An Artist’s Story with Heidi Parkes: Appliqué Circles

image of a woman holding up her hand stitched quilt by a waterfront

I recently created a Creativebug class about appliqué circles. Deceptively quick and easy, this technique can be an incredible addition to a quilt. Let me share a few favorite ways to use them with you.

image of white fabric circles appliqued onto grey fabric pictured with a wooden embroidery hoop and a ball of orange thread on a pink background

Making a quilt with just circles can look awesome. One of my favorite archetypal symbols is that of a calendar. Here you can see them made with an embroidery hoop, using all the stitches from class (whip, ladder, and running), in these two examples:

An abstract composition with just small circles can look great too. Check out this quilt top by Chloe Van Der Kindere. She’s a student in my yearlong class, Quiltmaking: Aesthetics, Curiosity, Efficiency.

With a few more shapes and techniques, including Embroidered Handwritten Text (as seen in my Creativebug class on quilt labels), a playful composition inspired by a paint palette emerged. This quilt applied my techniques from the new class for small and large scale appliqué.

a woman in a sunlit craft room kneeling on the floor on a quilt she made
Photo by Clare Britt
image of a a woman kneeling on a handmade quilt that is on the floor while working on some sewing
Photo by Clare Britt

Sometimes a circle can be just the right thing to add to a complex composition. These are two of my favorite quilts, and it’s fun to see how large and small circles play a role in the compositions. Together they evoke a moon, pottery, a dust storm, dinner plates, clouds, and a hill.

I first hand-appliquéd circles while I was still a high school art teacher in 2014. I wanted to work on quilts while I was away from my sewing machine, and I could prep a block at home and then embroider or appliqué while working alongside my students or during the idle moments of my daily routine. This quilt would go on to win 1st place in Handwork at the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual QuiltCon in 2016. It featured appliqué circles which depicted the moon and stars, umbrellas at the beach from above, and bodies of water. I created them with a hoop, finger turned edges, and relished the visible stitches that I created with a mix of the running stitch and stab stitch.

This series from early 2016, I Know The Stars Are There Beyond the Clouds, also features my earliest visible hand-piecing. I was inspired to push these techniques further by my time in Seoul, South Korea. I loved the visible whip stitch in bojagi wrapping cloths and seeing the maker’s hand in art. These circle techniques, whether geometric or wobbly, have been in my art for a decade. I’m so excited to share them with you via Creativebug.

Heidi Parkes lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and works within the quilt world, the art world, and the maker’s movement. She lectures and teaches with a passion for the beginner. Her unique improvisational style promotes the qualities of allowing, savoring, hinting, manifesting, and documenting.