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How Tuesday: Circle-Spiral Appliqué handmade and vintage goods


When I heard that a new book by Natalie Chanin was coming out soon, my crafty heart leapt with joy! Her first book, Alabama Stitch Book, was such a heartfelt gem, and her second book, Alabama Studio Style, is equally so. The books embody the spirit and mission of her fashion and lifestyle company, Alabama Chanin, with textile-based projects, recipes, and stories celebrating sustainable couture and lifestyle. Her company is based in Florence, Alabama and their products are all handmade in limited runs by local artists with recycled and organic materials, all of which are “grown-to-sewn” in the United States. For this week’s How-Tuesday post, Natalie is generously sharing a project featured in her book, Alabama Studio Style.

Purchase Alabama Studio Style, and all of Natalie Chanin’s book from Amazon, an independent bookseller, or directly from Alabama Chanin.

When I first started crafting as a little girl in the late 1960s, I used fusible adhesive to create all sorts of iron-on appliqués. I vividly recall cutting out apple, butterfly, and flower shapes and ironing them onto bags, blue jeans, T-shirts, and just about anything I could get my hands on.

I never would have guessed back then that appliqué would become an integral part of my adult career, but it is, in fact, one of the cornerstones of our work at Alabama Chanin. We used it throughout Alabama Stitch Book. As you stitch these appliqués, you’ll notice that each shape starts and ends with a fresh knot. It may seem like a lot of work to tie so many knots, but it is well worth the effort as it ensures that your completed garment will retain its stretch.

Circle-spiral appliqué involves cutting out a random circle, spiral-cutting into the center of the circle, and then sewing the resulting spiral down to a base fabric with a straight stitch. We don’t measure anything when cutting the circle spiral but simply cut by eye, which adds varied character to the appliqués that we love. We used this appliqué technique for our Fall/Winter 2008/09 Revolution Collection, and it can be applied to any project — dresses, pillows, chairs, drapes, and T-shirts. To add variation to this technique, use scraps from your wet-paint stenciling for your appliqué.


Cotton-jersey base fabric

Cotton-jersey appliqué fabric

Cotton-jersey backing fabric (if your project calls for it)

Embroidery scissors

Garment Scissors


Hand-sewing needle

Button craft thread


Using garment scissors, cut out a circle any size you want from your appliqué fabric. For the projects in this book, we used both 3″- to 4″-diameter and 7″- to 8″-diameter circles. Depending on the size of the circle you choose, cut the number of circles needed to cover the area to be appliquéd. If you’re not comfortable cutting circles freehand, use a compass or a jar, or other circular object as a guide.

Place your garment scissors at a 45-degree angle to the edge of one of your cut circles, and cut into the circle by 1/2″. Working freestyle, continue cutting in a spiral, first cutting about 1/2″ from the outside edge and then cutting in towards the center, always keeping about a 1/2″ space between the cutting lines. Stop cutting when you have about a 1″-diameter circle left in the center of your spiral. Repeat the process with each of your remaining cut circles.

Randomly place and pin your cut spiral appliqués on the base fabric, slightly overlapping the edges by about 1/8.”

Use a straight stitch to sew the appliqué spiral to the base fabric, begin stitching along the edge of the 1″-diameter circle in the center of the appliqué, and then stitch outwards along the edge of the spiral cut. When you reach about 1/8″ from the end of the spiral’s outside point, turn and stitch your way back to your starting point at the center of the 1″-diameter circle, where you’ll knot off your thread.

Thank you to Natalie Chanin and the good folks at Melanie Falick Books for sharing this project with us. For more projects, recipes, and stories, check out Alabama Chanin’s books & blog.

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