One hoop to rule them all?

Choosing a hoop for your cross stitch project can be confusing. There are so many options! And if you end up with multiple works in progress (spoiler alert: you will!) then it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll also want to try the different kinds of hoops that you see hanging in the store or while you’re browsing a website. Most stitchers tend to want the hoop that provides the best tension for their fabric, but there are other factors at play, too. In this post I’ll share my thoughts on three different types of hoops, and I’ll reveal which one I like best. The answer may surprise you!

Wooden hoops

Wooden hoops are by far the most common and easiest to find option. They’re also usually the cheapest, but you’ll quickly see that old adage “you get what you pay for” proves to be true. The basic wooden hoops that you find in all the craft stores and even some big box stores are still serviceable, though. Think of them as the “old reliable” hoop. Even if you decide that you like another type of hoop best, the basic wooden ones are always good for framing finished pieces. You can even wrap them in yarn or ribbon or paint or stain them to jazz them up a little.

Are some wooden hoops better than others? Yes. Definitely. My favorite one happens to be a vintage one from Woolworth that my mom gave to me. I’m not sure what kind of wood it’s made out of, but the cheapest wooden hoops are usually made of bamboo. These hoops are also most commonly included with cross stitch kits. Beechwood is another material used for hoops that’s slightly more expensive and also usually provides a bit better tension. Finally, most wooden hoops that you’ll find in the stores are sold at a thin width of around 5/16th of an inch. The vintage Woolworth hoop that I like is wider at 5/8th of an inch. The wider width is easier to hold, and I find that it provides better tension, too, since there’s more surface area around the hoop for the fabric. Quilting shops and websites sell wooden hoops in a greater variety of widths that you might be interested in trying.

Plastic hoops

Hoops made of plastic are another economical option. Most are of a similar design to the wooden hoops, but some have a tongue and groove system for better tension. A popular brand you’ll see in stores is the Susan Bates Hoop-la hoop. These hoops have an inner ring that creates a lip with the outer ring when tightened. Anchor also sells a similar version. Again, there are plenty of cheap plastic hoops out there, and you should really caveat emptor (that means “buyer beware”) if you see a price that looks too good to be true on a certain well-known website.

Morgan No-Slip hoops

These hoops are also plastic, but the material is much more substantial. Morgan hoops use a tongue and groove system, too, and the rings are a bit wider to provide a little more surface area for the fabric. The most obvious feature is the big honking industrial-sized screw mechanism at the top that helps keep the outer ring nice and tight. Unfortunately, this combination also makes these hoops quite heavy. Morgan does make a lap stand for their hoops that’s quite popular with cross stitchers, though. The Morgan hoops are also wider as I discussed above.

The reveal…

So which hoop is my favorite? Drum roll, please…..

It’s the Susan Bates Hoop-la hoop! I honestly didn’t expect to end up liking this one as much as I have. At first I thought, oh, it’s plastic, whatever. But the inner ring is the secret weapon if you use it properly! Look closely and you’ll notice that it’s printed with the words “this side up.” Once you place your fabric over the ring and start to tighten the outer ring it creates a lip that provides excellent tension. Personally, I’m not really a stickler about tension, but I do find that I have to adjust these hoops much less often than the others and that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing. Plus, the Susan Bates hoops come in lots of fun, bright colors! They’re great as frames for finished projects, too, but I keep a selection of various sizes purely for stitching purposes.

Ultimately, there isn’t really one hoop to rule them all. Like anything else it all comes down to personal preference and what’s most comfortable for you to stitch on. You may even find yourself switching between different types of hoops depending on the project. There are also other options like the Q-Snap and scroll frames. I hope this post provided a little bit of guidance on choosing a hoop. Let me know what type of hoop or frame is your favorite!

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