Can I buy pre-fabric'ed embroidery hoops?
November 21, 2016 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to buy the embroidery hoop equivalent of pre-stretched canvases like these? That is, can I buy a collection of cheap embroidery hoops, each already set up with white fabric suitable for embroidering? If so, where?

I can think of various reasons why this wouldn't be the ideal approach for serious embroidery, but I'm just learning to embroider and I don't need high-quality outcomes. Right now I mostly just want to practice stitching cute little pictures without so much set-up for each one.
posted by somedaycatlady to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have never actually seen this for sale as a lifelong embroiderer with an unwholesome addiction to embroidery catalogs. (I'm willing to believe it's out there but it's hard to find if it is!)

The thing is that the fabric gradually stretches and relaxes when it's in the hoop, so by the time it got to you it'd be kind-of lax and floppy and not give you very good results (as a beginning embroiderer). You may find it a lot easier to use plastic hoops, especially with a lip, rather than the traditional wooden ones. The plastic ones are very easy to pull the fabric over and tighten, and they stay put. The kinda distort the fabric over time but for a beginner it's fine. They're inexpensive and you can just pop them on and leave them ... you can even use them as the frame for the piece when it's done.

You may also like Q-Snaps as an alternative to hoops. Other options include scroll frames (more popular for needlepoint than for things like cross-stitch) and in-hand embroidery (generally you hold the fabric taut in your off-hand with the pointer and middle finger holding the top part of the fabric, and the thumb and ring finger holding the bottom. You can do very good stitching this way! But your hand will eventually tense up and cramp even if you're very experienced.).

(You can totally just stitch on art painter's fabric frames like that, btw, with a sharp needle and probably thinnish thread. Similar to stitching on heavy paper, there are plenty of tutorials. You could watercolor the canvas, sketch a picture, and just free-hand stitch it on the art canvas. It'd be very cool!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:19 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, set-up of a plastic hoop should take you no more than 60 seconds -- if it's taking a long time to set up, maybe I can help with some advice to make it easier? (You put down the bottom hoop on a flat surface, lay the fabric on top of it, and push the top hoop down on top. Tighten the screw and pull at the fabric corners if it needs to be tighter.) It should be dead easy and you should be able to buy a new plastic hoop for each picture if you want to for in the range of $1 to $5.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:22 PM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your tips, Eyebrows! Glad to hear I'm not missing some obvious product at Michaels, at least. I LOVE the suggestion to stitch onto an actual canvas, I hadn't thought of it at all and will definitely try it out.

I sat down to think about exactly what part of this I'm impatient with, since you're right that it doesn't actually take that long to put fabric in a hoop (definitely going to take your suggestion to try plastic, though). I think I got a little overwhelmed by choosing the right kind of fabric and cutting it into appropriately-sized pieces and having some sort of backing (?) and washing it and ironing etc. etc. It seemed complicated and I'm going around embroidering little flowers onto all my old pillowcases instead. Which is fun but I'm going to run out of pillowcases soon. I think I just wanted there to be an obvious single solution that I didn't have to think about.

So maybe a good follow-up question is something like: can I buy pre-cut squares of a basic fabric that would be good for a beginning embroiderer?
posted by somedaycatlady at 7:42 PM on November 21, 2016

Best answer: I'm a total dilettante embroiderer, but I never really fussed too much about fabric choice. I just picked something that was the color I wanted it to be and started stitching. I also don't do any backing or ironing or anything besides putting the fabric in the hoop. Maybe this means my works are doomed to short lifespans? They've certainly held up for at least five years, though.
posted by MsMolly at 8:43 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For most types of fabric you don't need a backing, unless you need a stitching guide or it's a very flimsy fabric you intend to wear rather than frame. For reference, my grandmother stitched designs on a variety of cotton napkins and tablecloths that we're still using 60 years later and that have been machine washed since then. There are no special techniques, it's just cross-stitch and stem stitch and french knots.

If you're a cross-stitcher, you can get aida cloth in a variety of sizes at your local Michael's or Hobby Lobby or whatever. For other types of fabric, you can go to your local needlework store and they'll usually cut to size for you or have remnants, or if you're doing housewares, I go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and check what's on clearance ... tablecloths, napkins, and pillowcases are all great embroidery candidates! Anything woven will embroider well. Knits (like T-shirts) don't embroider as well, and that's when you'd want waste canvas or stabilizer. Anything woven that isn't completely flimsy you can just go ahead and embroider without screwing around with backings or stabilizers.

If you hit your local fabric store and go to the remnants bin, you can usually find something woven that's easy to stitch on for practice, and just cut it into pieces that suit you and fit your favorite hoop!

I gotta be honest, I don't pre-wash and pre-iron unless I'm using really expensive thread and doing a really elaborate piece. If it's just DMC on cotton, it's FINE. (When it's silk threads on $60/yard linen, okay, I follow instructions.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:44 PM on November 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I buy patterns already printed on the fabric from Etsy. Cozy blue is my favorite Etsy shop for this.
posted by ilovewinter at 9:37 PM on November 21, 2016

Best answer: I like to embroider cute pictures and display them in the hoop. Don't overthink things like I did, think of all the fun you're missing! I finally just bought a few yards of Osnaburg fabric at my local craft store and went at it. (Osnaburg has kind of a rustic look which may or may not jive with your aesthetic) I cut it into rough squares, put it in the hoop, and when I'm done I cut off the excess or hide it around the back. Works for me.
posted by elerina at 9:52 PM on November 21, 2016

Best answer: To answer your follow-up question, lots of fabric stores, especially quilting stores, sell fat quarters, which are 18x22 inch precuts of cotton fabric.
posted by kyla at 5:59 AM on November 22, 2016

Best answer: When I started with embroidery, I used a lot of fat quarters, as kyla mentioned above. These are inexpensive and come in a variety of colors, patterns, etc. However, if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the choices available to you, you might just get a yard of cotton in a nice color (I would look for "Kona Cotton Solids"), or even a yard of muslin. I tend to go for the softer, less scratchy-feeling muslin, personally.

Alternatively, since you're already stitching on pillowcases, you could get a stack of tea towels or cocktail napkins. Sublime Stitching has great textiles (and fantastic patterns, too!).
posted by 2or3things at 8:46 AM on November 22, 2016

Best answer: I also keep an eye out at my local thrift stores for linens and other embroidery friendly fabrics. Vintage cotton and linen are often higher quality than newer fabric. Pieces with a spot on one place but lots of usable fabric can be found at very reasonable prices.
posted by Altomentis at 7:48 PM on November 22, 2016

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