It is uncertain of when and where the technique for making yo-yo quilts originated. The earliest known examples date to the 1920s but the technique and pattern became prominent in the next decade. By the 1930s patterns were appearing in the women’s pages of weekly publications. In Merikay Waldvogel’s book ‘Soft Covers for Hard Times’ it is recorded that kits containing materials and instructions were available for making yo-yo projects.
Due to its simplicity and minimal requirements, yo-yo quilts were very popular during the depression era. All that is needed to make a yo-yo quilt is a large supply of scraps, a circle template, a needle and thread. They are a very portable project, that can be put down and picked up again for a few moments of stitching. It is easy to imagine the busy women of this era making a couple of yo-yos when they could spare a few moments
A bundle of yo-yo quilts
The two yo-yo quilts in my collection were purchased from The Donnellys.
Eileen and Bernie shared the story of how and where they found them. The quilts were bought from an antique shop in Winchester, New Hampshire USA on 7th October 1994. They were lying on the very dirty floor of the shop.
Of the two quilts one is in good condition and the second one needs some repair work.
area needing repair
The first quilt is constructed with 25 yo-yos stitched 5 x 5 to make a block. The blocks are joined with 2 rows of mauve yo-yos to create a lattice effect. Four lemon yo-yos are placed as cornerstones. The maker then created lovely bunting type triangles to give her quilt a very decorative finish.
The second quilt is a random design but is brighter than the first quilt. Both quilts contain a great assortment of fabrics including feed sacks, dress fabrics, shirtings, ginghams, stripes and juvenile prints. The first quilt was probably the best quilt and the second was the everyday quilt receiving much more wear.
Brighter colours and random placement.
I soaked the quilts for 36 hours in Retro Clean.
Soaking the quilts
After soaking I transferred them to the washing machine. Yo-yo quilts are very heavy and once wet even more so. They had to be machine washed in two separate loads. Once washed and dry I assessed the repair work. The first quilt only needed a couple of yo-yos restitched and two needed replacing. The second quilt is in the repair pile awaiting restoration. Both quilts are a wonderful time capsule of the fabrics from the 1930s and probably include fabrics from earlier decades.
Reverse side of quilt.
Detail of fabrics
I hope you enjoyed the stories of the yo-yo quilts. Thank you for stopping by,
Hope your stitching is going well, regards Janette – The Plain Needlewoman.