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Fabric Yo Yo Tutorial

A Yo yo is a circle of fabric that is gathered around the edge to create a puffy, two-layered circle. They are used for many types of projects - they can be sewn together to create a whole quilt as well for making smaller projects such as placemats or a table runner. They can also be also used to embellish clothing and other crafts. At a quilt show, I saw a jacket that was completely constructed and shaped using different sizes of yo yos. Yo yo quilts were very popular between the 1920s and 1940s.

Yo yos are quick and easy to make and are a great way to use up fabric scraps. Keep a plastic baggie of cut circles along with a needle and thread in your bag and you will always have something to keep you busy during those times when you are waiting at the doctor's office or traveling in the car.

yo yo cut outTo make a yo yo, you will need a circle of fabric, a needle and thread. Cut a circle that has a diameter (the measurement across the center of the circle) that is twice your desired width, plus 1/2 inch for the seam allowance. For example, if you want your finished yo yo to be about 1 1/2 inches, cut your circle at 3 1/2 inches. The circle shown here is 3 1/2 inches across.

If you have a compass, you can use that to draw a circle on a piece of thin plastic or cardboard (cereal boxes or file folders are great for this). Draw your circle slightly smaller to account for tracing around it. If you don't have a compass, look around your house for circular objects that you can use to draw your template such as glasses and soup cans. My drinking glasses were exactly 3 1/2 inches across so I just traced around one with a chalk pencil. Cut out your circle.

stitching the yo yoTo sew the yo yo, hold the fabric circle wrong side up and simply use your fingers to turn the raw edge over toward the center about 1/4 inch and make a running stitch close to folded edge. Use a doubled thread with a secure knot at the end that is large enough to not pull through the fabric.

Experiment with the first few yo yos that you make to find the stitch length that works best for that size yo yo. Shorter stitches create a larger, more open center while longer stitches make the center of the yo yo gather more tightly (see the comparison photo below). The stitches in this example are about 1/8 inch long on the top and bottom.

yo yo stitching comparisonThe yo yo on the left was sewn with a short running stitch, about 1/16" inch long and the yo yo on the right was sewn with a 1/8" long running stitch. See the difference in the size of the center opening?

yo yo stitchedContinue stitching all the way around the fabric circle, turning the edge as you go. Don't worry if the fabric tries to twist as you go around the curve, just let it pleat slightly. It won't show once the thread is snugged up.

Be sure to take the last stitch very close to the first stitch. This helps the yo yo gather up all the way.

finished yo yoPull up on the thread so that the stitches gather all the way around tightly. Holding the thread tightly, take a few small stitches in the folds to secure the thread. Clip the thread and then flatten the yo yo and adjust the gathers so they are even.

Be sure to check back next week to learn how to make a Yo Yo Flower!

Click to learn how to sew yo yos together

For ideas on what to make with yo yos, check out this book!

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