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How Tuesday: Circle-Spiral Appliqué

Mar 9, 2010

by Julie Schneider 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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  • LittleWeeShop

    LittleWeeShop said 6 years ago

    I have a great little plain dress I'm going to try this on, & I love how free-style the technique is. It will certainly put an extra 'spring' in my step. thanks for the idea! ~ Little Wee Shop

  • Schmutzerland

    Schmutzerland said 6 years ago

    this is really cute! I can't wait to try it out!

  • ScienceKitty

    ScienceKitty said 6 years ago

    So beautiful and the clothes on your website are exquisite! I love that you sell DIY kits too. You have inspired me. :-) - Science Kitty

  • humblebea

    humblebea said 6 years ago

    What a great idea~ thank you for sharing! (-:

  • RegalCottage

    RegalCottage said 6 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I do so many hand-stitched designs for kids, but I am always at a loss for ideas for adults. This is lovely!

  • Feille

    Feille said 6 years ago

    Very cute! I must try this on a pillow!

  • chasedreams

    chasedreams said 6 years ago

    These are so cute and fun! Thanks for sharing - off to try it on something!

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry said 6 years ago

    This is pretty darn cool! It would look really fab in a tone on tone color scheme.

  • JujaCrafts

    JujaCrafts said 6 years ago

    Looks just great! I want to try it right now! :)

  • BlueRoseRetro

    BlueRoseRetro said 6 years ago

    You spin me right round baby right round... love it!

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy said 6 years ago

    Sounds simple enough, even for me! I'm always looking for interesting techniques to create one-of-a-kind, but comfy, fashions for my teen daughters. These spirals definitely got my wheels turning.

  • Feille

    Feille said 6 years ago

    OMG, y'all have to see the bridal collection on the website! Marvelous!

  • candacejean

    candacejean said 6 years ago

    This is way cute and seems fairly simple.. I'm going to try it! Thanks for the tutorial!

  • kissavintagedesign

    kissavintagedesign said 6 years ago

    Wow, how neat!

  • Ebruk

    Ebruk said 6 years ago

    Great idea.

  • HandmadeHandsome

    HandmadeHandsome said 6 years ago

    What a great idea and what a wonderful effect.

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 6 years ago

    love that! can't do it but i love it!

  • poppyswickedgarden

    poppyswickedgarden said 6 years ago

    ooooh I absolutely adore this! I love love love Spirals too. I used to be obsessed with doodling them on everything! So much fun:)

  • laurelinsailor

    laurelinsailor said 6 years ago

    That looks great! Thanks for sharing.

  • JenSport

    JenSport said 6 years ago

    I've tried the reverse applique techniques from the book, now I can't wait to try this idea...

  • thriftage

    thriftage said 6 years ago

    Love the circles. I once realized that every curtain or rug I owned had a circle design.

  • sewlola

    sewlola said 6 years ago

    I can't wait to have the book in my hands!

  • CharliesApt

    CharliesApt said 6 years ago

    Ooh, that looks fun.

  • cocosailore

    cocosailore said 6 years ago

    I LOVED her book! So inspiring! I wish I could be in the studio with you guys on Wednesday!

  • orchardfarmsoap

    orchardfarmsoap said 6 years ago

    *thanks for sharing this looks like a really fun project*

  • polkadile

    polkadile said 6 years ago

    This is wonderful! Thank you! :)

  • LucyBlaireCreations

    LucyBlaireCreations said 6 years ago

    I loved the first book! More than just a book, beautifully designed and very motivational for when you're stuck in a craft rut! Can't wait to see the second one!

  • hanselmade

    hanselmade said 6 years ago

    I think it is amazing what this lady has done with a needle

  • KamiMono

    KamiMono said 6 years ago

    Beautiful applique, but applied by hand? That must take forever with all those spirals!

  • tootsytwo

    tootsytwo said 6 years ago

    How Wonderful! Thank you so much for including my piece and yes, hand applique is time consuming but I love it!

  • ShebboDesign

    ShebboDesign said 6 years ago

    perfect tutorial! thanks for sharing :)

  • BetaBoutique

    BetaBoutique said 6 years ago

    my good old little black dress would work great with such a circles. in brown. oh yes.

  • katruong

    katruong said 6 years ago

    So easy yet so elegant!! I can even add to beret for matching accessories...

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu said 6 years ago

    I get to know Project Alabama from Vogue. Love the handmade style. Thanks for sharing!!

  • love4rocks

    love4rocks said 6 years ago

    Wowww... I love spirals. This dresses are awesome.

  • VerreDesign

    VerreDesign said 6 years ago

    Real pretty, love it:)

  • Floreal

    Floreal said 6 years ago

    Great tutorial...:) thanks for sharing!

  • kloseknit

    kloseknit said 6 years ago

    I don't quite "get it", I am going to have to check out that lab!! Really beautiful effect, though!

  • FabricFascination

    FabricFascination said 6 years ago

    Love spirals, really like the bubble quilt!

