use the method shown in the video to stitch them to the quilt. I found a thread that was almost exactly the same color and I used a similar color in the bobbin. It took a few tries to find the right stitch, but I ended up using my machine’s basic blanket stitch set to a narrow width and a long stitch length. Using the “needle down” position on the machine as I went around the circles made it super easy!!

Using the needle down position on the machine

I really like this technique!!! The stitches are almost invisible and the circles look really great on the quilt. My creativity is flowing – I may need to use this technique again really soon!!

A close up of the blanket stitch used to secure the circles

My circles are now secured to the quilt, so all I have to do now is to trim it. Join me tomorrow when I show you a neat way to sew on the binding and then Friday I’ll show you the easiest way to put a permanent label on your quilted masterpieces. Stay tuned for more quilting fun!

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2:  Curved piecing in art quilts – traditional vs improvisational

Go to part 4: Sewing a flanged binding onto your quilt

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R July 23, 2021 - 6:40 pm
Why do you cut out the center of the fusible (so that it looks like a donut); instead of just cutting an X in the center of the fusible, (so that you can turn the circle inside-out)? What are the different results from using the two different methods of creating a circle (for applique)? Is there a benefit to reducing bulk in this method??
Terra Jackson June 12, 2019 - 6:50 pm
i was interested in seeing the finish product of the quilt..
Michele T January 4, 2017 - 6:34 pm
These are excellent tips!!! Love that the circles are perfect too!!! Thanks!!
Christine Baker January 5, 2017 - 8:29 pm
Thanks Michele! I'm glad you found them helpful.
Jan Marshall November 26, 2016 - 8:54 am
I enjoyed reading your article on appliqué and I am going to try it soon. Thank you for such interesting information
LeAnn Harbert November 20, 2016 - 1:09 am
I enjoy learning new techniques from your blog.
Kathy Swanson November 17, 2016 - 11:05 am
Thanks for posting this information. I have been looking for more detailed instructions for applique, and this certainly helped me.
Deb November 17, 2016 - 8:08 am
I'll have to give this a try--thanks!
Diane Beavers November 12, 2016 - 6:41 pm
Thank you Christine. I'm very new to applique and I too love the walking foot for quilting lines, curves. I'm trying various stitch patterns now to emulate yours and keep it invisible. Great tips!
Lela November 12, 2016 - 6:37 pm
I'm glad I found this website! Lots of great information here. This post on applique circles was great - easy to understand and follow. Love the close up pictures! I haven't done much applique, but I think I will have to rethink my fear of applique and give this a try. Now to explore the rest of the site... :D P.S. I love this quilt!
Christine Baker November 13, 2016 - 9:04 pm
Thanks for all of your kind words Lela!! I'm so glad that you found QUILTsocial too - it has an AMAZING amount of great info on it!!
Mary Jones November 11, 2016 - 11:24 am
Love the curved pieced quilt and the fabric.
Christine Baker November 11, 2016 - 9:02 pm
Thank you so much!
Donna Mather November 10, 2016 - 10:40 am
Great educational information. I will be back here many times.
Christine Baker November 11, 2016 - 9:04 pm
I'm glad you found it helpful!
Wilma November 10, 2016 - 12:22 am
When I want to cut out circles, I always go to my kitchen cabinet for cups, saucers, bowls, etc. to find the right size.
Christine Baker November 11, 2016 - 9:06 pm
I know!! It's sew handy!!
Roz Agulnik November 9, 2016 - 7:29 pm
So many circles, not enough time. Circles are my weakness. I have tons of patterns using them but not enough time with everything else to do. If you love circles, check out the Curvalicious ruler on Etsy under Cheryl Lynch. No financial connection with this ruler, but I love it and it's so easy to use.
Christine Baker November 11, 2016 - 9:07 pm
I'll look for it - thanks for the tip!
Karen Rowland November 9, 2016 - 6:51 pm
I really need to try appliqué.
Christine Baker November 11, 2016 - 9:08 pm
I think this method is my new favorite way to applique!
Delaine November 9, 2016 - 2:04 pm
Thank you so much for the great information on making applique circles! Circles are the hardest shape to applique.
Christine Baker November 11, 2016 - 9:10 pm
I'm glad that you found it useful!
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