How to bind and use an embroidery hoop

An embroidery hoop makes the stitching process easier and I find I produce a better result if I use one. I know many people dont like to use a hoop but I always encourage people to try it particularly if you have trouble with tension. If your stitches pucker and pull the the fabric learn to use an embroidery  hoop. Here is a tutorial on how to bing a hoop, what size to choose and tensioning a hoop.

Choose the right sized embroidery hoop

I know some people say a hoop is uncomfortable to use. However, often the hoop they choose is too large. Unlike quilting hoops when you hold an embroidery hoop you should be able to easily place your index finger in the centre without strain.


How to use an embroidery hoop step  2

How to bind an embroidery hoop.

Some people worry about a hoop creasing and squashing their work. To counter this only have your work in the hoop when you actually stitch, in other words don’t leave your work in the hoop over night. Also I have some tips at the end of the article about steaming your work.

Always bind at least the inner ring of your hoop. This is called dressing a hoop. I know that term sounds Victorian but it is what binding a hoop is called. I know this sounds fussy but it is really worth while taking 20 minutes and dressing your hoop.

How to use an embroidery hoop step 1
Dressing a hoop is quite easy. You need some cotton twill tape, which can be found in the sewing haberdashery section of a fabric store. It is not expensive – a couple of dollars at the most. Make sure what you purchase is cotton. If you use a polyester or polyester mix tape your dressing will not have the same grip and the fabric you place in the hoop will slip. Since the idea is to control the tension of the fabric slippage undermines what you want it do.

How to use an embroidery hoop step  3The process is a simple enough. Start off by tucking the end of the tape under the first wrap.

hoop09Continue wrapping until you have the whole hoop covered evenly.
How to use an embroidery hoop step  4Secure the end of the tape with a few stitches.

How to use an embroidery hoop step  5Using an embroidery hoop

After you have wrapped or dressed your embroidery hoop this is how you use it.

How to use an embroidery hoop step 7 Yes dressing an embroidery hoop is the correct term – Victorian I know!

How to use an embroidery hoop step  8Lay the dressed inner ring of the embroidery hoop on the table and position your fabric over it centring your design or stitching area in the middle of the ring.
How to use an embroidery hoop step  9Loosen the screw on the top ring to open it slightly and place it over the fabric and bottom ring. Have the screw mechanism sitting at about 10 o’clock if you are right handed.

How to use an embroidery hoop step  10If you are left handed set the screw at  2 o’clock . This means you will not tangle your thread around the screw closure. It is very frustrating to have your thread catch on it with every stitch!
Tighten the screw enough so that it grips the inner ring and stays in place.

Tensioning the fabric in your hoop

After placing your fabric in you hoop you need to tension it. For even weave embroidery where there is a lot of stab stitch involved ie you push the needle into the fabric and with the other hand push it back to the front you will need a tight tension on the fabric. If it is surface embroidery where there is scoop stitching involved allow a little bit of ease on the fabric.

How to use an embroidery hoop step  11Let the fabric have a little flex. Not too much, just a fraction to allow you to scoop stitches should you need to and you can always tension the fabric by pushing it from the back with the middle finger on your non dominant hand. I see lots of people trying to do surface embroidery stitches with a hoop stretched drum tight. You should be able to take a bite of the fabric with your thread. Don’t  tension the fabric so tight that it becomes impossible to manipulate the needle and thread.

What if your work is too big for an embroidery hoop?

If your work is too big for a hoop that fits your hand think about using a larger hoop that is mounted on a stand. This will leave both of your hands free to stitch. The other alternative is to use a frame.

However I do have a confession as I often move a hoop along. For instance my band sampler is done this way I simply move it along and place the hoop over the stitches. Many embroiderers would have a fit at this, as they see it as squashing the stitches but honestly if you you use good thread it will usually bounce back and to be honest it does not cause me troubles. I usually just have the hoop on the fabric while I actually stitch. I also have the fabric a little slack and I will steam out creases the sampler if need be.

If your embroidery becomes creased, particularly if it is something like silk ribbon embroidery. Hang it in a steamy bathroom to relax it. Peg your work to a hanger and take a hot shower with the exhaust fan off, then hang your work up in the bathroom. Another way of doing it, is hold the work over a steaming kettle. Keep your hands and arms clear of the steam, as you do not want a burn but hold the work there for a little while and steam it. You will find the fabric, thread and ribbon relaxes into its original shape.

I hope you have found this article useful. Do you use a hoop? Do you have any tips for readers on using a hoop? What do you think are the key advantages and disadvantages to using a hoop?

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How to work Back Stitch

Back stitch sampleBack stitch is often used along side cross stitch to define a clean neat line in a design. It is classified as a linear stitch because you can create lines with it! Back stitch is an old adaptable stitch which can be used as a delicate outline or as a foundation in composite stitches, such as Pekinese stitch. It is also a great stitch to whip or thread with a heavier yarn. You can add beads to it too!

Back stitch sample using hand dyed threadIf you want to work blackwork patterns using hand dyed or variegated threads use back stitch. Many blackwork patterns can be very effective worked this way and the changing colours  add a contemporary touch to a traditional style of hand embroidery.

