When to Use a Frame instead of a Hoop

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I’ve had quite a few embroidery projects going on in the studio this year.

For example, you might remember that we kicked off the year with a voided monogram in floche. And then there was the whitework variation.

There’s been quite a bit of sampling going on this year, too – like this project, and this project, and this project.

There were some new spring towels, and some scroll towels, and some new folk towels.

Here, the Key to my Heart was finished as a hanging sachet and another voided monogram was finished as a needlebook.

Anna finished her Jacobean Bird, and I finished Jacobean Sea.

I started some more miniature stitching, I started (and finished – but I haven’t shown you yet) an ecclesiastical embroidery project, and Anna finished a gold and silk work project, which I have just started and hope to finish soon.

In and out of everything, I’ve worked on my hexie quilt project, too.

And there are a couple other projects still simmering and stewing, which I haven’t shared with you yet.

The reason I’m bring all of this up is because I’ve been asked several times lately a few questions about embroidery frames and hoops. The questions distill down to these general inquiries: What makes you decide to use a hoop over a frame or visa-versa, and should I be using a frame instead of a hoop?

Most of the projects I listed at the beginning of this article involved using an embroidery hoop.

I’ve written gobs about embroidery hoops and frames here on Needle ‘n Thread – and I will link to some of those articles at the end, for your further exploration.

Today, I’m going to talk about when I choose a frame instead of a hoop, and why, along with some incidentals about stretcher bar frames and other types of frames.

You can see in the photo above that I’ve used a pair of stretcher bar frames (specifically, these Evertite Frames – which are my favorites) to frame up the silk and goldwork rose I’m working on.

My Frame-Use Criteria

I use frames – either stretcher bar frames or slate frames (or variations on slate frames) – whenever I’m working on a project that:

1. Will take a while;

2. Fits within the confines of the frame;

3. Involves techniques that require two hands (or that’s easier to work with two hands);


4. Involves goldwork or similar techniques that benefit from consistent, even tension throughout the course of the entire project.

Generally, I use stretcher bar frames more often than slate frames, because I usually work smaller projects. If I were working a large project (something in the 18″ + range in either direction), I’d most likely go for a slate frame or one of its variations.

Why Evertite Stretcher Bars?

But for the most part, when it comes to frames, I use Evertite stretcher bars because:

1. They are quicker to set up than a slate frame;

2. They maintain excellent tension that can be adjusted (unlike plain stretcher bars) with a twist of the inset screws;


3. They can be used over and over and over again, so they are a good investment – as evidenced by the stretcher bar shown in the photo above that is riddled with holes from years of use.

Stretcher Bar Essentials

When you use stretcher bars, to make the set-up efficient, it helps to have a few extra tools on hand.

These tools include:

1. An EZE Tack-It Kit – a tool kit available at needlework shops that includes a magnet “pusher” for pushing the tacks into the side of the frame, a puller for removing tacks easily, and some tacks;

2. A jar of tacks;

3. A T-handle allen wrench, for tightening the Evertite frames (not needed if you aren’t using Evertites).

I keep a jar of thumbtacks available, and I use the cheapy ones that you’d find at a hardware store. If they bend or break, I throw them away. I’ve been using the same jar for years and years without replenishing, and although I do lose tacks here and there because of breakage, it is still much more affordable than purchasing the frame tacks sold in small quantities at needlework shops.

I have a lot of Evertite frames, because I was able to acquire them very affordably from a needlework store that went out of business.

The sizes I find the most useful for my projects range from 8″ through 14″. I commonly use a combinations of 8×8, 9×9, 8×10, 10×12, 10×14, 11×14. I will use stretcher bars up to 20″, but when I project gets beyond that size, I will usually opt for a slate frame, because I can control tension better on larger projects using a slate frame.

I also figure that a larger project will take me longer to stitch, so putting the extra time into the set-up of the project (slate frames take a lot longer to set up) is not as daunting!

For smaller projects, though, like the silk and goldwork rose above, like Jacobean Sea, like Fantasia in Silk, like the pall design I just finished, and so forth, I really love these stretcher bar frames.

They can’t be beat for quick set-up and for consistently taut fabric.

When I use Hoops

I use hoops for regular surface embroidery, when I need to be able to move the hoop around the design.

I also use hoops for very small, quicker projects that fit within the perimeter of a small 4 or 5″ hoop.

So, for the voided monograms earlier this year, for these snowflake ornament designs from last Christmas, for projects like the Twelve Trees for Christmas, and for all the towel sets I’ve embroidered and all the smaller sample projects that have shown up here on the website over the years, a small hoop is perfect.

More on Hoops & Frames

If you want to read more about embroidery hoops and frames, check out these articles:

Embroidery Hoop or Frame? – This covers a lot of information about embroidery hoops and different types of frames.

The Embroidery Hoop – what makes a good one?

Binding an Embroidery Hoop – why and how to bind the inner ring of an embroidery hoop

Evertite Stretch Bars – Review and How to Use Them

A Hoop on a Stick – embroidery hoop sit-on stand

Dressing a Slate Frame for Hand Embroidery – a tutorial for setting up a huge slate frame

Solid and Serviceable Slate Frames – a review of excellent slate frames from Access Commodities

You can also read about all kinds of other needlework tools by visiting this topic on Needle ‘n Thread.

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