Hoops, Frames, & Stretcher Bars

What’s All the Hoopla About?

One of the most asked questions we get is "should I use a hoop?" Today’s format will be a little different as we answer the age old questions of what, who, and why so that you have enough information to decide what is best for you and your project.

What is a hoop?

A hoop is a device used to aid the stitching in holding the fabric. Early hoops were made from available materials. For example, Naversom embroidery is translated as "birch bark" because of the materials used for the frame. In Sweden, shepherdesses stretched their work over a birch bark frame which could be rolled up and taken with them as they tended their animals.

Older frames were often referred to as Tambour frames because of the device once used to secure the lace on which Tambour work was done. This frame was formed of two rings of wood or iron made to fit one over the other. The rings were covered with a fabric, often a flannel to help protect and hold the fabric to be stitched. The photos I have seen of the Tambour frame show them to be rather large, not like the embroidery hoops we use today.

Who uses a hoop?

This is a personal choice that may depend on the project you are stitching. A majority of stitchers use a hoop when doing cross-stitch and Brazilian embroidery, for example. A frame or stretcher bars are often used for needlepoint and large cross-stitch projects. Hardanger embroidery is usually done "in hand" meaning without a hoop, but some stitchers do use a scroll frame for larger pieces.

Why use a hoop?

The purpose of using a frame or hoop is to keep your fabric taut when stitching. Why is that important? For many people, it helps to keep their stitch tension even. If your stitches have an even tension, your finished piece is less likely to pucker. It is easier to mount a piece for display that lays well. It is also hard to straighten up a wall hanging that has some ripples in it. Using a hoop may also improve counting for projects like needlepoint.

Once you decide you want to use a hoop, you need to decide what kind to use. Let’s look at the different type of hoops and frames, and how to use them.


Frames are great for counted cross stitch, counted and pulled thread, Canvaswork/needlepoint, and large embroidery projects. Frames are especially useful for reducing pain and relieve fatigue, especially when used with a stand so that the frame is free standing.

There are several types of frames available.

Scroll Frames E-Z stitch frame (6924)

This frame set has three parts – scroll rods, extender bars, and tightening knobs.

The extender bars are the pieces on the sides of the frame that do not attach to the fabric. These are sold in different lengths which will determine how many inches of fabric you will have to work on at a time. The knobs are used to tighten the scroll bars. They can be made of wood or plastic. You need to be sure the knobs are compatible with your system. Your fabric attaches to the scroll rods. There are at least four different ways to attach your fabric to the scroll rods. You need to be aware of the types so that you purchase the right one.

One of the benefits of using a scroll frame system is that you can take a long project and roll the excess around the scroll rod, so that only a small working surface shows. As you complete that section, you advance the rods to view the next section of fabric.

The No Basting System eliminates the need for sewing the fabric to webbing on the Scroll Rods. These scroll rods do not have webbing on them. On the rod you attach the No Baste for Scroll Rods, which has a sticky back. The No Baste for Fabric attaches to each end of your fabric also with a sticky back. This is permanently attached to your fabric and must be cut off before finishing. It is about a half inch wide (3/8"), so be sure to add an inch to your fabric length. One nice feature of this system is you can quickly remove a project and put another one on the rods in just a matter of minutes. You can also take your projects off the rods to store them if you know you won’t be stitching for a while. If you have an older system with webbing or split rods, you can convert them to this system by purchasing the No Baste system components.

You can also purchase an entire start up set. This frame set makes 6 different frame sizes and includes two scroll rods each measuring 6″, 12″, and 18″ with No Basting System. Set includes 2 sets of extender bars measuring 6″ and 8″ made of solid American Red Oak. Kit includes a 72″ roll of No Basting System for scroll rods and a set of 4 knobs

Handi Clamp (licensed by Q Snap) also has a starter kit that includes two no baste scroll rods measuring 6", 8", 14" and 20″ scroll rods, two 6″ and 8" extender bars, eight ball knobs and instructions. Makes two complete frames.

The Lap-Stitch Mini-Mini FrameWe have a couple of really cute lap frames that incorporate the scroll rod system with a frame that will sit on a table or your lap. This Mini-Mini Frame is perfect for small designs and punchneedle. It easily fits into your stitching bag so you can take it anywhere. This frame includes 7″ dowels and offers a 6″ top-to-bottom working area.

The Doodler lap frameThe Doodler lap frame will hold larger projects. The evenly balanced design of the side bars allows the stitcher to turn the frame around and have it remain evenly balanced. This model sits 10″ tall with interchangeable 12″, 15″ and 18″ dowels.

