Do I need to use a hoop for cross stitch?
Have you heard or been told that the only way to cross stitch is with your fabric in an embroidery hoop?
It's certainly very common to use a hoop (or frame) while you stitch and there are good reasons to do so, but also some potential downsides to using one.
This can be a bit of a controversial issue but ultimately it's a personal preference whether to use one or not. And it's certainly NOT essential, so I thought I'd share the pros and cons to help you make up your mind about hoops.
If you'd like to watch this as a video then just click below to hop over to YouTube;
Pros of using a hoop
# 1 - Having something nice and solid to hold onto can make your cross stitch project easier to handle than just the fabric alone.
# 2 - Following right on from # 1 is that you may find using a hoop prevents hand fatigue compared with holding just the fabric
# 3 - The BIG reason to use a hoop is...tension, tension, tension! Having your fabric in a hoop keeps the tension of your fabric nice and even which can help to make your stitches look neater and stop the fabric puckering up in areas with no stitches. And having the fabric taut can also help you to see the holes. So, for cross stitch beginners this can definitely make it a bit easier to get the hang of making the stitches and keeping them neat.
Cons of using a hoop
# 1 - Hoops will leave creases and maybe even marks, on your fabric. Of course, you can wash and press your finished piece but sometimes they are very hard or even impossible to shift, especially the creases.
# 2 - Holding a hoop can make your fingers or hand hurt…yes, some people find the exact opposite to Pro #2!
# 3 - Running in thread tails on the back when starting or stopping threads can be a little trickier because the hoop can sometimes get in the way.
# 4 - It's time consuming to put it on and take it off, and if you don’t do this for every stitching session then that crease situation I mentioned in Con #1 is going to be much much worse - eek!
# 5 - If you like to take your projects about and about then it's extra stuff to carry around.
For all of these reasons, I never use a hoop when I cross stitch. I have tried hoops on several occasions and I just can’t get on with them. I find them awkward to hold, they hurt my hand and they are just too much faff!
Cross stitching without a hoop
If you want to try without a hoop, then you can stitch ‘in hand’, which is exactly what it sounds like! Simply hold the piece of fabric in one hand and work the needle with the other hand.
If you'd like to see this in action then I recommend heading over to the video via the picture link above.
It’s actually great for smaller designs because you don’t need to cut a piece of fabric big enough to fit in a hoop, but I also stitch very large pieces without a hoop too.
I also love to stitch this way because I find I have more control over my needle which helps me find the holes more easily and stitch more quickly.
If you are worried about your tension, then I promise you that you can stitch perfectly well and keep a nice even tension while stitching in hand. It may just take a little practice to get used to it.
In fact, I would dare to say that using a hoop can be detrimental to your tension if you get the fabric too tight or get it stretched more one way than the other so the weave of the fabric is distorted.
Now, if you’ve been a long time lover of hoops then I would guess that I won't change your mind about using one, but if you are new to cross stitching or still undecided about hoops, then I would encourage you to try both with and without a hoop.
And remember...there is no right or wrong way to stitch; just choose the way that feels right to you. Whether that's with or without a hoop!
I'd love for you leave me a comment to let me know how you feel about hoops, or to ask me any questions.
Until next time, happy stitching!