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To hoop or not to hoop?

7 November, 2018

Embroidery Tips

Well, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t… Using an embroidery hoop has advantages and disadvantages as far as I’m concerned. Hoops can be awkward to get used to for some people, they can leave a mark (oh my!) on your fabric, and you will want to have a variety of sizes that will work for a variety of pieces. And, odds are, the very size you need is either one you don’t have on hand, or is already in use…

But using a hoop can be super helpful in giving you some structure as you work a piece; it makes your piece really feel like a ‘thing’ as in a way, its already in a frame! And in reality there are some stitches that are almost impossible to pull off without that flat, tautly held fabric platform. Stitches like French (and other flavours) knots, couching, beading – anywhere that you feel you maybe need to have three hands…

And about that marking issue. I have always read in embroidery instruction books that you shouldn’t leave the fabric in the hoop when you are not working on it. Sometimes it’s fine to take it all apart and re-do the stretching process when you’re ready to pick it up again, but that can also be a pain.

Most of the time though, I really like the fabric-y feel of just stitching on the textile, all loosey-goosey.

Most of the pieces I work on will remain stretched in the hoop for it to act as a frame, so it isn’t an issue. But if you have a fabric piece you plan to incorporate into something else such as an item of clothing or a cushion cover for example, that might be the time to consider removing your work from the hoop in between stitching sessions. That’s particularly important with any fabric with pile like velvet, or delicate fabric such as silk.

Most of the time though, I really like the fabric-y feel of just stitching on the textile, all loosey-goosey. I do tend to attach my piece to a very lightweight base fabric, just to give it a bit more body as I’m stitching. It’s a quick basting job to get set up and worth that little bit of extra effort.

One key difference using a hoop or not is the way you attack the stitching. Using a hoop, you will hold your needle almost vertical to the surface and take one stitch at a time—one downward motion, then up to the surface.

With the fabric loose, you can take a series of stitches in a row, and I find this helps me stay on the straight better. The needle itself almost acts like a straight-edge to guide the way.

But try for yourself. One of the wonderful things about stitching is that there are countless ways to do things and no one is gonna tell you yours is wrong! The best approach is what feels comfortable for you and gives you not only the effect you want, but some joy.

 The Magpie Collective blog will serve to inspire readers to engage with their own creativity, support their interest in design and stitchery and provide a framework of tips, simple techniques and encouragement.

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