We’re taking a TARDIS trip back to my childhood with today’s tutorial: how to make a fabric yoyo.
My fascination with yoyos began in elementary school. My Mom started making fabric yoyos by the hundreds as a border for a commemorative quilt for my school. I loved seeing the little circles become these beautiful little gems!
Fast forward to junior high, I cloned a vest I had and made the fronts from yoyos. It was unstylish in a really specific way, but I never lost my love for yoyos. After college, I made 8 different twin-sized yoyo quilts for various people in my life. My lifetime yoyo total is in the 10,000s!
So to say this tutorial is dear to my heart is an understatement. I’m showing you how to make a fabric yoyo, plus some ways you can use yoyos in real life.
What kinds of fabrics work well for fabric yoyos?
Any kind of lightweight fabrics work well for yoyos.
You can use silks, quilting cottons, gingham, lawn, shirtings, voile, batiste, and linen. Fabric yoyos are awesome scrap busters! They take very little fabric and you can cut them from really weird scraps that you can’t really use for other things.
If you have old clothes that are long in the tooth but there’s still usable fabric to be had in them, you can even make yoyos from them too.
Of all the scrap projects out there, I think yoyos are one of the happiest and most beautiful!
On to making the yoyos!
How to make a fabric yoyo
How to cut fabric yoyos
You have a couple options here for cutting. The first one is without a special tool. It works perfectly fine, though it’s a little more labor intensive.
The second is with the Olfa circle cutter which is a unitasking kind of tool, but doggone that unitasker is fantastic at what it does.
Cutting yoyos with a jar lid
First, grab a Mason jar lid and a piece of fabric. You can stack two pieces of fabric. I find it best to iron them on top of each other to help keep them together when you go to cut.
Use your favorite fabric marker to trace around the lid. Keep drawing circles, using the space you’re given as best you can for your chunk of fabric.
When you’re done cut on the marker lines.
Cutting fabric yoyos with the Olfa circle rotary cutter
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For a simpler, faster way, use the Olfa circle rotary cutter. First, decide how large you want the circle to be by adjusting the screw. I like a 3 cm radius for fabric yoyos. Tighten the screw securely.
Next, stack 2 or 3 layers of fabric together. Uncap the point and put it in the center of where your circle will be.
You can rotate the tool around to get an idea of where the blade will cut. This can help you plan out where your circles will be and maximize the number of circles you can cut.
From there, pull down the guard on the blade and cut through your layers for perfect circles.
You might need to go back with scissors and cut a couple threads that the blade missed as you were cutting in the circle. Also double check your screw to make sure it hasn’t slipped to be larger than your setting.
On to the sewing.
Sewing up your fabric yoyo
First grab a hand needle and hand quilting thread. Quilting thread is much stronger than regular and we need that extra strength to hold the yoyo’s gathers in place.
Thread your needle with a doubled strand. Bring the ends together and wrap them several times around the end of the needle.
Next hold on to the wrappings with one hand while you slide the needle up with your other hand. Keep holding on to the wrappings all the way to the end of the thread.
Boom, that’s a secure knot!
After this, hold a fabric circle in your hand and fold down the top edge of the fabric. The fabric should be wrong side up.
Poke your needle through the end of the fold towards the right side. Bring the needle back to the inside of your yoyo about 1/4″-1/2″ away.
Build up evenly spaced stitches going back and forth like this on your needle. The closer your stitches are together, the tighter the gather will be on the final yoyo. You’ll develop a rhythm for what spacing you like over time.
Pull your thread through, then fold down another edge of the circle.
Keep stitching and folding down the edge until you go all the way around the circle. Make your last stitch so that the thread is on the inside.
Finishing the fabric yoyo
After this, pull the thread to gather the center of the yoyo. Fuss the edges with your fingers to make the gathers pretty. When you’re happy with it, tie another knot at the end of the thread as close to the yoyo’s top as you can. Finish it by passing the knotted thread from the inside to the outside and clipping close to the yoyo.
Now that you know how to make a fabric yoyo, here’s some things that you can do with your yoyos.
Things to do with fabric yoyos
Make a yoyo garland
You can a yoyo garland out of any number of yoyos. 30-50 is a good start for a birthday party decoration.
There’s a couple hundred on my Christmas tree here. I think they’re a good foil to my Vogue 2787 dress.
When you have a batch of yoyos, here’s how to join them together.
Fold two yoyos right sides together. Knot your doubled hand quilting thread, then poke it through the two yoyos on one side.
Wrap the thread around the yoyos, passing it through both of them 2 or 3 times. Next, poke the needle through both yoyos from the front side about 1/4″ away from your first stitch.
Make a small loop with the thread and pass the needle through it as you pull the stitch taut.
Make another stitch this same way, letting the needle pass through the loop. Finish off by wrapping the thread over the top of the yoyos as you poke through both layers 2-3 times just like you did on the first stitches.
Tie a knot, pass it through both yoyos and clip it.
Keep joining the yoyos like this to make your garland.
Watch the yoyo garland video
Use yoyos as an embellishment
Yoyos make great embellishments on sweaters, cards, scarves and just about anything you can think of.
Glue or use a few stitches to put them wherever you’d like them.
I added a bunch on this fringe scarf. Here’s how to make a fringe scarf.
How to make yoyo flowers
To make a little bouquet of yoyo flowers, first make up a collection of 10-20 yoyos.
Stack a couple and join them with a couple hand stitches.
You can also add a button in the center.
Use a little hot glue to affix the yoyo flower to a pipe cleaner. Now you can arrange your yoyo flower collection for a homey little sewing room decoration.
Add a yoyo overlay to a wristlet
Save your prettiest scraps to make a simple yoyo overlay to add to this variation on the 7 minute DIY zipper bag. This DIY wristlet purse was good before the yoyos, but with them, it’s definitely extra!
How to make a yoyo quilt
I’m not gonna lie, this is not going to be a one day project. A full yoyo quilt takes me a few months of regularly sewing yoyos and putting them together.
That being said, at the end of it, your yoyo quilt is absolutely going to be a showpiece in your home for years to come.
A good size yoyo quilt is 30×50, so 1500 yoyos. With 3 cm radius circles, 1500 yoyos will be big enough to cover the top of a twin sized bed.
You can make smaller or larger quilts as well. I once saw an enormous yoyo quilt at the Denver Art Museum with a few thousand yoyos.
Collecting yoyos for your quilt
First make up all your yoyos. I would keep them in a large shopping bag that you can keep adding to when you can.
Joining the yoyos together
You can lay all this out so that you get your colors just where you want them, or you can make rows at random. I’m all about #teamrandom!
When you have rows, join the rows together folding them right sides together and joining each yoyo intersection all the way down the line.
Is a yoyo quilt a real quilt?
When you’ve gone through your whole batch, what you have is not a true quilt because there’s no backing and no batting. If you want to put a backing on, you can applique around the edges of each yoyo to the top of another quilt. I personally love the openness of the yoyos together as they are.
At the end, pat yourself in the back because I know exactly how much work you just went through!
So that is how to make a fabric yoyo and how you can use fabric yoyos in your life. And P.S. if you EVER see a vintage yoyo quilt in an antique store, rescue it if you can. A little repair job on something that someone spent hours and hours on can be a wonderful way to preserve the history of yoyos!
More embellishment ideas:
More embellishments to try
66 ideas for making your next sewing project extra
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.
2 thoughts on “How to make a fabric yoyo and pretty up your scraps”
OMGOSH!!!! Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!! I’ve always loved these, but, never knew for sure how to make them. I am absolutely going to try to make some!! Wish me luck!!
You can totally handle this!