Hooping is an integral part of the embroidery process. Through this technique, embroiderers can achieve the optimal tension on the fabric and create excellent work. Nevertheless, despite the irrefutable importance of the hoop, several embroiderers would like to discard it entirely or discover and replace it with some other tools for several reasons. For them, the vital question is, Can you embroider without a hoop?
Yes, you can. As convenient as the hoop is, there are many other possible ways of embroidering without a hoop. Some of these tools you could use include stretcher bars, slate frames, or scroll frames, or you could do some good, old high-fashioned hand embroidery without it.
This article will comprehensively explore the many options available for embroiderers who prefer not to use the hoop, how to get excellent results, and how the people who use a hoop can choose and use it in the most efficient way.
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How To Embroider Without A Hoop
If you need to ditch the hoop while embroidering for any reason, there are several other methods you can use to maintain a good tension level on your fabric while embroidering. Some of the primary methods you can use to embroider without a hoop.
- Using a frame
- Using your hands
- Apply interfacing
1. Using a Frame
A frame is usually made from wood, where the fabric is stretched or pinned to keep it taut. Frames are an excellent option when doing counted cross stitch, needlepoint, and counted and pulled thread.
They are usually held on a stand or propped up during the stitching process. There are several types of embroidery frames, including scroll frames, stretcher bars, and slate frames.
Stretcher bars work in pairs with a toothed bar at each end of a bar. These teeth allow you to slot the bars together and build a frame of the size you choose. After building the frame, you then tack the fabric onto it using thumbtacks. The choice of stretcher bar will depend on the size of the project you are undertaking.
The standard rule is to purchase a stretcher-bar up to 2 inches smaller than your material. However, you can also choose to build a frame with similar dimensions to the fabric size. When using a stretcher bar, a great way to maintain the tension is to use enough thumbtacks. The more you use, the greater and longer-lasting tension you will achieve.
It is also important to note that you can mount the fabric on a stretcher-bar in any direction. For example, you could do it just as with an embroidery hoop with the top of the fabric on top, or you could reverse this and have the top of the fabric inside the frame; a method that could help keep the surface cleaner and prevent tangled thread on the frame edges.
Advantages of using a stretcher-bar.
Some of the advantages of using a stretcher bar include:
- They maintain good tension through the embroidery process.
- They are affordable.
- You can easily accommodate a stretcher bar on the various table and floor stands.
The biggest problem with the stretcher bar is that after the fabric is attached, you cannot adjust the tension without removing the thumbtacks and re-stretching the fabric, apart from some select frames.
Scroll frames have three essential parts: the scroll rods, the tightening knobs, and the extender bars. The extender bars are what determine the amount of fabric you can work on at a time. They do not attach to the fabric, and you can find them in different sizes. As their name suggests, you can use the tightening knobs to tighten the scroll bars.
Be careful when purchasing the knobs to ensure that they are compatible with your frame.
Advantages of using a scroll frame.
Some of the advantages of using a scroll frame include:
- You can work on a large variety of different-sized projects as long as they fit into the frames’ width.
- Scroll frames are easy to set up and readily available.
The main problems with scroll frames are that they seldom keep good tension sideways through the entire fabric without lacing, and they are not adjustable from bottom to top.
Slate frames work like scroll frames. Some of the differences include the top to bottom stretch available in slate frames and lacing the fabric sides. In addition, they are made of two bar types: slats and roller bars. The slats, which are the sidebars, fit into the roller bars at the top and bottom of the frame.
Thus, the fabric tension can be adjusted both vertically and horizontally. Horizontally, by tightening the lacings that hold the fabric to the slats and vertically using the holes in the bars.
Advantages of using slate frames.
The pros of using slate frames include:
- Slate frames leave you hands-free, allowing you to do two-handed stitching.
- They can maintain great tension, which you can easily adjust across the fabric as you see fit.
- These frames accommodate different-sized pieces.
The disadvantages of slate frames are their bulk that makes them need support when set up, the long dressing times, and the difficulty in acquiring them.
2. Using Your Hands
As improbable as it may sound, many embroiderers use their hands to maintain tension in the fabric as they sew. They do this by stretching the fabric between the thumb and the forefinger.
To get the best results when doing this by hand, first mark your fabric to locate the spot where you will embroider, stretch the fabric and then start stitching. After you finish stitching, you can gently steam the back of the fabric to get rid of ant fabric tightness on the stitched area.
This method is not an excellent idea for large projects, but it can work on more minor works. The tension achieved in the fabric is also lower than when using other methods.
3. Applying Interfacing
Interfacing is an extra layer that you apply to the inside of the fabric to provide additional structure and support. Applying a layer of interfacing to your fabric increases its weight and thickness, allowing it to hold embroidery stitches without distortion better, especially if you are not using a hoop.
There are two major types of interfacings: sew-in and fusible, as well as three significant weaves; woven, knit, and non-woven.
Fusible vs. Sew-in interfacing.
