Make Fabric Yoyos to Embellish Clothes and Quilts
Guest blog by Libby Christensen
Fabric yoyos are so much fun! People have been using them to decorate for over a century. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to make fabric yoyos that you can use to embellish your homemade quilts or clothes. Making yoyos is very easy, even for beginners, and it is an inexpensive way to upcycle and enhance different items by using fabric scraps and leftovers from other sewing and quilting projects. Given all of the yoyo ideas and inspiration in this post, I’m sure you will want to lock yourself up in your sewing room and get crafty!
What is a Fabric Yoyo?
A “yoyo” is a small circle of fabric (usually 2”- 4”), gathered around the outer edge. As it gathers, it folds over and ends up leaving a little hole in the middle (like a miniature yoyo).
In the past, small circles were cut from scraps or old clothes, then attached together at top, bottom, and sides. It took hundreds of them to form a coverlet for a bed.
You may not want to hand-sew an entire coverlet, but the yoyos can be used in creative ways to embellish clothing or quilt blocks.
How to Make a Fabric Yoyo
What you'll need
Gather the following fabrics, notions and tools:
- Small hand-sewing needle
Round “template” like a glass or lid, 2”- 4” in diameter
Step 1: Cut the Circles
Cut a small circle, 2”- 4” in diameter.
(NOTE: The finished yoyo’s diameter will be approximately half that size.)
Find a convenient circle template, such as a glass or small lid. Using a heat erasable pen, draw on the fabric right around the edge.
Step 1b Wait!
Don’t cut out the circles one by one. Save time by layering the fabric, whether using one fabric, folded repeatedly, or multiple pieces of fabric. Pin the layers together and cut around the circle.
Step 2: Gather the Circles
Each yoyo is hand-gathered, using a simple running stitch. Turn the raw edge under a scant 1/4” (about one thread less than a ¼”) then sew the gathering line very close to the folded edge. (NOTE: If you prefer to press down the edge first, Madam Sew’s wool pressing mat is helpful.)
Diagram A: Folded edge, scant 1/4” with running stitch along edge
Try the quilter’s method of using a sharp small needle (size 8-9 are good) to “load” up multiple stitches and pull through all at once (and if desired, use a thimble to help push the needle through). Use a polyester-based thread, doubled and knotted on the end, because cotton is more likely to break. To begin, hide the knot under the fold. Sew all the way around, then pull the thread taut. (NOTE: You can stop and pull to gather every 1/4 or 1/3 of the way around and make a little knot; it’s easier to pull taut and knot several times than all at once.)
Pull taut and knot
Finish, knot and hide thread tail
Pull tightly at the end, leaving a nice little hole in the center of the yoyo. Knot off the end neatly and hide the thread tail. Another quilter’s tip is to hide the thread tail by pointing the needle just beside the knot to the INSIDE of the fold and bring it back out 1/2” away. Pull the thread a little taut and snip; the tail will snap back and be buried inside the yoyo.
Step 3: Combine the Yoyos
To combine yoyos, as for a coverlet, attach them to each other with a few little stitches at top, sides, and bottom (think positions at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock). Put the needle through the yoyo hole to the inside to hide the knot, coming out the edge of the fold at the desired position. Take a few tiny stitches from the back side (NOTE: Take a stitch, knot, stitch, stitch, knot).
Diagram B: 3-4 stitches holding yoyos together
What Can You Do With Fabric Yoyos?
Now that you know how to make fabric yoyos, it’s time to start decorating with them. This is the really fun and creative part.
Make Flowers Out of Fabric Yoyos
Just slip-stitch the yoyo in place on your background fabric and add a button to the middle for a folksy look.
For fancier flowers, combine a small yoyo with a larger one.
Line yoyos up vertically from large to small to make a gladiolus. You can even take some extra stitches to close the hole to make fluffier “petals” and add a pearl bead to the center.
Make Stems and Add Leaves
To make stems use Madam Sew’s narrowest bias binding tool to fold and press a “stem,” (which does not have to be a bias cut if it’s a straight stem). However, for a curved stem, simply cut the fabric on the bias and steam press the ”stem” to coax it into a curve (See photos above.). Pin the stem in place or fuse it in place with a narrow fusible tape, then edge-stitch to hold.
Add leaves: It’s easy to appliqué some leaves. Iron paper-backed fusible web to the back of some green fabric. Cut out leaf shapes. Remove the paper and fuse a leaf in place. Stitch around the leaf, using a satin stitch (close-together zigzag), with a stabilizer under the fabric.
(NOTE: Use a Madam Sew open-toe foot to see as you sew.)
More Ways to Use Fabric Yoyos
If you don’t want to make flowers, make tires! YES, TIRES! OR monster eyes, maybe a sun—you name it!
The black tires are yoyos with a colorful button on top.
If you want to try a vest or jacket, lay out the circles to match a pattern shape. There are many possibilities, so go create!
Jacket front in process
Study the photos for ideas; for more detailed patterns, the Christensen Creations patterns below are available as digital downloads at SewGoCreate.
Simple Platter Pad (large hot pad)
Happy to Gladiolus Platter Pad #CC2012 – SewGoCreate
Glad-Not Nana’s Yoyos #CC2100 – SewGoCreate
Bundle of several patterns, including the Gladiola ones
GLAD Bundle #CC3000 – SewGoCreate
Twin-size Race Track Bed Quilt
“Fast Track” Twin Bed Quilt #CC2312 – SewGoCreate