In quilting, yo-yos are small medallions sewn from circles of gathered fabric. Fabric yo-yos peaked in popularity from the 1930s to 1950s, when makers made thousands of yo-yos and stitched them together to create openwork coverlets.
A Milwaukee Art Quilters member, Diana Dunaway, happened on a partially completed yo-yo quilt project at a thrift shop. Some of the yo-yos were stitched together into the beginnings of a coverlet. There were also piles of completed loose yo-yos, fabric circles waiting to be made into yo-yos, and bits of vintage yardage. Diana bought it all, and the MArQ group decided to work with the yo-yo collection as an exercise in creativity, and as a tribute to an unknown quilter who worked hard on her yo-yos, but was never able to complete the project.
Each participant received a five by five square of assembled yo-yos, a selection of loose yo-yos, and a bit of ticking–all part of the original thrift shop purchase. Extra fabric circles and fabric were available for anyone who needed more. There were no size requirements for the challenge quilts and members could use any technique and any treatment of the yo-yos.
The quilts were completed in the fall of 2018. MArQ members made 15 quilts.
Rainbow Yo-yos by Linda Fleschner. Linda riffed on traditional quilt blocks using yo-yos as block centers for her stars.
Rainbow Yo-yos by Linda Fleschner, detail.
Wild Flowers by Linda Sweek. Linda added paint to her yo-yos in this quilt called Wild Flowers. Raw edges and hanging threads underscore the casual and contemporary mood of this quilt.
Wild Flowers by Linda Sweek, detail.
Yo-yo Garden by Lisa Giesfeldt. Lisa’s whimsical yo-yo flowers, set on a black background, use vintage ticking fabric for stems and piping.
Yo-yo Garden by Lisa Giesfeldt, detail.
From the Sea, to the Sea by Diane Tennant. Diane used yo-yos and smocking techniques to depict shoreline animal life in From the Sea, to the Sea.
From the Sea, to the Sea by Diane Tennant, detail.
Posy Patch by Maribeth Schmit. In her Posy Patch quilt, Maribeth used traditional influences and sprightly colors.
Posy Patch by Maribeth Schmit, detail.
Rescued Yo-yos by Linda Woltmann. Linda looked to children’s art as inspiration for the garden imagery in her quilt.
Rescued Yo-yos by Linda Woltmann, detail.
County Fair by Kathie Boucher. Kathie contrasted bright colors and vintage fabrics with with solid black.
County Fair by Kathie Boucher, detail.
Mesmerized by Diana Dunaway. Diana’s cats peer through a window surrounded by a garland of appliqued yo-yo flowers and greenery.
Mesmerized by Diana Dunaway, detail.
Quilter’s Garden by Kathleen Hughes. Kathleen’s fanciful flowers shine under a warm sun.
Quilter’s Garden by Kathleen Hughes, detail.
Yo-SUN by Betsy Rasmussen. Betsy used improvisationally pieced blocks to depict a house sitting under a yo-yo sun.
Yo-SUN by Betsy Rasmussen, detail
Island Girl by Judy Valentino. Judy’s applique technique and use of color sets a breezy island mood.
Island Girl by Judy Valentino, detail.
Bouquet by Nancy Linz. Nancy used oversize flowers, leaves, and careful color choices to create depth in her quilt.
Bouquet by Nancy Linz, detail.
Don’t Bother, They’re Here! by Kathleen Sweeney. Kathleen used clown appliques, yo-yos, and prairie points to create a circus theme.
Don’t Bother, They’re Here! by Kathleen Sweeney, detail.
Collision #2 by Deb Kinder. Deb used a yo-yo stamp to embellish her quilt with additional imagery.
Collision #2 by Deb Kinder, detail.
YO-SMILE by Margaret Knepper. Margaret built a fantasy undersea world with fanciful applique.
YO-SMILE by Margaret Knepper, detail.