Friday, June 21, 2013

Overlapping Circles Machine Quilting Tutorial

Today I'm going to share how I quilt circles! I'm sure there are other ways to do this, but this is just how I've done it. I hope this is helpful!


  • Sewing machine (duh)
  • Washable marking pen/marker (I use a blue Mark-B-Gone and have never had a problem!)
  • A bowl (mine has a diameter of 5.5" - you could go smaller if you like - and also, make sure your marking pen is washable on whatever bowl you use!)
  •  WALKING (or even feed) FOOT for your machine. This is essential!
  • Small scissors (or big scissors if you can't find your little ones, like me)
  • Your quilt! 

1. Lay your already basted quilt sandwich out, face up. I've found that spray baste works best with this kind of quilting because you don't have to skirt around pins.

2. With the marking pen, trace one circle somewhere on the top, using the bowl. I like to use the quilt as a guide - at intersections, etc. (see below).

3. Go to your machine. Bring your bobbin thread up through the quilt top (I didn't know how to successfully do this until very recently - it prevents bird's nests on the back of the quilt).

4. Set your stitch length to medium. On my Janome, I like 2.5 - not too big, not too small.

5. You can do the next part a couple of ways - I start stitching a couple inches, then a couple of back stitches to secure. If you don't like back stitching on quilts, you'll leave those threads to bury for later. Be careful they are not too long, though, or they might get in your way. Anyway, after I backstitch, I cut the threads short so that I can continue.

6. Slowly guide your fabric through, following your circle guide. You WILL have to stop and turn the fabric several times to make it follow the curves successfully. This step is extremely helpful if you have a knee lift on your machine - everything is faster and there are less mistakes (for me, at least!). No matter what, you will constantly have to reposition the quilt with BOTH hands. It will be frustrating at first, but never fear - over time, you will gain a bit of speed.

7. Once you get towards the end of your circle, stitch to your start point, back stitch a couple stitches, and then stitch over those again (again, only if you choose the backstitch method). Snip your threads, plus the original threads once again (so you can't see them at all), and you are finished with your first circle!

 Here's what it looks like from the back.

8. Now, if you want to do repeating circles like I have, you have to keep going! Plus, I'm pretty sure you're not going to leave that little circle so lonely ;) So, this part is all up to you. Sometimes I use my walking foot as a guide to make a second circle around it - instead of finding another template to trace another. I eyeball it and if you go slow enough, it shouldn't be too hard. Sometimes I also extend a half an inch, or a whole inch, past the circle I just stitched, eyeball it, and stitch another circle. I'm a daredevil, lol. I do the same thing as before: bring up the thread from the bottom, stitch, backstitch, and just follow my first circle as a guide.

9. Now, if you want to make overlapping circles, simply trace another circle template somewhere else close on your quilt top. Repeat the same process as above.

10. When you get to this point, just make sure you keep looking where you are stitching (at the circle you previously sewed on the same circle you're tracing!) or you'll get confused with your very first repeating circles!

And there you have it! Overlapping machine quilted circles. See, I knew you could do it! :) Please let me know if you have questions or if this tutorial works for you!

Be back soon with lots of updates. Jeez, I haven't had a finish in a while, though that is soon to change!


  1. Yay a finish! Great circle quilting!

  2. I might just have to steal this idea for my Stacked Squares quilt - LOVE IT!

  3. thanks, jess! i'm glad you shared this and now i can try circles again, because let's be serious - my first one was ug-lay. hahahah. can't wait to use this tutorial!

  4. The tutorial will be very helpful one day -- when I'm feeling brave! Thanks for sharing!


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