Fusible interfacing is the easiest and most convenient to use. It usually has adhesive on at least one side, and sometimes both, you can quickly see. This adhesive adheres permanently to the fabric after it you apply heat using an iron.
It is an excellent option for most fabrics, though it will not work on heat-sensitive fabrics, fabrics with a loose weave, and napped or very textured fabrics. When applying fusible interfacing to your fabric, it is wise to use a press cloth as you apply it.
A press cloth protects the fabric from excessive heat and prevents any adhesive from getting onto the iron plate. Also, do a dry-run with the interfacing on a scrap fabric piece, see if it works, and how best to attach it.
The sew-in interfacing is a bit harder to work with than the fusible one. However, it is a good option for the fabrics mentioned above, for which fusible interfacing will not work. This interfacing is attached to the fabric by sewing it on as you would do with any other fabric.
The stitches are what hold the interfacing to the fabric. This type of interfacing is not the best option for a beginner, as sewing it on badly will affect the finish of the garment. Unless you are very confident that you can handle and attach it perfectly, it is wise to stick to the fusible interfacing.
Woven, Knit, and Non-woven Interfacing.
Woven interfacing has a length and crosswise grain, and you can, therefore, not cut in any direction. Therefore, you will need to cut it so that its grain matches the fabric grain where you will do the attachment. This need for alignment makes woven interfacing a less economical option.
Non-woven interfacing, on the other hand, has no gran, and you can cut it in any direction. As a result, it works for most fabrics and does not unravel quickly.
Knit interfacing has an amount of stretch as it is made from knitting fibers together. These features make it an excellent option for when you are embroidering knit fabrics and jerseys.
When choosing the interface for your embroidery project, there are several features you should consider to help make the right choice. These include:
- The weight of the interfacing- the interfacing should have the same or less weight than the fabric it is being applied to. Heavier interfacing will take over the fabric and add an unnatural structure to it. Use medium-weight interfacing for medium-weight fabrics and lightweight interfacing with lightweight fabrics.
- The color – interfacings are usually found only in a light and dark shade. Match this shade to the fabric. Use dark interfacings on dark fabrics and vice-versa.
Watch the video below on how to embroider without a hoop
Why Do People Embroider Without a Hoop?
There are several scenarios and reasons why embroiderers may prefer not to use a hoop sometimes. These include:
1. Embroidering a Small Area
If the area being embroidered is too small, you may not find a hoop size appropriate for the fabric. In any case, n such small areas, one may achieve enough tension using the thumb and forefinger.
2. To Avoid Damaging the Project
If you end up with a wrongly sized hoop that needs constant adjustment, you will likely cause some damage to the fabric and the embroidery design.
3. An Uneven Fabric Surface
A fabric with an uneven surface such as that on a pair of jeans could prevent or make it very hard for the fabric to get fitted into a hoop.
How to Put a Fabric On Your Hoop for Machine Embroidery
Hooping your sewing machine wrongly could negate most of the advantages that come with machine embroidery. If done wrongly, some of the mistakes that could cause include misaligning the design, fabric puckering, thread issues, and issues with registering the design.
The hoop on a home embroidery machine has two main parts: the inside and outside hoop frames. The two pieces are easily distinguishable from each other, and the distinct bottom and up allows you to know which side of the hoop goes up. The bottom frame also has a bracket to attach to the embroidery machine and a tension screw.
When hooping a fabric on your sewing machine, the main goal is to make sure that you orient all the layers correctly and that the fabric fits in the hoop with the perfect tension and with no wrinkles or puckers.
The following are steps you can follow to hoop the fabric in your embroidery machine efficiently.
Step 1: Choose the hoop size.
It is good to choose the smallest hoop size possible as this will provide the fabric with more support and even save on stabilizer. However, remember that the hoop size should be slightly larger than the embroidery area to leave adequate space.
Step 2: Mark the fabric
After preparing your fabric for embroidery, you then need to mark the precise spot where the embroidery will go. You can use chalk or even a soluble marker pen. Placing the design will ensure that when you hoop your fabric, it will be perfectly centered. If you can’t draw the entire design, use simple lines to mark the general area.
Step 3: Prepare the hoop.
You will then separate the inner and outer rings of the hoop. Next, place the bottom ring on a clean and dry surface. Finally, make sure that you place the hoop correctly with the top side up and the bottom side down.
Step 4: Hoop the fabric
After laying out the hoop, you can then place the stabilizer on the bottom ring, followed by the fabric to which it will attach. If you cannot center the fabric and stabilizer properly, you can first fuse the stabilizer to the fabric and then lay the reinforced fabric on the bottom ring.
Ensure that the fabric and stabilizer extend beyond the hoop ring on all sides. You can then carefully place the top ring of your hoop and push it into the bottom ring to pop the fabric in place.
Ensure that you align your fabric’s marked center with the inner hoop’s center for the best results. You can then test the tension on the fabric and adjust accordingly.
