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Piecing a Circle: Pinning Method

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about me, but I tend to gravitate towards irregular shapes. Square quilting blocks aren’t typically my thing. Fabric is such a flexible medium – there’s no need to stay trapped in boxes. I like to think outside the quilter’s block.

Irregular shapes don’t have to be scary. I know a lot of people tend to shy away from circles because they are so daunting, but today I want to show you my favorite method for sewing inset circles.


  • Circle printed or drawn on paper
  • Two pieces of coordinating fabric
  • Thread
  • Scissors or X-Acto blade
  • Pins
  • Marking pen or pencil

I started by printing out a circle centered in a block on regular printer paper to use as my design with two coordinating shades of green fabric.

Printed circle with two pieces of coordinating green fabric

Before I cut the paper design I drew these little hash marks all along the circle. I started by drawing lines at the top, bottom, and two sides, then between each of those drew yet another hash.

Circle with several hash marks along the outside

Notice the top one has a funny mark? That’s so I know how to match it up later after everything is cut out. If we were using a protractor and all the marks were exactly the same distance apart it wouldn’t matter, but since we’re just eyeballing the marks we need to keep track of who matches with who. I really think it’s just less time consuming to identify one mark than to accurately measure.

Then I went back and added an additional hash mark in between each of the marks.

Circle with several hash marks along the outside

Now we’re ready to cut out the circle. I used an X-Acto blade to cut out the circle. I’m just not good at accurately cutting a circle with scissors.

Using my circle as a stencil, I traced around the edge making sure to mark all the hash marks. Make sure you’re marking the back of the fabric. Since this fabric has a design I also made sure to have the butterfly roughly center and payed close attention to where I wanted the top.

Circle stencil on green butterfly fabric

Cut it out making sure to leave at least ¼” outside the circle for the seam allowance. We’re going to be sewing on the line so we need that extra fabric outside.

Circle cut with seam allowance from green butterfly fabric

Do the same thing for the fabric with the hole, making sure you leave extra on the inside of the circle for the seam allowance.

Green fabric with hole in center

Make little snips inside the seam allowance of the fabric with the hole, leaving a little distance from the line. This helps the fabric stretch along the curve without bunching the fabric. Generally, the tighter the curve, the more snips more closely together you’ll want. I should have at least doubled what I did in the picture below as it didn’t end up stretching as well as I would have liked.

Cut snips into green fabric

Starting with the marked hash, pin together. I like to pin through the point where the hash meets the line on both sides and come back through on the line a short distance away.

Fabric circles with first pin in marked hash

Pin opposite sides at a time. See how I did the top then bottom, then the two sides? This will help ensure the fabric is spread evenly around the circle. For ease of sewing, make sure the fabric with the hole is the top layer.

Fabric circle pinned with four pins at opposite sides

Now that we’ve portioned the circle into sections, we can pin each section at a time. Pin the centermost hash first in each section.

Fabric circle fully pinned

When it’s all pinned we’re ready to sew! Don’t worry that it’s not lying flat – it’s not going to.

Remember when I said to pin the fabric with the hole on the top? That’s because when we feed it through the sewing machine the circle will lay flat on the bottom and the fabric on top is going to want to bunch up, but because it’s on top we’ll be able to see and adjust.

Sewing circle into fabric

Sew along the drawn line. Go slow. As you’re sewing around you’ll have to constantly readjust the top fabric so you don’t catch any bunching in the seam. Just keep pulling the fabric flatish as you go around.

When you’re all done iron the seam toward the outside so that the circle fabric is lying flat.

Ironing butterfly circle fabric with seam out

There you go! You’ve got a pieced inset circle!

Butterfly fabric circle sewn inset into green fabric

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Pam Washington
Pam Washington
March 8, 2023 5:21 pm

Thank you! I will try this technique to replicate a dress I’m attempting to construct. Will keep you updated. Pam