Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Crafts & Hobbies General


The Art of Unexpected Embroidery

by (author) Leanne Prain

photographs by Jeff Christenson

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price
    $29.95 USD

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.


A Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Alcuin Society Book Design Award winner (1st place, reference books)

Hoopla, by the co-author of the bestselling Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet & Knit Graffiti, showcases those who take the craft of embroidery where it's never gone before, in an astonishing full-colour display of embroidered art. Hoopla rebels against the quaint and familiar embroidery motifs of flowers and swashes, and focuses instead on innovative stitch artists who specialize on unusual, guerrilla-style patterns such as needlepoint nipple doilies and a ransom note pillow; it demonstrates that modern embroidery artists are as sharp as the needles with which they work.

Hoopla includes twenty-eight innovative embroidery patterns and profiles of contemporary embroidery artists including Jenny Hart, author of Sublime Stitching; Rosa Martyn of the UK-based Craftivism Collective; Ray Materson, an ex-con who learned to stitch in prison; Sherry Lynn Wood of the Tattooed Baby Doll Project, which collaborated with female tattoo artists across the US; Penny Nickels and Johnny Murder, the self-described Bonnie and Clyde of Embroidery; and Alexandra Walters, a military wife who replicates military portraits and weapons in her stitching.

Full-colour throughout and bursting with history, technique, and sass, Hoopla will teach readers how to stitch a mythical jackalope and mean and dainty knuckle-tattoo church gloves, as well as encourage them to create their own innovative embroidery projects. If you like anarchistic DIY craft and the idea of deviating from the rules, Hoopla will inspire you to wield a needle with flair!

About the authors

Leanne Prain is the co-author (with Mandy Moore) of Yarn Bombing (2009), now in its third printing, and the author of Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery (2011). Her third book, Strange Material: Storytelling through Textiles, will be published in fall 2014. She co-founded a stitch and bitch called Knitting and Beer in order to expand her skills while knitting at the pub. A professional graphic designer, Leanne holds degrees in creative writing, art history, and publishing. She lives and knits in Vancouver.

Leanne Prain's profile page

Jeff Christenson is a food and object photographer, and can?t recall how he got mixed up in the dangerous world of craft. He is based in Vancouver, BC, and has helped to document the work of many of the city's talented crafters. See his work at

Jeff Christenson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

With hilarious DIY projects, like needlepoint nipple doilies, Hoopla proves that there's a place in every woman's heart (and wardrobe) for some cheeky thread work.


Hoopla covers everything anyone would want to know about embroidery and more ... The hours and detail involved in each piece are astounding, yet many of the artists speak of the calming and meditative nature of embroidery.
-School Library Journal

School Library Journal

Hoopla is a wonderfully thorough collection of needlework both relatively straightforward and outright mind-bending, from pixel art to portraiture ... Hoopla looks at embroidery through a lens that sees its value as a decorative art, as a source and means of personal reflection, and as a subversive action, from "tattooed" baby dolls, to thread-embellished family photographs, to careful reproductions of prison life.


Prain's admiration for and fascination with the work of embroiderers shines in this visual and thoughtful collection of interviews and instructional guides.
-Plaid Magazine


As a fantastic combination of an art book and a craft guide, this book has a dual audience. Readers keen to find out about the edgiest frontier of crafty art will find plenty to feast their eyes on. Ditto anyone who wants to take a sewing project, a thrift store find or a plain piece of cloth to the next level. This book will particularly excite any crafter who likes his or her craft with a side of personal history or political activism.
-Crafty Crafty

Crafty Crafty

If you thought embroidery was just for hankies and little girls' church shirts, you will quickly dispose of such nonsense when you peek into the colorful pages of Hoopla ... the how-to portions of the book are beautifully interwoven with inspired photographs and thoughtful interviews with embroidery renegades whose work is like nothing you've ever seen.
-Foreword Magazine


Prain (co-author of Yarn Bombing) offers out-of-the-ordinary designs, starched with humor. Informative and inspirational interviews with embroiderers prove they don't sew like their grannies. But Grandmother would approve of the practical sections -- on history, tools from needles to the humble thimble, types of embroidery, and finishing techniques.
-Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Proving there's much more to stitching than flower patterns, Hoopla inspires creative activism by presenting the art of embroidery through critical lenses of gender, class, and culture. Radical artists, take note: here's a new challenge for you.
-Julia Horel-O'Brien, Shameless magazine

Prain's examination of the world of alternative, free-form embroidery is both inspiring and educational. Part art book, part guide, it will appeal to crafters who are looking for something beyond the stamped patterns available in big-box craft stores.
-Library Journal

Library Journal

Hoopla explodes the notion of needlework as quaint craft and nostalgic pastime, and reveals the astonishing artistry, creativity and activism at stitchwork's cutting edge ... The book's take-home message is to experiment, explore, express. Anyone can enrich an old medium with the fresh ideas and techniques offered here.
-BookPage ("Top Pick in Lifestyles")


Projects don't disappoint, with directions as clear as the designs are funky: handkerchiefs emblazoned with microbes, a modern cuckoo clock stitched on Aida cloth, and knuckle-tattoo church gloves.


It presents embroidery as a bright, bold, smart and sophisticated art form. Just as promised, Hoopla is a craft book with attitude.
-Canada Arts Connect

Canada Arts Connect

This book is filled with a wide range of approaches to the craft - from making and embellishing useful items to creating statements ... Hoopla is a project book in that there are projects to try. But mostly, it's a statement book, a primer on stitchery's many possibilities, and a big dose of inspiration.


Other titles by Leanne Prain

Related lists

Related blog posts