Why use a hoop or frame?
Hoops and frames are necessary for all types of stitching where the fabric needs to be kept taut, they give better tension and help to prevent distortion, especially in linen and evenweave fabrics which are softer than the aida fabrics.
Keeping the fabric taut also helps makes the finished stitching more even in appearance and using a hoop or frame reduces the amount of times the fabric is handled and crushed in the hand which can leave marks from sweat, dirt and creases. Hoops and frames also make stitching easier as the holes show up better and counting your stitches is easier. Hoops can be used in stands so that both hands can be free for sewing, which can be more comfortable for the stitcher. Magnifiers and lamps can be attached to hoops or frames to aid visibility.
Many stitchers use cotton tape to help prevent the fabric from slipping in the hoop or frame. Open the frame up and wrap the tape around the hoop or bar, making sure that each wrap overlaps half of the previous wrap. Sew the end down and place the fabric in as normal. To calculate how much tape is needed, multiply the diameter of your hoop by 30.
How do you find the right hoop or frame?
Size - select a hoop or frame that fits the size of your project and think about whether you want it to be portable or just for home.
How do you find the right hoop?
There are different types of hoops available, wooden, spring tension, and flexi hoops, they are called embroidery hoops but are used for all types of sewing including machine stitching.
Hoops have the advantage of being lightweight and portable, the disadvantage is that they can crease the fabric and if they are moved around the fabric they can squash stitches. You can remove the fabric from the hoop when you are finished each session but it is preferable to use a hoop large enough to hold the whole design to avoid unnecessary creases. Often dampening the fabric at the end and ironing on the wrong side using a cloth between the stitching and the iron can help.
Wooden Hoops – are popular, versatile and are available in many sizes. Some embroidery hoops are oval rather than the traditional round. Embroidery hoops consist of two rings, one smaller which fits inside the other and the outer ring has a screw for tightening. Quilting hoops are the same but thicker to allow more layers to be held.
Don't use a hoop that is too big for the fabric as it can be difficult to keep the fabric taut. If you have a problem with slipping fabric, bind the hoop with cotton tape to help. Choose a hoop that fits your project and/or your hand comfortably. Open up the hoop, fold your fabric into quarters to get the centre (you can mark the centre with a small loose stitch), position your hoop under the fabric and centralise, then put the outer hoop over the fabric push together and screw up the fastening using a screwdriver to keep the tension tight. The screw can sometimes be a problem when sewing as it can catch on the thread, to help with this used some material to cover it or keep the screw at the top of your stitching. If you are using a stand, place the screw under the grip of the stand.
Spring Tension Hoops - again made up of inner and outer rings but this time, the inner ring inner is a sprung metal hoop and the outer is plastic. These are tricky to use on aida but the tension is very good and many stitchers like them. Place the outer plastic frame under the fabric, squeeze the clips of the metal ring and place it onto the fabric gently pushing it into the underneath hoop, release the clips so that the fabric is trapped.
Flexi Hoops - these are a combination of a solid plastic inner ring and a flexi rubbery outer ring and are used in a similar way to the wooden embroidery hoops without the screw to worry about. Flexi Hoops can also be used as frames for mounting your finished work and are available in many colours. They are often used for small projects as the tension isn't very good.
Instead of using a hoop many stitchers prefer a frame, especially for larger projects. There are three types, Roller, Rotating and No Sew and they all come in various sizes. Again choose one that you are comfortable with that fits the project.
Roller Frames - sew the fabric to the frame using the attached tape strip, most stitchers sew the edges to it and roll up. REMEMBER you must find the centre of your fabric and mark the point before you sew it to the frame. Roll up the fabric until the centre point is in the middle (rolling evenly) all stitching should start in the middle to ensure that the finished piece is central, balanced and has a border round for lacing. Be careful if using a stand with these frames as the grip can mark the fabric, sometimes using a padding of cloth between the frame and the stand grip can help prevent marks and working from the centre and down before working up can prevent the top stitches being marked or squashed.
Rotating Frames - best for larger pieces of fabric, the frame must be wide enough for the fabric but height isn't an issue as the fabric is rolled up. Again stitch the fabric to the frame using the attached tape, fit the sidebars and roll the fabric into place. When buying a rotating frame make sure you buy one that isn't that much bigger than the fabric for ease of stitching.
No Sew – the same in principal as roller and rotating frames but the fabric is clipped to the roller bars using special plastic clips.
Information kindly written by Mrs Hazel Evans