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When to hoop or not to hoop?

When at all possible, hoop your fabric. It is the most secure method for embroidery. A few exceptions are:

Velvet
Corduroy
Satin Faced Silk
Velour
Very Thick Terrycloth

There are other fabrics that benefit from not being hooped as well, mostly expensive silks and fine linens. Many natural fibers crush or mark easily so it is always smart to test a little corner of your finer fabrics before you hoop your project. Some people have success in preventing hoop burn by wrapping their inner hoops with soft fabric. (I use this method as a last resort.)

Fabrics that have loops (such as terry cloth); have a cut pile (such as corduroy and velvet) or have a very loose weave may be damaged by sticking to a stabilizer if that stabilizer will be pulled away after stitching. These fabrics are usually either hard to hoop or tend to mark with hooping, so they really need to be stuck. I like to use Vileen stabilizer and temporary spray adhesive for these projects. Vilene stays well in the hoop and is sturdy enough to support most fabrics. Because it dissolves with water, you do not have to worry about disturbing the pile of the fabric by pulling it away.

Sometimes, however, I find myself using a fabric that shouldn't be hooped or washed, and would be damaged by ripping away a sticky stabilizer. In these cases I use a regular piece of lightweight woven interfacing for my stabilizer and just trim away as much of the interfacing as I can after stitching. Usually these projects end up with a lining, and as interfacing is soft and pliable, you cannot tell that it remains.

Knits are one of the fabrics that benefit from using woven interfacing as a stabilizer. Non-woven sheer cut-away stabilizer also works great for knits. The most commonly used stabilizer for knits is the non-woven cut-away. However, as a knit is already thick and spongy this just adds to the depth, which can cause design distortion. If you have ever embroidered a design on a sweatshirt using a cut-away stabilizer and ended up with a not-so-happy result, the stabilizer was most likely the problem. I like to use iron-on woven interfacing or fusible sheer cut-away stabilizer for all my knit projects. Apply it to the back of the fabric, ironing just enough to hold the layers together, and then add another layer of iron-on tear-away stabilizer over that. (The iron-on woven interfacing (or fusible sheer cut-away stabilizer) needs to be slightly bigger than the area of the embroidery design, and the iron-on tear-away needs to be slightly bigger than the hoop.) After stitching and removing the tear-away, gently pull up the interfacing and trim the excess from around the design. Some people like to use iron-on knit interfacing, which stretches in both directions. They usually use two or three layers placed at different angles. This just makes a stiff and cumbersome embroidery. I find that woven interfacing and non-woven sheer cut-away works best and only one layer is needed. Remember, when embroidering on knits, the thinner the better!

There are several stabilizers that can be removed with heat. These stabilizers also work well for projects that cannot be washed, you just need to be sure the fabric can withstand the heat necessary to remove the stabilizer later.

Peel and stick stabilizer is popular, but use extreme caution, as the sticky is very sticky! Any stabilizer can be made into a "stick to" stabilizer by spraying one side of it with temporary spray adhesive. When using temporary spray adhesive use only as much as you need. Don't over do it and don't spray anywhere around your machines! I go outside.

Fabrics that cannot be hooped also benefit from being basted in place on top of the stabilizer as an extra precaution. Most embroidery machines have a function that will sew a basting stitch outline around the perimeter of the design area. If your machine does not have this function, you can carefully baste the layers together by hand while they are in the hoop.

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Stabilize!

Having trouble with embroidery that puckers and ripples around the edges when it is removed from the hoop?

Incorrect hooping and/or stabilizing usually causes puckered embroidery. Fabric that has been pulled drum tight in the hoop will pucker around the edges of the embroidery after it has been released from the hoop...so resist the temptation to tug on the fabric after you have hooped it. Your fabric should be "at rest" in the hoop. This means, smooth and flat, but not spring board tight.

To hoop correctly, simply lay the fabric over your hoop, align it, straighten out any wrinkles, and then place the top part of the hoop into the bottom part of the hoop. (Hoop your projects on a hard flat surface...not your lap.) If you have a wrinkle in your fabric after hooping it, hoop it again. Do not tug the wrinkle out.

The best way to keep you from wanting to tug and pull on the fabric as you are hooping - causing it to stretch - is by adhering your stabilizer to your project fabric. I recommend one layer of a light-weight iron-on tear-away such as Totally Stable by Sulky. The brand doesn't matter as much as how it works - if it comes off as easy as it goes on, it's a good stabilizer! Make sure you cover an area larger than your hoop so that the hoop encloses stabilized fabric all around. If your design requires more stabilizing, float an additional piece of regular tear-away under the hoop before you begin.

Too many layers of stabilizer can also cause distortion or puckers around and in a design. Choose your designs to suit your fabric. Lightweight, delicate fabrics need designs that are not stitch intensive. Heavy weight, tightly woven fabrics can support more stitches such as wide satin stitching or large filled areas. If you need to use more than two layers of stabilizer, chances are that you have chosen a design that does not suit your fabric.

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A Dozen Things to Know
  1. Always preshrink your project fabrics (including applique fabric) whenever possible before beginning a project.
     
  2. READ THE DIRECTIONS. Designs put a LOT of information in the PDF files that come with their designs. Read them completely before you begin. You'll find helpful hints, tips, stabilizing suggestions and sometimes fabric and project suggestions.
      
  3. Keep your thread stored in a way that will prevent dust and light damage. Opaque plastic boxes with lids work well. Mini king spools or small spools can be stored in children’s toy car keeper boxes found at most discount stores.
     
  4. Protect the embroidery arm of your machine. When stitching, be sure nothing impedes the movement.
      
  5. Clean out the bobbin case on a regular basis.
     
  6. Remember to change your needle. If your machine is skipping stitches, chances are you need a new needle.
     
  7. If you are using your body weight to push the top hoop into the bottom hoop while hooping...loosen the hoop! It shouldn’t hurt to hoop, and you shouldn’t have to jump up and down to do it.
      
  8. Use the smallest possible hoop for your design.
     
  9. Pre-stitch designs on project fabric (or something very similar) before beginning the actual project.
     
  10. Back applique fabrics with fusible webbing...fuse to the background fabric after trimming and before stitching the final satin stitch edging, right in the hoop using a mini-iron. Do this on a hard, flat, heatproof surface.
     
  11. Use tweezers to lift and hold jump threads while trimming. This helps prevent accidentally clipping stitches.
     
  12. Do not leave the room while the machine is stitching. The very time you walk out on your machine, the needle will break and punch holes in your project...or something just as bad! Our machines like to bask in our attention don't you know!

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