Those “Scary” Berries



I know the berries in the Nuthatch block I am creating is freaking some of you out. Like ghost stories around the campfire, the frightening, but well intentioned legendary warnings of scary circles in hand applique abound.

One only need to mention “circle” and “applique” together and you can literally see the listener’s eyes grow the size of saucers in absolute terror. I am not going to tell you that circles are as fun as baby bunny rabbits running free in a green meadow, but they don’t have to be scary either.

In fact, I prefer the smaller circles because I can skip all of the prep nonsense and just stitch them on. Yep, you heard that right. No yo-yo’s, no silicone templates, no nasty starch all over my fingers and no pulling out of a freezer paper template later in the process.

I tried out my usual method of leaving the freezer paper in for most of the way, but the circles were just too small to accommodate the seam allowance underneath. When this is the case, I just directly stitch the circle to the background like any other applique piece.



(this method is on pages 20-21 in the book)



How to direct stitch a circle..



First I pin the circle in place leaving approximately one half unpinned to start my stitching. Then I fold over an edge to start the stitching. I will bring up my needle inside the fold to catch the white marked line.



In the photo above, I have actually already taken two stitches but you can see how my needle will continue to come up and catch the white marked line.



Before I continue stitching any more, I fold the edge again (left of the thread). I will use the tip of my needle to gently arrange the seam allowance on the back to eliminate any pleat(s) that may have formed. I will continue this process around the circle.



Eventually my stitching will come up against one of the pins. I just remove it and stitch onward folding over and manipulating the seam allowance with each stitch. I also make sure I am catching the white marked line. Getting off the line will make my circle go wonky.



Now I am ready to remove the last pin. If you look at the seam allowance that is exposed above, split the difference to ease that seam allowance under. This prevents the snow plow effect of pushing a chunk of seam allowance to the end.



I have stitched to the point that I need to tuck under the last part of the seam allowance. This is the time in which we all start to break out in a sweat, run and never look back.



Take your needle and gently coax (push nicely) that triangle of seam allowance under. Next take the very tip of your needle and coax the edge until it behaves and forms the shape you need. Pay close attention to the white marked line. Stitch closed and knot off in the back.



Sometimes (50% of the time) I will go back around again and that helps to make it even better! I use this method for 1/4″ and smaller berries since there is too much seam allowance to tuck under with the yo-yo, template and starch methods. (FYI: I don’t use the starch method at all).




For those of you who have been following along by stitching these blocks, each of them have a specific “stretching your skills lesson” built  into them. With the Nuthatch block, it is skinny points (leaves) and the smaller circles (berries).

The hope is that once you have finished these blocks, you can laugh at those applique “horror” stories.




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About Sandra

I am an Author, Designer, Illustrator and a major international award winning quilt artisan. I love working with fabrics and threads and they have become my medium of choice.

16 thoughts on “Those “Scary” Berries

  1. Thanks, Sandra…. The photos are almost as wonderful as sitting beside you and watching a live demonstration! You do make it look easy…

  2. Dear Sandra
    Thanks for reading my mind when I saw those berries. On your tulip pattern I also found that the smaller circles did not take well to the freezer paper or plastic templates. I traced the pattern on the fabric, cut a square, pinned in place, then cut the circle and tried to sew. My circles still need room for improvement. Thaks so much for this lesson.

  3. What a wonderful tutorial. Thanks so much for the detailed advice. It looks like your berries puff up more naturally than if the edges had been starched flat.

  4. Wow! What a beautiful little circle. I am not stitching the blocks, but I certainly learned a lot from this post. You made that tiny circle appear so easy to do. I guess one of the keys is to go slowly and let the needle and fabric work for you instead of working against them.

  5. ‘as fun as baby bunny rabbits running free in a green meadow’
    Okay, I just about snorted my morning Latte out my nose….just as long as those baby bunnies aren’t running around in circles.

  6. Berrys are scary but the birds eyes are much worse for me. re-do , re-do but I am getting better. Thanks for the berry lesson, it is really helpful.

  7. I love it. Sandra you are awesome. I have tried to avoid this little pests, but find I can be without them. Very frustrating and I’ve tried many methods. This is wonderful. Leave it to you to solve all our applique problems. Love the personal workshops.

  8. You always make it look so easy and when I try your method I am so surprised and proud that I can do it….thanks again.

  9. I like doing circles, but have never heard about sewing around the circles again, but it’s a great idea. I bet it smoothes out the edge even more. Great tip!

  10. Sandra I would like to thank you for so openly and generously sharing your work and your methodical way of teaching. I have only just recently found your blog and it has got to be the best one I have read.
    I have had a lovely time going through all of your posts it is like having an inspiring manuscript. You have given me the push I needed to go back to my appliqué roots, of hand appliqué and start designing my own project to work on. I have been out in my garden all morning getting some good shots with my camera and very inspired thanks to you.

  11. Judi, they are sort of like my Flu shot—-just do it and get it over with!–LOL. You have no idea how many times the technician told me to relax my arm before he could give me the shot.

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