Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Hoopin’ and Hollerin’

March 29, 2012

Hoop-De-Do: Embroidery Hoops Opener

Hey Everybody!

Oh, today is a special day. It feels like a double-D kinda special day. Not only have I finished this glorious and somewhat cumbersome post on embroidery hoops, I’ve also talked my dear friend, occasional bingo companion—that girl next door—Miss Doris Day into performing one of her chart-topping hits to help me celebrate this momentous occasion.

I know! It’s amazing! Who woulda thought that a lil’ kid from Morrilton, Arkansas could have so many famous friends? Not only are they famous, but they’re willing to perform live on my blog stage. It’s unreal how often this happens. I am truly blessed.

I am obviously very excited about Doris’ performance. She’s a movie star and recording legend and she’ll be performing LIVE for you and me. This is BIG folks. Seriously BIG! Double-Ds in-your-face kinda BIG!!

See . . . I told you I was excited!!!

I know you must be excited too. I bet you’ll never guess what she’s gonna sing for you, for me, for us.

Go on . . . guess.

No, she’s not singing Que Sera Sera. She’s singing something even more special than that.

Go ahead . . . Try again.

No, she’s not singing Dream A Little DreamDoris actually begged me to let her sing this song, because she said it reminded her of me, but I told her “No, that song just wouldn’t do.” I said that I was flattered to hear this, but I wanted her to sing one of her groundbreaking ballads. These love songs are nice, but they don’t capture this transcendent moment or move my soul the way her ballads do.

Once we agreed upon a song, Doris and I worked tirelessly to craft the right phase and polish each lyric. Now that the rehearsals are over and the sound checks are complete, I urge you to sit back, relax, enjoy your favorite beverage and let the depth of the lyrics wash over you.

Personal Note: Doris’ angelic grace and endless generosity inspired me throughout the arduous creative process. Her delicious egg salad sandwiches on lightly toasted white bread nourished my body, as her music nourished my soul.

I can honestly say, that I haven’t been this moved by a song since Celine Dion performed My Heart Will Go On in the backyard last weekend while taking a break from cutting the grass. I truly feel that Doris has captured this precious moment in time, like no other artist could. Her voice and spirit soar when she sings these magical lyrics. Her vocal gymnastics leave me in awe.

So, without further ado . . . please help me welcome to the blog stage, my own girl-next-door . . . that All-American-Girl . . . the PTA mom blonde bombshell . . . Miss Doris Day, performing a remixed version of her amazingly poignant ballad Hoop-De-Do.

To feel the full effect of these truly moving lyrics, I recommend you listen to the original score first. The music is breathtaking and sets the tone for the remix. Feel free to sing along.

Hoop-De-Do, Hoop-De-Do
I start embroidering’ and my troubles are through
Hoop-De-Do, Hoop-De-De
This kind of stitching’ is like heaven to me
Hoop-De-Do, Hoop-De-Do
It’s got me higher than a kite
Hand me down my hoop and floss, I am gonna get my wish
Hoop-De-Doin’ it tonight

(When there’s a trombone a playin’, ra-ta-da-da-da)
I get a thrill, I always will
(When there’s a concertina stretchin’ out a mile)
I always smile ’cause that’s my style
When there’s a French Knot in the middle oh it really is a riddle how it
stitches out so sweet
Stitches so sweet that I could die
Lead me to the hoop and hear me yell for more
’cause I’m a Hoop-Dee-Doin’ kind of guy

(Orchestral Break)

When there’s a French Knot in the middle oh it really is a riddle how it
stitches out so sweet
Stitches out so sweet that I could die
(Orchestral Break)

Hoop-De-Do, (Hoop-De-Do)
Hoop-De-Do, (Hoop-De-Do)
I start embroiderin’
and my troubles are through)
Hoop-De-De, (Hoop-Dee-Do)
Hoop-De-De, (Hoop-De-De)
This kind of stitching’
is like heaven to me
Hoop-De-Do (Hoop-De-Do)
Hoop-De-Do (Hoop-De-Do)
It’s got me higher than a kite
I’m in clover, I’m in bloom
When I’m stitchin’ give me room
Hoop-de-doin’ it with all of my might

Rain may fall and snow may come
Nothin’s gonna stop me from
Hoop-De-Doin’ it tonight

Wow, Doris! That was truly amazing! I’m speechless. I’m absolutely moved beyond description. Does anyone have a tissue? My eyes are leaking.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Words escape me.