Back stitch sample on contemporary hand embroideryThis is a stitch that is considered a basic stitch as it is always introduced to beginners, but I feel  people underestimate  its versatility which ensures its timeless appeal to generations of stitchers. For instance in this sample (click to see a larger version)  I have used back stitch to define the lines of the sand. Set against the highly textured embroidery the simple ‘basic’ stitch creates the contrast I wanted.

Back stitch step by step tutorialIf needed, mark your line with a quilters pencil or soluble pen or pencil. Bring the thread up from the back of the fabric on the line that you want to create. Make a small backward stitch through the fabric.

Bring the needle through the fabric a little in front of the first stitch and still on the line. Pull the thread through the fabric.

Make the second stitch backward,inserting the needle down into the hole made by the first stitch and bringing the needle out a little in front of the second stitch but still on the line. Repeat this movement and continue sewing in such a manner along the line.

Back stitch is also known as point de sable

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Have a safe and happy holiday season

Christmas wishes graphicThis morning I want wish all my readers a safe and happy holiday season.

A free hand embroidery pattern.

I hope readers enjoy this pattern . You can outline the tree decorations in stem stitch or chain stitch and I have left plenty of spaces for beads and sequins if you want to add them. I came up with idea as I was looking for something simple and quick to put on a small gift bag but you could use it on a card too. Anyway I hope people enjoy it.

Many readers have noticed my revamped newsletter. I often give away a free pattern for my regular subscribers. I don’t pester people too much, but write every 2-4 weeks. In the process of creating these patterns, I have really enjoyed rediscovering my pleasure using Illustrator. They have been a lot of fun and I plan to continue sharing these.


Other free resources

If  you need to know how to work hand embroidery stitches, I have provided free,  12 Surface Stitches for Beginners. Follow the link for a direct PDF download.

There are also free modules in my stitchers worksheets which cover the basic stitches. They are free and none of my stuff asks you to subscribe to anything or join this or that, they are a simple give away. For more stitches can also visit my stitch dictionary

cq seams tutorial screenshot In this past year apart from running the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge, and giving away free crazy quilt block patterns from my I Dropped the Button Box Quilt I gave out a tutorial on how to work decorative crazy quilt seams. In case you missed it, here is the  download  and keep it as an ebook on a tablet, or print it out easily.

News of next year

As of January 9th I will have been writing this blog for 11 years a good 9 of those I was writing daily. Since an internet year is roughly 4.7 years to 1 normal year that means I have been writing this blog for the equivalent of 51.7 years.

An internet year is like a dog year and measured in terms of how fast technology and content changes compared to the non-digital world. So if you have ever felt that doing a particular task online involves a steep learning curve or got annoyed at things changing all the time, usually just as you have learnt to do something, then what you have suffered is the experience of internet time. Another way to compare it is a shop might do a renovation to freshen their look every decade or so whereas a website will revamp every 2 years or so.

After writing this blog for so long I feel in need of long service leave! Now don’t go in panic I will be back. The last decade of blogging has added so much to my life such as traveling to America to teach crazy quilting, it has provided me with an income online teaching which has been totally wonderful as I have worked from home doing something I love. Probably one of the most exciting things I have done is to design a product, get it manufactured and to sell it through my website. I can’t explain the thrill it is to imagine something, and then make it a real thing. Of course this ‘thing’ I am talking about is my crazy quilt templates.

So don’t fret, I will be back blogging after a break. I still have many ideas for interesting things I can do on this site. I would love to stay in touch via my newsletter as I will be bouncing back in a couple of months or sooner if I feel genuinely refreshed. It would be great if I could drop you a line to tell you. Subscribing is easy just follow the link, enter your email address, remember to confirm your subscription otherwise you will not get the newsletters.

I also plan to use my ‘break’ time to complete my book on crazy quilting. Readers will be pleased to know that the first draft is done, I have taken a heap of new photos for it. So with that eye candy sitting on my hard drive, the book project is well underway. Hopefully with not having the blog eating into my creative time achieving this gaol will be easier. I want cross a book on crazy quilting off my 2015 todo list.

There will be a few shifts and changes next year. As regular readers know In 2014 I wrapped up my online classes. I wanted to clear the decks for 2015 to be a year that allows me to be open to changes. I know that sounds like a lot of preparation to free myself up, but that sort of planning was needed. The idea is to take a break from online life, roll up my sleeves and complete the book, then look again at a lot of ideas I have and see what project is next.

I have plans to develop Tones and Tints in 2015 but not until after I have the book done. My interests have been shifting toward this direction for quite some time. So after deciding that restless mood of mine is not a whim and I will follow my instincts. The two areas will be kept separate. In 2015 I will have Pintangle for stitch related interests and Tones and Tints for drawing, paper arts and art/studio journalling. I am venturing more into both drawing and mixed media but more news about that next year.

That is enough of the babble from me. From my home to yours, wherever you are, no matter what faith my best wishes and thoughts of the season. And for all my readers I hope all your needles are easily threaded, your floss stays knot and tangle free.

See you next year!