Saturday, April 14, 2018

Made It: Yo Yo Quilt

Hello! In 1998 I bought a machine-sewn, patchwork-style comforter at a department store. I really liked the colors, so when the patches began coming loose at the seams, I sewed on coordinating fabric pieces to cover the gaps. But over time too many seams became loose and patching was no longer feasible. 

I made do with the quilt my late mother had made me decades ago. But it dated from my dorm room days, so was sized for a single bed. It barely covered our double bed, so I began thinking of making a quilt. I'm not into intricate quilting patterns, though, so it would have to be something simple. 

An older craft book from a thrift store gave directions for making a yo yo quilt, and it sounded like something I could handle. I looked up some online info on this type of handiwork and thought the examples I saw were charming. From articles such as this one, I learned that yo yo quilts were popular in the 1930's and 1940's.

I had plenty of scrap fabrics, so I already had a head start on the supplies needed. But I bought a yo yo maker (as seen here) to make the job go faster.  

In the context of quilting, what is a yo yo? It's a fabric circle  with a gathered stitch edge that, when pulled, turns the circle into a smaller puffy round. The rounds are then tacked together to form quilts and pillow tops, and can also be used to trim pillowcases, purses and other items. They can be strung together to make toys, or sewn together to make garlands or Christmas ornaments too. 

I think that yo yo makers are fairly new; before then, the circles were cut out with a template, the raw edges were turned under, and then a gathering stitch was sewn around that turned-under edge. There's no way I would have considered making a yo yo like that when yo yo makers are now available. Not only does this tool eliminate the need for using a template, but it also eliminates the need for turning over the raw edge as a separate step. And the yo yo maker has slots for placing the gathering stitches, which makes that step a no-brainer. So all in all, a big improvement!(The only real disadvantage is that you're limited to the sizes the yo yo makers create.)

This is not to say that crafting the number of yo yo's needed for a double bed quilt was a quick and easy project. It was probably around five years ago that I started making them. I'd work on them in spurts, mostly during the winter months, but also when we went out of town for vacations. Making yo yo's was a very portable project.

I loved working with my fabric scraps (and admittedly, used the project as a excuse to buy appealing remnants at thrift stores and garage sales). But there were times I got sick of making yo yo's, so I'd set aside my efforts for months at a time. Yeah, there was a lot of stopping and starting, and occasionally I wondered why I'd even begun the thing. But since I'd already started, I figured I might as well finish. 

Eventually I deemed that my multitude of yo yo's was enough, so I began tacking them together. This was more tedious than making the yo yo's, but it was fun to randomly match them as I sewed. 

And how many did I sew together to make my quilt? It's 36 yo yo's wide and 40 yo yo's long, so yep, that equals 1,440 yo yo's! Insane, right?

Well, I finally got the quilt done, so here's some pics of how it looks on the bed:

Some close-ups of fabrics I used:

A colorful conglomerate.

I think the quilt looks very nice on our bed! We bought that bed  back in 1988. At that time, the antique store owner told us she thought it dated from the 1920's. So, perhaps at one time the bed had had another yo yo quilt on it. I'd like to think so!

By the way, yo yo quilts don't have backing fabrics as pieced quilts do. The craft book that inspired my quilt did suggest a backing as an option though. In that case, the yo yo's were to be tacked onto the backing while they are being tacked to each other. 

I thought I'd already done enough sewing, so I just placed a white sheet over the blankets, and then laid the quilt over the sheet. The white shows off the many colors of the many yo yo's to their full effect. 

I'm glad I didn't give up on this project at the times I was tempted to do so. But I have to say, I'm glad it's done! Now, what to make with the fabric scraps I have left? I recently came across another quilt pattern that looks simple...



  1. I think it turned out amazing! I love it!

  2. Thanks! It was a lot of work but was fun to do. I loved playing with all the different fabrics I used.