  • Radness

    Radness said 6 years ago

    ive never tried to applique! I'm gonna give it a go :)

  • VintageStarrBeads

    VintageStarrBeads said 6 years ago

    Exciting and fun! I used to applique on leather belts, but not right now! I loved the effect! These inspiring articles are so wonderful! Thank you!-Rachelle Starr

  • DeltasWorkshop

    DeltasWorkshop said 6 years ago

    Beautiful! I may have to open the sewing machine. Mom and did the fusible applique years ago. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 6 years ago

    Applique is fun but I've never tried the double face fusible kind. Sounds like a fantastic night is in store! Wish I could be there! I've admired Alabama Chanin for some time.

  • lifeofcolors

    lifeofcolors said 6 years ago

    I love spirals for some reason!

  • RoughMagicCreations

    RoughMagicCreations said 6 years ago

    Oh I LOVE this!!! Always so much to learn here, there and everywhere! Now if someone would only teach me how to add more hours to the day so I can try everything!!!

  • themefragrance

    themefragrance said 6 years ago

    whimsical...wish I had more time to sew. filed article away for something to do on a rainy day :)

  • 1AEON

    1AEON said 6 years ago

    great ideas, fresh eye! have to sew more..

  • brianarose

    brianarose said 6 years ago

    What an awesome 'how-to'. I have a weird obsession for circles. And stripes. :o)

  • MyJunkyTrunk

    MyJunkyTrunk said 6 years ago

    Really fun patterns! Thanks so much for the info!

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns said 6 years ago

    I love both of these dresses.

  • regansbrain

    regansbrain said 6 years ago

    super cool! Yea applique!!!!

  • felicitybyfevireyes

    felicitybyfevireyes said 6 years ago

    This is beautiful, make a plain dress look expensive and original. I love it!

  • CecilandCo

    CecilandCo said 6 years ago

    I love this...I am a big fan of circles and dots!I use lots of!

  • SilkMari

    SilkMari said 6 years ago

    ...classy..looks great...thanks

  • artofjane

    artofjane said 6 years ago

    The appliqued dresses are so elegant!

  • birdie1

    birdie1 said 6 years ago

    Love the applique tutorial - thanks so much!

  • HoldTheWire

    HoldTheWire said 6 years ago

    Really very beautiful! I don't think I have the patience, but I love the way her dress turned out!

  • 3squares

    3squares said 6 years ago

    LOVE LOVE this! thanks so much for the info.

  • CuriousSparrow

    CuriousSparrow said 6 years ago

    So pretty! Love what she did with the dress!

  • wearthou

    wearthou said 6 years ago

    Another wonderful craft to try out!!! If only I didn't need to eat and sleep!!!!

  • evihan

    evihan said 6 years ago

    fantastic work...totallly perfecttt

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 6 years ago

    so,so pretty...and how cute is that mobile!!

  • dafnadagan

    dafnadagan said 6 years ago

    lovely :)

  • SiuTing1108

    SiuTing1108 said 6 years ago

    they are pretty~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • parasolproject

    parasolproject said 6 years ago

    love it <3 a big fan of eye-balling it, most of my most interesting designs are born that way!

  • steinschmuckdesign

    steinschmuckdesign said 6 years ago


  • tractorgirl

    tractorgirl said 6 years ago

    oh wow! thank you so much for featuring my cushion! oh, and LOVE that little round pillow with blue spots x

  • sorsonel

    sorsonel said 6 years ago

    I love both dresses, they are cool. prom dresses,

  • daphnatal

    daphnatal said 6 years ago

    great idea!!! thanks!!!

  • HempWhatNot

    HempWhatNot said 6 years ago

    floobaly boobly

  • VerteAdelie

    VerteAdelie said 6 years ago

    Thank you for that beautiful how to, I love Nathalie Chanin's work (and work ethics)!

  • katherynmd

    katherynmd said 6 years ago

    Wonderful idea, thank you for the tips :)

  • pasin

    pasin said 6 years ago

    Very beautiful..

  • FamaraDesigns

    FamaraDesigns said 6 years ago

    Wow. Great tutorial. Thanks for share this with us :)

  • lunahoo

    lunahoo said 6 years ago

    Beautiful clothes!! Great idea.

  • Laurasbox

    Laurasbox said 6 years ago

    Nice article :)

  • MichelleStudio

    MichelleStudio said 6 years ago

    Love the dresses. Beautiful.

  • Morado

    Morado said 6 years ago

    I could totally wear those dresses :D

  • VirtuoSew

    VirtuoSew said 6 years ago

    This is so cool! Thank you :)

  • LexLuxe

    LexLuxe said 6 years ago

    this gets really inspired to sew again...thank you!!

  • HeartHooks

    HeartHooks said 6 years ago

    Very effective and so pretty - might have to give this a try!

  • mylaneybug

    mylaneybug said 6 years ago

    Really neat idea!

  • saintesmariesjewelry

    saintesmariesjewelry said 6 years ago

    beautiful pictures in this article! love the dresses! I have one in beige cotton muslin... wear it all the time!!

