Are embroidery hoops essential when doing hand embroidery? Well, to a certain extent it depends on what type of embroidery you are doing, and also on personal preference.
I recently found a piece of embroidery in the cupboard, which I had done years ago without a hoop.
I photographed part of it to illustrate how working without a hoop can result in puckered fabric due to uneven tension.
This is most obvious on the unstitched areas of the panda and beside the leaves on the left.
I guess this is why I never bothered to get the finished work framed. Nowadays, I nearly always use a hoop!
When I teach, people always ask me what the best sized hoop is. My answer is normally the one that feels right to you. If you are not happy holding and using it, you won't enjoy your stitching.
It isn't necessary to choose a large hoop that your whole design will fit inside, unless of course you are doing bead embroidery (crushing beads between the two rings of a hoop is not a good idea!). For other techniques it is normally possible to move the hoop as you complete a section of the design.
A smaller hoop will be easier to handle, and will tend to keep the fabric more taut than a larger one.
Hoops are generally available in sizes from 4 inch to 12 inch diameter. I find the 5, 6 or 8 inch sizes are most useful.
You may see extra deep hoops, which are often of a greater diameter also. These are designed for quilters as that extra depth grips hold of all three layers (top fabric, wadding and backing fabric) and prevents them from slipping, something a thin hoop would not be capable of.
If you have bought a kit and the fabric provided is too small to fit in your smallest hoop, then what do you do? Well, you have three alternatives here...
Find some spare fabric, not too flimsy mind, that will fit in your embroidery hoop. Tack your embroidery fabric onto the middle of it, making sure it is securely held in place on all four sides. I use a large backstitch for this.
Place your smaller, inner ring on a hard surface. Lay the fabric on the ring with the embroidery fabric face up, then push the outer ring down onto the inner. Turn the work over and with a small, sharp pair of scissors carefully cut away the spare fabric where it covers the area that you will embroider.
Once you have completed your embroidery you can remove the work from the hoop and cut the basting stitches.
Good quality wooden embroidery hoops will usually have a brass adjustment screw that you can tighten when necessary to keep the fabric as tight as a drum. In fact I keep a small flat headed screwdriver in my workbox so that I can tighten it as much as possible. If you can flick your fingers against the fabric in the hoop and hear a drum like sound then you know it is just right for stitching on.
Do you ever find that you get your thread caught around this adjustment screw? Here is a tip for preventing that from happening. Think of the hoop as a clock face and ...
You should find that the screw is no longer in the way.
One solution to this is to bind the inner hoop with fine fabric, bias binding or a finger bandage.
Wrap the thin strip of fabric around the ring tightly and secure the end with a few stitches. This will help keep the embroidery fabric taut, clean and prevent any snags from a rough hoop.
I would advise you to do this as the ring can mark the fabric if left in place for extended periods. When you put down your work at the end of a session, loosen the ring or even better, take it off completely.
Wooden embroidery hoops are traditional, but there are more modern alternatives that you might like to try.
Flexi hoops offer one choice. These comprise a hard plastic inner ring and a flexible outer ring that stretches over the fabric, to grip it. However, if you have difficulties with your hands, because of arthritis or similar, you may find flexi-hoops difficult to assemble.
Flexi hoops can also double up as a frame for the finished piece of embroidery.
Q-snaps are another option. These comprise lengths of plastic tubing that fit together into a square or rectangle. You push separate sleeves onto each side of the frame, and they hold the fabric in place.
Q-snaps are light, and you can take them apart for easy storage in between projects, but I find they do not keep the fabric as taut as a hoop and I am constantly adjusting them.
Spring hoops, originally designed for machine embroidery, are almost flat so that they will slip under the sewing machine foot.
They comprise a plastic outer ring, and a spring-loaded metal, inner ring with handles that you squeeze together, in order to position it inside the other section.
After accidentally letting go too soon, and having the inner ring spring back into me, I avoid these! I also find the thread gets caught over the "handles" wherever you position them. They keep the work nice and taut, though.
Again, it comes down to preference which kind of embroidery hoop you like working with best.
Which type do you prefer? When do you use them, and when don't you? Feel free to ask questions, or answer other people's queries.
This is your section of the page, so feel free to add anything that you think will help other embroiderers find out which are the right hoops for them.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
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