I always keep my eyes open while shopping outside of quilt stores for things that can be implemented for quilting purposes. One day I found these ultra thin metal circles called “eyelet charms” in the scrapbooking section of a craft store.
There are twelve charms in the pack, measuring from ¾” to 1 ¾”. I knew immediately they’d be the perfect template for appliqué circles.
Here is how I use them. First, rough cut a circle of fabric about 1/2” larger than the circle template you are using.
Thread a needle with sewing thread, using both strands, and sew a running stitch around the edge of the fabric circle as shown. Do not cut the thread.
Place your metal template in the center of the wrong side of your fabric circle.
Pull the thread taut, allowing the fabric to envelop the sides of the template. Even out the pleats a little if necessary. I usually take a few more running stitches, holding the thread tightly, and then tie the thread off with a few repeated back stitches. The fabric should be quite snug.
Take your fabric-covered template to the ironing board. With a strong solution of starch (mine is 50-50 starch to water), saturate the fabric on both sides.
Heat your iron to a cotton setting and begin pressing from the outside edge inward, slowly working your way around the circle. When the pleated side is crisp and dry, turn the circle over and press the other side until dry. Metal can get hot so use caution before picking the circle up with your hand. (Personally, I’ve never found the metal to be a heat problem because it is so thin, which means it cools quickly.)
With your super-crisp circle in hand, apply some temporary basting glue to the back side. The key here is to make sure it’s applied to the outer edges of the circle.
Place your circle in position on a quilt block and gently press down with your fingers. Then turn the block over and press around the edges of the circle. Allow to dry for about 15-20 minutes.
With a pair of appliqué or craft scissors, cut a small hole into the back side of your quilt block at the center of the circle template. Carefully cut away the backing a quarter-inch from the edge of the metal template. You should see most of the metal template at this point, with only a quarter-inch of its edge being hidden by fabric.
Since the glue isn’t fully dried, the fabric will be flexible. Gently lift the edges of the fabric around the template. Now wiggle the metal template until it comes free. Finger press the edges back into position. Don’t worry about ruining your perfect circle as you work this step. The fabric will immediately go back in place once the template is removed. If the template will not come out, it’s probably because you haven’t cut away enough of the backing. A quarter-inch always works for me.
On the surface of your quilt block you now have a perfectly round circle. However, it hasn’t been stitched in any way. Sometimes I use invisible thread with a slight zig-zag stitch to tack the circle down. Other times I simply wait and incorporate any circles into my quilting design. The choice is yours.
If you can’t find these metal charms, there are heat-resistant template plastic circles available in quilt shops and online. These cannot take the heat that metal templates can, so you must handle them differently or they will warp.
I hope this tutorial will encourage you to add some circles to a future quilt project. I think you will find the process rewarding.