Island Batik 6 Minute Inset Circle Tutorial

The Island Batik challenge for March 2018 is to Try A New Technique!  I chose to learn the 6 Minute Inset Circle Technique.

Here’s my Island Batik 6 Minute Inset Circle Tutorial! 

As most of you know, in the past, I always cut my curved piecing freehand–no templates or pinning.  My circle shapes aren’t ‘perfect’–they can be roundish, or oval or even have a blunted angle to them. See my MidCentury Modern quilt information here.

I was curious to see how I might use a a precision pieced inset circle for some designs I have in mind.  That meant I had to learn to piece an inset circle using a template.

Disclosure:  All of the fabric and batting in this post was provided for me by Island Batik to use as a 2018 Island Batik Ambassador.



I found a few tutorials on insetting perfect circles and I’ve always wanted to try it.  I wasn’t sure what the final project design would be — instead I decided to start by making an inventory of blocks in different sizes. I watched the tutorials a few times and then I practiced with some scrap fabric to get my sizes right and to get used to using a template for precision piecing.

Tools I Used

The Perfect Circle Cutting Ruler.  In my tools stash, I had a ruler.  I decided to try using it to make my template. In this post, I show how I used the ruler to make my template.

You don’t have to use a ruler like this.  You can use a compass or even a dinner plate to draw a circle on your freezer paper.  And, June Tailor has a set of circle templates that you can also use. 

Glue. Using a pinpoint tip made putting drops of glue on the tabs much easier.  I used the tip shown on the right in this photo to make very small drops of glue.  By the way, when my dispenser is empty, I refill with regular Elmers White Glue.

Very Sharp Scissors.  Precisely cutting the tabs is very important for getting a smooth circle edge.  I used my pair of Karen Buckley scissors.

Zipper Foot. I used my zipper foot so that I could get my needle very close to the edge of the template when I sewed the inset fabric to the background.  I’m not sure how easy it would be to use a regular foot.

Island Batik Fabrics

I selected a range of Blues and a light background fabric for contrast. All blue fabrics are from the Island Batik Autumn’s Grace Collection.



Whip Cream–a great neutral! See all of the Island Batik Neutrals here.

Disclosure:  All of the fabric and batting in this post was provided for me by Island Batik to use as a 2018 Island Batik Ambassador.

Steps for Making the Inset Circle Blocks

I used the standard technique posted HERE  with a few tweaks.

STEP 1:  I made a template.  I cut three 9-1/2: squares of standard freezer paper and ironed them together.  Freezer paper can be found in your grocery store in the baking goods aisle, near the aluminum foil. Freezer paper has a dull (non stick) side and a shiny waxy side.  The shiny side will temporarily stick to fabric when ironed on with medium heat for a few seconds.

I layered the 3 squares with all shiny sides DOWN and placed the stack on a piece of baking parchment to keep the stack from sticking to my ironing surface.


I then folded the freezer paper stack in half (creasing it tightly with my finger)  and drew a line down the middle. This line will help me center my paper on the ruler.

I placed the fold ON the SOLID line on my ruler.   NOTE:  If I had used the dotted line, my shape would be an oval because the dotted line includes a seam allowance for cutting an actual circle template.


Using a pencil, I drew a half circle on the paper using the 5″ circle mark.
I cut out the half circle on the line drawn, opened the template and ironed it flat again.  It’s now ready to use.

STEP 2:  Iron the template to the background fabric on the WRONG side of the fabric.  Cut out the inside circle leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance.  It can be rough cut.

rough cut out circle leaving 1/2″ seam allowance all around. Fabric is shown on top.

Then carefully cut the tabs to within 1/8th inch of the edge of the template.  I cut the tabs very skinny–they are about 3/8 inch wide.  Skinny tabs give better results.  I did not measure the width–just eyeball it and use very sharp tip scissors.  This is one time that special scissors make a big difference.

Tabs cut.

I lightly spray starched the tabs.  Then I iron them back firmly against the edge of the template.  This is when a thicker template really helps. Those tabs should fold back right to the edge of the template.  This will give you a cleaner circle edge.

STEP 3:  I selected one of the blue fabrics and cut 7″ square. One fabric had a raven so I fussy cut it to make sure the raven would appear inside the circle.

Raven square shown right side up on top of background fabric right side up.

