The toy yo-yo is thought to be 2500 years old; in fact it is second only to the doll as the oldest toy. It became popular in North America in the 1920s.
Y is for yo-yo. It is reasonable to assume the sewn yo-yos (a popular sewing project in the 1920s and 1940s) took its name from the toy. If you take two completed yo-yos and hold them together, gathered sides facing, you have what looks like a toy yo-yo (or a French macaron cookie). They are also known as Suffolk puffs.
To make a yo-yo, a round of fabric is first cut twice the diameter of the finished yo-yo; the raw edge is turned under (about 1/4 inch) and held in place with basting stitches. Once the round is completely stitched, the basting stitches are pulled tight and the yo-yo folds in on itself, the gathers are arranged to lay evenly. A couple of tacking stitches hold the stitches in place. Yo-yos are becoming popular again and tool manufacturers are making yo-yo makers to make the process even quicker. In addition to the various round sizes available, I noticed square, butterfly and heart-shaped yo-yo makers on a recent quilt shop visit.
Yo-yo bed covers – technically not quilts, as there is no batting or quilting – were and continue to be a great way to use up scraps of fabric. They are very similar to crocheted medallions. Yo-yos were made into runners, doilies and bedspreads, just like the crocheted medallions.
Making yo-yos is a great portable scrap busting activity, but be warned they are addictive. The assembling of them is not as addictive, nor as portable, but if you plan accordingly – making the yo-yos in the warmer weather and assembling them in the colder months – you have a lap warmer while you work. It takes only a few whipstitches to join the yo-yos and the pattern possibilities are endless.
I am stitching my 2009 (41×49) yo-yos in a concentric rectangle, working from the lightest to the darkest of colours. They can just as easily be assembled in ‘blocks’ and then stitched together as units. Since I like the era of the yo-yos, I am knitting a vintage lace trim for three sides of the cover. Hopefully, when the Spring blooms begin to poke up from the newly thawed ground, my yo-yo bed cover will be complete and ready to take its place of honour on my bed.
You can make a start with yo-yos by using them as appliques to add some dimension to your quilt. They make good flowers. How about arranging some green yo-yos in a triangular shape for a tree? Stitching some in a line makes a garland to decorate with, or hang them as a mobile.
Once you start using yo-yos in your projects, you will keep thinking of new ways to use them. And, like the toy, they will keep yo-yoing back into your repertoire.