  • mia09

    mia09 said 6 years ago

    Beautiful ideas! Thanks for the instructions too! I think I am going to give it a try and make some fancy gift bags for my jewelry (a fresh change from the too much seen organza bags). Thank you for sharing your beautiful designs!

  • pinestreetphoto

    pinestreetphoto said 6 years ago

    this is fab! thanks!

  • beautifulspoon

    beautifulspoon said 6 years ago

    alabama is awesome! i follow her blog!! :)

  • melfannin

    melfannin said 6 years ago

    look out drapes...

  • polkadotsandblooms

    polkadotsandblooms said 6 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing. Applique is something I have not really tried, but really want to work with. This is a great inspiration to get started.

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm said 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, wish I could sew, maybe someday.

  • lynspataro

    lynspataro said 6 years ago

    i have been a fan of ms. chanin's work for a long time. thanks for sharing this is a wonderful post!

  • ModernMetalJewelry

    ModernMetalJewelry said 6 years ago

    Just love Natalie's work!

  • jcarlos

    jcarlos said 6 years ago

    This is a super really nice article. I enjoyed the pics. Also the directions that were included was also a big plus.

  • simpledream2

    simpledream2 said 6 years ago

    Love the applique. I've been adding applique to many of my projects, in fact I use what I have dubbed cRaZy dOtS on a lot of my projects and have fun adding that little extra. Those who have not appliqued something, should do so. It's fun and addicting and a great way to use up the smaller scraps of fabrics.

  • frenchtoastfriday

    frenchtoastfriday said 6 years ago

    I like geometrics shapes. This is a great idea! Many thanks

  • gabrielefelt

    gabrielefelt said 6 years ago

    This is a wonderful idea - very romantic. Love it.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 6 years ago

    Cool idea!

  • julessabjewelry

    julessabjewelry said 6 years ago

    I've always been partial to spirals... They signify the wonderful turn of events in life for me... I may not always know where it's headed but I always enjoy the journey. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective - it's truly inspiring.

  • bonniemurrayart

    bonniemurrayart said 6 years ago

    Very cool. I have been obsessed with some fabric I bought a couple of years ago that has a spiral pattern on it. I have included it in many of my still life paintings . . . one of which is here on etsy

  • SkyBox

    SkyBox said 6 years ago

    LOVE the how-tos! This sounds so easy.

  • kathiroussel

    kathiroussel said 6 years ago

    oh oh oh ohhhhhhhhh alabama chanin is a remarkably inspiring company --what amazing work they do!! so glad you invited natalie to lead the craft night-- can't wait to catch this!! thanks!

  • ZaftigDelights

    ZaftigDelights said 6 years ago

    What a fun "how to"! Thanks for sharing it with us. :o) Sandie

  • PerfectPieLady

    PerfectPieLady said 6 years ago

    Fun technique! Will give it a try! Thank you!

  • SerendipiT

    SerendipiT said 6 years ago

    My mother is a spiral addict, so I am sending this right to her! Thanks!

  • PiecefulBeginnings

    PiecefulBeginnings said 6 years ago

    This is SOOOOO cool!! I never thought of making the spirals wide. I've been using this technique on some of my appliqued clothing for several years with different shapes, but I've always made the spirals skinny..........going to have to try the wider look. Very nice stuff!! Thanks for sharing!!

  • mwgregory

    mwgregory said 6 years ago

    I really like this idea.....gonna work on some jewelry that goes along with this idea!

  • oliveliDesign

    oliveliDesign said 6 years ago

    Very nice , I realy like Spirals You can see my Spiral Pendant at my shop. Thanks

  • LauraBerrutti

    LauraBerrutti said 6 years ago

    I love this ideas, inspire me to work in new ring designs!!

  • juliettecrane

    juliettecrane said 6 years ago

    this is so beautiful!

  • polkadottotboutique

    polkadottotboutique said 6 years ago

    love it! thanks for sharing!

  • sakizome

    sakizome said 6 years ago

    Gorgeous! Got to try.

  • SouthernSkirts

    SouthernSkirts said 6 years ago

    Ordered Alabama Studio Style a couple days ago - am anxiously awaiting its arrival!

  • LusciousLaVerne

    LusciousLaVerne said 6 years ago

    I am instantly and a bit madly attracted to anything with a spiral pattern. (You might be able to tell from my logo?) Thanks so much for inspiring me to create some more of my own!

  • mindyscustomjewelry

    mindyscustomjewelry said 6 years ago

    Beautiful works!

  • bluecuddly

    bluecuddly said 6 years ago

    I love it.

  • wickedthreads58

    wickedthreads58 said 6 years ago

    All good info, I'm learning!!!

  • wickedthreads58

    wickedthreads58 said 6 years ago

    All good info, I'm learning!!!

  • acourtnevm

    acourtnevm said 5 years ago

    Do you have any cool designs using sequin appliques? I'm trying to make something for a holiday party I will be going to.

  • acourtnevm

    acourtnevm said 5 years ago

    Great article btw!

  • henry9905

    henry9905 said 5 years ago

    Just started applique, so thank you for this fantastic idea and lesson

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