When Kirsty wrote to me asking if I'd like to be part of her blog-hop to launch her new book, Hoopla, I watched the promotional video (twice! Because it's adorable - scroll to the bottom of the page I've just linked to, to watch it yourself) and then very happily agreed. Hoop-la is a book all about framing your creativity with an embroidery hoop. It's not a new idea, but the book feels fresh and full of inspiration, thanks to Kirsty's wonderful imagination and how ridiculously talented she is when it comes to executing an idea with a crochet hook, a knitting needle and a sewing machine. The video is visually impressive, but it wasn't until I looked through the book that I fully appreciated quite how diverse the projects included are.
This book appeals to me because, as you may have noticed, I have a personal weakness for incorporating sewing into things for the wall (which is why I often favour making an English paper pieced wall hanging over a quilt, which I'm rapidly running out of cupboard space for). While I'd still love to appliqué cushions and PE bags with intricate pictures, now that my children are older, we don't have as much of a place for these things, but the walls feel as though they offer an exception to this. I feel wall-sewing takes up less visual and physical space. Each piece of sewn wall-art is framed, so it doesn't spill out into the rest of the room and overshadow everything; a stand-alone story of its own. The downstairs cloakroom wall takes my feelings about how liberating creating things for the wall is and amplifies it, offering a place where, in England at least, it's perfectly normal for people to hang odd curiosities on the wall. Is it like this in all countries, or is this an English thing, I wonder? In ours, we have a framed hologram of some orange and pink roses, Brora cashmere colour charts, some family photos with hand-written lines from songs or poems beneath them (all, I'm ashamed to say, mounted and hung on the wall in a more ramshackle way than I'd feel happy with anywhere else in the house) and a shelf containing poetry books because we ran out of room on our main bookshelves. I also have my Company magazine award in there too because my husband jokingly suggested I put it in there when I arrived home with it and it's ended up staying! So if I ever want to have a picture of an appliquéd sausage dog on the wall of my downstairs cloakroom then that would feel okay too.
Framing things in the conventional way can be expensive and Kirsty's book reveals the humble embroidery hoop as offering a low-cost alternative that, left bare, has an appealing Scandinavian look, but Hoop-la! is also packed with ideas for decorating it.
A hoop also offers a solution for keeping your work taut and wrinkle free - when I created these pictures I really struggled to keep the background crisp - an embroidery hoop would have been the perfect solution.
The book offers up an incredibly wide variety of ideas and incorporates not only sewing, but also knitting, crochet, embroidery, patchwork, screen printing, cross-stitch, sashiko, photo printing...
There's everything from pictorial hoops (Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, animals, children...); to storage solutions (a place to hang jewellery, a vase, a chalkboard, a stationary holder, key racks, photo holders); children's interactive play hoops (a doll with interchangeable clothing, tooth fairy hoops, noughts and crosses boards, hanging mobiles); to display pieces (such as hoop clocks, hoop mirrors and Christmas wreaths); ways to make a diorama picture scene (a bear in the woods); to using a hoop as a mount for a fully 3D fabric-moose-head! I love the idea of the storage hoop pictured above for keeping scissors and seam rippers to hand near the sewing machine.
The hoops are also used in inventive ways - a picture of a giraffe spans threes vertically placed hoops, while a sausage dog is seen through two horizontal hoops, humorously emphasising its stretch limousine body which couldn't be contained by one hoop alone.
In another, a girl stands in a larger hoop, holding a balloon which floats above her in a tiny hoop, a string running between the two. One of my favourites is the solar system represented through hoops - my son would love this. There are templates for all the images used to create the hoops, although it's worth remembering that they'll need enlarging on a photocopier by 200% to create them at the same size as the hoops in the book. Instructions tend to be limited to one page and are brief, but comprehensive enough to easily complete the project and, for me, a book like this is more about inspiration, so I'd favour more pictures and less text anyway, so I feel this balance works well. I should say that I've shown here the more off-the-wall or for-children ideas, but there's plenty of ideas for more minimal hoops. One of my favourites is a simple, cross-stitched ampersand.
This is a book where it feels as though the author has literally allowed her life to be overrun with hoops and ideas for how they can used - as I looked through the pages I could sense the thrill that she must have had in creating the book and, with such diverse and idiosyncratic hoop uses, I'm imagining that the ideas for more hoops must have suddenly appeared in her head at odd and unexpected times and been such fun to come up with. Hoop-la! feels entirely free of lack-lustre page-fillers, but instead it is a lively, characterful and definitive look at the unassuming embroidery hoop (at least I feel it's definitive, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a 'Let's Hoop-la Again', including another 100 ideas that I'd be equally as surprised and delighted by). Kirsty, you are a hoop genius. I salute you.
If you'd like to win one of Kirsty's original straight-from-the-book hoops to have on your own wall, then just leave a comment on this post - she's offering up the chalkboard embroidery hoop which would be perfect in a kitchen, child's bedroom or office. She's very kindly said that she's happy to send it internationally, so that anyone can enter. I'll announce a winner next week.
If you'd like to buy your own copy you can find it here (this link is an Amazon affiliate link - it means that if you buy the book after clicking on my link they give me a tiny cut of the profits. It doesn't increase the price for the buyer...it just means Amazon share their profits with me). If you'd rather this didn't happen but would like to buy the book, simply open Amazon in a new tab and type the book title in independently.
NB. From a reader's perspective, I'm wary of blog hops. I worry that rather than the review coming from a place of genuine I-bought-this-book-last-week-and-I-love-it! enthusiasm, they may sometimes be written as a part of the mutual support and kindness which is such an intrinsic and wonderful part of our blogging community. This is fantastic in many ways, but less fantastic when you're encouraging people to buy a book that you love more on the basis of who it was written by than what's inside the pages, because very few people are lucky enough to have a huge surplus budget for buying craft books. It feels important to me to share here only what I'm genuinely enthused by and to put enough photos in a review post to give readers an insight into whether it's a book they might like too...because just because I love it, doesn't mean everyone will. I only review books that I've bought myself; that I've been sent on the basis that if I don't love it, I won't review it; or where I've seen enough of a preview to know that I will love it and so can agree to receiving a review copy without that understanding in place. So I wanted to reassure any sceptics (or is just me that's sometimes sceptical about this) that I've reviewed this book because I think it's fun, wonderfully executed and is unique in its focus and because when I watched the promotional video for the book I felt instantly inspired, which is ultimately what I really want out of any craft book. If you buy it, I hope you enjoy it too. x