Yo Yo Pillow

by Tania Willis

The fabric yo-yo has been around for nearly 100 years and were quite popular with quilt makers in the 1920s.

Yo-yos have remained a favorite embellishment in the sewing and quilting all these years due in part to the portability of the project, as well as the instant gratification they provide since they stitch up so quickly.

This pillow project is far from your granny's yo-yos. Instead, I've given the yo-yos a modern twist as I've assembled them with brightly colored fabric and embellished the centers with stacked buttons and craft pompoms.

It's a project that's fairly easy, with minor challenges trying to keep the yo-yos in a grid pattern while hand-stitching them to the pillow fabric, but the reward of the finished product is so very worth the effort.

Let's get started making some yo-yos before we talk about assembling your pillow!

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First you'll need to gather your supplies. Fabric scraps work beautifully for this project, but if you're starting fresh you'll need to buy 1/8 of a yard of several coordinating patterns of fabric. You'll also need buttons, both large and medium in size, a pen, the smallest circle from the Super Sized Circles Shape Templates, sharp scissors, an embroidery needle (or two), and a few skeins of embroidery floss.

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For the pillow shown you'll need to trace and cut 25 circles of fabric. I recommend making a few extras, in case you don't like the combination of patterns when you go to lie out your yo-yos, so you can quickly replace one or two.

To stitch up each yo-yo, cut a 12" length of embroidery floss--you'll be using all 6 strands. (Note: You can substitute 24" of all purpose-sewing thread and use it doubled.) Thread one end of your floss onto your needle leaving a 3" tail. Tie 2 or 3 knots in the other end.

Hold the circle of fabric in your non-dominant hand with the wrong side facing up. Holding the needle in your dominant hand, insert the needle into the fabric approximately 1/8" from the edge.

Bring the needle back up through the fabric approximately ¼" from the point of insertion. Again, it isn't an exact science so it can be a little more or a little less than ¼" spaced stitches.

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Continue stitching with a ¼" straight stitch all the way around the perimeter of the circle. As you go along your stitches will start to gather a bit simply because your thread is only 12" long.

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When you reach full-circle, you'll want to pull your thread taut to gather the stitches, allowing the material to gather in the center.

You will need to loosen and adjust a bit to flatten the yo-yo out for a more visually appealing yo-yo.

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Add buttons or pom-poms using the same thread to sew them on. Knot thread off with a few knots on the back of the yo-yo. Trim excess thread.

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Now repeat that 24 more times until you end up with a whole mess of yo-yos.

Set those aside and prepare your pillow fabrics.

First you'll need two ½ yard cuts of fabric. For the pillow front you'll want to select a bottom-weight, canvas, or duck cloth fabric. For the back you'll need to select a coordinating home décor or corduroy print.

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Cut off the selvage edge and square up your fabric for the pillow front to 18" square using your cutting mat, quilting ruler and rotary cutter.

Fold your square in half vertically, then again horizontally to find the center of your fabric. Pin your first yo-yo in the center, then place two more on each side of the center spaced approximately ½" apart to create a horizontal line of yo-yos.

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Repeat going vertically.

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Then use your ruler to fill in the rest of the grid. Once all are place, you can baste each yo-yo, one at a time to the pillow front, making sure to just catch the back of the yo-yo fabric in your stitches so they remain unseen from the front.

For the pillow back fabric you need two pieces cut to 18" x 12" to create your slipcover/envelope closure.

Hem one 18" side on both pieces by folding over ¼" of the fabric and pressing with a warm iron, then folding over ¼" again. Using your machine, stitch a straight stitch along the length of the fold.

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Then, pin one un-hemmed side of the back to the pillow front right sides together.

Next, flatten out the crease, and pin the hemmed ends to the pillow and fill in the sides with more pins.

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Repeat for the remaining piece.

Then, start stitching around the perimeter of your pillow with a ½" seam allowance. I recommend starting where the envelope closure overlaps so your backstitching when you start and stop will add extra reinforcement.

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Once your have your seam sewn, clip your corners and threads. Clipping the corners helps create a crisp point at the corners when you turn your pillow right-side out. Inserting the point of your scissors or the blunt end of a skewer into the corner and gently pushing outward will help create your point.

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Now, insert your pillow form into your slipcover and fluff!

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