Hand embroiderers and cross-stitchers are all familiar with embroidery hoops and their usefulness. However, knowing which type and size of embroidery hoops to use can be quite daunting for beginners who are just starting to learn how to work with needles and threads.
What are some common embroidery hoop sizes? Embroidery hoops come in several shapes, including circular hoops, square hoops, and rectangular hoops, and sizes can range from 4 inches to 12 inches in diameter. The most versatile sizes are 5- or 6-inch circular hoops.
If you’d like to learn more about embroidery hoops and how to choose the best one for your particular project, this ultimate guide can help you find out more about them!
Why Use Embroidery Hoops?
There are various factors that affect the use of an embroidery hoop. For instance, the type of stitching you are doing, your experience level, and the fabric used are all important. Some forms of hand embroidery, such as those done using sashiko, do not require a hoop.
When doing hand embroidery, a hoop can hold the fabric taut, making it much easier to see your stitches and create even stitches. It can also prevent uneven spacing and puckering in the spaces between the stitches.
Cross stitchers can also benefit from using an embroidery hoop. Cross stitching requires you to see the spaces between the fabric’s warp and weft threads and create uniform, even stitches. Using an embroidery hoop will make this process much easier.
Another important factor that affects the use of hoops is the type of fabric that you are using.
Fine weave fabrics and dark-colored fabrics are much more difficult to work with because it’s harder to see the weave patterns. Using an embroidery hoop to hold to fabric taut will help you easily identify the weave pattern to create your stitches.
In addition, an embroidery hoop can also make it easier to work for a longer period of time. Your project will be much easier to hold, and you don’t have to constantly stabilize the fabric when you stitch.
Some embroidery hoops also come with a hoop stand that can be a huge help if you want to work for a long time because it will free up your non-dominant hand and prevent fatigue.
Types Of Embroidery Hoops
Most embroidery hoops have two parts: an inner ring and an outer ring that fit perfectly. You lay the fabric on top of the inner ring and use the outer ring to secure the fabric on top of both the fabric and the inner ring to secure the fabric and create tension on the fabric’s surface.
Although the basic design is the same, there are a few mechanisms to achieve this. Let’s take a look at the different types of embroidery hoops below.
Screw tension embroidery hoops come with a plain inner hoop, but the outer hoop has a screw to allow you to adjust the hoop’s size.
When you use a screw tension hoop, you can loosen the outer ring to separate the two hoops and sandwich the fabric in between the inner and outer hoop. Then, you can tighten the screw to hold the fabric in place and adjust the tension on the fabric’s surface.
Although screw tension is the most popular type of embroidery hoop, it can be a bit difficult for beginners. This is because adjusting the screw can make it difficult to keep the fabric taut in place, and your fabric may slip and slide while you secure the screw.
There’s also a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding the perfect tension for the screw, and beginners may stretch the fabric too tight or not tight enough.
This option still offers the most flexibility when it comes to adjustments, but you may have to take a while to master it.
A spring tension embroidery hoop comes with a closed loop outer ring and an inner metal ring that comes with two metal handles that you can press to make the metal ring smaller and remove the inner ring.
When you remove the pressure, the metal ring will spring back to its original size, and this is what creates tension for the fabric. If you find that there’s not enough tension, you can also pull the metal handles outward to expand the hoop and add a bit more tension when the hoop is inserted.
When you use a spring tension embroidery hoop, you will need to lay the fabric on top of the outer ring. Then, press the handles to make the inner ring smaller and lay it on top of the fabric inside the outer ring underneath.
When you release the handles, the spring mechanism will hold the fabric taut in place. As you can imagine, you don’t have to worry about adjusting the rings too much when it comes to a spring tension hoop. It’s as easy as pressing and releasing!
However, this hoop design comes with very prominent metal handles that can get in the way when you embroider.
Flexi hoops are made of plastic, with a solid inner ring and a flexible outer ring that you can easily slip in and out of the fabric.
The inner ring has a ridged edge that allows the outer ring to be held securely in place, and it also comes with a screw that you can use the fasten the two rings together securely.
The Flexi hoop has a clean design that can snap on and off, but some people don’t love working with it because it can be difficult to figure out the first few times.
However, thanks to the clean and neat design, plus the fact that most Flexi hoops are designed to look like wood, a lot of embroiderers actually use them to display their embroidery designs when they are finished, instead of using them while they embroider.
Q-snaps are square or rectangle plastic frames that come with four open plastic pieces that you can clasp on each side of the frame to secure the fabric.
To use Q-snaps, you can lay the fabric on top of the plastic frame and clasp the plastic pieces on each side of the frame to secure it. To adjust the tension, you can rotate the plastic clasps to pull the fabric outwards, and you’ll see a tighter tension in the fabric.
Q-snaps are less common in hand embroidery, and it’s not suitable for certain types of sensitive fabric because the clasp mechanism can easily damage the fabric. However, it’s still quite easy to use and is the preferred type of embroidery hoop for a lot of beginners.
Embroidery hoops come in 3 main materials: wood (or bamboo), plastic, or metal.
Wood / Bamboo
Embroidery hoops made from wood or bamboo usually need to be very high quality because any remaining splinters in the material can easily damage the fabric.
Since these materials are not very flexible, if you are not careful when working with them, you can easily crack the hoop.
