Customising: How to Make Suffolk Puffs (or Yo-Yo’s)

yoyo suffolk puff

The depths of January aka the perfect time of year for a slow sewing, hand sewing, frugal kind of project. Inspired by my recent post on ideas for using up your leftover fabrics, here’s a step-by-step tutorial for one of my stash-busting suggestions………

Suffolk Puffs (or yo-yo’s as they’re known in the US) come from the patchwork and quilting world where they’re traditionally joined together to make covers or used to decorate other items. They’re little discs of gathered up fabric and look great when made in lots of different fabrics and sizes. I’ll warn you now……they’re quite addictive making once you get started and they’re not just for quilters!

How to make yo-yo’s and Suffolk puffs:

1 – Make your template – the finished puff will turn out half the size of your template. (You can get puff makers, but having used one, personally I don’t think they make as nice a puff because you can’t get your gathering stitches small enough). suffolk puff instructions 12 – Choose your fabrics – lightweight cottons and silks work best – thicker fabrics won’t gather up so well and can become a bit bulky.

3 – Turn over a tiny (approx. 0.5cm) hem all around the edge of the circle of fabric towards the wrong side. Thread up a hand sewing needle with matching colour thread, make a knot at the end of the thread and sew a small (each stitch and gap approx. 0.5cm) running stitch with a single thread, not doubled (it’s more likely to get in a tangle if you use your thread doubled) all around the edge of the circle. suffolk puffs instructions 2

4 – When you get back to the start of your stitching draw up the running stitches to gather the fabric as tight as you can without snapping the thread!

TIP use synthetic thread not cotton – it’s stronger so won’t snap when you’re gathering your fabric. suffolk puff instructions 3

5 – Turn the puff through to the right side of the fabric before the gathering stitches close the hole. Close the hole as tightly as you can.

6 – The circle will turn into a little pouch! yoyo instructions 4

7 – Fasten off the end of your thread securely and flatten out the puff. I like to then give them a little iron to really flatten them and make them into little fabric discs.

yo-yo's detail

What to do with your yoyo’s and suffolk puffs:

You can then slip stitch them invisibly onto your garment by running your needle along the folded edge of the puff (you’ll have what looks like a line of running stitch on the inside of the garment.


They look great creeping across the front of a plain skirt or around the neck of a t-shirt!

yo-yo skirt

yo-yo's t-shirt

Make colour / pattern coordinated ones or make a rainbow of them with your fabric scraps – perfect for those tiny bits of super precious fabric that you keep hoarding.

Or, if you’re keen to get back on your sewing machine after all that hand sewing….


….tack them onto some water soluble fabric and join them together with some freehand machine embroidery.


Happy sewing and remember, I warned you they were addictive……I have a box full, most sewn while sat in front of the TV or on public transport!

Find me in all these sewing magazines this month!

I’m embarassingly all over the sewing magazines this month, I’m afraid there’s no escaping me!

Wendy Ward in print

My regular column in Love Sewing is all about New Year sewing resolutions along with some ideas to get you started. My main piece of advice – be realistic!!  There are only 12 months in a year…..I wrote in more detail about this here.

The Rusholme A-line skirt pattern from my book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts” is in Sew Now magazine and the Granville Wrap skirt is included with Simply Sewing.

Enjoy and I hope your 2017 is off to a creative start!

December’s MIY Maker

miy makers

Amanda’s Brightside Shrug just pipped Maria’s Fulwood Dress to win by one vote!

Obviously two very popular makes, so well done to both of you, but congratulations to Amanda who wins her choice of MIY Collection pattern.

If you’d like to be the first MIY Maker of 2017 just post your makes using any of my patterns online and you might make the final 4. Full details of how to enter here.

I look forward to seeing your makes!

4 Ways to Use Your Fabric Leftovers

uses for left over fabric

If you’ve been sewing for even just a few months, I’ll bet you’ve already started building up your own “stash”. A personal stock pile of fabrics that are either left over from past projects or yet to be cut into and patiently awaiting the “perfect” project. Eventually that stash will need a box, then a cupboard, then one day a room of its own, so get it under control right now!

This post is all about ideas for using up your smaller pieces of fabric, I’ll be writing another in which I’ll talk about teaming fabrics with the right patterns.

So, start using your fabric offcuts instead of hoarding them!

