Embroidery hoops in any form recently are THE tool for everything according to my Pinterest feed and many websites I frequently visit. Usage covers framing, towel holders, bag closures and whatnot. It’s great to see this versatile thing which impersonated the oldfashioned housewife somehow for a long while receiving modern attention. There are some examples below in this post!
All the embroidery hoops I have are either vintage GDR hoops or those I bought at a local store. All of these hoops are of very good quality and mostly manufactured in Germany. When sadly my local store shut down last month I was looking for a new source and looked over at ebay. I never would have thought that there would be THIS badly made embroidery hoops out there, because I never saw some in my life. Now I did.
I bought a bunch of embroidery hoops declared as 2.choice for a steal. I knew if these would turn out not good enough for embroidering the price would not hurt and I would find other ways to use them. These were REALLY bad, but at least I knew this could happen. Then I got another bunch of hoops for double the price – not much better. So I looked to DMC embroidery hoops and it’s really hard to get these over here in Germany (most search results where my own shops). I had 18cm/7inch DMC hoops in my shops until the end of 2013.
So, now you have the advantage to learn out of my failure in buying a proper embroidery hoop and spare you a lot of money! Here are the things you should pay attention to when buying an embroidery hoop whether in person or via pictures (aka catalogues or the internet):
1. The closure
You can spot a bad embroidery hoop by the closure quite quickly. A good closure looks sturdy and closes tightly.
Here is a comparison shot between a good (brass) and a bad (silver) embroidery hoop closure. The good one has a sturdy and quite thick metal base with rounded edges. The screw is fixated on the right and pulls the hoop together through the thread in the left part of the base. The silver closure has very thin metal parts which are likely to bend over time and make it impossible to regulate the tension properly then. The part on the left looking like a nut (the metal “nut”) is attached to the base to pull the hoop together. I had one hoop of the same kind where this nut wasn’t attached to the base anymore and therefore it was impossible to tighten the screw. This makes the embroidery hoop completely useless unless you are willing to tighten your hoop with 2 pliers every time.
2. The wood
The material of the embroidery hoop is very important. I found most low quality hoops are made out of bamboo or balsa wood and the good ones out of hardwood (e.g. beechwood). If a company decides to use the more expensive hardwood, it’s more likely they pay attention to the quality of the embroidery hoop overall. It would not make any sense for a manufacturer to buy expensive material for a 1$ product, right? I’m not saying there are no good bamboo or balsa wood hoops out there, I just never saw one. The surface of the hoop should be smoothly polished, no splintering especially not on the inside where both rings meet and where also your precious textiles will be sitting in.
3. The fit
Below is an example of the extreme – a huge gap between the inner and outer ring. Remember: The hoop is there to hold consistent tension for your fabric. If there is a gap, there is no chance to get the tension right at this spot. The perfect fitting of the outer and inner ring is the most important thing to look for because you can’t fix this afterward.
After these shocking news on bad hoops here is a save spot: Look out for hardwood hoops and take a close look at the closure (these are often shown on product photography, sometimes only small). Beechwood is a little bit reddish in comparison to other hardwoods, bamboo is yellowish and has a distinct grain.
I prefer DMC hoops and Hardwicke Manor Hoops. They have the same closure and finishing, I think they are both the same (but I don’t know for sure!). Both are easily available in the US.
So now you probably have some embroidery hoops that are not perfect and don’t know what to do with? Remember the bad hoops are just bad for embroidering itself. Cheap hoops are great to do crafty things with them – I would not use my quality hoops for these! If your hoop is splintering, take out fine sanding paper and rubb these nasty needles off before they get in your fingers. Paint/spray them and use as colorfull hoop frame. There are also people who wrap their hoops in masking tape (this would spare you the sanding of a splintery hoop).
I created a Pinterest board with a lot of hoop craft inspiration. There are some gems in there:
I have written another article about embroidery hoops. Get more information on how to find the perfect size of embroidery hoops for your hands here.