Hoops, frames and other methods to stretch fabric for embroidery

Learn different methods to stretch fabric when doing embroidery like Embroidery hoops, Stretcher bars, Scroll bars and slate frames

What are Embroidery Hoops?

Hoops consist of two rings, and the fabric is stretched in between these rings and tightened with a screw. They are the most commonly used tool for stretching fabric when embroidering, be it by hand or machine. You get wooden ones and plastic ones.  

embroidery hoops

Should I use Hoops when embroidering by hand ?

Yes, you should.  

I like to feel the fabric between my hands, touching the thread; this is one of my greatest enjoyment when sewing. So I find it a bit restrictive to use hoops. The stabbing required sometimes tests my patience.

But no one can deny that embroidery done on hoops look way better than the one done holding the fabric in hand, especially if you are doing counted thread embroidery like cross stitch or ones that require a flat surface like satin stitch and long and short stitch. 

For small embroidery designs, a 4″ hoop is enough, but if you have it in different sizes, more convenient for you. Remember that you need at least some free space all around the design for smooth embroidering so getting them in different sizes makes sense, not an indulgence.

You also get hands-free embroidery hoops with stands, which by the looks of it, is something I really really need. The hoop comes with its own stand. You can keep it on a flat surface and embroider at ease without having to hold the frame in hand.

Simple Rules of hooping

  • Do not stretch the fabric – A smooth surface is what you want.
  • Ensure that your hoop is not damaged and no sharp things stick out from the wooden surface. Sand it or get a new one.
  • You should use a hoop that is 1-2 inches bigger all around than the design you are embroidering. Not bigger or smaller, ideally.
  • If you are stabilizing the fabric, hoop the fabric and the stabilizer together.
  • Plastic hoops are good. They are smooth and easy to handle and washable. Do not mark fabric as much as the wooden ones I think.

Tip: When embroidering on delicate fabric some people cover the frames with strips of fabric ( wind around the frame all around) so that the tight frames would not mark the fabric.

You must stretch the fabric when doing machine embroidery.

How to put the fabric on the hoop for machine embroidery


Step 1 Keep the outer ring of the  hoop on a straight smooth surface with the screw loosened

Step 2 Place the fabric on top of this ring

Step 3 Keep the inner hoop on top of the fabric and push the inner hoop inside. Ensure that the fabric lies smoothly inside without overstretching. Make sure that the inner hoop is slightly outside with a slight projection ( some 1/8 inch)

Different types of embroidery hoops

Simple Screw embroidery hoop

The normal wooden embroidery hoop with screw clamping the fabric in place.

Spring Hoop

This hoop has two handles to operate, which is very easy but does not provide the great tension the one with the screw does. To use this, you squeeze a pair of handles on the inner ring to remove it, place the fabric over the outer ring, place the inner ring into place and release the handles.

Freestanding embroidery hoop stand

This is a metal stand – you also get a wooden embroidery hoop with this.

It keeps both your hands free for doing hand embroidery.

Slate Frame

The best frame to stretch fabric for very large embroidery projects.

Large shawls and fabrics can be easily stretched to the frame, and multiple people can embroider at the same time sitting around it. Another great thing about this frame is that a very even stretching is achieved throughout the fabric. And you can adjust the tension without setting up the frame from scratch – you just need to tighten the cords.

In India this frame is called Adda. This frame consists of a stand and adjustable wooden dowels with grooves in them ( they come in sizes of maximum  4 feet width &-6 feet length). The fabric is attached to the frames with threaded cords.

This frame is extensively used for tapestry work, gold work ( Ari work), beadwork, and zardozi work. The 5-yard sarees are worked on this frame.

The needle and thread website has an excellent tutorial on stretching fabric on the slate frame. 

Scroll Bars / Frames

slate frame

What are scroll frames or bars ?

This is another way of stretching fabric. The scroll bar or frame consists of two wooden scroll bars (which look like wooden dowels) and two spacers and tightening knobs. The fabric is attached to the scroll bars, and the spacers keep the bars apart. The fabric should be bigger than the scroll frame you have. The scroll bars come with stands also so that you can use them “hands-free.”

Three ways to attach the fabric to the bar

  • The fabric is basted onto a material already on the bar. A similar type has a sticky material with no need for basting.
  • The fabric is attached to a slit / groove on the bar.
  • The fabric is attached with metal tacks onto the scroll rods.

Floor Standing frames have the frame clamped or rested on a stand. Table frames can be kept on the table – they hold fabric secure with rollers (scroll bars) at the top and bottom. Rotating frames are used for doing large works. 


Q-Snaps, produced by the Q-Snap Corporation, US consists of four pieces of white plastic pipes, about 1″ in diameter in different lengths ranging from 6 inches to 17 inches. These pipe pieces are assembled to form a frame and the fabric is attached to the frame with a clip.

Stretcher Bars

Stretcher bars are wooden embroidery frames that really stretch the fabric and fasten with staplers or tacks. They are bought as long wooden bars with grooves at the end, which are then assembled to form the frame; The wooden rods are sold in pairs.

You can get any length of the wooden bars you want and can hence make large-scale projects as big as you want them.

Before you attach the fabric to the frame, finish the edge to prevent the edges from unraveling. Staples or tacks are used to attach the fabric to the rods.

stretch fabric on frames

Related posts : How to use stabilizers for embroidery ; Which fabric is best for doing embroidery ; Learn basics for learning embroidery – FAQ.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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