Beginner’s Guide To Embroidery (Episode 5): Hooping

October 20, 2023
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Embroidery is a lot of fun, but if you're new to it, there is also a lot to learn. I will make it easier for you! This is the 5th video in our Beginner's Guide to Embroidery mini series. You will learn all the basics to help you feel confident and ready to embroider. Today's topic is hooping!

What is Hooping?

Hooping is preparing your fabric for embroidery. You do this by using frames or hoops.

The hoop has an outer ring (left) and an inner ring (right).

You secure the fabric between the two so that the embroidery machine will be able to stitch on the fabric.

When you hoop your fabric, it is very important that it is taut, but not stretched. You may hear instructions to lay down your stabilizer, lay down your fabric, put the inner ring on, and then pull the fabric until it is really tight. By doing this, the fabric may look right, but I will tell you why it's not.

Below I have a picture where I drew chalk lines on a knit fabric. When you pull on the fabric, even if you don't realize it, it causes waves.

The fabric on the left is hooped correctly. The fabric on the right is not.

If you stitched out your design, it would be all wonky and weird.

To properly hoop your fabric, you want to:

  • Lay the outer ring on a flat surface.
  • Place your stabilizer. You want your stabilizer to be slightly larger than the hoop.
  • Place your fabric on the stabilizer. This, too, you want larger than the hoop, if possible. (I will be showing you another method for when this is not possible.)
  • Smooth out your fabric.
  • Place on the inner ring.
  • Start from the top, carefully pushing on the inner ring. Work your way down to the screw.
  • If it is too loose or too tight, adjust the screw. The correct tension is acheived when it is taut, but not too tight. You will want to start over since you had to adjust the screw.
  • You want to acheive almost a drum effect when you tap on it.

Hooping Woven Fabric with Tear-Away Stabilize

I find that woven fabric is much easier to hoop than knits. When taking the steps mentioned above, you can get really nice results. When using a woven fabric, it is best to use a tear-away stabilizer.

Hooping Knit Fabric with Cut-Away Stabilizer

As mentioned, I find hooping knits to be more difficult. Normally, it takes several attempts for me to get it right. When embroidering knits, it is good to use a cut-away stabilizer. Tear-Away stabilizer can distort the stitches when you tear off the stabilizer. Sometimes, you will come across a situation where the cut-way stabilizer didn't produce the results that you wanted. That's okay. It's fine to experiment and see what works well for the fabric you are using. I have had to use a stabilizer with an adhesive in order to produce the results I was looking for. Even though it was a knit and I should have been able to use a cut-away stabilizer, the knit was so light that it was still puckering. When I used the sticky stabilizer, I got really nice results. Always test on similar fabric prior to doing your actual stitch out, so you can see if you need to make any adjustments. Don't feel bad if you don't get in on the first try, or the second, or the third. It takes time and practice, but you'll get it.

Oftentimes, hooping takes longer than actually embroidering-even for the experienced embroiderer.

What's a Topper?

If you have a really fluffy or plush fabric, like a towel, your stitches can look really messy because the stitches get pulled into the fabric. To alleviate this, you can use a water-soluble stabilizer as a foundation for your stitches. This is known as a Topper.

I love this method. You get awesome results. First, lay your stabilizer, and then place your towel. Now, instead of placing the inner ring on, you are going to first lay a piece of water-soluble stabilizer. Now you can put the inner ring on. You're ready to stitch your design. See how the stitches remain on the top and they don't get pulled in.

Next, remove your stabilizer from the back and then remove as much of the water-soluble stabilizer as you can. Any excess stabilizer will disappear when you apply water! How cool is that! It's a little sticky; however, once you wash your towel, the stabilizer is all gone!

Sometimes, an item you want to embroider is just too thick to put in the hoop. All is not lost. You can do what's called floating.

Let's Float

So what is floating? Floating is a technique embroiderers use when their item is unhoopable. That's a fun word. Unhoopable! Okay- I'm back! You only hoop your stabilizer. Then you attach your item to the stabilizer. You can attach it in several different ways.

I love using a sticky stabilizer. Think of it as a sticker. After you hoop the stabilizer, you lightly score the top and then tear off the top of the "sticker."

Then you simply place your fabric on the sticker. Ta-Da!

You can also use an adhesive spray. When using an adhesive spray, make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area. Also, spray from about 6 inches away. I like to place my hoop in a large box and spray in there; otherwise, you will have overspray. It works really well. It can just be a little messy.

If you don't have either of those, you can always pin or baste the fabric onto the stabilizer.


These are just a few ways to hoop your fabric. You will find that you will always be learning and trying new things! Keep trying. Keep practicing. Most of all, have fun embroidering.

Until next time.

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