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How To Keep Fabric Tight In Embroidery Hoops

When I first started embroidery, I would get really frustrated when my fabric would slip and become loose in the hoop. Over the years I figured out how to relieve this problem, so today I’m going over how to keep fabric tight in an embroidery hoop!

How To Keep An Embroidery Hoop Tight

This post is a part of a series about how to embroider for beginners.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I may receive a commission if you decide to sign up or purchase a class. I only recommend classes that I have tried and love!

Types Of Embroidery Hoops

First, let’s go over a few different kinds of hoops. While they are very similar in most ways, each kind of embroidery hoop has a slightly different mechanism for providing tension on the fabric.

The most common hoops are:

  • plastic hoops
  • wooden embroidery hoops
  • flexi-hoops
  • spring tension hoops
  • q-snap frames
a wooden embroidery hoop

Generally, plastic and wooden hoops have a screw at the top that controls the tightness of the outer ring. This allows you to have a bit more control over how tight or loose the fabric is, and it’s generally my preferred method.

However, there are some hoops that provide tension in different ways, such as spring tension hoops and flexi hoops.

spring tension hoop

Instead of a screw, spring tension hoops have an inner hoop made of metal. The inner ring has a handle that you squeeze to loosen and take out the inner ring. The fabric is then placed in between the two rings like you normally would with other kinds of embroidery hoops. The metal ring opens back up and provides tension once the metal handle is released.

flexi hoops

Flexi-hoops are made entirely of plastic and usually come with metal hardware at the top that is only used for displaying. The outer ring is flexible while the inner ring is rigid plastic. The outer ring is then stretched over the fabric which keeps the fabric tight in the hoop.

q-snap frame

Q-snap frame hoops are made of plastic and are usually square or rectangular. There are plastic clamps on all four sides to hold the fabric in place. These don’t always grip the fabric super evenly and the clamps sometimes move around. (I don’t use them unless I’m working on a larger embroidery project that requires one. You could also try using a scroll frame instead.)

Overall, the type of hoop you choose is personal preference. Try out a few different ones with different kinds of fabrics to see which ones work best for you!

If you’re interested in learning even more about embroidery hoops I made this guide to embroidery hoops and how to use them.

How To Tighten An Embroidery Hoop

Most plastic and wooden embroidery hoops have a metal screw at the top. This controls the tension of the outer ring. In order to place the fabric in the hoop, you normally have to loosen this screw.

Once you have the embroidery fabric positioned in the hoop, you’ll want to tighten the screw. This will allow the embroidery hoop to grip the fabric more firmly. You should be able to tighten the screw by hand (righty-tighty). However, some embroidery hoops may have a screw that you can tighten with a screw driver to get it extra tight.

Placing The Fabric In The Hoop

Here’s how to properly use screw tension hoops so that they provide the right amount of tension on the fabric:

  • The first thing you’ll want to do is loosen the hoop screw and separate the inner and outer rings.
  • Place the inner ring on a flat surface. Place the fabric over top of the inner ring so that the grain of the fabric (the warp and weft fibers) lines up vertically and horizontally in relation to the top of the hoop. This will orient the grain of the fabric to where it won’t warp or overstretch as easily. An added benefit: it will also make your finished piece look nicer!
  • Make sure that the fabric is centered so that there is an even amount of excess fabric around the hoop. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to have at least 1.5-2 inches of extra fabric. This way, you’ll have enough fabric to grip to pull it evenly and tightly in the hoop.
  • Loosen the screw of the outer ring and place the outer ring over top of the fabric and inner ring.
  • When you’re happy with the placement of the fabric, tighten the screw at the top.
  • Pull the top, bottom, and both sides of the fabric to tighten it like a drum. Be sure that the fabric isn’t wrinkled or warped in any areas.
  • It’s a good idea to do one final tightening of the hardware to ensure it’s as tight as possible. Then you’re ready to get stitching!

Extra Tips

If you’ve done everything right and you’re still having trouble with loose fabric, consider some of these tips.

Use Plastic No-Slip Hoops

These hoops are great to stitch in. They have a lip around the inner edge of the embroidery hoop that grips the fabric, preventing it from slipping.

Inspect the metal hardware on the top of the hoop

Sometimes the cheaper wood embroidery hoops have a bent clasp on the top or the metal warps which makes it so you can’t screw the embroidery hoop as tight. Higher quality hoops tend to have heavier hardware on top, and I’ve found the fabric doesn’t slip as much with them. That being said, you can totally still use cheaper embroidery hoops, in fact I still use them a ton. Just make sure to inspect the hardware whenever you’re shopping for hoops.

Check to make sure the inner and outer ring have a tight seal

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the craft store and bought embroidery hoops only to find that they are warped and there is a gap between the inner and outer ring of the embroidery hoop! Such a bummer. When the inner and outer rings of an embroidery hoop don’t seat together nicely, they won’t evenly grip the fabric, which then causes your fabric to become loose in the hoop while you are embroidering. Closely examine each hoop before you purchase it to prevent this. This is probably the easiest way to avoid a lot of problems!

Bind your embroidery hoop

Binding an embroidery hoop is where you wrap a strip of fabric, twill tape, or ribbon around the inner ring of the hoop. Doing this will make the outer ring of the embroidery hoop grip the inner ring better, which will make life a lot easier! Binding embroidery hoops has many benefits, including adding a bit of extra padding to the hoop if you’re using a delicate fabric and preventing hoop burn. Check out this article about how to bind an embroidery hoop.

Note: binding is most effective using a wood hoop.

Use the proper size embroidery hoop

It is very important to have a piece of fabric that will have enough excess around all sides of the hoop. If there are areas of the fabric that are too short, it will be hard to pull the fabric tight and the edge of the fabric could slip out while you’re stitching.

The good news is that hand embroidery hoops come in many different sizes. Choose a smaller hoop that will grip all sides of the fabric.

Use circular hoops

While they aren’t as common, there is such thing as a square hoop. They don’t always grip the fabric as evenly as a circular hoop, so I don’t personally use them.

However, if you have a particular reason you don’t want to use a circular hoop, take a look at these square-round hoops. And for bigger projects and designs you could always try scroll bars!

Use natural fabrics

While you can stitch on just about any type of fabric, natural materials such as cotton fabric and linen are great because they are sturdy and don’t contain any elastic in them. This means they will fair well under the tension of your stitches and the hoop. Elastic and some synthetic materials can stretch and wear out over time, which can cause the fabric to not stay as tight in the hoop. This post will show you where to buy natural embroidery fabrics.

Hope you enjoyed these tips on how to keep the fabric tight in an embroidery hoop. Using one of these tips should have you stitching with ease in no time!

how to keep fabric tight in embroidery hoop