Introduction: Laser Cut Circle Quilt
I made this quilt for my second cousin's new baby daughter, Maddie, but it could be used as a throw, or enlarged to be a bed quilt. Since she's the first girl in the family (her older brothers all got quilts too!), the quilt background is pink and white.
This quilt is easy to make, and I decided to speed things up by using a laser cutter to cut the circles.
Step 1: Supplies and Equipment
It is best to use 100% cotton fabric for quilts that are intended to be used and washed. There is a huge range of cotton fabric is designed for quilting, which is generally at least 42” wide. The measurements below assume that you are using fabric which is at least 40” wide.
· 48 cotton scrap pieces, cut into 5” squares, or use pre-cut “charm squares” (these are 5” squares available from quilting supply companies) to make the circles. I used about 25 different fabrics, mostly from leftover charm packs, and chose a variety of prints that I thought would appeal to a baby.
· 1.4 yards (or 1.3 metres) of cotton fabric for the background squares. You can use one solid colour (e.g. white) or two colours, pink and white, as I did, to have a checkerboard effect in the background. If you use two colours, you will only need .7 yards of each.
· 1.5 yards of cotton fabric for the backing
· .2 yards of cotton fabric for the binding
· quilt batting piece – 40” X 52”
· Wonder Under or other lightweight paper backed fusible web – about 2 yards, depending on its width
Step 2: Tools
· rotary cutter and mat for cutting
· acrylic ruler for cutting
· thread for piecing the quilt (this will not be visible –choose a neutral colour)
· thread for doing the quilting (this will be visible and decorative, so choose something that will look nice. I used a variegated pink thread.)
· Sewing machine
· a laser cutter to cut the circles, or a compass or round object you can trace to make a 4 ½” circle
Step 3: Overall Plan and Layout
· This quilt is made up of one simple block, a circle centred in a square, repeated. You can vary the size and shape of the quilt depending on how many blocks you make and how you arrange them. You can make it square, or rectangular. This instructable is based on the quilt I made, which was 6 squares wide and 8 squares long, so it required 48 squares. The finished size was 36 ½” X 48 ½”.
· I used a 4 ½” circle appliqued on a 6 ½” square. You can vary these dimensions – for example, if you’d like more space around your circles, you might cut the circles 4” wide, or increase the size of the background squares to 7”.
Step 4: Cutting the Fabric
1. Cut 48 background squares, 6 ½“ X 6 ½”, using a rotary cutter. If you want a checkerboard background, as in my quilt, cut 24 squares from each of 2 fabrics. It’s easiest, and most accurate, to cut using a rotary cutter against an acrylic ruler on a cutting mat. Cut a 6 ½” strip across the entire width of the fabric (usually about 42”), and then subcut this strip into 6 ½” squares until you have enough squares.
2. Take your 48 charm squares or 5” squares, and apply a 5” square of fusible web to the back of each square, by removing the paper from one side, and ironing it to the wrong side of the fabric, with the paper side touching the iron. If you are using a large piece of fabric for the circles (for example, if you are only using one or two fabrics for the circles, rather than many scraps), it will be easier to apply the fusible web to the larger piece of fabric, and then subcut the fabric, with the fusible web already applied, into 5” squares.
3. Cut each of the charm squares (now backed with fusible web) into 4 ½” circles. You can do this in a variety of ways. If you have a compass, draw a 4 ½” circle on a piece of cardboard or a file folder, cut it out, and use this circle as a guide to draw a circle on each of the squares and cut out the circle with scissors.
4. Alternatively, if you have access to a laser cutter, program it to cut 4 ½” circles, and laser cut each circle, with the fabric side up (fusible web side down) on the laser cutter bed, testing settings first so that the laser does not scorch the fabric. The vector settings I used for a single layer of cotton fabric, backed with fusible web, were Speed 50, Power 20 and Frequency 40, and the fusible backed fabric was .018” thick. I used an Epilog Engraver WinX64 fusion laser cutter at my makerspace.
