The Flying Circle – Make your own Game of Graces

A fun game that can be made at home at low cost is the classic Early Victorian game, called “Graces”. This game requires two sticks per player and one or two 8”-12” round hoops. It is particularly fun to play with older children or adults and does not require a lot of moving around which is perfect in the summer heat. It can also be played in costume or long skirts for all of our readers who miss going to events this season. Compared to other throwing games, picking up the thrown object does also not require the usual annoying forward bending exercise because the hoop can be picked up with the sticks. A particular joy in this game is to watch the pretty hoop fly and circle in the sky. The game can be played with one or many players using one or more hoops.

For the game description: Lydia Maria Child described the game in her book The Girl’s Own Book (1833) under the title La Grace as follows:

This is a new game, common in Germany, but introduced into this country from France. It derives its name from the graceful attitudes which it occasions. Two sticks are held in the hands, across each other, like open scissors: the object is to throw and catch a small hoop upon these sticks. The hoop to be bound with silk, or ribbon, according to fancy. The game is played by two persons. The sticks are held straight, about four inches apart, when trying to catch the hoop; and when the hoop is thrown, they are crossed like a pair of scissors. In this country it is called The Graces, or The Flying Circle.

Lydia Maria Child was an avid abolitionist who lived in Massachusetts. She became famous with her book The American Frugal Housewife (1832), the poem “New England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day”, today known as “Over the River and Through the Woods”, published in Flowers for Children (1855), and her participation in the American Anti-Slavery Society where she establed and edited the association’s newsletter the “National Anti-Slavery Standard” in 1840.

To make the game at home, you will need:

  • An assortment of ribbons you can find at home or need to buy. Of course, you can play the game without having the hoop decorated with ribbons. The hoop can also be painted. 
  • A 8” to 12” thin but sturdy hoop. The easiest to use is the inside of a 10” plastic or wooden embroidery hoop. An 8” embroidery hoop is fine for more experienced players.
  • Scissors to cut the ribbon
  • at least 2 dowels (1 per person), purchased from a hardware store, 48” long x 1/2″ wide. 
  • A small saw to saw the dowel in half
  • A piece of sandpaper

Making the game:

  1. Saw the dowel in half and sand the cut end smooth. 
  2. Cut the ribbon and tie it with knots around the ring in any pattern or randomly as you like. To hold the ribbon in place, knot tightly around the hoop with two double overhand knots. 

Alternatively, you can also wrap the ribbon around the hoop sideways.


To throw the hoop: hold a dowel in each hand and put the hoop over the dowels. Cross the dowels in the front and while lifting the dowels up, pull them apart. This will lift the hoop into the air. Try spinning the hoop while you throw it. Either you or other players should try to catch the hoop with their dowels and throw the hoop again. Have fun playing!