Guide To Embroidery Hoops and How to Use Them

So you’re ready to start embroidering…you walk into the craft store to pick up some supplies and there are SO many embroidery hoops to choose from. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Well, this post will go over many of the most popular types of embroidery hoops and some handy tips on how to use them!

This post is part of a series of posts all about hand embroidery supplies.

Why Use an Embroidery Hoop? Do I Need to Use One?

The first thing I wanted to go over the benefits of using an embroidery hoop. They are not always required to embroider. There are some cases where you may not be able to or don’t want to use a one. This article goes over some reasons and circumstances in which you may not want to! However, if it is your very first time embroidering and you don’t have a specific reason not to use one, I do find it to be way easier and I tend to get better results working with one. I recommend trying with and without one on your next embroidery project to figure out what your personal preference is.

Reasons To Use One

  1. Embroidery hoops stretch the fabric tight and can help preserve the structure and weave of the embroidery fabric, which in turn will help keep your stitches neat.
  2. Fabric naturally gathers under tension, but keeping it tight in a hoop will prevent your stitches from creating wrinkles and puckering the fabric. You’ll have a smoother piece of fabric when you’re done!
  3. They prevent hand fatigue. Instead of stabilizing the fabric with your hand as you’re stitching, the hoop does it for you.
  4. You can use a hoop stand to hold the hoop so your hands are completely free.

How To Use an Embroidery Hoop

Most embroidery hoops are used in the same basic way, so the photos below show how to put fabric in a wood embroidery hoop.

how to use an embroidery hoop
  1. Loosen the screw on the top of the hoop.
  2. Separate the inner and outer rings of the embroidery hoop.
  3. Place the inner ring on a flat surface.
  4. Place the fabric over top of the inner ring.
  5. Place the outer hoop over top of the fabric and inner hoop.
  6. Tighten the hoop screw and pull fabric evenly through the hoop until it feels tight like a drum. You may want to trim some of the excess fabric around the hoop but make sure to leave a few inches.

There technically isn’t a “right side” of an embroidery hoop, but most people find it easiest to use side with the outer ring exposed.

For video instruction, check out this video that shows you 3 different types of embroidery hoops and how to use them.

Everything You Need To Learn Embroidery In One Place

Any new skill can leave you feeling overwhelmed with where to start and let’s face it: your time is limited.

I created this guide with you in mind!

It has everything in it that you need to know to get started stitching. Comes with tips, material recommendations, and 6 fun projects that will build your confidence and allow you to not just learn the art of embroidery but have something to show for it!

Types of Embroidery Hoops

There are so many kinds of hoops to choose from that are made of many different materials. I will be going over some of the more popular ones so you can choose which one you’d like to use.

wooden embroidery hoops

Wooden Hoop

These are the most common hoops you can usually find at most craft stores, and they’re also the type that I personally use the most. I’m grouping bamboo hoops in this category, as they are both hoops that are on the cheaper side, but serve their purpose.

It is always a good idea to make sure that the inner and outer rings form a perfect circle so that there is the right amount of tension on the fabric. Hoops that are an irregular shape may not match up and could have gaps in between them. Bamboo hoops can sometimes be misshapen.

plastic embroidery hoop


These embroidery hoops are also commonly found in most craft stores. These can be great to use because they have a lip on the inner ring that grips the fabric, making it so that the fabric won’t slip as much.

using a flexi hoop

Flexi Hoops

Flexi hoops are also made of plastic, but instead of stiff plastic, the outer ring is flexible and stretches over the inner ring of the embroidery hoop. You can find them in many colors and some even made to look like wood grain. These hoops grip the fabric pretty well and they look a little bit nicer than the plastic and wood hoops to display finished embroidery in.

q-snap frame

Q-Snap Frames

Q-snap frames are made of plastic and come in a variety of different sizes. The plastic pieces fit together in rectangle or square shape and 4 pieces snap onto the frame to grip the fabric. I don’t use these often, but I find that the fabric is extra secure in them, and it’s all up to personal preference if you want to go this route! You can find these in a large variety of sizes online.

metal hoop

Metal Hoops

I have yet to find new metal embroidery hoops anywhere, but I find them thrifting a lot! I would say that these are more for decorative use and not everyday use because the outer ring has a spring on it, and over time the springs can weaken. From my experience, they don’t hold the fabric as nicely and they can also leave marks on the fabric.

spring tension hoop

Spring Tension Hoops

Instead of a screw, spring tension hoops have a metal inner ring that you squeeze to take it in and out of the hoop. The inner ring provides tension in between the fabric and the outer ring. You can learn how to use one here.

