DIY Hoops: One Size Does Not Fit All

The Hudsucker Posse had to construct their hoops before they could learn to hoop dance. Get out your calculators and power tools, making a hoop is no easy task.

hula-hoops

Photo: Vicki & Chuck Rogers (Flickr)

Chambers personalizes the hoops by wrapping them with up to three different colors of tapes.

Event Information

Peace Love HOOPINESS

The weekend will feature performances by local and regional hoop and flow artists, fire shows, workshops and regional hoop crafters.


Valley Branch Retreat in Brown County (Nashville, Indiana)

July 19-21

Peace Love HOOPINESS

Hudsucker Posse on Facebook

Tools Of The Trade

It’s pouring rain in Bloomington, so the Hudsucker Posse has to move this evening’s hoop jam indoors, to the Stonebelt gym. The group is ironing out some choreography and picking music for an upcoming performance.

“When I’m dancing I like to synch the hoop with the beat, so like a record. I actually think of myself as a 3D DJ sometimes in my own mind,” says hoop dancer Clara Kallner.

She brought two of her hoops with her today, both of which are plain black with no tape. Like anyone who makes their own, she can recite the specs of her hoop on command.

“The bigger one is 36-37 inch diameter. It’s 125 inch psi irrigation tubing that you would just find at the hardware store.”

Not Too Big, Not Too Small

Kallner may enjoy her minimalist hoops, but the different colors and patterns of tape is what gives them character. Taping is also one of the trickiest parts of constructing a hoop. The tape often gets tangled as you simultaneously pull off the paper backing while wrapping it around the hoop.

Paula Chambers makes hoops at her store The Dance Circus. She’s the creative director and co-founder of the Hudsucker Posse. She’s recorded the dimensions and colors of all the hoops she’s ever made in a thick binder, which is getting thicker by the day. During the summer, custom hoop making accounts for the majority of her sales — she’s made dozens already this season.

Chambers says dime store hoops aren’t good for adults. They’re too light and flimsy. If you’re really interested in getting into hooping, it’s best to get a hoop that fits with your body’s dimensions.

She measures the hooper’s waist and multiplies that figure by 1.2 (for a small hoop, good for dancing), 1.3 or 1.4 (for a slower, heavier hoop appropriate for exercising).

paula chambers making hula hoops

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Paula Chambers makes hoops in her store The Dance Circus. She usually completes custom orders in a week.

Craft Before Dance

Now the real work begins.

The tubing is the same stuff you buy at any hardware store. It comes in 100-foot increments, which makes 10 hoops. She can choose between four different types of tubing – polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, cross-linked polyethylene or polypropylene. She uses tube cutters, a drill press and a heating tool to bend and connect the hoop.

For plumbers, psi is an indication of how many pounds per square inch of water pressure the tube can hold. For hoopers, that’s how they determine weight — 100-125 psi is a good figure for beginners.

Hoops Pays For Hooping

Back at the inception of the Hudsucker Posse, they made hoops out of necessity because there was nowhere to buy the hoops commercially.

“Before we could even learn how to hoop, we had to make our own hoops. So, talk about reverse engineering,” she says. “We realized quickly there was definitely an art to it.”

They made 10 hoops at that very first get-together and then they taught themselves how to hoop dance. They now hold two public hoop jams every week, both of which are free of charge. Chambers says this makes Bloomington unique in the hooping world because most troops have to pay for a venue. (On sunny days, the troop gathers at Bryan Park.)

With that basic need covered, she uses some of the cash from her business to cover the cost of the Hudsucker’s website, print media and costumes.

“I figured out early on that if I saved a portion of my hoop sales, I was then able to support the troop,” she says. “So, hoops pays for hooping.”

On the group’s wishlist is a new P.A. system. Six or so more orders of customs hoops and that’s paid for.

hula hoop tape

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

The tapes Chambers uses on hoops is produced by the auto industry. A roll of 150 feet of tape costs $18-$24. That will make 2-5 hoops.

hula hoop archive

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

She’s recorded the dimensions and colors of all the hoops she’s ever made. It’s a thick book, getting thicker by the day.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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