Holiday hoopla!

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It may come as a surprise, but not everyone knows how to manipulate an embroidery hoop. Shocking, right? Well, you’re going to learn, just in time for some holiday hoopla. But first…

The adjustable embroidery hoop of today was invented in 1903 by a Missouri woman named Helen A. Harmes. Previously, the contraption was called a Tambour Frame because it was used to make tambour lace. Tambour Frames of the 1700s were mostly square and meant to be attached to table tops, while others sat on the floor, all for hands-free lace making and embroidery. However, those antiquated frames and eventual hoops had to be continually taken apart to move the cloth up and down as one worked. This was a tedious process until Ms. Harmes, an avid embroiderer, invented the adjustable frame. 

And now you have a burning desire to embroider or, at the very least, manipulate a hoop? Let’s just start with a basic no-sew craft and make some fanciful holiday ornaments.

Instructions and tips:

It’s called ‘a hoop’ but there are actually two hoops involved with each ‘hoop’. One is slightly bigger than the other. 

  1. Loosen the screw on the larger hoop enough to detach it from the smaller hoop. Be careful not to remove the screw entirely.
  2. Place your fabric on top of the smaller hoop (small prints and glittery swatches are great). Fabric needs to be cut at least two inches larger on all sides than said small hoop.
  3. Layer ribbons and other trims like rick-rack to make ornaments with stripes. 
  4. For an ornament with only one fabric and no layering, consider using old feed bags, flannel or any fabric with an interesting vintage image.
  5. When using an ink stamp, stamp the fabric before you put it into the hoop; it’s important to stamp on a flat surface. This way you can center the image. Feel free to colorize the stamped image with markers.
  6. Write inspiring words on a plain piece of cloth with a permanent marker.
  7. Scraps of found embroidery make a one-step ornament.
  8. Sew buttons into shapes like stars and hearts or just a line of pretty ones will do. (You may cheat and use fabric glue for the buttons.)
  9. When you’re happy with your image, place the large hoop (the one with the screw) over the fabric and tighten it until the fabric is taut. You may have to pull on the fabric edges to make it nice and tight.
  10. Once the fabric is tight in the hoop, like a drum head, you may embellish your ornament with more embroidery, bows, buttons or any other small adornments. (For embroidery lessons and other fine needle arts, check out Wool Worth in Callicoon, NY). 
  11. Turn the hoop over and trim the excess fabric so that it’s even with the underside of the hoop. 

And you’re done!

Of course, ornaments do not need to be restricted to Christmas and can include images like pumpkins, fall leaves, pies, Halloween images, etc. A scrap of quilted material and lace doilies make great hoop centerpieces. With a stitch or even a safety pin you can add all kinds of mementos.

So now you’ve made a hundred of these—now what? There’s always the unthinkable: gifting them to your neighbors and friends. Or for a more thoughtful idea, why not spend some time with a child or elderly person making some of these ornaments? It’s a rewarding, easy-to-do craft that they will love.

holiday crafts

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