One of the essential tools in an embroiderer's toolkit is an embroidery hoop. It keeps embroidery fabrics of all types taut as you work, making stitching much more manageable. Learning how to use a hoop is simple, but it's helpful to know how to set it up for the best results.
The secret to working in an embroidery hoop is to have the right amount of tension on your fabric. In some situations, you will want your fabric very tight, while other times, it's best to have some give. Either way, the tension must remain the same for your stitches to end up as even as possible.
Another thing to watch out for when hooping your fabric is distortion. Sometimes fabric will pull on the bias, which stretches the material while it is in the hoop. Its structure may go back to normal when removed from the hoop, but your embroidery stitches may not. No one likes distorted stitches, so it's best to take the time to be careful.
There are different kinds of hoops available depending on your tastes and what you are stitching. If you like working in a wooden hoop, but your fabric is slipping out of it, try adding a binding to one or both pieces. This may help you maintain an even tension as you work. Most embroidery hoops fit together similarly, and this tutorial will show you how to get the best tension as you fit your fabric in the hoop.
Equipment / Tools
- Embroidery hoop, between 6 and 9 inches for beginner
- Square of cotton for embroidering in size a few inches larger than the embroidery hoop
Prepare the Hoop
When getting ready to place the fabric in a hoop, your first thought might be to completely unscrew the screw on the outer hoop. It is actually a little easier to leave the outer hoop somewhat taut, but not tight.
- While the pieces of the hoop are together, adjust the screw so that the outer hoop is snug enough to hold the inner hoop in place but loose enough that you can slip it out.
If you are working with thick fabric or felt, you may still need to loosen it some, but this is a good place to start.
- Separate the two pieces of the hoop.
Check the inner hoop to see if one side is marked to indicate which way should face up. It may even have "This side up" inscribed on it.
Place the inner hoop on a flat surface; if there is a marked side, make sure it faces up. Lay the fabric face up over the hoop. The fabric may sag into the center of the hoop, but that's okay. Just try to keep the material squared up.
If you use a spring tension hoop instead of a standard hoop, work in reverse. Instead of placing the inner hoop on your surface, start with the outer hoop and lay the fabric face down over it. Squeeze the inner hoop and press it into the fabric and outer hoop.
Press Outer Hoop in Place
It might be tempting to just put the outer hoop over the fabric and inner hoop, tighten the screw until it is snug, then pull the fabric until it's tight. Go slow and follow all the steps so you don't end up damaging your fabric.
If you can't quite see the edges of the inner hoop, feel where it is and set the outer hoop over the inner hoop.
- Use both hands to evenly press it down on the hoops.
- If the hoop feels too tight to push over the fabric and inner hoop, remove it, loosen the screw slightly, and try again.
- If the fabric feels loose, remove the outer hoop, tighten the screw a little more, and try again.
The tension of the fabric should already feel fairly tight, and if it's the way you want it, tighten the screw just a little more to help hold it in place.
- Pulling evenly on all sides, straighten the fabric in the hoop.
Repeat the steps above, adjusting the screw and fabric a little at a time on all sides until you get a nice taut fabric.
When working stitches using the sewing method instead of the stabbing method, it can be helpful to have less tension on the fabric.
Take the Hoop off When Not Stitching
Keeping the fabric under tension puts stress on the fabric. If you're taking a break from stitching, remove your embroidery from the hoop until you're ready to start again.