Picking the Best Embroidery Machine Hoop for Your Job


When it comes to machine embroidery, hooping is so important to get right. If you don’t hoop correctly, the pattern being stitched comes out looking puckered, with outlines off-track or poor stitch quality. Hooping holds the fabric and stabilizer in place so they can’t move or shift during the embroidering process, giving the fabric an even tension during stitching.


Classic Hoops and How They’ve Changed


When people unfamiliar with the embroidery industry think of embroidery hoops, they tend to imagine the classic hand stitching hoop – round, made of wood, and  closed with a metal screw. It usually looks something like this:


Machine embroidery hoops are quite different, however, and no longer resemble the classic ‘embroidery hoop’ quite so much. Most noticeably, the fabric is held in the opposite way from a hand embroidery hoop, with the right side of the embroidery surface held flat to the machine bed by the bottom edge of the inner ring, rather than floating on the top edge of the inner ring as shown in the photo.


Most embroidery hoops for commercial machines are made of metal or plastic, making them sturdier Modern hoops for commercial machines are long-lasting and attach to the machine through the use of brackets, usually on two sides, to ensure they don’t move. Commercial machines are designed to hold a variety of hoop sizes within a maximum area called “field size”.  Some machines have larger filed sizes and  can cover larger areas with embroidery without having to be re-hooped.


Parts of the Hoop


The hoop is made of two main components, an inner ring and an outer ring. The inner ring fits snugly into the outer ring and the outer ring can be adjusted so the tension is correct when the two parts are placed together.


Brackets attached to the hoop  are used to hold the hoop in the embroidery machineand prevent any shifting during embroidery. The width of the brackets is determined by the needle spacing or distance between the needles on the hads of multi-head machines. Different machines have different needle spacing, and not all hoops are interchangeable between machines. To see how to measure the needle spacing or hoop brackets, find a video here explaining the best way to measure. It is important to know the correct needle spacing, or you could receive hoops with brackets that don’t fit your machine, costing valuable time and requiring you to re-order to the correct hoops.


Hoop Tension and Tightening


While older hand embroidery hoops have screws on the outer ring that tighten to get the best tension for the fabric, now there are a variety of ways hoops can tighten to the correct tension. Some still use screws, albeit more precisely so you know exactly how much you’re tightening the hoop. Others use magnets or other technology to achieve the perfect fabric tension without you having to do anything.


For hoops with magnets, there is no tightening required. The hoops adjust to the fabric thickness, meaning you don’t have to adjust the outer ring at all. Hoops like the Snap Hoop Monster put less stress on your arms and wrists, and give the fabric the correct tension.


Other hoops, like the Freedom Ring, are designed to lock at the perfect tension for the fabric you’re using. The compression spring technology makes it easy to pull the hoop apart and release , allowing the outer ring to close snugly over the inner ring, creating a perfect hold every time. This kind of hoop means that you’ll never have to fight with your hoop or try to get it to the correct tension by tightening screws.


Choosing Embroidery Designs to Fit Your Hoop


When choosing a design, most premade design options include dimensions, so you’ll know the size before starting on your embroidery. If you have a machine that can’t fit hoops above a certain size, don’t purchase designs bigger than that unless you want to also purchase a larger embroidery machine or be rehooping constantly.


The dimensions typically listed for commercial embroidery hoops are the dimensions of the inside of the hoop, or the area the fabric is stretched over. When a hoop is described as 12”x16”, that means the area inside the inner hoop is 12”x16”.


The dimensions of the area that can be stitched on are slightly smaller than the full dimensions of the hoop, as the embroidery machine cannot embroider too close to the edge of the hoop. If you’re looking at a pattern that is exactly 16” wide, it would not fit in the above-mentioned hoop, as there is usually a fraction of an inch inside the embroidering area not actually reachable by the machine.


Hoop Sizing and Dimensions for Different Patterns


Hoop dimensions can be measured in both inches and centimeters but are sometimes described in just one or the other. Here at The Embroidery Store, we list all hoop sizes in both metric and imperial for ease of selection, but if you need a converter for any reason, you can find one. To be as precise as possible, centimeters give a more accurate number since they are smaller and give more detail without additional decimal places.


With the dimensions of your design down, now you can look at sizing for hoops. You want to use the smallest hoop that comfortably holds your pattern, as this helps to cut down on waste of products like backing and topping.


When looking at hoop sizes, keep in mind that hoops don’t just come in circles or square shapes. There are many different sizes and shapes, and you can find the one that best fits your design. You can get anything from a perfect circle to a long rectangle (for things like lettering and designs on pant legs that are tighter) and you should always try to fit the hoop to the design as close as possible without sacrificing the design shape.


Hooping Your Fabric


When hooping, the inner ring should be placed on a flat surface. The fabric (as well as additions such as stabilizers) is then placed over the inner hoop, and then the outer hoop is pushed down to create a tight tension on the fabric. Since the hoops fit one inside the other, the fabric is pulled taut, creating a smooth surface free of puckers or wrinkles.


If you are using a stabilizer, make sure the stabilizer is larger than the edges of the hoop, so it covers the hoop fully when placed over.


Finding Your Perfect Hoop


After you have a design and you know the size hoop you need, you need to make sure you’re looking at hoops that fit your embroidery machine. When you order from The Embroidery Store, we sort by manufacturer and by machine, so you can easily see all options available for your machine. We may also specify the needle spacing, if that is applicable.


Now that you know the specifics of what to look for in a machine embroidery hoop, you’re on your way to finding the perfect hoop to fit your every pattern!