Starting an embroidery project: hoop prep! T.F.D. The Blog. Let's Talk about choosing fabric and prepping your hoop for design transfer!

Starting an Embroidery Project: Hoop Prep!

The start of an embroidery project creates the foundation for stitching.

Depending on how you start it can really make or break the final look and feel of your embroidery hoop. This is why it's important to make sure you have the right fabric for your project and that your hoop is set correctly!

As yall (probably) know, I do make and sell beginner-intermediate PDF embroidery patterns.  The patterns are fairly comprehensive and great for beginners (stitching guides with images, step by step instructions, colour guide as well as a to-size printable pattern) but because I am a little bit extra, I wanted to create some helpful posts to support beginner embroiderers in their stitching journey; this is part one of the series!

So if you're a beginner to embroidery or just interested in the process, welcome! In this post I'll talk about; choosing fabric and prepping your hoop for design transfer. 

1. Choosing Fabric!

colourful fabrics stacked on top of one another

Image credit: kesi91

What to consider?

There is really no sweat here; embroidery is pretty forgiving when it comes to choosing a fabric. What you will want to avoid for hand-stitching is anything that is too high on the thread count- makes it difficult to stitch and can cause thread frays/breaking. In addition, you don't want to go too low either- this can cause fabric breakage or too much space between stitches (especially if you are doing fine detail work). 

*One other thing to note is if you are making embroidery hoop art, you will want to make sure your fabric has very little give. The more stretch your fabric has, the more you risk distortion in your final piece.*

My Favourites!

I will be honest I am a bit of a scavenger-type embroiderer. I prefer to use material that I can recycle (cut offs from other's projects, material friends wont use, gathered from folks who are downsizing etc) so I will usually attempt to use whatever I can get my hands on. 

That being said; I do have some favourites!

Quilting Cotton

One of my favourite fabrics to embroider with is quilting cotton. While this fabric may be a little bit higher in the thread count than most folks like, I really like how durable, cheap, and easy to find it is.

When I am not sourcing it like the sewer rat I am, some localish quilting shops I use are:


Probably one of the best feeling fabrics I have ever embroidered on, linen is another great option. (I like this one a lot for watercolor as I find it does not bleed as much as other fabrics). 

My current favourite place for linen is: Spool and Spindle. They have an amazing selection and their colours are incredible! They also have sustainable options, check out their eco friendly linen

2. Setting up your hoop

white fabric set in an embroidery hoop.

Image credit: @damaiantika

What to Consider?

The tension on your hoop is going to be the most important part of setting your hoop. Whether you choose to have a very taught hoop (my personal preference) or whether you want some give in your hoop, you'll want to be sure that the fabric tension is the same on all sides and throughout the project. If your tension is not the same, you'll risk uneven and wonky stitches!

Step One: measure and cut your fabric

an embroidery hoop resting on fabric next to a pair of scissors

You will start by laying out your fabric and resting your hoop on top. 

Then you can either use a fabric marker/pen or eraseable pen and draw out a 2-3 inch border around the hoop (you will want excess fabric around the hoop to tighten and to finish your hoop later) or you can just eyeball and cut it (my chaos method). 

The shape you cut for this part is totally up to you; some people prefer to cut a circle, others (me) a square when setting the hoop.

Once the fabric is cut, set it aside!

Step Two: Separating the Hoop

an embroidery hoop separated

Now you will want to separate the two hoops. You can do this by unscrewing the top hoop (not all the way, just enough for some give), and then removing it from the bottom hoop. 

Once they are separated you will want to place the bottom hoop on a flat surface; the fabric will go on top of this!

Step Three: Securing the Fabric

fabric resting on an embroidery hoop outer hoop resting on fabric and inner hoop

You are ready for the cut fabric! Place your cut fabric on top of the inner/bottom hoop.

You will now use both hands to gently press the top hoop over the fabric and bottom hoop. 

If you find it isn't pressing/doesn't seem large enough, you may need to unwind and loosen your hoop a little bit. Likewise if it is too loose, remove the top hoop wind and tighten a little bit and try again. 

Step 4: Tighten and adjust

Now that your fabric is in place, time to make some small adjustments. 

While your fabric should already be a bit tight and fairly straight, you'll want to pull the fabric evenly on all sides to straighten out the fabric out completely.

In addition to this, if you prefer tighter fabric (like me) you will want to alternate between tightening the screw and straightening the fabric until you get the tension you prefer. Whatever tension you do prefer/choose, just make sure that it is even on all sides/parts of the hoop, this will prevent distortion and stitching issues later!

There you go!

three prepared embroidery hoops with three designs

You now have a perfectly prepared hoop that is ready for a design :) 

Happy stitching!


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