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How-to sew a yo-yo (or Suffolk Puff if you're British!)

How-to sew a yo-yo (or Suffolk Puff if you're British!) - Craftapalooza Designs

Gather supplies to sew yo-yo's

Yo-yo's are super fun and fast to sew. They can be used to decorate patchwork or used by themselves to make a coverlet. I have used them in several patterns.

You will need:

  • Fabric
  • Cardboard or template plastic to make yo-yo circle or Clover yo-yo maker
  • Fabric marker
  • Needle: Milliner 10 or 11
  • Thread: 50wt minimum


Sewing a yo-yo from a template

  • Trace a plate, saucer, anything that is the size you need.
  • Select the fabric you want to use for your yo-yo and cut a circle from the fabric using a circular template.
  • Thread the needle with a matching or contrasting thread, leave a 2-3" tail, don’t knot the end.
  • Hold the fabric circle with the wrong side facing you.
  • Fold the edge of the fabric circle about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) to the wrong side and start sewing with small, even stitches along the folded edge.
  • Keep stitching around the circle's entire circumference, ensuring to maintain even stitches.
How to hand sew a yo-yo (suffolk puff) - Craftapalooza Designs
  • Once you've stitched all the way around, gently pull the thread to gather the fabric. This will create a pouch or "puff" shape.
  • Pull the thread tight to gather the fabric into the centre, closing up the hole.
  • Then taking the 2-3" tail left when you started, make a knot with the thread and needle still attached to the yo-yo to secure the thread.
  • Take the needle and thread that’s still attached through the inside and out the back of the yo-yo and knot it off and re-thread the other tails, doing the same.

    Sewing a yo-yo using a Clover Yo-yo maker

    I have a video with annotations on how to use a Clover Yo-yo maker over on Instagram. LINK.

    Attaching a yo-yo to a project or patchwork

    Pin or lightly glue the yo-yo in position and then slip stitch around the outer edge attaching it. I also like to do a decorative cross in the centre of the yo-yo to anchor it to whatever I'm sewing it to and I add little stitches in between the folds up near and around the whole centre to attach the yo-yo and help keep it anchored to the background.
    Craftapalooza Designs Yo-yos suffolk puffs
    Craftapalooza Designs Yo-yos suffolk puffs

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    My needle turn applique tips

    My needle turn applique tips - Craftapalooza Designs

    Needle turn applique, practice makes improvement

    First up, practice, practice and practice. Practice makes improvement, start with a smaller project, like a cushion. Do some test projects. Want to see some of my earliest needle turn? Here you go LOOK, I don't need to pin it into submission anymore (lol). I really wanted to learn more and improve my needle turn applique, I loved the way applique looked, so I kept at it. At the bottom of this post are videos created to support my Bloom pattern series, but the tips are applicable to needle turn applique in general. 

    We're all beginners at some point and taking the time to learn and improve is so satisfying when you start to see improved results. I could do a 5 minute talk and point out all of the 'issues' with my needle turn on my applique, but what would be the point?

    With pieces of applique that have legs or finer details, when you're initially cutting out the piece, don't cut into these details, leave more fabric around them to 'protect' the edges and only snip around them closer once you're about to stitch. This will help prevent fraying and distortion of these pieces and also minimise frustration.

    Oh, and it might be obvious but it's called needle turn applique for a reason. Use the TIP (the sharp, pointy, owie part) of the needle to help turn under the seam allowance to stitch down. You'll notice the difference once you do that. Another beginners tip is to finger press the seam so you have a 'pre crease' of sorts to assist with turning under the seam allowance.

    The 'right' tools do make a difference

    When I say 'right' I mean right for you! Try out different needles and thread. Needles and thread do make a HUGE difference when it comes to needle turn applique. My personal favourite needles for needle turn are Bohin Long Applique Needles and these days I also use a needle threader. The eye on applique needles is super small and 80wt thread is also very fine. My 50+ year old eyes need some assistance! 80wt aurifil is also a great thread for applique and one I use often, I have also recently been trialling Wonderfil Effina 60wt and liking the results so far with this thread.

    The rule of thumb is to match the thread colour to the applique fabric, not the background, however, I often will use a light silver thread for most of my applique, there are some instances where I will colour match if there's too much contrast and I can see stitches, but 90% off the time this works for me.

    These Karen Kay Buckley 4" small perfect applique scissors are just that, perfect for snipping seams and getting into finer details. These scissors have a micro serrated blade that keeps fabric from slipping so cutting is more accurate and helps to prevent frayed edges.

    I use Roxanne Applique Glue and this particular bottle as the tip is fabulous and prevents you from using a lot of glue. You really only need very small amounts of glue. We're not gluing down the piece that needs appliquing we're just lightly attaching it. Keep glue away from the edges and seam allowances so it doesn't interfere with your stitching. Roxanne's is very strong, so if you use too much and then want to reposition a piece once it's dry it might be a struggle to separate the fabrics.

    That's pretty much all you'll need. Thread, needle and glue. I do occasionally pin pieces down, it really depends on the design and what will suit the applique I'm working on. I really hope you try needle turn applique, it's a wonderful and mindful and creative technique.

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