Colour blocking and panels / patch pockets in garments:

I love the challenge of using up small pieces of fabrics that aren’t big enough to make whole garments, in parts of garments. Your stash can make perfect contrast cuffs, collars, sleeve bands, hem bands, and why not add seams to garments so that you can piece fabrics together like in this version of my Walkley Vest pattern.

I’m also quite partial to a contrasting patch pocket like this one on the fishtail skirt from “Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking”.

beginners guide to dressmakingPicture © Julian Ward

Bias binding:

It’s so easy to make your own bias binding and if you use my continuous strip tutorial, you’ll be amazed just how much binding you can get out of a relatively small piece of fabric.

Facings and pocket linings:

If you’re not into contrast fabric details that are visible in your handmade garments, you can still use up that stash – facings and pocket linings are often the perfect size for those odd leftover pieces of fabric in your stash. You can add a secret little flash of contrast fabric on the inside of your garment that only you know about. It’s little details like these that make sewing your own clothes so satisfying!

Suffolk puffs and ruffles:

Suffolk puffs (or yoyo’s) are really easy to make from the smallest pieces of leftover fabrics and I’ve used them a lot as embellishments on garments. Admittedly, this is a long slow project, but the effects are worth it. Find my step-by-step tutorial for making them here.

A quicker embellishment idea is to use long strips of jersey, gathered along the centre of the strip and then stitched onto an otherwise plain garment.

Things to Watch Out For When Using Your Stash in Garment Making:

  • choose fabrics that are similar weights when combining them within a garment
  • make sure all the fabrics have been washed so that any loose dye has been washed out and any shrinkage has already happened
  • pay attention to the grainline – you still need to use your stash fabrics with the grainline in the right direction for your pattern, if you piece together fabrics with the grainline off in different directions, you’ll end up with puckered seams and stretched and / or distorted areas in your garment.

A Look Back at 2016 & A Look Forward to 2017


It’s New Year’s Eve and time to reflect on the year almost past and make plans for the year ahead.

Some popular ways of doing this over on Instagram are the “Best Nine” pictures that are automatically picked for you on the best nine website (just Google “2016 best nine” and enter your Instagram username). Share them your Instagram using the #2016bestnine hashtag, that’s mine just above and is actually a nice reflection of some of the achievements I’m most proud of this year:

  • Publication of my second book – “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts” including a successful move to a new publisher’s (Cico), I’m now working on book number three with Cico!
  • Fashion Revolution Day and Week – an important global movement that is really gaining momentum and challenging the way that clothes are produced in a globalised world. It’s a subject I’m passionate about and that I wrote about here.
  • Along that theme I found an amazing UK fabric manufacturer who agreed to collaborate with me on my new book, they’re called Discovery Knitting and they make beautiful fabrics right here in the UK, some of which are also made from organic fibres. I had a long chat with Simon one of their directors and he’s very much on my wavelength; passionate about creating skilled jobs and bringing sustainable manufacturing jobs back to the UK. Expect more from me on the company over 2017, but in the meantime check out their fabrics online.
  • I finally made time this year to have a go at painting and printing my own fabric designs, something I’ve been wanting to do for a good few years! I had a go at a few ideas under my own steam before enrolling on a 6 week screen printing course at Inkspot Press in Hove. I’ve built up a small library of good books on the subject (here’s a list of some of them on Amazon) and there are some great classes on Creative Bug, but I’ve got to say that actually attending a class was the thing that really got me moving on this one. I’ve found as a learner, that if I’m learning something completely new I much prefer to be shown in person first by an expert, only then do I find books and videos useful. A good insight for me when I have my teacher hat on. Here’s a video of me in action and deep in concentration!

  • And of course, the Refashioners – another brilliant challenge organised by Portia of the Makery blog.

