In the UK fabric yo-yos are often called Suffolk Puffs. The name originates from when circles of spare fabric were gathered up, then stuffed with sheep’s wool and made into clothing and warm quilts for agricultural workers and their families. Nowadays though the term is more likely to be heard in association with decorative sewing. Many lovely textile art creations can be seen on Pinterest using Suffolk Puffs. I’ve been experimenting with them myself lately, doing trials for a workshop with my Arts & Crafts group later in the year. However I haven’t been stuffing them with sheep’s’ wool!
Circles need to be cut to about twice the diameter of the size that you’re aiming for. The raw edge is turned in with a very narrow seam and gathered up. It’s important to start and finish the gathering stitch on the right side and equally important to ensure a firm knot at the beginning which won’t come away from the fabric when pulling up the stitches into tight gathers. The stitches don’t need to be too small either because larger gathering stitches make the centre hole smaller and tighter. About a quarter of an inch stitch length will do nicely.
The smooth reverse of the Suffolk Puff can form the centre of a fabric flower, or lots of them can be appliqued onto a quilt for dainty decoration. Made up in smaller sizes, with many clustered together, they can interpret the prettiest flower petals. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
So here I’ve drawn my circles using ‘Perfect Circles by Karen Buckley’ which come in various sizes. The size of the drawn circle ends up about half the size after gathering around the raw edges with a narrow seam and pulling it up into a disc. When you’re using the smooth side for a flower or petals a seam isn’t needed because it will be hidden underneath the flat top of the disc. Notice from the image that I stitched the gathering stitches inside the drawn circle before cutting it out. This is to make sewing more manageable on a small circle and can help to achieve a tiny seam. But mind you don’t accidentally cut your thread which will still must stay attached to the fabric circle.
The tiny beads finish off the look of the flower but a beading needle can be necessary to get through the centre hole of the bead. I gave up the idea of sewing each bead onto the background separately as they were drifting apart and I wanted a cluster and some overlapping of petals to create the appearance of a hydrangea flower.
I realised that I could applique the muslin onto the background after attaching the separate little flowers and creating the shape that I wanted. This also helped me to decide whether I’d made enough flowers and to calculate the final size and placement of leaves, stem and background.
To finish the flower I made a rolled fabric stem and bonded raw edge leaves then machine stitched them in place. I could see that the flower itself was a little unbalanced so added four or five extra ones which had to be sewn through to the background.
The whole experience was very time consuming but worth it.