When it comes to hand needlework, there’s a common question that always seems to arise: What sort of hoop should you use? Embroidery hoops come in a range of sizes and are available in wood, plastic or metal. Some hoops are round, square or oval, while others are large rectangles or scrolls. Hoops are a necessary tool for hand embroidery, so choosing the right hoop for your intended work is important for both personal comfort as you embroider as well as the quality of your finished stitches.
Here are a few tips and recommendations to help you choose the right hand embroidery hoop.
Embroidery hoops come in two pieces: the outer edge or framing piece with spring or screw hardware and a piece that fits inside of it. Round hoops, the most common shape hoop, range in size from 3 to 14-inches in diameter, but these size proportions are similar to other shape hoops.
The size of the hoop to use depends on the size of your project. The hoop should fit around your fabric with some overhang. The fabric should lay taut within the hoop. But it should not be so tight that it causes the fabric to pucker after your run the floss through the fabric.
It is best to choose a hoop that fits comfortably in one hand, while you stitch with the other. The hoop does not necessarily have to frame the embroidery pattern, it can be larger or smaller, but I recommend removing the hoop from the project when it is not being worked on, in order to avoid indenting the fabric with the hoop.
Material: wooden vs. plastic
Embroidery hoops made out of wood or bamboo have a smooth inner hoop. It is common for embroiderers to wrap the inner layer of the wooden hoop with twill tape in order to create a more snug fit for the fabric. Although, this is not a necessary step, it is the preference of the embroiderer whether or not they choose to wrap the inner hoop.
If you choose wooden hoops for your project, make sure to purchase a quality hoop. While I prefer using wooden embroidery hoops, it has happened, on occasion, that the inside hoop cracked while I was stitching.
Plastic embroidery hoops often have a groove or lip on the inside where the inner hoop locks into the outer hoop, in addition to having the screw hardware to tighten the hoops together. This makes for a snug fit and allows the fabric to be held taut for hand embroidery projects.
Metal embroidery hoops are not as commonly available as wooden or plastic hoops. I frequently encounter metal embroidery hoops as vintage items and have yet to see one at the local fabric or craft store.
While it is more common to find round hoops at fabric and craft stores, there are also square and oval shaped embroidery hoops. As with embroidery hoop size, the shape depends on the embroidery project.
I have only recently seen a rise in use of scroll and Tambour embroidery frames among my embroidery friends and colleagues. The scroll frames work much like the name sounds: The fabric is wrapped around two wooden dowels and stretched a bit to make the fabric taut. Tambour embroidery frames clamp the four edges of the fabric keeping it taut.
Embroidery hoops vs. quilting hoops
There are some hoops used for hand quilting that I have seen embroiderers use for needlework projects. Quilting hoops are larger than embroidery hoops and can support thicker fabrics.
A square hoop or Q-Snap frame, often used for hand quilting, is made out of PVC and has outer clips that fit snuggly around each of the four edges of the project, leaving the corners exposed. It works just as well for hand quilting as it does for embroidery.
While there are quite a few options to choose from when it comes to embroidery hoops, it all depends on what you feel most comfortable with.
Try a few out and see which one you like best!