Review: Hoop-la! 100 things to do with embroidery hoops.


Last year I rediscovered the joys of the local library, and was pleasantly surprised to find how many crafty books were on offer. One of the books I borrowed and loved was “Hoop-la! 100 things to do with embroidery hoops” by Kirsty Neale, and it made it onto my “must buy once I’ve returned it” list.

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As the title suggests, this book is all about things to do with embroidery hoops; some projects involve embroidery and some don’t. It is unbelievable how many different projects there are, from using the hoop as a screen for printing, adding hinges to make books, and all sorts of lovely decorations.

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Some of the projects are a little zany and for things you might never have use for, but there are so many techniques for various abilities that are clearly written and illustrated. Lots of these skills could be adapted to other embroidery projects, or general crafting, so don’t be put off if you don’t want a wall covered in hoops! There is a fresh and modern style to the book (lots of the designs remind me of a new-ish style of kids illustrations I’ve seen in modern picture books, and the sausage dog above is just like Sizzles from Charlie and Lola) but it isn’t overly cutesy and I’m sure it could be adapted to any taste in fabric.

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One of my favourite projects is this French Shading. I’ve never seen it before but I love the technique and am desperate to find a suitable project to try it on. It is a shape filled with French knots, but the colour totally matches the backing fabric. I just want to touch it so badly!

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What I liked about this book was the range of skills and techniques covered. I find that at the moment I am in a weird no-mans land where I am no longer a beginner wanting easy projects to do in an afternoon, but I’m not expert enough (or awake enough) to want month long sagas to work on. Does anyone else find that books and magazines are either pitched too much towards a beginner or too specialised to accommodate the intermediate sewist who doesn’t have as much time to spare as they’d like? Well this book has something for everyone, from quick sewing of buttons to computer generated applique (wouldn’t an applique portrait make a perfect present for a special occasion?!). There are clear instructions and templates to follow throughout, plus little clouds full of tips, tricks and variations.

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I really enjoyed this book and found it very inspiring; there were simple projects to start immediately and lots of new ideas to imagine and daydream about. I think it would be a great fun gift for a new-ish or keen crafter, and would be a great addition to a sewist’s bookshelf.

All opinions are my own and not connected with the author. I did not get any rewards, but if the publishers want to send me a free copy I will gladly accept as I loved the book!

The Napkin Project


I read about The Napkin Project a couple of months ago on Melissa’s blog and thought it sounded like a great project; a nice little embroidery project that can hopefully have a positive impact on the life of someone with dementia. Dementia is a subject I have learnt more and more about over the past few years, as it has affected both my grandmothers. I quickly signed up to take part.

“When is a napkin not a napkin? When it’s something to keep your hands busy. Or a bag. Or a hat. Or an aide-memoire.
While she was involved with a project to create artwork for a new dementia care home, artist Deirdre Nelson noticed that residents in Brunelcare’s existing Saffron care home were often fascinated by the textured edges of items, playing with, handling and exploring objects such as the napkins they used at mealtimes. A member of staff told her that one resident would join napkins together to carry her possessions around with her or that another used hers as a vase to hold flowers; a napkin became more than just a napkin.
The Napkin Project evolved out of this observation and the other artwork that was created for Saffron Gardens. It has now grown a life of its own.”

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The Napkin Project asked people to embroider napkins to be given to residents with dementia at a care home; the napkins are intended to provide tactile stimulation and engagement and act as a prompt for social interaction. We were asked to embroider with a design that originated from the idea of home.

What does home mean to you?
“What does ‘home’ mean to you if you are a person living with dementia? Maybe it’s where you were born or grew up – a suburb of Bristol, a village in the Punjab or a small town in Jamaica? Chances are it is where you have been happiest among family and friends. Could it be the residential care home where you now live?”

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Both my grandmothers have experienced dementia, with different effects and symptoms. When thinking about the design for my napkin, I thought how my grandma’s memory has gone and how she now spends most of her time in her childhood memories; I didn’t want to create something too specific to me or too modern that could confuse residents further, so I decided to recreate a simple child-like house that would hopefully feel familiar and reassuring (the simple design also meant I’d have more chance of completing it with my poorly wrists).

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Another reason I was so keen to finish this project was that between hearing about it and completing my embroidery, I lost two of my grandparents whose live have both been affected by dementia; My grandad, who did not have dementia himself but had to visit his wife who often did not recognise him, and my grandma, whose dementia left her unable to have a conversation. Watching close family deal with dementia is horrible, especially when they themselves are aware that their thoughts are not quite right and that something is wrong, which is why I was so keen to do a little something to make things easier for someone.

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Review – Doodle Stitching

One of my exciting crafty birthday presents last month was an embroidery book – Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection by Aimee Ray (ISBN 978-1-60059-581-3) The book was chosen for me because “it looked like it had lots of patterns, not just projects*” and I think this is the biggest strength of the book.The book starts with some Embroidery Essentials and some projects, including coasters, bunting, gift bags and tags, and even jewellery using balsa wood! Aimee gives instructions for making the items in each project, details of the motifs used and stitch choices, and alternative designs that could be used: there is enough detail for a beginner to embroidery, while giving plenty of options to put your own stamp on the projects.The last section of the book is full of motifs in a range of categories, from Alphabets and Circus, to Weather and Woodland Animals. The designs include some traditional subjects but are really fresh and modern, without being either too twee or trendy.** And what is even better, is that the book has a CD with all the motifs on, so you can re-size and combine them to make your perfect design.There are lots of cute motifs, and so far I have been working on a project featuring lots of woodland animals, birds and trees. I love the food and celebration designs (including ice-cream sundaes, picnic sandwiches and slices of pie) – one of Aimee’s projects is a simple shopping bag covered in lovely fruit and veg. There are so many potential projects I could make from this book, it is hard to know what to do next.
This is definitely a book I’d recommend as there are so many ideas and designs – 400 or so, plus a full alphabet – and some have so much detail they can be modified to create other variations.

*approximate quote
** I am really pleased that crafting is becoming cool to do and that there are so many new designers and products available now, however I find lots of things aimed at a younger crafter go for a super-cool street style or a really strong “Make Do and Mend” retro vibe. This is great if that is your style but its not really me, so it is great to see something that is nice and modern without being overly trendy or cutesy.

Travelling light as a feather


I am currently on the train for a week with my parents and appear to have packed more crafts than clothes. Fear not, I have everything with me for some exciting blog posts while I am away, but until then here is a sneak preview of something I am working on (all done on this train). I have a design dilemma: is mummy bird holding a brown twig or a pink worm?