5. Cut backing fabric to 40” X 52”. Cut batting to this size as well. This is larger than the quilt top, and allows for extra.
Step 5: Making the Block – Attaching (appliqueing) the Circle to the Square
1. Cut a piece of cardboard or a piece from an old file folder exactly 6 ½” square. Draw a 4 ½” circle exactly in the centre of this square (i.e. 1” from each of the side edges). If you have a laser cutter, laser cut the circle and remove it. You now have a template which will make it easy to centre all your circles in your squares.
2. Peel off the remaining thin layer of paper from the fusible web under each circle. It will help to run a pin along the paper to create a small slit in the paper, then peel it off from each side of the slit.
3. Position the template on the square, and put the fabric circle on top, so that it covers the hole you cut in the cardboard template. Your circle is now centred on top of the fabric square. Iron it in place, following the directions for your fusible web (for example, iron briefly to tack it down, then iron for 10 seconds with steam). Repeat for all 48 squares.
4. Although the fusible web should hold the circles in place, if the quilt is going to be used and washed a lot, I like to reinforce the circles by sewing them down. Use a loose zigzag stitch to sew around each circle. Start and finish with a few straight stitches, very close together, to secure the thread ends. Reduce the pressure on your sewing machine pressure foot to make it easier to follow the curve of the circle. You have now machine appliqued your circles to your block!
Step 6: Piecing the Blocks Together
1. Arrange the blocks together in a way which pleases you. I do this on a “design wall” which can be as simple as a piece of flannel nailed to the wall – the cotton squares stick to the flannel and can be rearranged until you like it. You can arrange them on the floor or on a bed.
2. I arranged my 48 squares into 6 columns and 8 rows to make a rectangle. For the top row, I decided to spell out the baby’s name, instead of using circles.
3. Starting from the top, take the square from the 2nd column and pin it to the adjacent square from the first column, and stack these in order.
4. Take the stack to the sewing machine and sew these squares together. You can “chain piece” – this means sewing one seam and then continuing on to the next, without cutting the threads or lifting the presser foot.
5. Repeat for the remaining columns, until all the columns are joined together.
6. Iron all seams flat. Do not cut the threads between the seams.
7. Now sew all the rows together, ensuring the seam allowances are lying flat, and trying to keep the seams lined up neatly.
8. Iron the entire quilt top flat.
Step 7: Quilt It!
1. Quilting is the stitching that joins the quilt top, which you have just made, to the batting and the backing.
2. Baste the quilt top to the batting and the backing, making sure that the batting fabric has the good side facing out. You can baste with safety pins, or an aerosol spray glue, or use a fusible quilt batting which you can attach to the batting and quilt top by ironing it on.
3. You can quilt by hand or machine. It’s best to start the quilting in the centre and work out. I machine quilted a simple grid pattern, with the quilting lines about ¼” away from the seam lines, and used a walking foot (also called an even feed foot).
4. Trim excess batting and backing and measure your quilt. Mine was 36 ½” X 48 ½”.
Step 8: Cut and Attach Binding
1. Cutting along the width of the fabric, cut 5 strips 2 ¼” wide. Sew these strips together and fold in half lengthwise, right side of fabric facing out, ironing this long strip to create the binding.
2. Sew the binding strip to the quilt. You can sew it by machine to the front side of the quilt, hiding the raw edge in this seam, with the folded neat edge rolled over and handstitched on the back. A faster method, which I used, is to sew the binding by machine to the back of the quilt, then machine topstitch it to the front. Doing the binding completely by machine takes practice and if this is your first quilt, it is best to sew it by machine to the front, and hand finish on the back. Binding a quilt is explained on this link: https://www.craftsy.com/blog/2014/09/how-to-bind-quilts/
Step 9: Enjoy Your Quilt!
1. Sign and date your quilt on the back with a permanent fabric marker, or make a fancy quilt label.
2. Take photos, including with the recipient of the quilt. Maddie seems happy with her quilt.
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