Quilting 101: neat way to prepare circles for applique

Quilting 101: neat way to prepare circles for applique

If the thought of appliquéing circles and curves makes you break into a sweat/run from the room/reach for the chocolate, pat yourself on the back for reading beyond this post’s headline. And then keep reading, because today we’re sharing a simple method for making accurate circles and smooth curves. You know all those circle quilts you’ve admired but haven’t had the courage to tackle? Start choosing fabrics, because by the end of this post, you’ll be ready to start sewing.

True Colors quilt
“True Colors” by Nancy Mahoney, from Simple Circles and Quick Curves

We’re talking about the starch-appliqué method, a time-tested, reliable technique for preparing appliqué pieces for either hand or machine stitching. I’d first read about the method years ago. When I began to see more circle quilts I wanted to make, and since I wasn’t satisfied with the curves I was getting with any other technique, I knew it was time to try the starch-appliqué way.

Author Nancy Mahoney features the starch method in her book Simple Circles and Quick Curves. Follow her steps and, like me, you’ll soon be quilting circles with ease.

The Starch-Appliqué Method

Starch appliqué uses heat-resistant template plastic, spray starch, double-stick tape, and a cotton swab.

Make one template for each different appliqué shape. Place a piece of double-stick tape on the wrong side of the template and place the template right side up on the wrong side of the chosen fabric. Cut out the shape, adding a 3/16"-wide seam allowance all around.

Starch-applique method 1

Spray a little starch into a small cup. Dip the cotton swab into the starch and “paint” the starch over the seam allowance. Wait a few minutes for the starch to penetrate the fabric.

Starch-applique method 2

With a dry iron, press the seam allowance over the edge of the template. Clip curves as needed. Allow the piece to cool, then remove the template and re-press if needed.

Starch-applique method 3

That’s all there is to it! Your pieces are now ready to be stitched to your background fabric.

More circle-licious quilts from Simple Circles and Quick Curves:

Quilts from Simple Circles and Quick Curves
“Daydreaming” and “Passion Vine”

See more from Simple Circles and Quick Curves >

Bonus: See Nancy’s smart tip for centering appliqué pieces on your background fabric in this YouTube video.

Reading this in email? See the “How to applique circles by machine” video at the Stitch This! blog or watch it on YouTube.

Can’t get enough curves? Check out Adventures in Circles by Leigh McDonald and Quiltastic Curves by Tammy Kelly.

Adventures in Circles Quiltastic Curves

How do you get your appliqués to behave: starch or steam? Tell us in the comments!

Save 40% on select eBooks this week!

11 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I have used steam- but surely will try the starch !! It looks like it will work much better.

    —Nancy on March 30, 2015
  • I run from appliqués! But now I might try the starch method…

    —Vicky on March 30, 2015
  • What a great idea. MUCH BETTER than the steaming method. Thank you.

    —Diana Senturia on March 30, 2015
  • For applique I usually either do raw edge or use a combination of interfacing (fusible or not) to stabilize and turn the edge, then steam press for a good edge. Either way I like to do decorative edge stitching and/or thread painting depending on the project. I like the projects in the books. Thanks for the inspiration!

    —Jane on March 30, 2015
  • I usually run screaming from applique. I am intrigued at the starch method. Worth trying! Thank you for the post.

    —Joni on March 30, 2015
  • I use the starch method with sizing and a small paint brush instead of a cotton swab, which tends to fuzz after a bit.

    —Kay on March 30, 2015
  • The first hand applique class I took was taught using the starch method. The teacher had experimented with many methods and felt this was the best. The results were great and I’d definitely continue to use this easy and exacting method.

    —Janet in ND on March 30, 2015
  • I use starch and freezer paper instead of the template. and a small paintbrush instead of the cotton swab.

    —Diane S on March 30, 2015
  • When I have cut out the fabric and template I often use a running stitch round the fabric and then pull thread to fit template. I then cover the fabric covered template in aluminium cooking foil and smooth round the shape with fingers eliminating any straight edges. Then I press over the foil. This method gives me a perfect curve.

    —kay west on March 30, 2015
  • I do whatever works for a particular quilt design and depending on the size of the circles to be made. That’s why I love quilting … you can do what works for you at any given time.

    —Karen L. on March 31, 2015
  • I use either Best Press or Starch cut with 50% water and a small paint brush. For me, it’s easier to stitch through the lighter mixture.

    —Joyce R. on April 3, 2015

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