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What is a Yo Yo Quilt?

A yo-yo quilt is a delightful tapestry of hand-sewn fabric circles, creating a textured, vintage charm. Each "yo-yo" puffs out like a tiny cushion, pieced together without batting or backing, showcasing a quilter's artistry and patience. Intrigued by the whimsy of these quilts? Discover how they weave history and creativity into every stitch. Ready to explore the story behind each yo-yo?
Kris Roudebush
Kris Roudebush

The secret to the yo yo quilt are the little rosettes that are sewn together, in a side by side fashion. The rosettes themselves are pieces of fabric gathered into a circle. It's not uncommon to find a yo yo quilt whose rosettes are laid out to form a specific pattern. More common, by far, are quilts that are a jumbled combination of fabric collected from every facet of one's life. While you'll see yo yo quilts today, they were widely popular during the 30's and 40's.

Some variations of the traditional quilt were also popular. You'll see yo yo quilts without any backing at all, just the rosettes sewn together. These may be more like coverlets than a quilt, but the process to make them is the same. Depending on how snugly the rosettes are sewn together the yo yo's may mound up and fill in all the gaps. They may also lay flat, leaving gaps for the backing to show through. Some will have batting, or a cotton filling, between the layers and some quilts will not.

Some yo yo quilts have no backing.
Some yo yo quilts have no backing.

Because they're so easy to make, and can be made in varying degrees of thickness, many yo yo quilt crafters use the basic design to create a wide variety of items. Some things you can made with the yo yo quilt design are pot holders, purses, backpacks, throw pillows, or table clothes. Occasionally, you'll find these yo yo quilt styled crafts at art shows or online.

If you've got a lot of scraps hanging around the house, this would be a great project to use them up. Simply cut your fabric in the desired size plus about a half inch wider. Fold over that extra fabric and take a knotted length of thread through the bottom. Going through both layers of fabric sew around the edge of the circle. Once you've sewn all the way around leave enough thread to gather up the edges until they form a rosette. When the rosette is formed to your liking, make a few backstitches and secure with a double knot. Be sure to leave a whole in the middle of the yo yo. Once your rosettes are ready you can use them to create a number of heirlooms for your family or friends.

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    • Some yo yo quilts have no backing.
      Some yo yo quilts have no backing.