Preparing Circles for Applique

We thought we’d start a new occasional focus on quilting tips here on the Guildcrafters blog. We recently had a slew of circles we needed to applique and were looking for a faster way to prepare them. Ordinarily, many of us prepare small circles for applique by sewing a running stitch in a fabric circle’s seam allowance, insert a heat resistant template of some sort, pull up the stitching, spray or paint with starch and press the circle dry.

When it comes to preparing larger circles, all of that running stitching can get, well, a little boring. So, here’s what we did to prepare the circles for our Gelato circle quilt.

2gelato circles

SUPPLIES: Double layer of freezer paper or heat resistant template plastic, spray starch or Mary Ellen’s Best Press, a small cup, a paint brush (a stencil brush works best), small pieces of muslin and foil to protect your ironing surface (optional).

First, use your favorite method to cut out circles — be sure you are adding 1/4″ seam allowance all around. When possible, we like to use Creative Grids circle templates and a smaller rotary cutter (28 mm works great).

Next, take all of your circles to your sewing machine. Using a longer or basting stitch length and sewing on the WRONG side of the circle, stitch a scant 1/8″ from the edge of the circle. This means you will be stitching within the 1/4″ seam allowance but DO NOT stitch 1/4″ in.

As you sew, the circles should begin to “cup” like so:


Next, cut a circle to your FINISHED SIZE out of heat resistant template plastic (as an alternative, you can use a double layer of freezer paper, but you will need to adhere that to the wrong side of your fabric BEFORE stitching around the circle). Insert the heat resistant template into a circle “cup.” DO NOT loosen your stitching. If you need to, loosen only a little bit of the stitching right at the beginning or ending of your stitching — but only just enough to allow you to insert the circle template.


Take the circle to your ironing surface. Spray a small amount of starch or Mary Ellen’s Best Press into a small cup. A small stencil brush works best for painting the liquid on the seam allowance — the bristles are short and strong and really help to turn the seam allowance up over the template’s edge. Now you’ll paint the seam allowance with starch, drying it with an iron set to a medium heat (so as not to buckle the heat resistant template plastic), paint a little more seam allowance and so on until you’ve worked your way around the entire circle.




You can then easily slip the template plastic or freezer paper out of the pressed circle.


Keep going until you have a pile of prepped circles:


Clip the beginning and ending threads and you have a pile of circles ready for either machine or hand applique!

We hope this tip helps you master a circle quilt project!