Make Hula Hoop Instructions

(This page is about how to make a hoop of your own.  Related posts are:
I sell both new and used hoops to individuals, at fairs and festivals, and at hoop dance classes.  If you can’t get to one of the events I’m attending, give me a call and maybe we can work out a time and a place to meet.
Groups that need a larger number of hoops, such as day care centers and youth after-school programs, may find it more economical to make their own hula hoops. Hoops made from irrigation tubing are much stronger and last longer, under harder use, than hoops you buy at a grocery or discount store.
Everything I’ve learned about making hoops follows.

Outline

  1. Buy tubing and enough connectors to make up the whole roll of tubing (between 8 and 15 connectors, depending on the size of the hoops, for a 100′ roll of tubing)
  2. Buy tape to decorate the hoops (gaffer tape, shiny tape, and/or electrical tape)
  3. Make hoops
  4. Decorate hoops

Material for making hula hoops

Most people who make hoops buy tubing at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse.  We buy the black irrigation tubing, which is sold in the back of the plumbing department.  (You might also check your local Tractor Supply, if you live in a semi-rural area.  Their prices may be a bit better than Lowe’s.  Call first.)

DO NOT USE Pex water line.  It’s pretty (red blue & white), but too soft to hold the hoop shape.

I buy 100′ rolls.  If I were selling more hoops, I’d buy it in the 300′ roll, which is a little cheaper per foot.  (Unfortunately, Lowe’s HW no longer carries the larger rolls of 1/100 tubing.)  100′ of irrigation tubing will make 7 or 8 very big (44-50″ diameter) hoops, or as many as 15 tiny hoops for little children.  A 300′ roll makes 25 hoops in a range of adult sizes.

Joined hoops
Two hoops showing completed joint
Joining hoop ends
Joining hoop ends with male-male barbed connector
Closing hoop ends over connector
Closing hoop ends over connector
Pile of hoops with connector in one end
Pile of hoops with connector in one end
Cut hoops, no connectors
Roll of tubing cut into hoop-lengths
Inserting connector into hoop
Inserting connector into the first end of the hoop
Heating tubing in hot water
Softening end of tubing in hot water to insert connector
Cutting tubing
Cutting tubing
Hoop connectors
Three sizes of hoop connectors: 1″, 3/4″, and 1/2″ (bent)
Tubing cutters
Tubing cutters, with broken blade (that doesn’t matter much)
300' of hoop tubing
300′ roll of 1/100 tubing, unbound and uncut
300' of hoop tubing
300′ roll of 1/100 tubing, unbound and uncut

Hoops are held together with a double barbed, male-male connector that is sold in a rack right next to the tubing.  You’ll need to match the size of the connector to the size of the tubing.  Connectors come in bags of 10 (cheaper) or individually.  Make sure all the connectors are the right size for your tubing–they can get mixed up on the shelf.

Hoop connectors
Three sizes of hoop connectors: 1″, 3/4″, and 1/2″ (bent)

Irrigation tubing comes in a variety of diameters and weights.  I vary the size tubing I buy, so my inventory contains a range of weights.

  • “Fast” hoopers prefer ¾” 160# tubing.  This is a bit harder on your hands, but fast.
  • “Slower” hoopers might prefer 1” 100# tubing.  It’s fairly soft, but two hoops are hard to manage when you’re hooping twins.
  • Children’s hoops and juggler hoops can be made of ¾” 100# hooping, but that weight is not for adult-sized hoops.  It deforms badly at speed when made larger than 30”.  It’s also good for twins, when you need to manage two hoops.
  • Extra-large hoops can be made of 1″ 160# tubing, which is expensive.  However, the heavy weight tubing creates a heavy weighted hoop, which is good for beginners, serious exercisers, and men, without it being too big to fit in the truck.

The parts numbers for the tubing at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse are:

  • 1 inch 100 PSI : #24169
  • 3/4 inch 160 PSI : #24195
  • 3/4 inch 100 PSI: # 24166

If you’re going to make a few hoops, go ahead and buy the $10-13 tubing cutters.  They look like strange scissors.  They leave a cleaner cut than a saw and are easier to use.  (You don’t need the $25 pair.)

Scrap or leftover tubing

Plumbers, landscaping contractors, and other people in the construction and agriculture trades sometimes have scraps of irrigation and water line tubing left over from a job.   I’ve made up a lot of hula hoops from scraps, but I also have some tubing that never fit a connector I could find.

Cutting irrigation tubing

Usually, I cut up the whole roll into hoop lengths and make up the hoops all in one session.  If I don’t need inventory, I may leave the “raw” hoops undecorated.  If you leave cut tubing unconnected, it will straighten out and you will have a flat spot on your hoop.

Cutting tubing
Cutting tubing
Cut hoops, no connectors
Roll of tubing cut into hoop-lengths

Hula Hoop Sizing

Circumference = 2 * pi * r,  where r = radius.  2r = diameter.  Therefore, the length of tubing you need to cut is pi * height.

  • Beginner hoops:  shoulder-to-sternum height.
  • Intermediate hoops:  waist height.
  • Serious dance hoops:  hip height.
  • Very fast hoops:  inseam height.

In other words, if you’re making hoops for a crowd, you’ll want a range with at least one at 60”, several at 46-48”, and then the rest as needed.  Some groups have many more small children than others.

