The Embroidery Hoop Talk: The Who is Who of Hoops
Let’s kick off this new series with an inventory of the different kinds of embroidery hoops out there. When I first started embroidering little did I know about the many options! In my mind, wooden embroidery hoops were the only ones existing because that was literally the case.
I had never seen another form of embroidery hoop before. Of course, I soon found out there was more than one way to get my embroidery in the right tension, but upon researching for this article I was astonished HOW many different kinds of hoops there are.
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Let’s take a look at the ones I picked out for you
This is the most common embroidery hoop. It’s easy to find at craft supply shops and vintage, too. There is a good chance your family owns one somewhere in the attic or a hidden sewing box.
Wooden hoops are made from two wooden rings that are held together by a screw on the outer ring. For many hoops, the screw can be tightened with a screwdriver, but you can use your hands only, too. There are plastic hoops with this same system, too. You can use them exactly the same as the wooden ones.
Pros & Cons
The huge advantage of wooden hoops is the huge variety of sizes they come in. From 3 to 23 inches these hoops have everything in the size you’ll probably need. The usual shape is round, but for elongated/wide motifs oval-shaped hoops might be the better choice. You can find the larger sizes as quilter’s hoops.
Wooden hoops are easy to use and you can adjust the tension afterward. There are very bad wooden hoops that can’t hold the tension well. Please get a good one and save yourself the struggle – here is the article about detecting quality hoops.
Wooden hoops can be too slippery or splinter (only the bad hoops do that). In this case, wrap both rings with strips of fabric or cotton ribbon for more grip and buffer for the embroidery fabric.
Shop for wooden embroidery hoops here:
Pack of 3 or 5 – 11inch embroidery hoops on Etsy (shipped from the US)
Elbesee high-quality hoops on Etsy (multiple sizes, shipped from the UK)
3inch Wooden embroidery hoops on Etsy (more sizes available, shipped from the UK)
Beechwood embroidery hoops on Etsy (multiple sizes, shipped from Austria)
See the full list of online shops (besides Etsy) with a large variety of embroidery hoops and frames here.
The photo is used with permission by Danielle over at the story piece blog.
Spring hoops are often used for machine embroidery as they are very flat and quickly set up. The outer ring is made of a plastic tube. The inner ring is made from metal with two handles. The inner ring pushes the fabric into the outer ring to hold it tight. This creates a drum tight tension to your fabric if done right.
Pros & Cons
It can be a bit tricky at first to get the metal ring in properly and achieve an even tension of the fabric. Also the spot where the metal handles create a gap the tension of the fabric will be off.
I have not yet tried spring tension hoops personally as I have not yet got my fingers on one over here in Europe yet. So I can’t tell from my own experience how good they are for hand embroidery and which way to use them best. Luckily Fiona from TangleWildDesigns made a great video that shows you how to use a spring hoop properly.
Where to find spring tension hoops?
set of 2 spring tension hoops (5″ & 7″) on Etsy (shipped from the UK)
Flexi hoops are made of a plastic inner ring and an outer ring made from plastic/rubber material. It holds tension really well and can be used for framing, too! They come in various colors and there are some that mimic a wooden texture (I like those best).
Pros & Cons
I personally find flexi hoops quite hard to work with. Getting the rubber ring in and out is not easy – as in: you’ll need some muscle to do that! The rubber ring also puts a lot of pressure on the fabric and might squish your stitches. I recommend using flexi hoops if your motif fits in the hoop entirely. Switching place with this hoop might cause too much distress to the fabric and your hands.
I would take out the fabric when you are not working on it unless you want to frame it in there. In this case the marks made on your fabric will not matter.
Flexi hoops can look really cute when used as a frame. Some flexi hoops have a beautiful loop attached for hanging it on the wall. The oval shaped hoops have the loop to make a vertical oval – and some have wholes to hang vertically or horizontally. I have used the white and wooden-like ones and the “wooden” ones had two holes, while the white were for oblong ovals only.
