If you do a lot of crafting, you might be looking for an easy way to evenly space flower petals (or other items) in a circle for hand embroidery, painting, applique, sketching, etc. You probably already know that you can take a circle of paper and fold it, and then open it up and use the fold lines as guides for placing your objects. That’s easy to do if you have four or eight items, but what if you want to space out seven items evenly? Or five?
I know this LOOKS like math, but it’s really easy. You will need a protractor. They’re very inexpensive, and you might already have one. The one I’ve got is a half circle like this, but they also come as full circles. Either one will work fine. I have my eye on this protractor that’s also a tool that you can use to draw different sizes of circles.
I’m demonstrating using a foil chocolate wrapper and a piece of junk mail. (Note to self: I need to buy more chocolate.)
So let’s say you want to make an appliqued flower with six petals. A circle has 360 degrees, so divide 360 by the number of flower petals. 360 divided by 6 = 60, so each petal needs to be at a 60 degree angle from the next.
All you need to do is mark a center point for your flower, and lay down the first petal. Now put the center mark of the protractor on the center point of the flower, and line up each petal so that the tip is 60 degrees away from the last petal tip. Repeat for all 6 of the petals. I’ve drawn lines here with a Sharpie so that you can see what I’m doing: notice that the two lines go from the center point, out to 60 and 120 degrees. The next petals are at 0 and 180 degrees. (You could also place the petals at 20, 80, and 140 degrees, etc. The exact numbers don’t matter, just as long as each number is 60 away from the last.)
If you have a half-circle protractor, you will need to rotate it to space all of the items. You can also draw dots that are 60 degrees apart, if that’s easier for you, and place the middle of each petal on the dot.
If you are spacing 5 items, just calculate 360 divided by 5 (which is 72) and place each item 72 degrees from the last. Eight items would each be 45 degrees apart, and so on.
You don’t HAVE to be this precise, of course. Real flowers are often a little wonky, and more often than not I just eyeball the placement of natural objects, like I did when I was drawing flowers to cover stains on clothing using fabric markers. You might even want to make your flowers a little off-kilter on purpose, so they look a little more fanciful and whimsical. I went out into my yard to take a few pictures of flowers that happened to be blooming, and you can see in each picture how imprecise they really are.
This cosmo has some of its petals bent. Was it the wind? Or is it just getting ready to drop its petals? I don’t know, but I think it’s pretty.
Take a look at this daylily. Each petal is most definitely NOT an exact 60 degrees apart, and that’s totally fine.
The wild daisy has a few petals out of place or missing, and it’s beautiful just the same.
This hypericum flower has twisted petals, so it looks like a pinwheel. I wonder what that bug is up to?
And here’s my kitty Patches, trying to look casual, but I think she’s purposefully acting cute so that I’ll stop taking pictures of flowers and take pictures of her. I have to admit that it worked, so I can’t really argue with her method.
I hope you use this trick the next time you want to evenly space items in a circle for your art or craft projects! And if you want to evenly space items along a straight line, check out the link for an awesome trick that I first learned from watching This Old House.