I can’t remember when I first saw a fabric yo-yo, probably in childhood, certainly in my teens, in some antique store window. Yo-yos weren’t particularly pervasive in the rural Appalachian part of Virginia where I most often saw quilts and other traditional fabric crafts. But do remember thinking they were really fascinating. They looked they were a lot of work. I admired their precision – the roundness, the cuteness, the geometry of their assembly. Then at some point my sister (who knows Matter of Fabric) told me, “you know, they are really easy to make.” I never acted on it, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, some day I’m going to try those thingies…
For the past month or so my titular “rage – creation.joy” cycle has mostly been mired in rage. But one day I sat down (or more likely searched on my phone while standing in the kitchen) and looked up the instructions for “fabric yo-yos”. It’s basically making a draw string bag and squashing it with an iron. My nine year old came along and wanted to help and I made the mistake of referring them as looking like a cat’s butthole. I’m impressed that she hasn’t repeated it at every chance. She got very good at making the yo-yos and has been dispensing them to her friends.
I made three graduated circle templates from some dishes in my cupboards and fabbed up a couple yo-yos using some of the stacks of quilt fabric I have in a drawer. Then pinned them to a long sleeve GAP t-shirt I had sitting around with the idea of embellishing it some time. It looked pretty decent. I tried sewing them down using a fancy embroidery stitch in a vine sort of design. It was a bit messy, the stitching was not very well defined and when I washed the shirt, the yo-yo “flowers” all crumpled up, so I ended up stitching them down around their edges. The next garment project I tried, I just stitched them around the edges and skipped the viney business. I think it came out better. Also, the dress maker’s dummy is critical to keeping things from creeping about during pinning. I haven’t yet screwed up the fabric tension of the underlying knit shirt while applying the yo-yos, but I’m sure I will at some point.
Traditionally yo-yos are woven cotton scraps, which have a certain crispness to them. I wanted to make a scarf, so I tried using an old high-waisted jersey dress that I got from Anthropologie during my first pregnancy, some random flannel, and some scraps from a faded dress my kids wore when they were about two that I just couldn’t bear to throw away. I lined them up, overlapping and stitched them together with some seam binding tape that came in a miscellaneous bag of second hand sewing supplies.
The resulting scarf (a little under a yard long) is quite comfortable and cozy. The knit fabric is a bit harder to work with but has the right behavior for a scarf. But I don’t like how the seams look, and I think I’d be better off using a softer, more yielding ribbon, if I need to use ribbon at all. I think I have an idea to avoid using the ribbon. Now I’m feeling a bit obsessive and will be making a bunch of Christmas presents.