To state the blatantly obvious, Suffolk puffs are traditionally associated with the county of Suffolk. American’s call these little gathered circles yoyo’s and may never of heard of Suffolk, a county to the east of London, which is famous for lovely beaches and low rainfall but in the UK they are Suffolk puff’s. A puff is simply a circle of material gathered in on itself to form a smaller double thickness circle. The gathers make it look rather puffy – hence it’s name. The puff’s can also be stuffed for extra puffiness. (Over use of the word puff/puffy in this paragraph me thinks!)
The history of the Suffolk puff is unclear. There is mention of puff’s as early as 1601 and the technique of making little gathered circles has cropped up all over the place since before the Victorian era. I have read that the practice of using puffs made from scraps of fabric and sewing them together to make quilts developed in Suffolk during the 19th century and it was a method of reusing old material and creating something useful and decorative, popular with the rural poor of the county. I have also read the technique may have been named after the fact that the puffs were often stuffed with Suffolk sheep’s wool. I guess if the latter is true then the chances are those sheep were in Suffolk somewhere. Whichever version you prefer, by the beginning of the twentieth century the technique had become well established and was known as Suffolk puff patchwork quilting.
Lovely use of Suffolk puffs from Knit Purl and Stitch
Suffolk puffs are very easy to make, simply cut out a circle from a piece of fabric, approximately double the diameter you require and then run a running or gathering stitch all around the circle, about 4mm in from the edge. When you have done this, gently pull the thread, the circle will come together to create a sphere, or puff! Here is a full tutorial if you would like further instructions or suggestions with what to do with your puffs.
As you can see I like to use my puffs to decorate clutch purse’s
Quilt Museum – examples of Suffolk Quilts
Planet Suffolk - All things Suffolk related
Ruth Singer – My favourite Suffolk puff’s
RachelClare – More on Suffolk Puffs and what to do with them