Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to finish embroidery in a hoop!

I get asked this question so often: how do you finish a cross stitch project in a hoop? So I figured I should finally write up a post with my method. It's a popular (and cheap!) way to finish an embroidery project for hanging on the wall. This process works for me, but of course you can adapt it to suit your needs and materials. I've illustrated it here using my Impossible project, which was stitched on linen, but the same method applies if you use Aida or any needlework fabric.

For this method, you'll need:
- an embroidery hoop
- a steam iron
- a terry cloth towel
- a piece of felt a few inches larger than your hoop
- a pencil
- really strong sewing thread... hand-quilting thread works very well
- a needle
- craft glue
- scissors

The first, and seriously kids...the MOST IMPORTANT step, is to iron your project completely and properly. I see so many beautiful stitching projects that get framed with wrinkles in them, and it makes me want to cry! Also, if your fabric is at all dingy or stained after working on it, you should absolutely wash it before you frame it.

Many stitchers insist you should wash every project, even if it doesn't look like it needs it, because the oils on your hands can cause stains to appear later. If you use DMC embroidery floss, it's color-fast and won't run when it's washed. Washing stitching is pretty easy, just hand wash in cold water using a few drops of dish detergent (not a laundry detergent like Woolite). Let the fabric soak, swishing it around gently. Don't wring or twist it. Rinse until the water is clear, then roll it in a clean dry towel to remove most of the water. Transfer to another dry towel and let it air dry until it's almost totally dry, then it's time to press it!

I set my iron to the highest setting ("linen" on most irons) and I use steam. But you should definitely check your setting on a scrap of fabric first if you aren't sure, because scorching your project after all that work would be the worst! The main thing about the ironing step is that you want to put your stitching face down and press it into a towel. This keeps the stitches from getting flattened, which I think ruins the wonderful dimensional look of embroidery.

Press it until every wrinkle is gone! If there are stubborn creases from a hoop, you may need to wash it to remove them. Less intense wrinkles can be worked out by lightly spritzing the fabric with a spray bottle before you press it. Absolutely don't use starch, as this can yellow over time and change the look of your fabric.

Ok, now that your stitching looks perfect, set it aside. Take the inner part of the embroidery hoop (the one that doesn't have the clamp to tighten it) and trace the outside of the hoop onto your felt (NOT your stitching!). Then cut the felt circle out right on that line.

Now it's time to center your stitching in the hoop. This is honestly the hardest part, so take your time. You want to make sure that the grain of the fabric isn't off-kilter, that the clamp on the outer hoop is lining up with the center of your stitching, and that the design is centered both horizontally and vertically in the circle. Don't tighten the clamp down too much while you do this, because you want to be able to reposition it until it looks good.

Once you're happy with the position, now you want to tighten the clamp and really stretch the fabric as taut as possible in the hoop. Tighten a little, tug on all the edges, tighten a little more, tug a little more...keep doing that until the clamp is as tight as it will go and the fabric is as taut as a drum.

Next, trim your excess fabric to about 1 1/2" outside the edge of the hoop. Then, cut a very long piece of the sewing least a yard long. Make a big knot in one end and start to sew a very large running stitch around the edge of the excess fabric, about 3/4" from the edge of the hoop.

(If you're using linen, you probably want to start by "locking" the thread in place by making a small stitch a couple of times in the same spot. This prevents the knot from pulling through the loose weave of the fabric.)

When you've stitched around the whole circle, pull the thread tight so that it pulls the excess fabric in towards the middle of the hoop. Knotting the thread off while keeping it tight is a bit tricky, you need to keep the thread tight with one hand while sewing a small tight stitch with the other hand, then knot your stitching and cut the thread.

Cut another really long piece of sewing thread and start "lacing" your fabric in place. This is done by making long stitches that go all the way across the hoop from one side to the other, as shown below:

Your lacing stitches should catch the fabric between the hoop and the gathering stitch, not at the very edge of the fabric, or they will pull through the weave of the linen. Lacing the fabric in place helps to prevent it from sagging or relaxing in the hoop later.

You're almost done! Now you want to cover the back with your felt circle. I usually glue mine in place with craft glue, but if the permanence or mess of glue scares you, you can hand sew it instead. You don't need a ton of glue, and if you use thick craft glue, it shouldn't leak through to the other side of your hoop and ruin the front. But do be careful!

If you glue it, it's sometimes necessary to weigh it down with a heavy book to help the edge dry flat. Dry it face up, just to make sure no glue drips end up on the right side of your fabric.

And though it may have seemed impossible, now you're done!

I hope this helped answer your hoop-framing questions. If you have other tips or methods, leave them in the comments!



  1. Thank you very much for the explanation. Is it more or less the same when you frame it with a canvas? What do you do to adjust it and keep it tight? Congratulation for your designs! Happy Christmas!

  2. I'm so glad you posted this before I cut the fabric on your San Francisco pattern that I just finished! :)

  3. This is wonderfully helpful - I would never have thought about using the felt...thanks so much.
    I am really enjoying my Pretty Little Sydney project.