Mini Quilt of the Month, February: Liberty of London Tana Lawn Circular Applique

For our February Mini Quilt of the Month we decided to venture into the world of circles.  So often in quilts straight lines and right angles dictate our designs since they seem more approachable, but with this super simple technique of appliqueing circles, the possibilities are endless!  Inspired by the design of our Liberty Swatch Portrait Wall which greets our customers as they arrive in our Soho shop, we used the wonderfully soft and cheerful Liberty of London's Tana Lawn in a rainbow of colors.  We love the whimsical charm of these colorful circles floating on a soft white background.

One can easily get lost in the enchanting designs and exquisitley detailed printing of Liberty of London's Tana Lawn, and its colors, especially when viewed in a rainbow spectrum, are so rich and saturated.  This quilt is the perfect way to use small amounts of precious Tana Lawn to make a big impact.


Fabric for the Circles

Fabric for the Background, Backing and Binding

  • 2 yards of Robert Kaufman's Essex, Ivory

You will also need . . .


21 1/2 by 25 1/5 inches.


Make the Circles

To make your circular templates, draft a variety of circles onto some scrap paper with your compass (or trace around circular objects from around the house). We made our circles 2 1/2-inches , 3-inches, 3.5-inches, 4-inches, 5-inches, 6-inches and 7-inches in diameter.  Carefully cut them out.

Pick out a Liberty print and trace around one of the circles onto the wrong side of the fabric. It's up to you which size circle to use for which print.

Cut the traced circle away from the rest of the fabric into a rough square and pin it wrong side up to a piece of the fusible interfacing facing fusible side up.

Sew all the way around directly on the marked line of the circle. Trim the seam allowance to approximately 1/8-inch.

Flip the circle over and cut an opening into the middle of the interfacing.

Turn the circle right sides out through this cut in the interfacing.

Finger press your hemmed circle flat.

Make a hemmed circle for each of your Liberty fabrics.

Cut a piece of the Ivory Essex to approximately 28-inches by 30-inches.

With masking tape mark a rectangle to the size you want your finished quilt to be (we made ours 21 1/2-inches by 25 1/2-inches).

Arrange the hemmed circles into a pleasing order within the marked rectangle (we put ours in rainbow order of course!). If you find that you need more or less room you can adjust the tape to make a smaller or larger rectangle.

Applique the Circles

The fusible side of the interfacing is on the back of all of the circles. Use a hot iron to lightly press the circles into place once you have finalized their arrangement.  Please note, sometimes through handling the fuse comes loose so we also pinned our circles to the backing fabric to keep them from shifting around during the applique process.

To applique the circles use the neutral colored sewing thread. We used a contrasting thread for the example so you could see it clearly in the photos.

Since the cotton lawn is delicate you'll want to avoid damaging it, so you should start by coming up through the back of the background fabric with your threaded needle (rather than through the front of the lawn and popping the knot to the inside as you would for traditional applique) and exiting right at the edge of the circle, just catching the edge of the circle fabric as you exit.

Take a tiny stitch from the background fabric just at the edge of the circle as shown above.

Push your needle back into the edge of the circle just at the point where you exited the background fabric. Then slide the needle through along the inner edge of the circle and pull it out approximately 1/4-inch beyond where you went in as shown above.

Take another tiny stitch from the background fabric just at the point where you exited the circle.

Then push the needle through the edge of the circle once again for approximately 1/4-inch. Repeat to complete the perimeter of the circle.

Repeat to attach all circles.

Cut the quilt top down to be 21 1/2-inches by 25 1/2-inches (or whatever size you decided on above). This is your quilt top.


Cut a piece of the Essex to be 4-inches longer and wider than your quilt top.

Lay the backing fabric right side down onto a flat surface and tape it down using masking tape.

Cut the batting to be 2 inches longer and wider than your quilt top and lay it down smoothly on top of the backing.

Lay the quilt top smoothly on top of the other two layers, right side up.

These three layers are your quilt sandwich.

Thread the curved needle with a long length of the contrasting thread. Sewing though all three layers of your quilt sandwich, take a series of 1 1/2-inch long or larger stitches with the curved needle, starting at the center of the quilt and moving out in a spiral shape. Do not tie a knot at the end of the thread, but leave a long tail which will make it easier to pull out later.  The backing fabric will still be taped to the surface throughout the basting process.

Continue on with these large stitches in a spiral shape until the whole piece is basted.

Un-tape the backing fabric from the floor. The back of the quilt sandwich should look like this.


Place the quilt sandwich loosely into the quilting hoop.

To hand quilt this piece simply thread an 18-inch length of hand quilting thread onto the hand sewing needle and stitch through all three layers approximately 1/8-inch from the edge of the circles. Each stitch should be no more than 1/4-inch wide. Once you get the hang of it you can take more than one stitch at a time.

Quilt around each circle in the same way.

Once all the circles are quilted gently pull out the basting stitches.


Trim the backing fabric and bating to match up with the quilt top and bind your quilt using the remaining Essex fabric.

If you haven't bound a quilt before please visit the binding instructions from our January Mini Quilt of the Month: Courthouse Steps here. This quilt (and all quilts!) can be bound in exactly the same manner. Once you get to the story, scroll down near the end to the sections called "Prepare the Binding" and "Bind the Quilt".

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27 Responses to Mini Quilt of the Month, February: Liberty of London Tana Lawn Circular Applique

  1. m@ random musings says:

    can you tag this project 'miniquilts'?

