By Tricia Patterson, Quiltmaker Associate Editor
Courtesy of The*Twilight*Muse, blackcrowprimitives.blogspot.com
The Yo-Yo quilt pattern was very trendy in America between the 1920s and 1940s because it was portable and was a good project for extra scraps of fabric. Perhaps it was popular for such an extended time because of a clown doll, much like the one shown in the picture, which appeared between 1930-1940. It’s a common belief that the yo-yo toy, made of two wooden discs and string, first appeared in Greece, China and the Philippines. The Yo-Yo quilt pattern was thought to be a version of the yo-yo, similar in that it had expandable stretching string as the foundation; fabric discs formed the shape of the doll. It’s also believed the Yo-Yo doll may have originated in the Philippines, with the name yo-yo meaning “come-come” in the Philippine language.
The theme of my oldest son’s first bedroom was colorful clowns. I made my first Yo-Yo for a doll much like the one shown above. I didn’t let him play with it because he probably would have chewed the smaller pieces apart, but we sure did have a lot of giggles when I danced the clown in front of his face to make him smile. Years later, a visit with my mother-in-law to her friend’s house in Kentucky gave me a second encounter with the Yo-Yo pattern, where I saw a breath-taking quilt lying on the guest room bed. It was so impressive I recall it today; made of assorted light colored fabrics taken from men’s shirts. It looked like fabric lace lying over a plain dark colored sheet.
Since then I’ve made Yo-Yos for much smaller projects, and interestingly enough, for a lot of wearables. I’ve created very small Yo-Yos for vests.
I’ve used Yo-Yo’s as embellishments on wall hangings, and adorned jackets with Yo-Yos.
I’ve even turned a Yo-Yo into jewelry for a hand-dyed dress. As you can see, Yo-Yos are so versatile. There are ideas for all sorts of applications on the web. Just Google “Yo-Yo quilt pattern” to see a bountiful supply.
My granddaughters and I saw these cute Yo-Yo ornaments hanging in the Creative Needle quilt shop we visited. And, I found these patterns by Indygo Junction in the Golden Quilt Company.
A full Yo-Yo quilt is on my bucket list to make. A quilt takes a lot of Yo-Yos, thousands. I’ve started one several times. I must be getting more rational in my older age because I’m settling for a bed runner. I took this Yo-Yo project along with me on a camping trip last weekend. I’ve included instructions for how I make a Yo-Yo patch, just in case you haven’t made one and would like to start your own quilt … or a quilt that finishes into something smaller.
Materials and Preparation Before You Go:
Cut out the Yo-Yo circles. You need one for each Yo-Yo. I use a circle pattern I drew onto template plastic many years ago. I use the template to cut a 6″ circle of fabric that makes a 2-3″ Yo-Yo. (The finished width depends on how deep I make my seam allowance and how much I flatten the finished Yo-Yo.)
Making a Yo-Yo:
Folding the outside edge of the fabric circle toward the inside 1/4”, sew a long running stitch on top of the folded seam as shown in the photo. I stitch from the inside of the Yo-Yo so it’s easier to fold under the seam as I stitch.
Gather the fabric with the stitched thread every 6-10 stitches. Gathering as you go lessens the likelihood your thread will break from the tension of pulling too much fabric together at once.
When you’ve stitched all around the circle, pull the thread to gather the rest of the fabric together tightly. From the right side of the Yo-Yo, secure the circle with a couple of tacking stitches. Hand press the Yo-Yo, pulling out the edges to get the gathers to separate for a flatter, more uniform looking, Yo-Yo.
Join Yo-Yos by placing two Yo-Yos side by side, backside facing up, to secure them with a small slipstitch. You can also attach Yo-Yo’s to a large sheet of fabric using a blanket stitch or blind stitch, securing the Yo-Yo by stitching completely around the outer edge.
Here’s to the start of my Yo-Yo bed runner!
There are many resources to get you started on a Yo-Yo project. I discovered that Clover distributes makers for many sizes of Yo-Yos (how-to included). More instruction about making Yo-Yos can be found at quiltmaker.com along with a quilt pattern incorporating Yo-Yos, Windblown Blossoms, (featured in the March/April 2010 issue of Quiltmaker). Keepsake Quilting offers a kit for a table runner kit that includes a pattern and all the fabric. The table runner is featured in the July/August 2016 issue of Quilting Quickly.
Maybe it’s time for you to add Yo-Yos to your bucket list!
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