Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Great Beginner Project Tutorial! The Yo-Yo!

This type of simple coverlet was among the first sewing lessons I had from my grandmother. This tutorial is for people of any age who have any level of experience with sewing, including none!
Sugarplum thinks that everything I work on is for her! This gives you an idea of the scale of my yo-yos. If you are from the UK, you may know them as Suffolk Puffs. 
 Yo-yos have been around in the United States since the 1920's and 30's. They were especially popular in the south because when sewn together, they form a lightweight, airy coverlet that needs no batting or backing, although it can be added. That comes in handy in areas where the temperatures climb into triple digits!

This is a Yo-Yo!  Most of you have seen it before and probably haven't even considered it seriously as something worthy of your time. I invite you to look at it with fresh eyes. It is easily made by hand with only a needle and thread. It is portable and very, very versatile. The arrangement of colors can give it a completely different look. OR, you can make it an explosion of color like I did.
You can use leftover fabrics, fat quarters, even that ugly, out of date print that you have hidden in your stash! I have also seen very old yo-yo quilts made from silks and satins as well as wool recycled from old clothing. 

Get Started:

 1. You don't need to buy a pattern! You can determine the size of  each piece. (Of course, the bigger the yo-yo, the faster it will be to put together.) For a
more "standard" size, a
ll you need is a DVD or a circle about that size that you cut from the top of a plastic Cool Whip container. Remember that your finished circle will end up about half of this size. Cut hundreds of circles using this template and you are ready to begin! 

2. Thread a needle with a strong thread (I use button hole thread) and make a knot at the end. 
(You don't know how to knot the end of your thread? It's not hard to do. I lick my pointer finger lightly, wrap the end of the thread  around it once, and then "roll" the thread across my finger with my thumb. The thread will roll into a knot that you slip off your finger and "slide" to the end of the thread with your fingernails. )

 Turn the edge of the circle over to the wrong side about 1/4" and sew (by hand) a running stitch around it with stitches about 1/4" to 1/2" long. (This is one time when short, neat stitches do not work well! The shorter the stitch, the less gathering you will be able to do!)
NOTE: I find that it is easier to hold the edge between my thumb and pointer finger in my non-dominant hand and turn the seam allowance under as I go.

 3. When you get back to where you started, pull gently to gather.

4. Use your finger to push out the fullness inside the circle.

5. Pull the thread until your circle is neat and compact. Your circles should all be the same size, so compare. You can manipulate the size by how tightly you gather the center.

 6. Put the needle back through the inside and back up (going through one layer only!). Give it a little tug to bring the knot more to the inside and less visible and then cut the thread close to the fabric. (It has not been cut in the bottom photo.)

You want the opening to be as close to center as possible. A little press with an iron will help it stay in position. 
Put two yo-yos back to back (or front to front if you prefer) and overcast (sew through two, pull the needle through and insert it back where you started.)  along the edge for about an inch. Of course, the amount sewn will depend on the size of your yo-yo, but you want just enough to secure them together, about 1/6 of the circumference of your yo-yo.
 I like to start and stop my thread inside the yo-yo, but you don't have to. I tie off my thread with two knots when finished, just to be sure it is secure.
I like to sew a long row together and then sew the rows together. You can choose to sew them into blocks of about three across and three down and then sew the blocks together. There is NOT only one way to do it! 
Sew the blocks or rows together as shown above. You will have a little diamond shaped space between each set of four yo-yos. You will notice that mine are NOT perfect. It will not matter when all is finished and it is on a bed. It is very forgiving!
You can change the look of your coverlet by manipulating the colors you use. You can use colors in rows or blocks or as borders. You can use a color as a "sashing" between yo yo blocks. Play with them a little if you want. I love the scrappy look, so that is what I did.
 I like to also press the entire top when finished for a neat, tidy look.
That's all there is to it!
Give it a try!!

The coverlet in our temporary bedroom.


  1. Linda, these types of quilts are so very charming and yours is perfect! Thank you for the detailed instructions!

  2. I love it! So glad you are home! I know you had a great time with the grands.
    I am so glad you shared this one...I haven't ever known how to make one...but I do now!!! :)

  3. Can you talk or show about how you put them all together for the coverlet?

  4. I was just wondering how to connect the yoyos because I have been cutting squares from my scraps to make yoyos while I babysit the grands.

  5. That's lots of work, easy simple work but lots of yo-yo's! Great tutorial!

  6. Linda thank you dear for your excellent yo-yo tutorial. In the 70's I made hundreds of these and then they were donated to the local thrift store however not by my choice! Your coverlet is fabulous! Creative Yo-Yo Bliss...

  7. I remember making these when i was little in the 70's. My sisters were heavily into handmade then except in those days, it wasn't called handmade, more like homemade. I spent hours drawing circles on fabric, cutting them out, making them into puffs and joining them together. They were made into floormats. I thought it was such a waste to spend so much time making them only to step on them.

  8. I have a friend who started making yo-yos and now she has a huge box of them. I'll have to have her visit your blog so she can see what to do with them. Cute!

  9. I have a little stack of yo-yos from years ago. Once even made a vest from them. Now I'm inspired to make them again. Thanks.

  10. Now I know what to do with my BOG basket of yoyos. I carry a small sewing kit with me at all times and sew them up while waiting at Drs. offices, waiting for grand kids at school, etc. I think I may assemble them using the sewing machine. Wonder if the coverlet would be more durable with a backing? Thanks for the ideas.


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