Today, as part of the 2016 FL Tutorial Series, I am sharing a tutorial about how to make improv circles. There are, of course, many ways to improv a circle, this is just the way I have been exploring. You will see from the photos that I make an improv quarter circle and then trim it with a ruler into…
First, get a nice selection of fabrics handy. Making improv circles, and most any other improv work, requires you to be able to play with the colours as you go. I find that heading to my solids shelf gives me too many options, so I pick a selection of fabrics to have handy as I work.
Pick a starting fabric and freehand cut a quarter circle. In terms of size, you just have to eyeball it and you may find that your first couple of quarter circles are too small or too big or too “something”. This is pretty normal for me when I start improv so I set aside, rather than ripping out or tossing out, those too “something” bits, as often, as I make more, those bits fit back into the work, often adding interesting differences. If not, toss them into the scrap bin for reuse later.
The other aspect of size is that if your block is getting too big, you can always trim it down. So just start with a size, you can see that my quarter circle start is about 5″ on each of the straight sides. I am making large circles, each quarter section is about 12″ square so the entire circles is a 24″ square block. If you want smaller circles, just start with smaller bits.
Cut the second colour, the first colour ring, along the edge of the quarter circle already cut. Then cut the outside of that ring. Bear in mind that about 1/4″ on both sides of this ring will disappear in the seam allowance and chose your width accordingly.
Basically, I lay out the pieces right side facing up.
Now take the top piece, in my case the “not pie shaped” piece and flip it right side down and match the starting points as shown. Given the nature of curves, and the fact that you will sew 1/4″ inside the cut edge, there will be extra fabric at the end, so feel free to have extra of the top piece sticking out over the edge of the bottom piece.
Stitch 2 – 4 stitches and stop. Raise your presser foot and realign the pieces and then drop your presser foot.
This step is better illustrated in my video. You need to keep both pieces at the 1/4″ mark on your presser foot as the go under the foot. Hold the top fabric up (this is important), but don’t tug on it as you will stretch it on the bias. Keep your other hand (not photographed as it was holding the camera) on the bottom piece guiding it along the the 1/4″ mark. Constantly adjust the placement of the top fabric so that it is meeting the bottom fabric at the 1/4″ mark. Sew slowly and deliberately.
I press each addition, pushing the seams to the centre.
In this photo you can see that a 1/4″ seam allowance was achieved. It does not have to be perfect, but if it is too narrow, restitch so that the piecing does not come apart later as your quilt is used.
Add your next ring using the same method. Sewn piece is placed right side up on the next fabric which is also right side up. Cut your next ring.
You will see that you are also cutting left over chunks of the next fabric. Save those for other circles.
After a few rings, the piece might start to pucker. A trim of the edges usually takes that pucker out. I often trim after each ring is added as well. This is also a good time to adjust the size if your piece has become bigger than you wish it to be.
It is the same approach to laying out the background piece for sewing. I line it up right sides up and then flip the top piece over to stitch.
Then trim your block on both edges that contain the improv. This photo shows the first cut and then I trimmed the bottom as well.