DiYVR: Local Author Delivers Hoopla, Gets Stitchy


DiYVR is a weekly spotlight on all things handmade, done-by-oneself, crafted and hacked around Vancouver, featuring profiles of makers, event announcements, exhibits and general DIY fun. Know someone or something we should cover?Email me!

A couple of years ago, local authors Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore wowed the arts and crafts worlds with their book, Yarn Bombing, from local publisher Arsenal Pulp Press.

This month, Leanne is promoting her second book: Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery. Like its predecessor, it’s an impressive tome filled with full-colour photography, profiles and patterns. It’s the kind of non-fiction book I love the best – it’s gorgeous, informative and inspiring.

Even better, embroidery fits right into our October DiYVR Challenge to mend, alter or embellish! Just saying. Arsenal Pulp even has a free pattern (PDF) from the book available, should you feel inspired.

I caught up with Leanne over email, and even if you don’t know a cross stitch from a French knot, her answers will make you want to know more.

Why a book about embroidery? What is it about those tiny stitches that excites you?
I chose to write Hoopla because I felt that stitch artists have been widely overlooked in contemporary art and craft movements. There are a lot of people out there doing really interesting things with thread – be it embroidery, needlepoint or cross stitch. Some of them are gallery artists, some are street artists, some are people who are just stitching for themselves, but all of them are making extremely interesting work. The book features artists who do things such as create replicas of viruses with their stitching, protest arm bands, cross stitch over graffiti canvas, and create diarized confessions with their stitching. Embroidery is often considered a wall-flowerish hobby, and the artists in my book are anything but. They use the tiny action of making small stitches into sweeping statements. Embroidery has power. My hope was to make more people aware of just how interesting embroidery, and the people who stitch, can be.

The subtitle of the book is “The Art of Unexpected Embroidery.” What did you learn or discover that surprised you?
In the process of writing Hoopla, I discovered that there are no limitations as to what can be done with the act of making a stitch. Can embroidery be used to make political statements? Yes. Can it be used as a dialogue starter about community spaces? Certainly. Could embroidery be used as a medium to transfer personal experiences? Definitely. Embroidery is a story-telling medium. Stitch work can be as evocative as painting or sculpture.

Do you have a favourite project from the book? One that takes your breath away or really made you think?
I’m in love with many of the projects from the book, but among my favorites are Shioban Long’s Photo Feelism project which encourages readers to embellish photographs with hidden meanings and symbols. I also adore Marie Horstead’s Chug Like A Champ Pillow, which turns the idea of a traditional Victorian parlor pillow into something improper. Rather than featuring the portrait of a demure young lady, as these pillows feature a woman shot gunning a beer. I like the play of subverting traditional ideas of embroidery projects and playing with new materials to stitch on.

Say someone in town wants to take up needle and floss for the first time. What are some good local resources for them?
In Vancouver, I would recommend Home Craft Importers in Kits. You have to ask them to take you to the back room to see the embroidery floss. It is a very illicit experience.

You’ve been stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a sharp knife, some reeds, and a pile of thread in every colour of the rainbow. How do you spend your days awaiting rescue?
I’d mash the reeds into a pulp, make my own paper by drying the flat pulp on rocks, then I’d stitch on it. I’d probably make a very colourful and embellished ‘save me’ sign. Or a last will and testament, depending on my mood.

Leanne isn’t the only local crafts author celebrating a new release. Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel just launched 9 Months of Knitting, and it is made of adorable awesome. I’ve already made a wee toque from it.