Introduction: Get Your Hoop On
In this lesson, I'm going to cover how to choose and use hoops! A hoop is the frame you place your fabric in while embroidering.
While not everyone uses a hoop or frame to stitch in, it's best to start using one and work your way to more advanced techniques.
Step 1: Choosing the Right Size Hoop
I prefer to use a hoop that is slightly larger than the embroidery design I'm working on. This allows you to stitch without having to reposition the fabric or hoop over existing stitches.
above is a slightly wonky Black Widow perk icon from Fallout 4, I accidentally gave her five fingers on one hand :P
To figure out what size hoop to use, place your printed pattern down on a flat surface and lay the inner ring of a hoop over it. If the pattern fits neatly inside, you're good to go! If the pattern is super close to the edges, you may want to go up a size.
If you're working on a really large piece, I suggest using a 6 inch hoop (or smaller) and moving it around the fabric where you need to embroider.
Try to avoid using huge hoops (8 inches and more) for an extended period of time. They're harder on your hands, and you'll find that you start death gripping the hoop with your non-dominant hand. It hurts, trust me. :P
Step 2: Using the Hoop
There are two types of hoops: flat and lipped. Flat hoops are typically wood or metal. Hoops with a lip are often made of plastic.
You assemble both the same way - the only thing to worry about is if you'd like the lip on the top or bottom of the hoop. I prefer to keep the lip on the top side of my hoop - I suggest trying that way first.
Here's a photo to show the lip of the hoop:
How to Use a Hoop:
Loosen the nut at the top of the hoop and separate the inner and outer rings.
Lay the inner ring down on your work surface (lip facing up if it has one). Place your fabric over the inner ring and center your pattern in the middle of the ring.
Further loosen the nut on the outer ring so it can easily fit around the inner ring, and press the outer ring over the inner ring.
Tighten the nut about halfway.
Begin to gently pull at the fabric, moving all the way around the hoop, so the embroidery pattern remains centered and the fabric becomes taut.
Tighten the nut the rest of the way while continuing to make sure the fabric is staying taut everywhere.
Strike a couple of fingers against the fabric. Does it sound like a drum? If so, you're good to go. :D
Also, if you're curious about the "other" way to mount fabric in a hoop, this is what that looks like. As you can see, the "back" of your embroidery is now on the raised part of the hoop.
If you're struggling to get an embroidery pattern or stitching stretched evenly and tightly in the hoop, flip the hoop over and pull that way!
Hold the hoop down on the surface with one hand while you pull the fabric with the other. This method gives you a little more leverage so it's perfect for embroideries with lots of detail or circular borders that need to be close to perfect.
Step 3: The Hooping Commandments
Clean Your Hoops Often
Hoops catch a lot of grime as you stitch. The oils from your hands transfer to the hoop, which can then pick up dust and dirt. This can leave a visible ring when you remove your embroideries from a dirty hoop.
To clean plastic hoops, you can use soap and water or wipe them down with rubbing alcohol. I normally go the alcohol route because it's easy and fast!
For wooden hoops, giving it a quick swipe with rubbing alcohol is best. :)
Don't Use a Huge Hoop for a Long Time
As I've said before, huge hoops are hard to use long term. When I say huge hoop, I mean 8 inches and up. Large hoops are very hard on your hands and can cause cramping.
When I was first starting out, I kept making large embroidery patterns and then stitching them in 8 and 10 inch hoops. This almost always led to what I like to call "claw hand" - where the hand that's holding the hoop gets crazy painful cramps and is essentially useless for a while. Sometimes my wrist hurt too. The pain can last for quite a while in my experience, so try to use a 6 inch hoop or attach a larger hoop to a hoop stand.
Don't Leave Embroideries in the Hoop for More Than a Couple Days
When you're working on a project (especially if the final embroidery will be flat!), try to avoid leaving it in the hoop for an extended period of time.
This can cause creases in the fabric that are near impossible to remove unless you block it. (We talk about blocking in Lesson 8!) The fabric can also become VERY stretched, meaning the tension will be off in the later parts of the project.
Step 4: Other Hoop and Frame Types
In addition to the standard plastic and wooden hoops, there are a few other types of frames and hoops out there. Among these are snap frames, double lap hoops, and scroll frames.
The most common of these is the Q-Snap Frame. They are essentially a square frame made of PVC. Plastic clamps secure the fabric to the plastic frame around the edges.
Double Lap Hoops
These hoops are double sided and come with long supports to place between the two hoops. One hoop sits on your lap, while you stitch on the other one. This allows you to embroider without holding the hoop!
The one downside to these hoops is that they are tedious to flip over. I am always knotting and checking the back of my work, so I find them frustrating to use at times!
Scroll frames are traditionally used for cross stitch, but they can be used for embroidery too! These are perfect for really large pieces. These are a less temporary way to stitch as you sew the fabric you're embroidering on to the scroll frame to keep it taut. These frames are also the largest and often come with floor and lap stands.
I actually don't own one of these, so here's a link to see what they look like.