  2. purl bee says:

    Hi M,
    It's tagged in our main journal now, thanks for pointing that out. You can find it right here:

  3. Jessie says:

    Love this!! Can't wait to make it! Thanks for all your wonderfully inspiring ideas! :)

  4. Phoebe says:

    This is so pretty, very inspiring! One thing – I think you mean to say that the backing fabric should be *wrong* side up, when you tape it down for basting, not right side up. With a solid fabric, it doesn't really matter, but if someone uses a print, it would.

  5. purl bee says:

    Thanks Phoebe! All fixed.

  6. Claudia says:

    Thank you so much – this is a very helpful and inspiring tutorial. I have wanted to make a circles quilt for ages and now I think I will have a go! With the support of your tutorial I will get through it step by step. Greetings from Germany

  7. eileensideways says:

    this is so freakin cute, the tutorial is fabulous and well photographed. love your fabric choices. can't wait to make one.

  8. Rachel says:

    I love it! Thanks for this tutorial! So cute!

  9. Meme says:

    I love this sweet mini quilt – perfect as a gift! Love the different fabrics you used too! Thanks for sharing – great tutorial!!

  10. Betty says:

    Lovely project. Thanks so much for the tutorial.

  11. Emily in Mill Valley says:

    Gorgeous. I'm ready — except I'm waffling about washing the fabrics first. My gut says yes, but I'm not sure how best to treat the colorful little swatches from your Liberty bundle. Wash them in a lingerie bag, maybe? Do they even shrink? I'll definitely wash the cotton background fabric — suggestions welcome.

  12. Sarah says:

    This is wonderful.
    It makes me want to go buy an frame RIGHT NOW.
    I just might.

  13. kslaughter says:

    Oh my goodness! I love this idea—the quilt, and the super easy method for appliqueing the circles. I usually shy away from anything curvy, but this makes it so do-able. And, as always, perfect instructions and fantastic photos—-Thanks!

  14. Fiona Humberstone says:

    Love this! And I love the sneaky trick with the circles – will make the whole thing sooo much more approachable. I'm going to give it a go. Thank you

  15. labistrake says:

    I love it ! So inspirating !
    Thank you for the tutorial. I've begun this project this afternoon with the Liberty fabrics I have left.
    Greeting from France.

  16. Morgane @ Bear,dolly and moi says:

    I just made one, and it turned out perfect!
    Instead of using it as a wall quilt, I made it as a sewing machine cover.
    If you are interested in seeing it:
    thanks for the great tutorial!

  17. cash advance says:

    Picture perfect! Great job.

  18. Emily says:

    Thanks for this tutorial. I used fabrics I already had on hand to make mine and decided to do additional quilting around each circle. You can see my finished product on my blog.

  19. BDCouture says:

    What a wonderful technic ! I also made quilting and patchwork and I like such tricks. Thank for your tutorial.
    Brigitte from France

  20. Janet says:

    Love this quilt. So pretty! Thanks for the detailed directions, too…maybe one day I'll have time to make one for my family.

  21. lillyblanc says:

    Voilà un super tuto!!!!
    Je commence l'appliqué et ces explications vont bien m'aider dans la régularité de mes cercles.
    Grand merci!

  22. Julietta says:

    Great idea! I've never done circles like this, only tried them once or twice because it was always such a pain! This is so much easier and looks fantastic, I'm working on a baby quilt now and it's going so fast thanks to your tutorial! Thanks!

  23. Kat says:

    Hi Molly.
    I have got a question: Would it also work not to applique the circles by hand as you told but to do it by machine sewing along the circles selvages with a space of about 0,3 inches to selvage? Do you know what I mean? Thx in advance for an answer!
    Another thing is: The picture above the headline “Basting and Quilting” and two pictures below this headline not seem to be the same. As in the upper picture, the circles are really high above the fabric and in the next picture, they suddenly seem to be “inside” the fabric. Do you know, what I mean? Did you again iron the quilt top in this step?

    I would be happy about your answer an wish you all the best for 2013! Greetings from Germany!

  24. purl bee says:

    Hi Kat-

    Yes, you can applique the circles on with a machine. It will look a little different but still be beautiful!

    I'm not sure I understand what you mean about the Basting and Quilting section. The picture above the heading is of the top before it has been cut as per the instructions below it. The picture below is after it's been cut. Please let us know if this isn't what you're talking about.

    Happy New Year to you too!



  25. Megan says:

    This quilt is gorgeous! I am heading to the fabric store to pick up the supplies. I am in Canada, but the next time I am in NY, I want my first stop to be Purl Soho! Thank you for the step by step instructions.

  26. Kristen says:

    Hi – I have a super novice question about upsizing this quilt. If I wanted to make a toddler sized quilt (ambitious first timer!), how would I calculate the amount of non- Liberty fabric needed for the back and front. I *think* that I can probably wing it with the circles, since I'm not intending to make an exact replica, just something similar for my babe inspired by your lovely work. I just about died when I saw it, and have been obsessing since!

  27. purl bee says:

    Hi Kristen-

    A standard toddler quilt size is 38 X 46. So you would need the front piece to be 38 X 46 and the back piece to be 42 X 50 plus a 1/2 yard (18-inches) for the binding.
    46 + 50 + 18= 114 inches= 3 1/4 yards of fabric.

    If you want to make it in a different size please keep in mind that the recommended fabric is only 45-inches wide so if both your length and width dimensions are wider than that you might want to use wider fabric such as 90-inch wide muslin:

    Thanks for your question!


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