A few tips on yo-yos
I know there are about a million tutorials out there about these little round fabric wonders, but I thought I’d put in my two cents too.
Making yo-yos, like all sewing skills, takes practice to get it down and get your own feel for it. But here are some starting points. First, you don’t need anything fancier than:
- a round, traceable shape like a bowl, plate, canister, etc
- a pencil or pen (I really don’t see the point in using a fabric pen with air-erase or water-erase ink; you are only cutting on the traced line)
- thread, whatever kind you like using
- a needle; again, your choice. I like size 10 embroidery needles
I use a canning funnel to trace my circles. The wide end is 5.5 inches across, which makes a yo-yo approximately 2.75 inches in diameter.
To start, as with most handsewing projects, cut a length of thread 20-30 inches long. Thread the needle and double the thread so the ends meet. Tie a knot at the ends. Now, with the wrong side of the fabric facing you, fold the right side of the fabric over about a quarter (1/4) inch. The smaller the fold, the better.
You will only hold the fold with your fingers and your stitches. You will not be able to use pins or anything else. But you only need to fold down a little bit at a time.
Try to keep the fold as even as possible. If the fold is very uneven, the yo-yo will not be round and the center will not be the same height. Also, keep your stitch length as even as you can by sight (see below for how long your stitches should be. Go around the entire circle like this.
This next part is VERY IMPORTANT. When you come to the knot where you began your stitching, you must draw your thread through the back to complete the “In-out-in-out” pattern of the stitches. This might be the most overlooked part of yo-yo making, but it guarantees that the center will lay evenly.
Now, probably the most fun step of all, gather the thread and form the yo-yo! Be careful not to pull too tightly because, depending on what kind of thread you are using, it may snap and undo all your careful, even stitching.
I usually make my knot on the flat side because my projects usually hide this side anyway, but you can also make a French knot in between the folds and hide it in there. Knotting the thread on the flat side also anchors the gathered part to the center (or off center if that’s where you want it for a stylistic look).
Now I’d like to add a little bit about stitch length. The yo-yo above (also in the picture on the left below) had relatively short stitches, about 3/16″ each or 3/8″ for an in/out pair. The big stitches, on the right, are a little under half an inch each, or under a whole inch for an in/out pair.
The small stitches make tighter gathers that lay flatter, but the hole is bigger. That’s always the case because there is more fabric bunched up in a smaller area. The big stitches make less gathers, but they are larger, and since there are less layers of fabric pulled together, the hole is much smaller. Compare below; small stitches on the left, large stitched on the right.
And the thickness of the yo-yos are different. This is more a tactile difference that doesn’t come across with pictures, but if you can see it, the smaller stitch yo-yo is thinner (on the left) and the big stitch yo-yo has a thick center.
I hope this is helpful for any novice yo-yo makers!