Friday, August 12, 2016

Making large circles for my Rowdy Flat Library Quilt

Do you ever have to draw a large circle of a specific size? I needed to make circles of varying sizes for my Rowdy Flat Library quilt. There are tools that you can purchase to draw circles of different sizes but why spend money when you can make the tool yourself for nothing?

The first step is to understand the circle. Most often patterns will call for a circle of a particular measurement. That measurement is the diameter of the circle. The diameter of a circle is the measurement through the middle of the circle from one side of the circle to the opposite side. If your pattern calls for a 5" circle the distance from one side of the circle to the other through the middle of the circle is 5".

Diameter of a circle

To make your circle maker tool you will need to know the radius of the circle. The radius is the measurement from the midpoint of the circle to the side. You simply divide the diameter by 2 to come up with the measurement. If you need a 5" circle the radius is 2 1/2".

Radius of a circle

To make your circle maker tool you need only a few supplies: a strip of lightweight cardboard, a ruler, a slim darning needle and a mechanical pencil. The glossy bookmarks used to advertise businesses or quilt shows work really well!

I was lucky enough to get a bookmark that has a little ruler printed on it. If I didn't have this I would just cut a strip of lightweight cardboard that is roughly 1 1/2" wide.  Along the length of the strip of cardboard I would draw a line that is 1/4" in from the long edge. Starting roughly 1/2" in from the end I would make marks in 1/2" increments.

To finish my circle maker tool I take my slim darning needle and pierce the cardboard where the 0" mark intersects with the line that is 1/4" in from the long edge of the tool. If I want to make a 5" I will pierce the cardboard at the measurement that equals the radius, 2 1/2". That's it! The tool is made and ready for use!

How do you use it? Simple! Take your square of fabric. Make sure it is pressed flat and smooth. If you press it with a little starch or sizing it will ensure a nice flat finish. Find the middle of the square by folding it in half in both directions and make a soft crease at the centre point to create a little cross.

Place your fabric on your cutting board. Take a pin and slide it through the hole at the 0" mark on your circle maker tool. Place the pin on the middle point of your fabric. Hold the pin in position so that it is perpendicular to the fabric and place the tip of your mechanical pencil through the hole at the 2 1/2" mark.

Slowly and gently begin drawing the circle.

I like to draw half the circle and then reposition my hands and the circle maker tool in order to draw the other half of the circle. When you do this be sure to check that the lead of the pencil is lining up with the line you've already draw. If they don't line up your pin at the midpoint may have moved in which case you will need to be reposition the pin.

I used this method to make the circles on the toile fabric I plan to use for my Rowdy Flat Library Quilt designed by Susan Smith of Patchwork on Stoneleigh.  I showed you the skeleton toile in my previous post. It is a great print but it was black and white and so I added colour with ink pens and then I added some embroider details! I should have taken the picture with my camera rather than my tablet. Oh well, at least you get the idea. I won't need to use all of the circles but I had so much fun making them that I just couldn't stop.

Here is a close up of one of the coloured circles!

Once the toile circle is placed on the background fabric and a surrounded with little petals - 32 of them!

The next step will be to make 1/4" bias binding that will be appliqued over the edges of the petals. Stay tuned because there are more pictures to come.

I'll leave you with a close up of my pretty little pincushion that was made for me by my friend Paula.

Until I post again, happy sewing.

Karen H


  1. What a good tip to add color to the black and white design. Really pretty when you did it on your fabric pieces.

  2. Thanks for the great explanation about circles, maths has never been my strong point but now I understand.

  3. I was at the quilt show in Birmingham yesterday trying to find some Toile for the circles of my quilt. I love yours-what fun. I can't wait to see more.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial!! I can't wait to see more of this quilt because so far I am loving it!

  5. I just love that you added color to the skeleton print! This is going to be so fab.