Wooden or bamboo embroidery hoops usually have a screw tension mechanism and are often circular or oval hoops. Spring tension hoops also usually come with a wooden outer ring.
Wooden embroidery hoops can come in various sizes. They also come in varying width options, so you can choose the one that fits your hand best. The hoops’ width can accommodate different fabrics: the thicker the fabric, the thicker the width of the hoop needs to be.
Although plastic hoops are typically cheaper, they can be a good choice for beginner users. However, if the material is not strong or high quality enough, plastic hoops can bend and warp after some use.
A plastic hoop is usually designed with a grove on the outside of the inner ring that can lock into the outer hoop. This feature allows for a tight fit and prevents the hoops from getting loose during hand embroidery projects.
Plastic hoops are usually very easy to use and can be quite lightweight, which will also save you a lot of hand fatigue as well.
Although metal hoops used to be popular for hand embroidery, they are not as widely available as plastic or wooden hoops currently. Vintage embroidery hoops are usually metal hoops that can be quite heavy and difficult to hold.
Some hoop designs also come with metal parts; for example, spring tension hoops usually come with an inner metal ring, and screw tension hoops usually come with metal screws.
When you purchase these types of hoops, make sure to find a durable rust-proof material such as stainless steel. This way, the hoops won’t be damaged by rust, and they can be useful in your toolbox for longer.
The most common shape for embroidery hoops is round, and this is a common embroidery hoop shape for screw tension, spring tension, and Flexi hoops.
In addition, you can also find oval embroidery hoops, square hoops, and rectangular hoops. Oval embroidery hoops are usually seen with Flexi hoops, while square and rectangular embroidery hoops are often seen with Q-snaps.
The shape and size of the embroidery hoop that you use depend on the project that you have and the pattern that you are creating.
If the pattern is small enough, you should use a hoop that can comfortably cover the entire pattern, with about an inch border, so that stitching doesn’t become too uncomfortable near the edges.
However, if the pattern is too big, you should not try to use a massive hoop to cover the entire thing. You will need to hold and balance the hoop in one hand and create your stitches using the other hand, so if the hoop is too big, you will get tired quickly.
If you are using a smaller hoop compared to the pattern that you have, you can try to cover a small area at a time and move the hoop to another area of the fabric when you finish. Remember to leave some overlapping stitches so that the stitching will appear continuous and even.
Below are some common sizes that are available for round, oval, square, and rectangular embroidery hoops.
|Hoop Shape||Common Materials||Available Sizes|
|Round||Screw Tension, Spring Tension, Flexi Hoop||3” – 12” in diameter (76mm – 305mm)|
|Oval||Screw Tension, Flexi Hoop||2.6” x 3.4” (65mm x 87mm), 3.7” x 4.7” (94mm x 120mm), 4.9” x 6.3” (124mm x 159mm) 6” x 8.4” (152mm x 212mm) 7.3” x 10.4” (185mm x 264mm)|
|Square||Screw Tension, Flexi Hoop, Q-snaps||3” (75mm), 4.3” (110mm), 6.5” (165mm), 8.7” (220mm)|
|Rectangular||Screw Tension, Flexi Hoop, Q-snaps||5” x 3.5” (127mm x 89mm), 10” x 7” (254mm x 178mm), 13” x 9” (330mm x 228mm)|
How To Use An Embroidery Hoop Correctly
Although embroidery hoops are quite easy to use, believe it or not, there are still ways that you can mess it up. Your tension may be too tight or not tight enough, or you may pull too much that your fabric is permanently damaged.
When you use an embroidery hoop correctly, you will see that your fabric is held taut on all sides, which means the fabric should be firm when you touch it without springing back too much.
If the fabric is too tight, you will see that the fabric is held taut, but the weave might be stretched out. It should be tight enough for the fabric to still look flat (like after it is pressed) without stretching or distorting the fabric.
If the fabric is too loose, you may see that it will move quite a lot when you tap on it. This is not ideal for creating even stitches.
When the fabric is too loose, you will need to pull from the edge of the fabric to keep the center taut. Make sure to pull from all sides so that the fabric doesn’t just stretch in one direction.
Woven fabrics will stretch more diagonally compared to vertically and horizontally, so you’ll want the stretch to be even in all directions to prevent uneven stitches.
If you are using a screw tension hoop, you will need to tighten the screw enough so that the fabric doesn’t slip around in between the hoops. Similarly, if you want to tighten the spring tension hoop, you will need to stretch out the spring to add more tension when it is engaged.
Some embroiderers recommend wrapping all of your embroidery hoops in cotton twill tape. This practice is also known as binding your hoop. The cotton twill tape will add a bit more friction to allow the fabric to stay in place. Since the tape is cotton, it won’t damage sensitive fabrics.
Another tip for using embroidery hoops is that you should never leave your fabric inside the hoop overnight, even if you are still working on the design.
This is because an embroidery hoop can create creases on the fabric that will be difficult to remove, even with steaming or ironing. If you leave the embroidery hoop on for too long, the crease may become permanent, and you won’t be able to fix it.
You should always remove the fabric from the hoop when you want to leave the project. When you pick it up again, you can secure the fabric to the hoop again to avoid permanently creasing the fabric.
Here’s a handy tutorial for beginners from Lia Griffith on YouTube.
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