You can drill in a hole to use it as a horizontally orientated one though if your hoop has it in the wrong place.
Shop for flexi hoops here
A selection of oval and round flexi hoops on Cloudcraft (shipping from the UK)
The mini hoop is a fairly new product and it has taken the embroidery world by storm. These hoops are great for very tiny embroideries especially for jewelry to stitch and display. Invented 4 years ago by Sonia of Dandelyne and produced in Australia, using the mini hoop is a great way to not only display your miniature endeavors but also support a tiny business!
There are other company with mini hoops now, but I like the Dandelyne hoops the best because they are not as clunky. The closure is very small and has a good ratio to the size of the hoop. Especially if you want to use a mini hoop for jewelry I find a more decent and thinner hoop presents the embroidery better. After all it’s not about the hoop, but that which it is holding tight.
Pros & Cons
Since the mini hoop is really tiny, you can’t put in very thick fabrics but it works great for the usual embroidery fabrics! It’s also for framing only. The back is solid, so it is difficult to actually stitch in it.
Sonia, the creator of the Dandelyne mini hoop has made an awesome video on how to use the mini hoop and is showing a lot of creations the many fans of the Dandelyne hoop on her instagram.
One of the more exotic hoops are the embroidery hoop frames by Easy Street. The system used for these is quite unique and they come in various sizes, shapes and colors – which is the most exciting part! These hoops are available as squares, rectangles and hexagons.
The hoop frames consist of a top and bottom “ring”. You position your fabric on the bottom ring and push the top on it. It is very easy to get a drum tight tension and holds it very well.
Pros & Cons
Like with flexi hoops it requires some muscle to get the fabric out again, so I recommend using this for a whole motif where you don’t have to move the frame around multiple times.
You might wonder why it’s called hoop frame? The hoop is designed to work as a frame afterwards. Put in a second layer of fabric to work as backing and cut off the excess fabric on the sides and there you go!
The Sweet Suspensions Series comes with even more shapes like circles, ovals, hearts and bells – they are not for stitching though, just for framing.
I have used the hoop frame for some projects and like how well they hold the tension! They are also easy to hold in your hands and it’s really rare to find a hoop in another shape than a circle.
Square embroidery frames
Embroidery frames come in various sizes and constructions. The q-snap frame is a common one. Adjustable in size and easy to use. There are other frame constructions likes stretcher bars and scroll frames. You can find a huge selection of those at the Nordic Needle.
French Embroidery Hoop
This version from French General is a metal hoop that consists of an inner ring and a spiral as the outer ring. The spiral holds the fabric in place. Looks great and adds variation to a wall of embroidery hoop art!
Kircum – Hoops with ears
Wooden embroidery frames with animal ears. Yes, you heard that correctly! Flo Corretti designed these incredibly cute animal hoops and collaborated with DMC to make them available worldwide. You can get them at selected Online Shops like Cloudcraft or on Etsy.
They are made for framing purposes not so much for embroidering in them.
There is more
In the short time since I have assembled all the information you see above, I have discovered various other forms of embroidery hoops. The deeper I dig, the more original hoop variations come to the surface. It leaves me with the feeling there is no way to showcase them all without causing confusion and overwhelm for you – that is certainly not what I want to accomplish with this article! That is why I decide to go with this list and leave it as is.
I’m often trying to make a “complete” list or in other words “perfect” list, but truth is things change and the once so complete and perfect list will be out of date at some point, too. So instead I will do another post some time in the future with more specialty hoops and frames!
There are many different, tiny and big manufacturers with new ideas of how to hold a fabric tight for embroidery. This list is an overview of the hoops I am using myself and/or are very commonly used paired with some speciality hoops.
I have found lots of vintage hoops, especially metal ones, that look great! The thing is it’s hard to get your hand on these and there is a little bit of luck involved. It is interesting to look at the unusual solutions each country has come up with for embroidery hoops in the past!
If you have an usual embroidery hoop to show tag it with #embhooptalk on Instagram so we all can see and share it!