A Modern Yo-Yo Wall Hanging
3.25.2015

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I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Quilting the New Classics by Michelle Muska. The unique approach of the book was to ask twenty quilters to make quilts using ten of the most well-known and much loved quilt blocks:

  • Double Wedding Ring
  • Crazy Quilt
  • Dresden Plate
  • Bear Paw
  • Log Cabin
  • Nine-Patch
  • Hexagon
  • Yo-Yo
  • Flying Geese
  • Rail Fence

Ten quilters designed a quilt that reflected the traditional use of the block assigned to them. Another ten took the same block and created a more modern interpretation. You can read my complete book review here.

For the section on Yo-Yos, Michelle Muska designed the 40″ x 80″ quilt below as the traditional version. Historically, in the 1930s and 1940s, Yo-Yos were sewn together to make bed covers or table toppers. The author updated the idea by adding a quilted background, wide negative space in the borders, and color-gradated solid fabrics. To me, these changes were significant enough to give it a modern aesthetic.

The modern version in the book, by Monica Solorio-Snow, is shown below.

Anyway, I love to make Yo-Yos! I usually use the Clover Yo-Yo Maker because it is so easy to make large numbers of Yo-Yos on long road trips. The book provides templates for cutting circles and instructions for making Yo-Yos if you don’t have a Yo-Yo Maker. I wanted to make a wall hanging with neutral tone-on-tone fabrics in a gradated pattern to match the décor in our new guest bedroom for foreign exchange students.

My supplies includes:

The fabrics came from various Connecting Threads collections, including Quilter’s Candy Basics, my own stash, and maybe just a couple of new purchases. 😉

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Sadly, my brother died after a long, hard illness on Christmas day. The funeral was scheduled a week afterwards in Florida. I had to fly cross-country on short notice which entailed a total of five long flights, airport waits, and evenings in a hotel room. Being someone who needs to keep their hands busy, especially in times of stress, I ended up making over 150 Yo-Yos over four days. You can see them in bags by fabric color below.

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My wall hanging was made for a specific wall; it had a different configuration from the quilt in the book due the size of the Yo-Yos (smaller than in the book) and the finished size of the wall hanging. I chose to do 18 rows of 11 Yo-Yos.

Once I was home from my trip, I started sewing 11 matching Yo-Yos together into rows. To keep them neatly aligned, I used a Frixion pen and a long acrylic ruler to draw lines 1/4″ apart and centered on the back of the Yo-Yos.

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Placing two Yo-Yos right sides together, I used approximately four whip stitches to join them, making a knot at the beginning and end of the stitching.

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Once all the rows were completed, I decided there needed to be a better gradation of colors. Five rows were eliminated and five new rows made – for a total of 55 new Yo-Yos. You can see the eliminated rows in the background. Poor babies! They were so disappointed. They cheered up when I told them they would embellish a coordinating pillow in the chair below the wall hanging! You too may start talking to your Yo-Yos if you make as many as I did…it can happen!

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After sewing all the rows together with the same method of whip stitching, I could pick up the 198 Yo-Yos as one unit. Now it was time to quilt the background. This is not my strong suit in the quilting process – but I am trying to improve my free motion quilting. Fortunately, I came across Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli just when I needed some inspiration!

I found this fun design and thought – I can do that! Plus, the pattern would mimic the circular design of the repeated Yo-Yos.

I keep a stack of quilt sandwiches ready to practice a new free-motion design. You can see my first efforts on the blue fabric.

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I layered two pieces of the same fabric, wrong sides together, with batting in between and adhered them with 505 Spray & Fix.

I decided to draw vertical lines to facilitate keeping the lines straight. My favorite marking method for this is to fill an old Chaco Liner with Ultimate Marking Chalk (because it stays on well and irons off easily) and a long ruler. I added a few curved basting pins for good measure – but not as close as I would without the spray.

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After I quilted six rows, I was not happy! I had rows of ovals and little footballs – not circles. That is when I thought of my handy Perfect Circles. Using a white marker and three sizes of circles, I drew all the circles on the lines, alternating the sizes and position between rows. This took a little while to do, but not as long as it did to rip out those first 6 rows! It became much easier to sew circles as I quilted the rows; drawing circles may not be needed next time.

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A close-up…

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Ahh…Much better!

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Now it was time to sew the 198 Yo-Yo unit to the quilted background.

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It was easy to secure it with a few curved basting pins.

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Two movies later, I had sewn each Yo-Yo to the front with a tacking stitch, making sure very little was visible from the back.

It was time to trim the background. I decided 4″ all around would work well. My favorite 20-1/2″ square ruler made easy work of this step!

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The last corner is trimmed.

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I used the same fabric as the front and back to make a sleeve and bind the quilt.

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I am very pleased with the results! Except that lower left corner seems a little lower. It should be easy to take out a some stitches and nudge the corner upwards a bit. The photo doesn’t do the wall hanging justice because, in person, you can see the subtle changes in color value and interplay of designs between the rows of tone-on-tone fabrics.

I really enjoyed this project. Isn’t amazing how modern some old-fashioned Yo-Yos can look!

 


10 comments

  1. Molly Skeen - March 25, 2015

    Ann, I love your wall hanging. Very fun and the quilting looks great!

    Reply
    • Ann - March 25, 2015

      Thanks Molly! I am excited to finish something! I’ll try to bring it the next time our group gets together.

      Reply
  2. Judy P - March 25, 2015

    Would it really be necessary to quilt all of the background since the yo-yo’s are going to cover the majority of it? I would think just doing the decorative stitch around the border and maybe some straight lines in the center to anchor everything. ???

    Reply
    • Ann - March 25, 2015

      You are right – it is not necessary to quilt the whole wall hanging the same. I needed the practice and knew if I started in the center, I could improve by the borders. I would think the center needs some simple quilting to stabilize it. Depending on the design you choose, if you do vertical lines as I did, the top and bottom of the center lines will show. Enjoy!

      Reply
  3. Stephanie - March 25, 2015

    Wow that is very cool! Looks like a lot of work, but a very fun and nice result!

    Reply
    • Ann - March 25, 2015

      Thanks Stephanie! It took time to make all those Yo-Yos but it kept my hands busy when I needed a distraction. The actual construction was easy. I love the way the tonal fabrics flow into each other in the finished project. Wish you could see it better in the photos.

      Reply
  4. joy - March 25, 2015

    Oh Ann, that is beautiful.. I would love to hang that in my entry way.

    Reply
    • Ann - March 25, 2015

      Thanks Joy! I made it to hang on a wall in a guest bedroom for foreign exchange students – but if I do that, I won’t be able to look at it whenever I want to! It may have to go in our entryway as well.

      Reply
  5. Janie - March 28, 2015

    Thanks for sharing the process, great engineering!

    Reply
  6. Carol Jack - March 29, 2015

    I have a king size quilt made entirely of yo-yos that my great grandmother made. But there are no holes in it between the yo-yos like this wall hanging. She treated the yo-yos like hexagons when she sewed them together. Because of that, I always thought modern yo-yo quilts looked fragile. But with the fabric behind the yo-yos showing though, it looks right, not like it is going to fall apart. And I really like the shading of the fabrics.

    Reply

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