A couple of years ago I was walking around a farmers' market with my dad and I saw a quilt made of yo-yos. It was ridiculously expensive and as I looked at it I thought, "I could make this myself." Since then I have always wanted to make a quilt like the one I saw but could never find the time to try. After seeing the quilting contest it was the perfect opportunity for me to try my hand at making yo-yos. After seeing the first couple of entries I decided I needed to think of something more creative to do with yo-yos, the result being a vest.
The techniques used for making this vest were all very easy to do (I learned them myself as I made this vest) and just require a lot of patience. I used any spare time I had, like in between classes, to try and work on my vest. Although I have some background in sewing clothing, I am a rookie with hand-sewing.
Step 1: Supplies
For this vest you will need basic cotton fabric. I bought mine in smaller pre-cut squares because they were cheap and allowed me to get several different patterns. I chose pink and yellow as my main colors because of the changing of season to Spring! I used about a yard and a half of fabric for my vest. You will also need scissors, thread (I used Coats & Clarks Dual Duty), something to trace with, and a circular object, I used a small bowl which is approximately 3 1/2" in diameter. The diameter of the yo-yos will be about half the size of the circles that you will cut out.
Note: The amount of fabric will vary depending on the size of the vest being made. You may want to buy extra or make sure that if you do run out that you are able to buy more.
Step 2: Circle Tracing
First you are going to cut out your circles. Lay your fabric on a hard, flat surface and trace around your circular object in order to make an outline of a circle. You want to get as many circles out of your fabric as you can so keep the circles tightly packed together and start from a corner of your fabric. Try and have the edges touch in order to reduce waste. After tracing a lot of circles (I did about 15 at a time) take your scissors and cut out each one.
Step 3: Making a Yo-yo
After cutting out your circles you are going to thread your needle with it having a double thickness of thread. Tie a knot at the end and you are ready to start! Take a circle and fold down about a half inch of the edge. Start close the the fold of the fabric. Go completely around the outside of the circle using a basting stitch, each should be about half an inch long. I've done a crude picture using my computer's paint application because I could not get the lighting right in order to see my stitches. After reaching the beginning of your stitching on the circle, pull the thread tight and it will cause it to gather and form a cute little button piece of fabric. Make a knot with your thread in order to keep it tight and repeat this process with another circle.
This repeating process can take a very long time. My vest is made of 121 individual yo-yos sewn together. If you are making a vest larger than mine this number will be higher unless you use bigger circles.
Step 4: Stitching Yo-yos Together
To attach to yo-yos together set them side by side and take a threaded needle (double thickness) and stitch them together. Make sure you are close to the edges of each one, you want to try and make this stitches barely noticeable. Make sure to knot each one securely you don't want your vest to fall apart!
Step 5: Forming Your Vest
Since I had never seen or made a vest like this before I had to come up with a pattern for myself. I decided a V-neck would be simplest and I made mine short since the weather is getting warmer. By making more yo-yos and attaching them to the bottom this could easily be converted into a full length vest.
After establishing a V-ish shape for my neck line I began to fill in the rest of the front panels of my vest. The straps are only two yo-yos wide so that they are not too thick. Creating the shape for the vest wasn't too difficult because each yo-yo is attached one-by-one. This means that before adding another I would "try on" what I had done on and position the next one to be sewn on. When attaching the yo-yos you want to sew the edges of the circles that touch together, the majority of mine are attached to six other yo-yos which makes for a lot of stitching!
When the first half of the front of the vest is completed repeat the process making the other matching front. This should be easier because now you have a pattern to follow!
Note: After finishing the vest I added another row of yo-yos under the arm in order to increase the thickness. Also shape may vary based on personal preference.
IMPORTANT: When attaching yo-yos together it is easier to attach them one-by-one. I tried to speed the process by sewing long lines of them together and then attaching but this took more time and they did not fit together as well as doing it the slow way!
Step 6: Connecting Your Pieces Together
When I finished making the two front pieces I connected the inside rows of yo-yos on each together with the addition of three yo-yos. They were sewn on a bit of an angle in order to create an arc. This is easily done by laying your pieces flat and laying them out then sewing where two circles meet. The outer rows on the straps were then given additional yo-yos leaving a gap before they were joined. The sides of the vest were lengthened so that they would fit around my waist and were joined together leaving the vest in an odd shape and backless. In the gap of the strap/neck of the vest I added six yo-yos, this means for ever one on the first row I added two. This is to help the shape of the vest because it has a larger curve to make when you wear it.
At this point you can try on your vest in order to see your progress. I was very confuse as to how to put it on at first, but essentially there is just one giant armhole to put your arms through.
Note: If you have a larger bust then me you may want to make your straps longer by adding additional yo-yos.
Step 7: Making a Back
To make the back find the center strap/neck you made and the center of the bottom lines of yo-yos. I used ten yo-yos, two columns of five, to attach the top and bottom. This may vary, try on your vest and have a friend (in my case my sister) see the number of yo-yos you need to breech the gap. After making a main center line I added a column to either side and did my best to make a smoother rounded edge.
Step 8: Closure For The Front
This was my favorite step in making the vest because it meant no more sewing yo-yos together!
To keep the front of the vest closed I used two simple hook-and-eyes. I added them where I had two yo-yos touching in the front. They are on the back so that they can't be seen. You could sew the front closed, but by adding these it it much much easier to take on and off.
Step 9: You're Finished!
Finally you have finished the yo-yo madness and can wear your masterpiece around triumphantly! I can't wait to wear mine around this summer and show off my one-of-a-kind vest. If you have any questions feel free to post them and I will do my best to get back to you!
Good luck sewing, it is a lot of work but worth every minute of it!