E M B R O I D E R Y H O O P S
Embroidery hoops come in all shapes and sizes (really, there are oval and square ones!), different types of wood, and even metal and plastic. I’ve said it before, but one of my pet peeves is spending money on things that are poor quality. so how do you know which embroidery hoops are the best quality, and where can you get them? Let’s talk about it.
Some of my favorite hoops to date have been a few really gorgeous vintage spring-tension hoops that my mother picked up for me at garage sales and thrift stores. I wish ALL of my work could be framed in these fabulous finds, but alas, I only have a handful and it isn’t a style I can find in the US these days. I totally recommend scouring your local thrift shop or garage sale for vintage or reusable art supplies—you can find cool stuff and it’s great for your budget and the planet.
If you don’t have time for thrifting and you want to find great, accessible hoops, here are my recommendations:
I usually use wooden hoops for my work, I like the classic look of them and I generally try to avoid buying extra plastic if I can help it—again, the planet sustainable than plastic hoops. My favorite hoops are these Hardwicke Manor hoops from Hoop and Frame. They are made of hand-stained beechwood with a clear lacquered finish and have sturdy brass hardware. They are beautiful, sturdy, and I never have problems with gapping or lack of tension. I’ll be honest, they are a bit pricier than your average craft store hoop, but if you’ve ever embroidered, you’ll know that there are hours upon hours invested in it, so I find that a few extra dollars in framing that precious work never goes amiss. Fancy trying these hoops? You can get 10% off your first hoop order with the special code: LARK10%C .
If you’d rather head to your local craft supply store and pick up your hoops there, be sure to pay attention and avoid the following signs thats your hoop is of less-than-stellar quality.
Wood that looks "layered." The hoops below appear to be constructed with multiple hoop-like rings glued together. Believe it or not, they sometimes actually come apart.
Wood with holes or gaps, especially on the outer hoop. Because the hoops are made with multiple layers, sometimes the layers actually get these unsightly little gaps. I find these to be really distracting on a framed piece. Sometimes, in addition to gaps you can also get bumps (see next photo) where the wood doesn't laminate properly and gets bunched for some reason. Again, this is distracting and not a great look.
Hoops that are bent or don't make a tight seal between the inner and outer rings. The last thing to watch out for is a hoop with rings that don't fit tightly together. This can happen for a couple of reasons, either one of the rings is bent/warped, or the fastener doesn't close tightly enough. This is important because if you don't have enough pressure between the rings all the way around the hoop, you will have trouble keeping tension in your fabric. Without tension, even in a small section of the hoop, your fabric will shift and get out of place, causing you loads of avoidable problems. Keep reading below to find out how to check for this before you make a hoop purchase.
I’m happy to say that in the past year, Joann’s stores have switched over to a new brand of hoop that is MUCH better than their previous hoops. Each ring is one solid piece of wood and they are much less prone to being warped—meaning that the hoops fit together nicely without gapping in between the two rings.
I’ve also had decent luck with the Loops and Threads brand hoops that are carried at Michaels. They are similar to the hoops at Joann’s, and quite sturdy. However, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few more instances of hoops with big gaps between the two rings in this brand versus the Joann’s brand, so you need to be even more careful when you pull a hoop off the shelf, making sure to check it carefully.
C H E C K I N G Y O U R H O O P
Scan the hoop with your eyes, turning it in your hands as you check it and see if you see any visible bends in the inner or outer rings. If it passes this initial test, proceed to tighten the embroidery hoop all the way as tight as you can. Now, slowly work your fingers around the hoop and see if you can shift the rings apart in any spot. It should be super tight and pretty hard to push apart around the entire thing. Sometimes I even hold it up to the light and check if any light gets through the crack between the rings. If everything looks dark and feels secure, you're good to go!