A Stitcher's Supply Guide: Hoops
I'm one of those people who does about 3, 642 hours of research before making a purchase. Amazon.com is pretty much my best friend because I can compare 57 different versions of a product and use up all of my time by reading every single review of something before buying it and then they bring it to my house (because who really wants to go to a store?). This habit was especially bad when I was pregnant and a new mom because I had to pick out all of the excessive baby paraphernalia that I absolutely NEEDED (insert eyeroll here). Really though, it's important to me not to waste my money on things that are of poor quality and won't last. When it comes to my embroidery work I really want to use the tools and materials that will make my job efficient and provide you all with the best possible art for your spaces.
So, hoops. Which ones are best? Which should you avoid? Where can you get them? Find out the answers to all of your dire hoop-buying questions in this post!
I will begin by saying that, with total honesty, some of my favorite hoops to date have been a few really gorgeous vintage 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. I totally recommend scouring your local thrift shop or garage sale for vintage or reusable art supplies. That being said, most of my hoops are the same brand--my CHOSEN brand and I am very happy with them. More on that in a minute.
I want to help you avoid hoops that are *ahem* super crappy. Here are some things to watch out for:
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 unsightly little gaps. I find these gaps to be super 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, super distracting and ugly.
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 who's rings don't fit tightly together. This can happen for a couple of reasons, either A) one of the rings is bent, B) the fastener doesn't close tightly enough. The reason this is important is because if you don't have enough pressure between the rings, 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 unnecessary problems. Keep reading below to find out how to check for this before you make a hoop purchase.
You can avoid buying hoops with the first two problems fairly easily. Unfortunately, many of the wooden hoops at local and chain craft stores carry these lame, laminated hoops (Joann's, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, even Amazon).
My absolute favorite accessible wooden hoops come from Michael's. They have a brand of hoops called Loops and Threads that are made of a single piece of bamboo and are so pretty and great to work with. Here's why I adore them:
They feel so sturdy! They never bend or break the way that the other wooden hoops do. I can stretch my fabric to be absolutely drum-tight without worrying that my hoop will crack or give way under the pressure.
They are made of a single piece of bent wood, so you don't have any of the problems with bumps or gaps that most other wooden hoops do.
Bamboo is really sustainable! Bamboo grows like lightning and is easily replaced, which makes me feel like I'm being a little bit more Earth-friendly.
Unfortunately, even with these great hoops, you still need to check for a good seal between the rings. Sometimes I run over to Michael's to grab some hoops and threads and if I'm in a hurry (let's be real, I have a 2-year old, ALL of my errands are done in a hurry), I just grab the hoop sizes I need and go (I pay for them first, obviously). Then I get home and open them and sometimes they don't have a snug fit. I learned my lesson on this one early on, so I now every time I go on a hoop run I do the following check in the store before buying:
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!
I usually enjoy using wooden hoops for my work, they are tasteful and more sustainable than plastic hoops. But every once in a while I feel like changing it up and using a colorful plastic hoop to give a piece of work an added color pop. Bonus: these plastic hoops are usually pretty sturdy and don't have the potential issues that wooden hoops do. You can find colorful hoops in several shades at Joann's, Michael's, Hobby Lobby, and even Walmart. However, if you have a local craft store, I highly recommend checking there first to see if they have colorful hoops you like because buying local is great. Has anyone found Loops and Threads brand bamboo hoops elsewhere? I would love to try buying from a more locally-centered store.
Well, stitchers, I have thoroughly exhausted myself on this subject and have nothing else to add. As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions or other suggestions by commenting below or emailing me at email@example.com.
PS-Stay tuned on this blog series AND follow me on Instagram (@larkrising) for a super secret awesome giveaway coming up soon!