Necessity is the mother of invention.
“You’ve given me ideas on frugal living,” several mothers have written to the Lady-of-the-house. She found it interesting. Apparently, the way her characters lived during the Great Depression in Lessons of Blackberry Inn made an impression. Frugality wasn’t intended to be one of the “lessons” in the story yet after reading the letters the Lady-of-the-house sat down and scribbled a list (from memory) of the frugal activities of her characters. Surprisingly her list ran to the bottom of the page. Not only did the characters save their pennies, they were resourceful at growing things and making things. They had to be. In the 1930s nothing was wasted. Even little scraps of cloth were saved. And if an old curtain, apron, or other piece of clothing was too worn or stained for use, a small corner of it, an unworn or unstained piece of it, might be salvaged. The scrapes could be turned into yo-yos.
The pastel yo-yos shown are hand sewn from circles cut 4 ½ inches in diameter. When gathered, the circles make a 2-inch puffed piece of quilt. A green yo-yo is placed over a cut circle to show the size difference.
Fabric is a thing of beauty in the discretionary life of the homemaker. It was while visiting a special fabric shop that the Lady-of-the-house first beheld a yo-yo. On the second floor of the shop is a quilt museum. Inside one the museum’s glass showcases is a faded calico (doll size) bed coverlet made of tiny yo-yos. Antique toys help create an old-fashioned ambiance. Lacey yo-yo coverlets were popular bedspreads in the summertime in the 1930s.
Anyway, the Lady-of-the-house was charmed by the showcase – so much so that she soon began cutting out circles to make her first yo-yos. And when writing her fictional tale about a family living in the 1930s her characters make yo-yos, too. In the story Dora invites friends to a luncheon tea to show them how.
Would you like to make a yo-yo? Cut a circle out of washed cotton. With the wrong side facing you fold a hem over a starting knot. The hem’s running stitch can be as casual and imperfect as a basting stitch and loose enough to gather. Red thread is used here for visibility in the photo. (Click to enlarge.) A thread of matching color is used to secure the yo-yo in its center with a few inconspicuous stitches. To attach your yo-yos whip stitch a few close stitches where they touch.
The Lady-of-the-house amuses herself in imagining Penelope of Lessons of Blackberry Inn arranging her red and green yo-yos for a small Christmas pillow. What fabric will she use for the rest of the pillow? Will she place yo-yos on the opposite side of the pillow as well?
At the tea party Carol and her daughter Emily, also learn to make yo-yos. Over time their home sewing gives them a pile like this one. This is a craft that amiably accommodates the needle skills of young girls.
A fun part is fiddling with fabric colors. You can be as fussy as you wish. You can add new colors and subtract others until you settle on a combination that pleases you. The Lady-of-the-house, arranging the yo-yos from her pile, has left out the black. On second thought she will keep the black. It ties in the other colors. It is possible, however, that she may change her mind again.
Seeing a picture of a bright row of yo-yos along the edge of a window curtain in a young child’s room, made her consider sewing the same. Such ponderings are a relaxing exercise in creative daydreaming. For some mothers this daydreaming was (and still is) born of necessity.
The grandparents of the Man-of-the-house stand to the right of their friends in the photograph. It was taken in 1934 during the Great Depression in New York City. Shy Josephine was excellent with a needle. The Man-of-the-house has the inherited personality traits of Salvatore in the (probably) navy jacket.
Thank you for visiting.