Another method scroll frame option is a Split Rail Scroll Rod. This scroll rod has a split down the length of the rod for easy insertion of your fabric. If you want to have several projects going at a time, you will need to have several split rail rods otherwise you will need to unwind your project each time to insert the next project. We have a Split Rail Scroll Rod Set that can make frames in a variety of sizes: 6″ x 12″/18″/24″ and 9″ x 12″/18″/24″.

Some of the older scroll rod systems have a fabric strip attached to the rod, called Webbing. The ends of your project are sewn to the webbing either by hand or machine, so you will need to cut that end off your project before finishing. Be sure to allow the extra length when you cut your fabric.

Another way to attach your fabric to solid rods is with Tacks, like you would do with stretcher bars. Japan brass tacks are a good example.

11 x 11 frame kitQ-Snap Frames

This unique frame is based on the simple concept of interchangeable lengths of PVC pipe which can be easily assembled to your required work size. Your fabric is rolled around the curve of the pipe and held tautly in place with a clip. No more crinkling of your fabric in a hoop or stapling it to a stretcher bar! The frame comes apart in seconds to store or to carry in practically any tote.

Q-snaps come in a variety of sizes including an 11" x 11" frame kit.

11 x 11 frame kitFrame Covers are a great addition to your stitching basket. Place your project in your Q-Snap, and tuck the excess fabric away as you stretch the Snap Wrap around the frame. Keep your beautiful stitching project clean and protected! Snap Wraps are machine washable and come in many sizes.

Stretcher Bars

Stretcher bars come in pairs. Each bar has "teeth" at each end so you can slot them together to build a frame in the size you need. The fabric or canvas is then tacked to the frame. Some stitching frames will hold stretcher bars. You purchase the stretcher bars to match your project size. Depending on the stitcher, you will want to purchase stretcher bars up to 2" SMALLER than your fabric. You can also try to match the frame dimensions to the canvas size. So if your canvas is 8" x 10", you would purchase a pair of 8" and 10" bars. A good tip is not to scrimp on the number of tacks you use. The more tacks you use, the better your tension will be and will stay taut as you stitch.

Tanja Berlin with Berlin Embroidery uses stretcher frames for almost all her stitching projects. She has put together a wonderful tutorial on how to put together the frames and tack your fabric or canvas to the frames. Go to this site and scroll down a little bit to see the heading "HOW TO ASSEMBLE FRAME AND PIN ON FABRIC"


Some stitchers mount their work in their frames so that the underside fabric is on the outside of the frame and the top of the fabric is "inside" the frame. This may keep the working surface cleaner and may prevent thread being tangled on the edges of the frame. Other stitchers prefer to mount their fabric just like in an embroidery hoop with the top fabric on the top of the hoop.

Embroidery Hoops

Most hoops are made from wood or plastic. The concept is that you place your fabric over the smaller ring and place the larger ring over the fabric, stretching it tight. Many of the frames have a device on them to tighten the top ring. Here is a great tutorial on how to use a Spring Hoop (metal ring that slips into a plastic outer ring) and a Wooden Hoop (or plastic hoop).

Hoops come in a variety of sizes. Most of the time you will want to use a hoop that is large enough to stitch your project without needing to move the hoop so that any of the stitching would be caught in the hoop. This can cause your stitching to be distorted and can break some threads.

If you use a hoop, ALWAYS remove your stitching from the hoop each time you quit for the day. This will help to prevent wrinkles and creases in your fabric that are hard to get out when you are ready for finishing.

Here are some of the types of hoops:

  • Spring Tension Hoops have a metal clip that you place your fabric around and then it slips into the plastic outer hoop. This works better on thinner fabrics.
  • No Slip Hoops are durable plastic hoops that have a unique tongue-in-groove design that holds fabric firmly in place.
    • There are also No Slip Hoops that incorporate a stand. The two no-slip hoops join with three support rods to keep your hands free. Each hoop may also be used individually when unassembled.
  • Clover Hoops and Stands have a locking embroidery hoop has a special lip on the inner hoop that grips the fabric firmly when the outer hoop is tightened. A special cover over the tightening screw on the outer hoop keeps your thread from tangling in the screw. This is a great hoop and stand for punchneedle.

Embroidery Lap FrameEmbroidery Lap Frame is a hands-free lap or table frame. It rotates and tilts and the frame is adjustable from 12 to 15.5 inches tall with a 10 inch hoop. Instruction booklet is included.

Tip: If you have a favorite hoop that just doesn’t hold the fabric tight, try using a frame tape that goes on the inside of your hoop. Make sure to get one that is easy to apply and leaves no residue on your fabric.

Stitching Stands

There are a variety of stitching station/stands available on the market. Some come with the frame, while attach your frame to the stand. It is important if you are using your existing frame, to take it with you so you can make sure it will work with the stand or station you are looking to buy.

We have many options available for frames, hoops, stitching stands, stations, and accessories. Click here to see all the products we carry.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

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