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Quilt with yo-yos

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Make a fun quilt that can be old fashioned or funky, you decide! In homespuns, ginghams and vintage prints, yo-yos can look country or shabby-chic. In fun novelty prints or bold colors, they can create a mod spotty-dotty look. No special equipment needed!* Shown below is a table runner made with a gradient rainbow pattern of yo-yos.

*No offense to those who use yo-yo makers but I simply see no point to them. Sewing yo-yos by hand is so simple, I can't imagine it being made any easier!
 
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Step 2: Cutting your fabric circles

To cut the fabric circles needed to create yo-yos, trace your template with pen or air-soluble marker.

Then cut out the circle.

I find that I like to do yo-yos in stages so I trace a whole bunch of circles, then I cut them all out, then I sew them all.

Note that if you are using a CD as a template, ignore the hole in the middle and only trace and cut around the outside edge. :)

Step 3: Sewing your circle's edge

Looking at the wrong side of your fabric (the back side or the side without a print on it) you want to create a 1/4" hem around the entire outside edge.

Create a knot in the end of your thread. I like to use a doubled thread for strength. Fold over the edge of the fabric 1/4 " to the wrong side. Starting from the wrong side, insert your needle through both layers of fabric to create your hemmed edge. (In this example I have used contrasting thread but you'll want to use matching thread or mono filament thread.)

Continue to stitch around the entire circle. I like to use an up and down motion with the tip of the needle while creating an accordion look with the fabric while I sew by using my other hand to press the fabric onto the needle.

TIP: Your stitches do not need to be exactly the same size but the key is to keep the fabric folded under the same amount around the entire circle so that when you have completed several yo-yos, they end up the same size.

Step 4: Create your yo-yo

Picture of Create your yo-yo
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Once you have stitched the entire edge, pull the thread tight to draw in the fabric and create a gathered pouch.

Flatten the pouch so that a disc is formed.

Holding the yo-yo so that it doesn't unfold itself, stitch a few extra stitches through the first few gathers. Tie off the thread with a knot.

You have created a yo-yo! Repeat over and over until you have piles and piles of yo-yos!


TIP: When flattening your yo-yo, spread out the gathers so that they are nicely aligned and even before stitching through them to secure.

Step 5: Linking your yo-yos

When you've made a pile of yo-yos, you'll want to connect them to create something!

To link two yo-yos, simply stack them on top of each other with their gathered sides together.

Knot your thread and whip stitch along one side for a short distance. I usually sew for 1/4-1/2". Knot to secure. (Again, I have used contrast thread so you could see but matching or invisible thread works best for a nice finish.)


TIP: It is best to have a large pile of yo-yos made before you start sewing them together so that your colors and patterns are evenly dispersed

Step 6: Ways to arrange

When making larger yo-yo items like quilts, it is best to create rows and then attach those rows to each other.

There are several different patterns you can use to put your yo-yo items together. For my table runner, I aligned the yo-yos squarely. You can also attach rows in a staggered fashion.

Yo-yo quilts are usually left open and used as a coverlet or decorative item. You can also stitch them to a backing for a more substantial quilt. Or you can use single or grouped yo-yos as decorative elements on pillows and other items. Think of how cute a hexagon of yo-yos might look on a throw pillow!

You can also sew your yo-yos and rows so closely together that there are no spaces, giving them a more square shape.

Step 7: Special problems

Sometimes, despite out best efforts, yo-yos come out misshapen or different sizes. When this happens, you can adjust the seam allowance when you sew them together. If one of your yo-yos is a bit bigger than the one you're sewing it to, overlap that yo-yo over the smaller one by a bit and sew together folding the excess edge over the smaller yo-yo. You can also adjust the width of your stitched area, stitching for 3/4"-1" will use up more fabric and shorten a yo-yo so that your rows meet up again.

idnorton3 years ago
Great tutorial, I'm making a bolero jacket out of yo-yo's at the moment, will post when finished. I agree with using the double thread as I'm quite heavy handed and managed to snap some of my first ones. Yo-yo making is very relaxing and easy to do while on a long car journey or sat in-front of the telly. Thanks
hoffmng4 years ago
This is an awesome tutorial. I will be teaching my girl scouts this and I do like that it is without a yo-yo maker which is part of the GS mantra! Thank you.
wendyvee5 years ago
oops! lining them up.
wendyvee5 years ago
Nice tutorial. You use a better method for linging them up to join them than I have used in the past. Thanks. However, your Step 7 is extactly why I DO use the yo-yo tool that you dismiss as "having no point" in your first paragraph. It keeps them much more uniform than freehand sewing.
Naomi29695 years ago
I have A LOT of drapery and upholstery samples from a fellow freecycler. Do you think that the fabric will work for the yoyo's? The samples are a decent size but some are pretty bulky.
beastbunny (author)  Naomi29695 years ago
These would certainly work for larger yo-yos. I wouldn't try to make them any smaller then a CD-pattern yo-yo like I make in this instructable. For working with bulkier fabric, my suggestion is to take larger stitches so that it is not as bunched in the center. The hole in the middle will turn out a little larger than shown here. I think upholstery fabric yo-yos would look great on a purse or decorative pillow cover!
DrCoolSanta5 years ago
my grandmother makes these, she had given me a mat made this way.
lymacar5 years ago
You have a very nice tutorial for yo yos, but I wonder why you would not suggest the yo yo makers? If you precut fabrics with circle cutter (4 to 10 layers depending on the wear of blade) you can make a yo yo in less than 5 minutes
beastbunny (author)  lymacar5 years ago
Good question! I have a couple of reasons for not really liking the yo-yo makers. Being an extremely frugal person, I think they're a gimmicky waste of money. And I am able to sew a yo-yo edge MUCH faster without them. I think they slow the process down since they force you to bring the needle all the way through the fabric for each and every stitch. I can accordion my fabric edge and get 10-12 stitches on the needle at one time in seconds! The yo-yo makers come with instructions (so no real need for an instructable) and I think making them without a plastic gadget is a more versatile skill to know and to pass on to others. Just like with the yo-yo makers, you can make flower, oval and heart shaped yo-yos just by cutting the fabric out that shape and stitching around the edge in the same fashion as for a circle. One last thing I like about hand-making them is that I like to do a LOT more stitches than the yo-yo makers allow for so that my gathers are smaller and my yo-yos have more puckers. I like that look but I would say if someone liked the larger gathers of the yo-yo maker yo-yos or they were having trouble getting their yo-yos to come out anywhere near the same size as each other then go ahead and spend the $5-$6.
It takes me forever to fold over and stitch, so the yo yo makers really help me. I was just curious. Did you have the remark about the yo yo makers at the top, if so, I didn't notice it and would have answered my question. By the way I love the way you placed your colors.
beastbunny (author)  lymacar5 years ago
Thanks, I think the table runner turned out even better than I planned and it won a 4th place ribbon at the county fair! Yup, it was there, but I added an asterisk so maybe more people will notice it. Thanks for your comments!
canida5 years ago
Neat! I've seen lots of neat old yo-yo quilts, but had no idea what they were called or how easy they were to make. They seem quite versatile. Do you usually iron the finished yo-yos out, or just flatten with your fingers?
beastbunny (author)  canida5 years ago
No ironing, just squash them flat with your fingers. A few fabrics (like silky polyesters) may want to balloon out but once you attach them to others, they'll get the hint and flatten. :)
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