Aside from my Instagram highlights I also managed to achieve the following in 2016:

  • my 9th year of teaching, the 6th year of writing this blog, the 4th year of MIY Collection and the 5th year of running MIY Workshop
  • started my monthly MIY Makers challenge to highlight your makes using my patterns
  • continued writing my monthly column for Love Sewing which has expanded to 2 pages and has given me the chance to write about some really diverse subjects from sewing and mental health to what it’s really like to work in the fashion industry
  • launched PDF versions of the MIY Collection Longley and Wisewood patterns
  • ran the second MIY March which exceeded all my expectations with sponsors on board donating fantastic prizes and almost 6000 photos shared by the sewing community on Instagram
  • finally started my own YouTube channel and as well as a couple of my own very DIY style tutorials, I filmed a brilliant series of tutorials called “A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing” with Cico my publishers, covering all the basics from how to start and finish sewing to how to understitch and staystitch
  • addition of a shopping checklist and measuring guide to all my printed MIY Collection patterns
  • I taught my first class in Sheffield and helped organise a dressmaking pop-up event with Laura of Running with Scissors, Fiona of Faberwood, Grace of Beyond Measure and Nick of Ernest Wright & Son Scissors
  • I cancelled my stand and my classes at the Knitting & Stitching show at Alexandra Palace and didn’t regret it for a second, partly so I could spend time with my parents as my dad had a year of health issues and partly for my own sanity (I could write at length about this decision and what it involved, but that’s for another post, not here)
  • a really enjoyable collaboration with local Sussex charity the Martlets which pushed me creatively and made me step out of my comfort zone – never a bad thing to do once in a while.

Outside of the sewing world, my highlights included:

  • getting out walking fairly regularly and enjoying the English countryside and my 2 dogs more than ever
  • overcoming the most terrifying attack of nerves I’ve ever experienced to get a merit in my Grade 3 trumpet exam
  • realising I can’t do everything which led to cutting back on my  teaching commitments, more realistic to-do lists and prioritising what I really want to do rather than what I think I ought to be doing.

The other way that Instagram users are planning for the year ahead is to share a “Make Nine” a sewing to-do list for the year ahead. Luckily for me, but frustratingly for you dear reader, right now a lot of the things I’ve been wanting to make will be covered by the projects in my new book which of course I can’t share just yet!

However, here are a few things I’m determined to make time to sew that I can share:

  • Marilla Walker’s Roberts Collection jumpsuit – I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve had this pattern for over a year now, but the fact I still keep dreaming about making it reassures me that I will eventually get around to it!
  • A recent-to-me find is Hannah Garr’s Paddleboat Studio patterns – as soon as I saw her new Mitchell dress and jumpsuit I knew I wanted to make both.
  • More samples of this new MIY Collection pattern that first saw the light of day over 10 years ago! I think I’ve now nailed it (no I haven’t been working on it for 10 years, it was languishing in my pile marked “eventually”) and am really excited to make more versions of it. I’ve a feeling it may become the knit version of my Fulwood pattern as there are just so many ways to make this one.
  • I made this pattern for a girl’s dress and top a few years ago for a “Sewing for Kids” workshop I taught. Ever since I’ve been dreaming of making one for big girls and I finally made a few toiles this summer that were spot on. I have just the right fabric for this for next summer and I can see myself living in it.

Aside from sewing and making, there are a few other things I plan to do in 2017:

  • Be kinder to myself – I’m really really hard on myself and push myself extremely hard to achieve my goals, it’s easy to constantly focus on what I haven’t done rather than what I have, so I’m going to try and shift my focus next year and this blog post is a good start!
  • If my teacher thinks I’m ready, try my grade 4 trumpet exam.
  • More screen printing and fabric painting.
  • Incorporate more art and creative endeavours (including more writing and journal keeping) into my everyday life, I’ve realised it’s essential for my wellbeing.
  • Make time to see more of my mum and dad and my friends that live in Sheffield.

And finally, here are some of my most popular tutorials and blog posts from this year for you:

So, how’s your 2016 been and what have you got planned for the year ahead?

Vote for December’s MIY Maker

December MIY Maker

The last MIY Makers of 2016 already, which make gets your vote? Here are your 4 choices. Whose make do you think deserves to be this month’s MIY Maker and win their next MIY Collection pattern for free?

We have, clockwise from top left:

Over to you! Leave a comment with your favourite and I’ll get 2017 off to a good start tomorrow by announcing the winner at the end of the day. Voting is also open on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Exciting News

I always used to think I wasn’t any good at keeping secrets, however, it seems I must be as this has been rumbling on since the summer but I can now tell all……

sewing book number 3

Book number 3 is go!!

The contract is signed, I’ve come up with some designs that I think you’re going to love and I’ve started writing.

I’ll tell you more about the subject of this one soon. No prizes for correct guesses…..