Quilters will be very familiar with yoyo quilts: small gathered circles of scrap fabric are sewn together to make a bedcovering. Not really a quilt by formal definition, there is no middle batting nor, usually, background fabric. Also they are a bit unwieldy to be used as a bed quilt, more likely as an accent piece at the foot of the bed or over a piece of furniture. The origin of the yoyo blossom (for they were meant to resemble rosettes) well precedes 1930 scrap quilts.
In the mid 1800’s women made these small circular fabric embellishments for lingerie trim or other lace replacements. They often adorned small pillows or were used as floral fillers for appliquéd basket patterns. Also at this time women used manufactured rickrack, called Vandyke Braid (also called waved braid), to produce a daisy-like flower and often embroidered a yellow center.
This 19thC pillow was made of organdy with blossom yoyos. Organdy is a sheer, lightweight, plain weave cotton fabric. It is given a crisp, permanent finish. Originally developed in Switzerland for the Heberlein Co.
This is a small yoyo mat, 4 ½ inches square, early 20th C.
A 1930’s yoyo quilt, 96x93 inches, with 1½ inch yoyos. There are approximately 4000 pieces of fabric blossoms, making this a fabulous study of early 20thC fabrics. This is also the first high-quality vintage quilt I had purchased.
Today there is a resurgence of this small flower. Craft and fabric shops feature yoyos as trims, hair accessories and other projects.
You can buy pre-made yoyos, yoyo kits,or make them yourself, as they are a simple construction. Simply use a round stiff circle for a template and stitch the cut circular fabric around the circumference, drawing the stitching tight to make a circle which is pleated on the front and flat on the reverse.