Success! I’m so pleased now. Thank you so much to everyone who’s kindly left a comment or sent me a Flickr message. In the end, I didn’t use any one person’s plan, but made a kind of mix of three or four good ideas. I made it with applique as it seemed that moving very small curves around was hard to do if I wanted to keep the fabric stable (that is, it’s necessary to stretch a seam to sew it, and the small ones don’t cope as well as big ones. You have to stretch the whole block at once, because of the size of human fingers.)

First, I made one full 16-patch block to use as a background, and four small 4-patch blocks for the circles:

Then, I cut the circle onto thin cardboard, and pushed a pin through its centre and the block’s centre, for precision:

Then I cut around with a 1/4″ seam allowance, basted, pulled the seam allowance in, and ironed it flat before removing the cardboard:

and appliqueing it to the background.

Again, push a pin through the centre of each piece so that it’s perfectly in place. When you’re done, very very carefully pare away the background fabric behind the circles. Leave a 1/4″ seam allowance. Do not do this before all the circles are in place, because having a whole piece behind the applique lends it all a degree of stability that was lacking in my first try at this!

I’ve never successfully appliqued before. I’m so chuffed. Thanks again, everybody!

By the way, there’s a good reason for the orange patch. But that’s a story for another night. I graduated from my MA program last night, and my partner and I have been moving house all week. Sleep time for me! Quilt history in the next few days… (mmm, tantalising).

Patches in this block: 36

Patches so far: 174