STEP 4: I put the raven square aside for a minute.  Then, I put tiny drops of glue on to the tabs.  While the glue is still wet, I placed the inset fabric on to the tabs, RIGHT side facing the glue.   I ironed it lightly to set and dry the glue.  Be sure to watch the video if this is confusing!

I do NOT recommend using a glue stick unless you can be very careful. (Also, I do NOT glue the freezer paper to the fabric.  I’ve seen that done in some tutorials and it is a very unnecessary step.)

I placed the raven square on the dots.  Iron it down to set the glue.  This photo shows the block from the right side.

STEP 5:  Carefully peel away the template paper. It should come away easily if you grab the corner of the block and gently peel away.  Now you are ready to sew it.

Step 6:  I used my zipper foot and set my needle to the extreme left position.  I shortened my stitch to 1.7 on my Janome 8900. Stitch in the crease around the  circle.  Sew slowly, keeping your stitches in the crease line as best you can.  If you get off track, just stop, lift your presser foot, re-position and start again. No need to rip anything out if you get off track by sewing too far to the right away from the crease line.   None of this stitching will show –it’s all hidden inside.

In this photo, you can see a lot of excess fabric. On the NEXT block, before I started sewing, I trimmed the tabs and excess fabric away leaving about 1/2 inch tab length. Yes–1/2 inch. This trimming helped a lot….but I forgot to take a photo!!

Step 7:  Press to set the stitches.  I like to starch a bit again to get that creased edge really crisp.   I press my tabs away from the center because I prefer the pieced look.  If you press the tabs inward, it will slightly raise the inset circle so it looks appliqued.  It’s your preference!


Detail of the finished edge

Tips for Making 6 Minute Inset Circle Blocks

I found that this was a very nice way to make inset circles.  I made a few more and I’ll use them in a future project that I will show you later this year.

Here are a couple of things that I learned:

  • PRACTICE!  It took me a lot longer than 6 minutes to make the first few blocks.  But, by the time I made the blocks that went into the mini quilt,  I could make the block in about 15 minutes.
  • STURDY TEMPLATE Make your template with at least 3 pieces of freezer paper stacked.  If I was going to make a whole quilt, I would layer freezer paper with a piece of card stock.  A slightly thicker template makes folding back the tabs much easier and gives a smoother edge to the circle.  I had trouble getting a smooth edge using only one piece of freezer paper.
  • WATCH THE TUTORIAL VIDEO.  See the link below.  I also downloaded a couple of PDF’s that I found online.  But nothing was as good as watching the tutorials.
  • SHORTEN YOUR STITCH.  It really does make a difference in getting a smooth circle.
  • MAKE TINY DOTS OF GLUE WITH NEEDLE TIP DISPENSER.  More glue does NOT help. I tried using a glue stick but couldn’t get the glue in the right places.


Links to Step by Step Tutorials for 6 Minute Inset Circle

BEST TUTORIAL!!  Dale Fleming gets the credit for creating this technique as far as I can tell.  Dale is the Author of Pieced Curves So Simple, published by CT Publishing.  Her video demonstrating this technique can be found HERE. She is clear and her process is simple.  The only modification I made is that I used several layers of freezer paper to make my template.  And, I used the needle tip glue dispenser instead of a glue stick.

Another tutorial for a different version of this block can be found at The Modern Quilt Guild. One of the benefits of membership in MQG is access to tutorials, free patterns and free block designs as well as webinars on all aspects of modern quilting. [Disclosure: I served on the MQG Board of Directors for 3 years and co-founded a local Guild in Sarasota FL.  So I’m a FanGirl of MQG.]


13 thoughts on “Island Batik 6 Minute Inset Circle Tutorial”

  1. I’ve seen a few people doing this or similar lately, so I am keen to try it. I am grateful for your extra tips…. they all make really good sense and I’m glad to not have to troubleshoot this myself. 🙂 Bookmarking this post for a rainy day!

  2. Thank you for linking the video, and the clear tutorial — one question/comment — you highlight up top to press the freezer paper to the RIGHT side of the background fabric. Every other tutorial (including the linked video) shows pressing the paper template to the WRONG side of the background fabric (which makes sense to me…..).

    Perhaps your post should have a correction?? Or you can post photos of how you use the RIGHT side and still get it to work?? (since you used a batik, with no real right/wrong, it wasn’t clear which one you actually did…..) Thanks!

  3. Step 2 still says iron to right side of fabric-confusing when I reviewed to make another one.

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