Yo Yos for Quilting and Crafts Tutorial
When I was a kid, one of my favorite quilts my Mom had was a yo yo quilt. I loved laying under it and pretending that I was hidden but being able to easily see out through the gaps. That obviously made me quite visible, too, but I apparently never thought of that or didn’t care.
So when I was in high school, I asked my mother to teach me how to make yo yos so that I could make my own quilt, she took me to purchase fabric. Being that I was in high school and I wanted to go the the University of Oklahoma, I wanted a crimson and cream quilt to place on my dormitory bed.
My grandmother had already tried to teach me to piece quilt and applique and I had a difficult time of it and became easily frustrated so I was worried that this would be another failure in my sewing abilities. But when we got home I learned that making yo yos is the easiest way to make a quilt, ever.
I didn’t finish that quilt in high school and my project was lost and found in multiple moves. When reorganizing my craft room earlier this year I came upon a whole lot of quilting goodness started and abandoned. In there I found two of the fabrics I had been working on my yo yo quilt with. Unfortunately I have no idea where the others might be but I decided that I was going to at least put together what I’ve got!
Now you may have seen plastic yo yo makers they sell in craft sections. They seem great and I bought one for comparison and it. was. awful. It took far longer than necessary and I just basically wasted $7. So forget the yo yo makers and get after it old school.
For this project you will need:
- Circular object for a pattern
- Fabric marker
- Needle & matching thread
Take your glass, bowl or make a cardboard cut out and trace onto the backside of your fabric. I used a bowl that was 4.5 inches wide which yields finished yo yos that are 2 inches across. If you double your fabric over you can cut more in one go. Fold over as many times as you are comfortable, but know that if you go too thick, your fabric is going to shift and you’re not going to get good circles.
Remember each circle is 2 inches finished if you work the same size I do. You have to put together lots of 2 inches to get a decent length. For example, if you wanted to make an average sized throw at 50×60 inches, you will need to go 25 yo yos across and 30 yo yos down To get that size you have 750 circles to cut.
Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread as you normally would. Hold the fabric with the pretty side facing away from you and fold the edge inward. You want a very small seam, less than a quarter of an inch.
Put your needle in and push through over and over, gathering the material with each stitch.
After you get your needle full up, it will look like this. Can you see how the fabric is gathered up and looks kind of like an accordion? It doesn’t matter if your stitches are big or small, so long as they are consistent.
After you pull your needle through your yo yo will start to coil in on itself, but there is no need to try and keep it tight. Just keep going around until you make it to the knot in the thread where you first began.
Take the thread and gently pull. As you do, the yo yo will start to form. I use my index finger as a gauge for the size of the center circle, pulling the string until it is tight, but still comfortable around my finger. Take your needle and run it through where you began and finished stitching. Tie a knot twice and snip the end of your thread.
Now a single yo yo is great and all, but the magic happens when they are pieced together. To do so place two yo yos with the front sides (with the center holes) together.
With the two sandwiched together, tack together with a few stitches close together. For some reason, I always use 6. Tie off and knot and snip the thread.
You can attach any way you please, but I like to attach four together in a straight line, and then attach the fours together until I have a square of 8×8. This size is easy to manage and will fold up well to keep together in a tote bag, or if you’re super classy like me, a plastic zipper bag.
I find that I am happiest with the project when I make 16 yo yos, tack them together and start over. It breaks up the repetitiveness of the project. When you get the hang of it, you can easily make the 16 and get them tacked together in about an hour while watching TV or listing to music. Find the rhythm that best suits you.
My favorite thing about this project is that I can easily throw a stack of circles, my needle and thread into a bag and get after it. This makes it a great project for sitting in waiting rooms, making long drives and things where you’re basically stuck in one place. You can easily keep a small amount in your purse to work on whenever idleness happens to strike.
I’ve been working on my quilt for about 2 weeks off and on and I currently have 5 squares with 16 yo yos each. This isn’t a quick project, but anyone who has ever worked on or seen someone else work on a quilt knows that it is a labor of love!