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How to Cut Perfect Circles of Fabric

how to cut circles of fabric

There are often times when sewing that I want to cut a perfect circle of fabric – from sewing duffel bags, to circle skirts, to polka-dot appliques. There are 3 easy ways to draw a perfect circle on fabric.

Trace a Circular Object

trace bowl for circle

In your kitchen I bet you’ll find more circular objects that you might think! Tops and bottoms of bowls, glasses, mugs, crocks – all will have slightly different size circles. The easiest way to cut a perfect circle of fabric is to find something that’s the right size and trace around it with your favorite fabric pen, tailors chalk, or my favorite – the clover chaco liner.

trace glass for circle

Tracing around a kitchen object works great for things like applique projects where “close enough” is the right size, but what about when you need the circle to be an exact size and you don’t have a corresponding bowl?

Use a Sewing Gauge to Draw a Circle

use sewing gauge for drawing circle

Who doesn’t have a sewing gauge in their stash? I have several since there always seems to be one in every lot of old sewing supplies I inherit. Not only are they useful for measuring small lengths, they are great for drawing circles. Stick a pin through the hole in one end and a pen or pencil through the hole in the slide and rotate around the pin to draw a perfect circle. Note that you are going to need a pen or pencil with a very fine tip to fit through the small hole in the slide – I like to use my staedtler superfine permanent marker, but a mechanical pencil works well too.

use clover sliding guage for circle

There are many different kinds of sewing gauges out there. The Nancy Zieman 5 in 1 sliding gauge is a personal favorite and works really well for drawing circles since one end has a rotating disk that you hold down with your finger, meaning you don’t have to rotate around a pin.

But what do you do if you need to draw a circle with a larger radius than the length of your gauge?

Use Yarn to Draw a Circle

use thread and pin for circle

Old-fashioned techniques with no fancy supplies required are sometimes best, and if you need to draw a large circle (like for a circle skirt) your best bet is to use a length of string. Tie a knot in one end of a length of yarn or string and push a pin through the knot to work as the center of your circle. Tie a pen to your yarn on the other end and rotate around the pin to draw the circle – you can wrap the yarn/string around your pen to carefully control the length. Make sure that you hold the string taught as you rotate.

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Comments 4

  1. Back in the day before I bought my Janome, I made a lot of yoyo quilts. My life as a yoyo maker got so much easier when I found that Olfa makes a rotary cutter that makes circles–it works just like your sliding gauge method, but there’s a blade where you’re putting the marker.

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  2. Another option for cutting circles is to trace around an embroidery hoop (my craft supply box includes a variety of items. you never know when something from one craft will prove useful for another)

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