How to make fabric yo-yos (and use them in Kim Diehl quilts)

Quilting 101: how to make fabric yo-yos

Welcome Wagon quiltFabric yo-yos—those little circles of fabric that, when gathered, result in puffy rounds of charm—have many fans in the quilting world. Yo-yos are so easy to sew, you can claim proficiency after stitching only a few. And just like making English paper-piecing shapes, making yo-yos can be addictive. It’s fun to watch the stacks pile up!

One famous fan of yo-yos is our best-selling author of 2014, Kim Diehl. In her book Simple Graces, Kim shares how to make fabric yo-yos for her jaw-dropping quilt, “Welcome Wagon” (right). Learn below how to make yo-yos just like Kim does—once you get the hang of it, you can whip up yo-yos in any size!


How to make fabric yo-yos

from Simple Graces by Kim Diehl

Cut out an approximate 4″ fabric circle. With the wrong side up, turn a portion of the edge toward you a scant ¼" to create a hem. Using a knotted length of perle cotton and an embroidery needle, bring the needle up through the hem from the wrong side of the folded fabric to bury the knot between the layers. Sew a running stitch through all of the layers, near the folded edge. Continue turning the hem to the front and stitching as you work your way around the circle to your starting point.

How to make fabric yo-yos

Gently pull the threaded needle to gather the yo-yo edges into the center. Insert the needle under the gathered edge, just to the side of the center opening, and bring it out on the back of the yo-yo. Knot and clip the thread from the back, keeping the gathers taut.

How to make fabric yo-yos

Yo-yo quiltTIP: I’ve found that keeping my running stitches approximately ¼" in length helps to produce tightly gathered yo-yo centers. If your centers look overly large even after your gathers have been pulled tight, it could be that your stitches are too small, resulting in too many gathers—try adjusting your stitch size and you’ll likely be happier with your yo-yos’ appearance.


Once you have a pile of yo-yos to play with, you can appliqué them to a background fabric, as Kim does in her “Welcome Wagon” quilt from Simple Graces:

Welcome Wagon Yo-Yo quilt
Kim used 36 fat eighths for the large and small yo-yos.

Kim also appliqués yo-yos onto this springtime table runner from Simple Seasons:

Tulips and Tossed Greens table runner
“Tulips and Tossed Greens”

New to yo-yos? Start with a small appliqué project to get into the groove.

Welcome Wagon quilted door hanger
“Welcome Wagon” door hanger from
Simple Graces

Or, skip the appliqué entirely and simply sew yo-yos together with a few tacking stitches, as in this lacelike table topper designed by Country Threads:

Yo-yo table topper
Choose forty 5″ charm squares to make the yo-yos for this beauty from
Country Threads Goes to Charm School.

Want more projects from Kim Diehl and Country Threads? Click on a cover below to view gorgeous photo galleries featuring projects from the books mentioned today:

Simple Graces Simple Seasons Country Threads Goes to Charm School


What’s your yo-yo experience: made a million, made a few, or going to make some now? Tell us in the comments!


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