New Orleans House Project

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Mardi Gras Circles

I have long admired antique quilts with lots of little appliqued circles (berries, cherries, dots) as part of the quilt design.  I wondered if I would ever have the patience and skill to add such an element to one of my quilts.  Since I have been appliqueing circles for Quilty 365, I've gotten fairly proficient at Perfect Circles, using Karen Kay Buckley's templates.  I decided to try making some very small circles for my Quilty 365 block as a way to celebrate Mardi Gras 2016 (February 9th).

Beads are a big component of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Float riders toss thousands of bead necklaces to enthusiastic spectators, allowing everyone to join the celebration by bedecking themselves in purple, green and gold "finery".
I decided to make Mardi Gras "beads" for my Quilty 365 block.  I used the smallest Perfect Circles template and chose some vivid purple, green and gold fabrics.   

I discovered there is a thin line between a "just right" and too large seam allowance on these little circles.  A quarter inch seam allowance is way too big, but if you cut the seam allowance too small, the fabric will fray when you gather the circle around the template.  I found a generous 1/8" seam allowance worked best. 
The scissors in the picture (also by KKB) were extremely helpful in cutting out the circles - they have finely serrated edges that help hold the fabric steady during cutting.   

Since my seam allowance was so small, I wanted to use a fine gauge thread for the running stitch used to gather the circles around the template.  I use Aurifil 50 wt. thread for all my sewing, and it worked great for the running stitches.  

I used a water-soluble marker to mark the outer "bead" circle and then just eye-balled the inner circle.  I held all the beads in place with a dot of fabric glue.  

I started stitching the beads early Mardi Gras morning, so I needed some New Orleans coffee to get me going!
I used matching thread to applique all the beads.  I didn't realize the inner circle was a little wonky until I was almost finished, but Mardi Gras isn't all straight and organized, so I didn't mind.  

I found I did have the skill to make circles this small, but I'm not sure about the patience.  Making lots of circles this size is probably a project one wants to take in small bites - not as part of a marathon!  

PS - no affiliation with Karen Kay Buckley, I just find her products to be very useful!


  1. I love your Mardi Gras circles. Very appropriate!

  2. If I counted correctly that's 22 tiny circles? Wow!!

  3. Yep, you need some chicory coffee, and some beignets.

  4. Fantastic job requiring lots and lots of patience!

  5. How clever of you, they're very cute!

  6. I need to make some appliqué circles today - thanks for the tips. Your block came out great!

  7. Fantastic Mardi Gras beads! I like Karen K. Buckley's products too especially if you're doing the iddy biddy circles.

  8. Good for you! I love little circles in antique quilts as well and I could applique circles til the cows come home! Yours are fantastic! I totally agree about the K.K. Buckley products. She is a genius!

  9. I love your little beads! 8) You deserve an extra big plate of beignets!

  10. Angie, those are so cute! Perfect for Mardi Gras!

  11. yay for circles, beads, berries or cherries!!

  12. What adorable little beads!!!! So very creative of you! I actually think the slight wonkiness of the center adds to the joy of this piece. It makes me happy just to look at it!

    KKB certainly does help make things like circles and cutting much easier, doesn't she? I have both of her circle sets and use them even more often than I thought I would.