Technique Tutorial: Yo-Yo Flowers by Machine

Yo-Yo Flowers

Yo-yo flower instructions by Kathy Barnard & Betsy Iler

If you’re looking for a fun way to add personality to your sewing, you can’t go wrong with yo-yo flowers! This quaint trim tradition can be worked by machine and combined with embroidery to dress up any project. In this tutorial from our July/August 2011 issue of Sew Beautiful, you’ll see how yo-yo flowers were used to dress up two adorable summer outfits. Use the instructions to apply the technique to garments for any season. And don’t stop there! Yo-yo flowers also make fun additions on totes, home decor and more.

Yo-Yo Flowers

Garment samples by Pam Malugin & Maryann Stewart


  • Click here for the FREE leaf and vine hand embroidery template
  • Pattern of your choosing
  • Solid or gingham base fabric (see chosen pattern for yardage)
  • Twelve to fifteen different scraps of fabric for flowers and buttons
  • Floss for stems and leaves
  • White regular sewing thread
  • Covered button kit with 1/2- to 5/8-inch covered buttons for each flower center, or plastic buttons in various colors
  • Piping if desired for neck and armhole edges
  • We suggest using a circle sewing attachment for your machine. Check with your machine dealer. It very quickly and easily makes precisely sewn circles.
  • Blue wash-away marking pen
  • Basting glue
  • Whimsy Stick (helpful for freestyle method)
  • 5-inch hand embroidery hoop (for circular attachment option)

Machine Yo-Yo Flowers

Set up your machine with a circular machine attachment. This attachment makes sewing small circles extremely easy and fun, and since these designs call for so many circles, I suggest using an attachment as the fastest and easiest method. I used the Husqvarna Viking SE to test this method. Ask your dealer if a circular attachment is available for your machine. You may also sew circles freestyle, or you may stitch each yo-yo by hand using the same technique. In this case, I recommend using the Clover Yo-Yo Maker (you can make circle flowers and other shapes) and attaching them by hand.

NOTE: A 2-inch circle makes a 1-inch finished flower. For a 2-inch flower, draw a 4-inch circle with a 2-inch center.

Circular Attachment Method

1. There is no need to mark fabric; simply hoop fabric in embroidery hoop, set attachment for a 2-inch circle (1 inch from center of circle to needle) and zigzag stitch. Next, set attachment to 1-7/8 inches and sew a gathering stitch (L=3.0) just inside the zigzag leaving 2- to 4-inch tail threads. Shift hoop and sew as many circles as you like from this fabric print. Cut out circles outside zigzag stitching (fig. 1).

2. Apply basting glue to centers on right side of yo-yo and position right side down on right side of base fabric (garment) with center about 1/2- to 3/4-inch from stem end (fig. 2).

3. Using circular attachment set for a 1-inch circle (1/2 inch from center to needle), stitch to base fabric (fig. 3). You may offset center circle for a lopsided flower. See finishing instructions to complete flowers.

Freestyle Method

1. Draw a 2-inch circle on wrong side of fabric using a template. TIP: A small Whimsy Stick is an easy way to draw perfect circles on fabric (see instructions with stick). Next, draw a 1-inch circle inside large circle on wrong side of fabric (center 1-inch circle for a centered yo-yo or offset for a lopsided yo-yo). Cut out.

2. Hand turn raw edge 1/8 inch and hand stitch a running stitch along edge of 2-inch circle, leaving 2- to 4-inch thread tails at beginning and ending of stitching.

3. Apply basting glue on right side center inside 1-inch marked circle. Position yo-yo circle right side down on right side of base fabric with center about 1/2- to 3/4-inch from stem end; refer to figure 2.

4. Stitch center circle with a straight stitch (L=1.5 or 2.0). Engage needle down option and pivot often to complete circle; refer to figure 3. See finishing instructions to complete flowers.


1. Pull basting threads to gather circle edges toward center as tightly as possible. Tie off and trim tails (fig. 4).

2. Cover a button or use a two-hole or four-hole button and hand stitch over center. Tie off on back of garment.

Ready for more? Find this and more fun sewing ideas in the July/August 2011 issue of Sew Beautiful.

Happy Sewing,

2 thoughts on “Technique Tutorial: Yo-Yo Flowers by Machine

  1. Nancy

    Why not make even smaller yo yos. & attach gathered side to gathered side for the center of the flower.

  2. Kate

    I must have made thousands of yo-yos by hand over the years. This looks like a great way to make yo-yos and I will certainly check to see if there is a ‘circle’ template for my machine. The sweet pattern of the yo-yo ‘flowers’ with embroidery is sweet and inspiring in so many ways. Thank you.


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