I don’t measure length any more; I simply curl the tubing against an existing hoop and cut it to match, or not, as needed.

I have a 6’ diameter hoop made of 2” tubing.  Many men are comfortable hooping in that hoop where they won’t try a smaller or fancier one.  I put a run of gaffer tape around the inside of the hoop to give it grip for shoulder hooping, and it’s wiffled (has holes drilled into it) and sings at different pitches depending on its speed.

Joining the ends

I use boiling water to heat the ends of the tubing one at a time, and then slip the connector in. Let the first end cool completely before forming the hoop into a circle and connecting the second end.  Some patient people heat the ends with a hair dryer.

Heating tubing in hot water
Softening end of tubing in hot water to insert connector

For smaller hoops (24-30”),  bend the connector a little to prevent a flat spot in the hoop (see the picture of the hoop connectors above–the small one is bent).  Connectors bend easily if you heat them in boiling water for 30 seconds.  Use very long nails (landscape spikes) or strong knitting needles, or pencils, to hold the connector while you bend it just a bit off straight.  Drop the bent connector into cold water to set the new shape.

Inserting connector into hoop
Inserting connector into the first end of the hoop
Joining hoop ends
Joining hoop ends with male-male barbed connector
Closing hoop ends over connector
Closing hoop ends over connector

 

If you’re making a cloth-covered hoop, put the cloth sleeve over the hoop before joining the second end.

If you’re making a water hoop, pour one cup of water into the hoop before sealing.  Water in the hoop makes heating the second end a bit trickier.

We put the connectors into one end of the entire set of hoops, let the warm ends cool, and then join up the hoops. This gives a hoop that is more round than joining both ends at the same time.

It’s easy to kink the hoop when connecting the second end.  Keep the hoop round while the tubing cools and have a wet dish cloth handy to quench the heat.

Joined hoops
Two hoops showing completed joint

Completed hoops
24.5 completed hoops

(The picture shows 24.5 completed hoops.  I used a piece of leftover tubing from the last batch that was too long to throw away.  That hoop has two connectors.)

Decorating hoops

  • Some people can dance with untaped hoops, perhaps sanded for a bit more grip.
  • Spray paint tends to come off on whatever the hoop hits.
  • Gaffer tape and decorative metallic tape (“sparkly”) are the best to use for decorating hoops.
  • Gaffer tape, available on the web (not locally in Raleigh), is cloth tape with a non-residue, non-oozing glue.  It comes in lots of colors, some of which are ugly.  It comes in 2”, 1”, and ½” rolls.  Although the 2” rolls can be torn lengthwise if needed, I’ve taken to using 1” as my widest tape because it handles easily.  It’s a good width to start with.  ½” tape is pretty for accent colors.
  • Electrician’s tape, which can be found at hardware stores, can be used if it passes the 2008 CPSIA compliance and testing standards for plastic toys.  Electrician’s tape from Indenti-tape, which is the kind I use, passes these tests, as well as the European RoHS standards.  I cannot speak about the brands sold at hardware stores–check the package or the manufacturer’s website.

I like the fluorescent colors of gaffer tape—yellow, orange, green, and pink—much more in real hoops than I expected and will buy large rolls on my next order.  Kodak yellow is another good hoop color, as is red, Pro-Gaff’s blue, and burgundy.  Purple is more “lilac,” in my mind.  Teal is useful.  Black is handy if you want to add grip to a dark hoop.

DO NOT USE duct tape, which oozes nastily when it gets warm and fails completely in high heat, as might be found in the trunk of a car.

An average hoop consumes about 25’ of tape per color.  Sparkle tape is sold in rolls of 25’; allow one roll per hoop.  You may have some leftover.  You can cut 1” tapes in half lengthwise and get more mileage out of them.

  • The silver holographic tapes are pretty in the sun; most of the colored holographic tapes are much prettier to look at when they are still than they are when the hoop is moving.
  • Glitter tape is a bear to tape with—it tends to wander and it does not “untape” to correct a mistake.
  • Although the tape itself isn’t much to look at, some of the best hoops are made with the plain mirror tape.  (BTW, “brass” = very yellow, compared to a more sedate “gold.”)
  • Glow-in-the-dark tape is fun.  It is also very slick.
  • Highway reflector tape looks better when the hoop’s not moving than it does in motion, and it’s hard to get on the hoop straight.
  • Aluminum tape for ductwork makes a very “high tech”-looking hoop, but it needs additional gaffer tape for grip.

HoopsTaping patterns vary.  If I’m making a sparkle hoop, I put the metallic tape down first.  It sticks better to the hoop material than it does to gaffer tape.  Then I’ll add a gaffer tape, and perhaps another accent color, or not.  It can be fun to wrap backwards, spiraling the opposite direction, and to weave two different colors of tape over each other.  Do not try this on your first hoop.  I also like “quartering” a hoop with different patterns or colors on each section.

Sources for hoop tape

I currently buy gaffer tape from www.identi-tape.com, a supplier to tape users in many fields, and sparkle tape from www.mccormicksnet.com, a supplier to the marching band and drill team community. Within McCormick’s site, select Guard, then Equipment and Supplies, to get to the tape pages. Both gaffer and sparkle tapes can be ordered from www.identi-tape.com, which also has the DOT and glow-in-the-dark tapes. Their holographic tapes may well be the brightest available.