Now that Doris has thoroughly set the tone for today’s post, I think we should get started—don’t you?

Disclaimer: The embroidery hoops you are about to see are mine. No stand-ins or embroidery hoop doubles were used in the making of this post.

I’d like to start out by saying my experience using embroidery hoops is limited. My knowledge is based on personal experience and the advice I have received from more seasoned embroiderists. (Embroiderist: A person who embroiders.) My opinions expressed here are my own and your mileage and experience may vary.

Wooden Embroidery Hoops, Various Sizes

An assortment of wooden embroidery hoops, ranging in size from 4- to 14-inches.

The cheap wooden hoops you see above were my go-to hoops for years. These are the typical hoops you see at the big name craft and fabric stores. The wood is so cheap that when I did research to find out what kind of wood is used to make them, the description only says cheap. HA!

Like you, I struggled with these flimsy devils and figured that’s just the way embroidery hoops work. I bought them because I didn’t know better and paid WAY TOO MUCH for what I got.

I didn’t embroider that often, so I figured a hoop is a hoop, is a hoop. Boy, I can be such a goober and so very wrong. 

Once I started focusing on embroidery, I learned that all hoops are definitely not created equal—which generated a severe case of hoop envy.

Here I sat with a half dozen, half-assed cheap wooden hoops that I couldn’t bear to throw away. I’d paid good money for these cheap hoops and I hoped to find a better use for them than making them part of a ring toss game. The answer to my embroidery hoop dilemma came from a dear friend.

I learned from friend and famous embroidery artist, Pat Eaton that you can make a bad or cheap hoop better by wrapping it. That’s right, wrapping it. 

Wooden Embroidery Hoops, Inner Ring Wrapped in Yarn

Inner ring of embroidery hoop wrapped in yarn.

Flimsy hoops can be made stronger by wrapping the inner ring with ribbon, twill tape, fabric or in my case yarn. Adding this wrapping makes the inner hoop sturdier and provides a slight cushion between the inner and outer ring. This wrapping helps to grip the fabric and eliminates the need to tighten the rings so tight, thus reducing the risk of crushing your fabric and stitchwork.

Depending on your approach to embroidery, you may choose to wrap both the inner and outer ring. As you can see, I have only wrapped the one ring.

I chose this method for the following reasons:

  • I’m lazy.
  • The tension screw on the cheap hoops is too short to accommodate the extra ring width, so the rings barely fit together when both are wrapped.
  • I’m lazy.
  • Chose yarn over twill tape, ribbon or fabric because it was easiest to apply and I had lots of it.
  • I’m lazy
  • Wrapping both rings seems like overkill, but what do I know? Oh I know, it works for me.
  • Did I mention that I’m lazy?
Want to learn more about wrapping hoops? Then check out these great links.
Wrapping the inner rings of my hoops made all the difference in how they preform. Instead of sitting around collecting dust, these hoops are now active members of my toolkit. It’s really amazing what this little adjustment will do. It takes a very small amount of effort to wrap your rings, so give it a try. You can thank me now—or later—it’s entirely up to you. 🙂

Open Wooden Hoop, Close Up View of Screw

Okay, one last thing before I move onto another kind of hoop.

If you are interested in getting a quality wooden hoop, then I recommend you shop somewhere other than a chain store. Very few—if any—will carry a quality hoop. You will have better luck going to a shop that specializes in needlework.

I would say that a better quality hoop will cost you more, but some chain stores think their cheap wooden hoops are made of African Blackwood with solid gold fittings. Jeez, what are they thinking with their pricing? Silly chain store . . . cheap hoops are supposed to be cheap. Duh!

If you are looking for a quality wooden hoop, you should shop around for a vintage one or check out Hardwicke Manor. From what I understand they create amazingly wonderful hoops.