Mini Embroidery Hoops

Mini embroidery hoops measure around 1inch in diameter usually aren’t used during the actual embroidery process because they are so small and a lot of them have a solid back to them. They are however great to use if you want to make a brooch or necklace out of your embroidery.

The smallest hoop that is comfortable to embroider in for most people is a 3 inch embroidery hoop.

What Are the Best Embroidery Hoops?

As I previously mentioned, inexpensive wood hoops are suitable to use and work relatively well, but it can be nice to have something a bit nicer to frame your work in

Here are a few embroidery hoops that are made of better quality wood and hardware:

embroidery hoops and embroidery supplies

Are Plastic Embroidery Hoops any Good?

Yes! Plastic hoops are a great choice. The no-slip embroidery hoops hold the fabric really tight and so do flexi hoops ( the kind that stretch over the fabric). The only downside is that some of the no-slip hoops come in super bright colors, so you may want to purchase a separate hoop for displaying your embroidery afterwards.

Which Embroidery Hoop is Best For Beginners?

Any embroidery hoop will work fine for beginners as long as it grips the fabric well. A smaller hoop, such as 4-6 inch hoops are a great size to start with because they are easy to hold while you’re stitching and they are a great size for a beginner project.

Things to Take Into Consideration When Choosing Hoop Size and Type

All of the different types of hoops above come in multiple sizes. Here are a few things I ask myself when choosing hoop size.

Will you be leaving the finished embroidery in the hoop? Choose a hoop that fits the entire design without too much extra space around the design. Also, make sure that you’re happy with the way it will look framed!

What size is the design I’m stitching? Make sure the hoop fits around the design you’re stitching. Larger hoops are sometimes necessary for large projects. If you can’t find a hoop that fits around the entire design, I would explore custom embroidery stitching frames, a scroll frame, or be extra careful when placing the hoop over the top of existing stitches.

Keep in mind that using hoops that are super large can make it harder to hold the hoop and it also sometimes makes it harder to keep the fabric tight.

What To Do With Your Hoop When You Are Finished

Embroidery hoops can be used for displaying your final piece. There are a few ways that you can finish an embroidery hoop.

  • The first way is by making a running stitch around the excess fabric, pulling it tight and tying it off. This will hide the fabric on the back of the hoop.
  • Another way is by cutting a felt circle and making a whip stitch or blanket stitch to secure the felt circle to the remaining fabric on the back.
  • A third way is by securing the fabric to the back with a hot glue gun.

This post goes over the step-by-step process: How To Back An Embroidery Hoop

Additional Tips And Tricks

  • When shopping for embroidery hoops, pay close attention to the inner and outer rings. Make sure there are no gaps between them and also check that the hoop doesn’t have an irregular shape. I’ve found that bamboo hoops can be a bit warped sometimes.
  • Check to make sure that the hardware is not bent inward. Flimsy or bent hardware will make it harder to screw the embroidery hoop tight and the hoop won’t hold your fabric as well.
  • Be sure that the inner and outer rings are present when you purchase hoops! I’ve gotten home before to find that I’m missing the inner ring. No fun!
  • If you’re working with delicate fabric that you’re worried about creasing or stretching, or you feel like you’re fabric isn’t staying tight in a hoop, try binding your embroidery hoop. Needlenthread has a tutorial on how to do this.

What Can I Do If I Don’t Have an Embroidery Hoop?

If you can’t afford one or you’re not able to get one for some reason, maybe give this take away container DIY embroidery hoop a shot!

Help! My Fabric Keeps Slipping

If you’re having trouble with the fabric slipping, you may need to tighten the embroidery hoop more or bind your embroidery hoop using cotton twill tape or bias tape. You can read more about ways to prevent this here: How To Keep Fabric Tight In Embroidery Hoops

Embroidery Hoop Storage

Once you start embroidering, you’re bound to have a lot of hoops laying around. Check out this post that goes over some great embroidery hoop storage ideas.

Learn More About Hand Embroidery


Should You Use a Hoop When Cross Stitching?

This depends on the type of fabric you are using. If you are using Aida fabric, you may not need to because it is a very stiff fabric, which doesn’t require being stretched or supported by an embroidery hoop. However, if you are using softer, more pliable fabrics such as linen, you may want to use an embroidery hoop. In general, you may find it easier to hold and stitch your project in an embroidery hoop, so it won’t hurt to use one!

Can you reuse embroidery hoops?

Yes you can! Embroidery hoops can be reused multiple times. The only reason you would have to stop using the same embroidery hoop is if the hardware rusts, bends, or weakens over time. (Rarely ever do the rings break.) Most embroidery hoops can withstand a lot of wear and tear.

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