Embroidery hoops are one of the most important tools you'll need for your projects. Good hoops keep your fabric stretched for easier embroidery stitching and let you complete projects without constantly moving the fabric around.
How Hoops Work
Embroidery stitching is much easier when you're working with tight fabric, because you can see the design clearly and catch a thread or two of fabric when you're working on an elaborate stitch. A hoop has two rings, an inner and an outer, with a tightening device located on the outer ring. You stretch your fabric across the inner ring, then secure it in place by tightening the outer ring.
Embroidery hoops are made from wood or plastic. Plastic is more durable than wood, but plastic is also more slippery. Plastic can be difficult for a beginner to use, as the material may not stay in the hoop. If the material loosens while in the hoop, you could end up with a project with uneven stitches.
Some hoops come with a table clamp. Hoops with table clamps can help people with non-steady hands continue enjoying needlework. These are also good for young children or beginners just learning how to do needlework. Hoops used for hand embroidery are generally round or oval in shape, while hoops used on a machine are square and fit on the bed of machine.
Choose a Few Sizes
If you are a person that does a lot of needlework, you should have a variety of hoop sizes on hand. For someone that does not do a lot of needlework or for someone that seldom uses a hoop, an eight-inch hoop is a good all-around size.
Keep in mind, when choosing a hoop for its size, that it should be small enough for all of the material to fit across the hoop. Small handkerchiefs are difficult to work with, because the material is quite thin and the area you are working with is usually small. A four-inch wooden hoop would be a better choice for this type of project than a four-inch plastic hoop. If you prefer larger projects, look for larger hoops. These let you focus on the work, rather than repositioning your fabric.
When choosing hoops, keep your project in mind. If working with silk or other smooth materials, wood is better, as it helps keep the material from slipping. For the thicker materials, such as Aida, plastic will work fine, as the material is thicker and not apt to slip through the hoop.