I don’t have a Hardwicke Manor hoop yet, but a lot of the embroiderists that I admire recommend using these wonderful tools. I have my eyes set on an oval and square one.

Why am I interested in oval and square hoops? Well, the answer is very simple. Because I don’t have an oval or square hoop. That’s all the reason I need to try one. Ah . . . I love simple answers. 

If you want to learn more about what makes a quality hoop, then check out these wonderful posts by Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread.

Mary’s blog is fantastic and chock-full of information and inspiration. I urge you to check it out! You’ll be glad you did. 

Spring Tension Embroidery Hoops

3.5- and 7-inch, Spring tension embroidery hoops.

The next style of embroidery hoop I want to bring your attention to is the spring tension hoop.

This is an amazingly versatile hoop and here’s why I think it’s great:

  • It’s looks cool and very high-tech.
  • It comes in a lot of great colors.
  • It’s fun to open and close.
  • It exercises your finger muscles.
  • It’s makes a great bubble wand.
Open Spring Tension Embroidery Hoop: Closeup

Close up of spring tension inner hoop.

Seriously, this spring tension embroidery hoop offers every benefit I’ve listed and more. So, if you are passionate about making bubbles—then this is the hoop for you—but if you are serious about hand embroidery, then this isn’t a good choice.

The spring tension hoop is flimsy and doesn’t maintain adequate fabric tension. If you wanted to wrap the spring tension wire to increase grip—which is a great idea—it would make the hoop useless, because the tension spring would no longer fit into the groove in the outer ring. Heavy sigh.

I know how the Darise Company could fix this annoying problem, but I think I’ll keep the solution to myself.

Hey, Darise Company . . . call me. Let’s chat.

You’ll be glad you did. 🙂

As critical as I have been about this hoop in regards to hand embroidery, it may work great for free-motion machine embroidery. I haven’t used it for that, so I can’t tell you how well it will work—with any degree of authority—but I think it has potential.

The low profile makes it easy to slide under the machine’s hopping foot, which is always an important consideration when choosing a hoop.

Since most free-motion embroidery is backed with a stabilizer, the demands on the hoop to maintain tension are less, so it may be the perfect hoop for this embroidery method. I’ll test this theory eventually and will let you know my results, so stay tuned . . .

Plastic Embroidery Hoops, Various Sizes

3- and 5-inch plastic embroidery hoops

The two hoops you see above are plastic embroidery hoops. The designs are based on traditional wooden hoops, with slight modifications. Since the hoops are constructed differently, I thought it would be more beneficial to go over them separately.

3-in. Plastic Embroidery Hoop: Open

This is a 3-inch Bates Hoop-La hoop, with a Super-Grip Lip.

This is my tiniest hoop. I bought it because I planned to stitch tiny things. Makes sense doesn’t it? Well it does and it doesn’t.

I learned from my friend Ms. Carol Anderson that just because the embroidery piece is small, doesn’t mean you have to use a small hoop. Lesson learned. Thank you Carol. (I’ll show you Carol’s solution in a future post.)

Because of the size of my hands, I had a ton of trouble trying to figure out how to hold the hoop. I spent more time wrangling the hoop than I did stitching the embroidery. This was a very frustrating experience for me. Your relationship with the hoop may be totally different, so I urge you to try it. I’ve learned there is no single answer, other than if it works for you, it’s a good solution.

One thing that I liked about the hoop was the Super-Grip Lip on the inner ring. This lip is different from most hoops. It adds a little extra grip to hold the fabric in place and it also makes seating the two rings easier.

3-in Plastic Embroidery Hoop: Closed

The lip on the inner ring slightly overlaps the outer ring ensuring a snug fit. It also has the word TOP stamped on it, in case you forget which end it up.

I loved the Super-Grip Lip idea, but was disappointed in the hoop’s performance. The fabric continued to slide as I worked and the dainty size wasn’t as user-friendly as I would have liked. Big hands. Whatcha’ gonna do?

I loved the colors and the extended tension screw. I can still see myself using it, but it will have to be a right time, right place, kinda thing.