Common Machine Hooping Mistakes
Machine hooping presents a problem to both novice and professional sewers. These issues arise because of the challenge in simultaneously handling multiple layers of fabric and stabilizer and keeping the precisely aligned, wrinkle-free, and under tension.
Below are some of the pitfalls you may face when hooping your embroidery machine.
1. Hooping too tightly
You can easily overtighten the hoop by aggressively turning the knob to tighten it. All it usually takes to tighten the hoop adequately is a couple of finger turns. However, taking a screwdriver to the knob and turning it to the max will result in overtightening, which will lead to fabric burn and waste a lot of time.
2. Hooping too loosely
Apart from overtightening, you may not tighten the screw enough, thus providing inadequate tension to the fabric. The insufficient tension may cause distortion and puckering of the fabric.
3. Using the wrong hoop size
Use a hoop whose size is close to that of the embroidery design you are working on. We also recommend using the most miniature hoop possible. Not only does it improve accuracy, but it also saves on the stabilizer and provides more support to the fabric.
4. Pulling the fabric
This mistake can happen when you try to adjust the fabric by pulling it after being hooped. While making minor adjustments before tightening the hoop is no real problem, you may invite some trouble after tightening the hoop. You may cause the fabric to develop some stretch that will remain even after the hoop is removed.
Do You Need a Hoop for Needlepoint?
No, you can do needlepoint without a hoop. Needlepoint is one type of counted thread embroidery where the thread is stitched through an open weave, stiff canvas. Most needlepoint relies on simple stitches and color changes to create the design.
While you can sew smaller needlepoint projects on your lap, frames are excellent at keeping the craft area stable to allow much better results. The canvas in needlepoint also needs to be kept taut as you work. Most needlepoint canvas is usually stretched on a scroll frame- which we have discussed above.
While petit-point is usually done on an embroidery hoop, there are reasons why needlepoint is done with a frame and not a hoop. First, using an embroidery hoop will require any sewer to use wide margins. Since canvas is relatively canvas, this excess makes it an uneconomical choice. Second, moving a hoop might crush the tent stitches you used to create the needlepoint, making it unsightly.
Some of the advantages of using a frame when doing needlepoint include:
- The frame leaves both your hands-free, which allows you to do some two-handed stitching.
- You do not need to handle canvas on a frame as much; hence there will be a minimal tear on the yarn, giving the project some durability.
Are Plastic Embroidery Hoops Good?
Yes, plastic embroidery hoops are good, and the right one can work excellently for you. Though plastic hoops are not the conventional standard, they are quickly gaining popularity for their outstanding performance.
Plastic embroidery hoops typically feature a groove that will lock the flaming hoop to the inner hoop. You can then use the screws to adjust the tension until it is at the strength you require.
These hoops give the fabric an excellent tight and snug fit that keeps the fabric at optimal tension until you finish embroidering. However, it all boils down to your choice. Some people may find that plastic hoops do not work for them as well as wooden ones.
How Long Does It Take to Embroider a Hoop?
The amount of time you take to finish an embroidery piece will depend on many factors, such as the embroidery technique and the size of the project. Hand embroidery will take a much longer time compared to machine embroidery.
The complexity of the design you are creating also plays a role. Whether by hand or machine, it will take you much longer to do complex designs with intricate and detailed parts than it will take you to do simpler designs.
Are Bamboo or Plastic Embroidery Hoops Better?
Despite wood being the standard material for embroidery hoops, other materials work for a hoop. Two of these materials are bamboo and plastic.
Bamboo hoops share some similarities with wooden embroidery hoops, one of which is the smooth interior. However, the smooth interior can be a disadvantage as it can prevent the fabric from having a snug fit. Most embroiderers overcome this by wrapping the inner hoop layer using twill tape to create a surface for a snugger fabric fit.
Another problem that may arise from using bamboo hoops is the splintering and splitting of the bamboo. On the other hand, bamboo also has several advantages. It is more sustainable than wood and greener than plastic. Bamboo is also easier to stain, thus making things much tricky.
Plastic hoops are also an excellent option. As mentioned above, plastic hoops have a groove inside where the inner ring will lock into the outer hoop and allow the fabrics to fit together snugly. Therefore, the fabric is held taut throughout the embroidery process.
There have been some complaints about plastic hoops losing tension as you sew, though they are unsubstantiated.
What it comes down to is a personal preference. Try using both to find out which of the two you are most comfortable with. Remember that you can also try wooden hoops and metal hoops.
Though metal hoops have not been popular for a long time now, they still get the job done. You can also own them as a cute antique piece.
While embroidering without a hoop may face its unique problems, it can also produce high results seen in hoop embroideries if done well. It also offers the opportunity and excitement of learning about new techniques and using them. Still, the main question remains,
Can You Embroider Without a Hoop?
Yes, you definitely can. You can use several techniques and tools to embroider without a hoop while expecting the same appearance level.
We appreciate you reading to the end of this article and hope that it has addressed any queries on this topic. Kindly share any questions, suggestions, or comments you have in the comment section below.