5-inch Morgan No Slip Plastic Embroidery Hoop: Open

5-inch Morgan embroidery hoop open and ready for business.

This is my favorite hoop at the moment. It’s called a Morgan No Slip Hoop.

5-inch Morgan No Slip Plastic Embroidery Hoop: Outer Ring

Outer ring of hoop has a raised section that fit snuggly inside the inner ring.

I really like how it’s constructed. The outer ring has a ridge that fits inside a groove on the inner ring.

5-inch Morgan No Slip Plastic Embroidery Hoop: Inner Ring

Inner ring is recessed to allow the outer ring to seat itself perfectly inside.

The finish on the ring is slightly textured, so it grips the fabric nicely.

5-inch Morgan No Slip Plastic Embroidery Hoop: Close of Rings Interlocking

Close up showing how the inner and outer rings interlock.

The rings fit together so well that you barely have to tighten the tension screw to hold the fabric taut. Less tightening means less damage to the fabric. Yea!

Another great thing about this hoop is the tension screw. It is the longest I’ve seen on any hoop. The large wing nut makes it easy to tighten and the extended screw length allows the hoop to accommodate a lot of bulk and still close easily.

This is a great asset if you feel the need to embroider something that’s already quilted. As I said, this is my favorite hoop at the moment, because I’m working on medium and small sized things.

When I decide to work on big honking projects, I pull out my embroidery hoop version of a monster truck. It’s not the biggest hoop or frame on the market, but it’s still a monster compared to all the others I own.

Scroll Bar Standing Frame

Scroll bar frame can be used for larger pieces and embroidery work requiring two hands.

This 20 x 13.5-inch hoop or frame is the largest in my embroidery arsenal—and I love it! It comes with another set of rods, so I can stretch this bad boy out to 24 x 13.5-inches. This is a serious frame, for when I’m doing serious embroidery work.

I don’t use it that often, but it’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!!!! Because of the way it’s constructed I can easily set it on a table to work or hold it in my lap.

Another cool thing about this frame (and other standup frames), is that it allows me to use both hands to stitch. Beyond providing two-handed flexibility, the frame also keeps the work flat, taut and offers great visibility. How cool is that?

Scroll Bar Standing Frame: Closeup

Detail shot of cross tensioner on roller bars.

The canvas leaders give me the flexibility to attach any size piece to the frame. I can quickly baste a piece down, tighten the tension bars and I’m ready to sit and stitch for a while—a good long while.

This hoop makes working on a big job effortless. Besides being a great tool, it’s wonderful to look at. I love my monster truck embroidery hoop. 

Hoopy Endings Well, that’s it. I think I’ve done it. I think I’ve actually run out of things to tell you. It’s not everything I have to say, but it at least gets the conversation started.

So . . . now that I’ve told you about my embroidery hoops and why I like them—or don’t—whataya think?

  • Did I do okay?
  • Was this information helpful?
  • Do you still have questions?
  • Do you know less now than you did before you started reading?
  • Are you exhausted from reading all this stuff?
  • Do you think I’m in serious need of counseling?

Come on . . . tell me what you think!


Before I go, I have one more question.

Did you enjoy Doris’ amazing performance?
If you did, please give her a warm round of applause. As far as I’m concerned, I think she deserves a standing ovation. It was the most emotional and moving rendition of that song I’ve ever heard. Perry Como, your version sucked compared to my dear dear Doris’.

I just love that song. I’ll probably end up singing it all day long.

It’s kinda catchy ain’t it?  🙂

I am so inspired by this song that I think I want to start a wave like they do at all the major sporting events. Sounds fun don’t it?

Come on. Let’s do it. No ones watching.

(Stop laughing. You’re drawing attention to yourself.)

Okay . . . I’m ready. Are you?

(Stop laughing.)

Okay . . . I’ll go first. (Stop laughing.)

(I mean it. Stop laughing. This is important. It’s for Doris.)

Here I go . . . 

(No, seriously. Stop laughing! You’re gonna make me pee my pants.)

Okay . . . Here I go . . .

(Stop laughing.)

Now it’s your turn. 🙂