How to Hoop Caps for Machine Embroidery

How to Hoop Caps for Machine Embroidery

Hats & caps… just one of the many clothing articles we as embroiderers get to have fun and be creative with. But in order to start embroidering on them they need to be hooped properly. Whether you’re new to embroidery or an experienced embroiderer I’m sure we can all agree that hooping caps can be difficult, especially without proper instructions. I frequently see people post about their failed embroidery hat projects, asking what went wrong and often end up blaming their machines. Little do they know that if their cap isn’t hooped properly, it can lead to disastrous results. As with any embroidery project, if your hooping isn’t clean your embroidery won’t be either.

In this blog, you will learn my technique on hooping caps/hats that we used on our caps while running 2 of North Americas largest embroidery production factories in the 1990’s. Simply follow these steps to ensure your cap designs will stitch out clean. Before we get started, it’s important to know that you will need a cap hooping accessory. This accessory consists of 3 main components:

1. Driver:

The driver, which will fit right over top of the arm of the machine.
driver hat hooping

2. Cap frame:

The cap frame is what your hat will be attached to.
cap frame embroidery

 3. Jig:

The jig is used to attach the cap frame for more accurate hooping.

embroidery jig


Choosing Your Hat:

Before we hoop it’s important to understand there are different styles of caps available on the market. While there are hundreds of different hat styles and manufacturers out there, most hats generally fall under 3 main categories:

1. OPF (One piece front) hats:

These are usually categorized as “trucker/farmer” hats. These hats have one piece of foam laminated backing (gives the hat structure) and the rest of the hat is more of a mesh material. OPF hats are usually pretty easy to hoop and embroider because of their laminated backing and there is no center seam in the hat.

opf embroidery hat

2. Varsity / Collegiate hats:

These hats tend to fit a little closer to the head, due to the fact they do not have any laminated backing (structure) on the front of the panel. Because of this, these hats do have a tendency to move a little bit, which is why making sure it’s properly hooped is so important.

3. Sports Cap:

This is generally the most popular style of hat, especially for embroidery. This hat does have a center seam down the middle of the front panel (Aka: the Bermuda triangle of embroidery, you generally tend to lose stitches in the center seam) and a laminated backing giving it structure.

embroidery hats

Hooping your hat:  

In this blog, we are going to be focusing on how to hoop sports caps. Before we start hooping, I’d like you to consider that a hat needs to be hooped properly to run successfully on a machine. But what is equally or even more important, is that the design is digitized specifically knowing that it will be embroidered on a curved surface. Click here to watch my video tutorial on digitizing hats.  With that being said, let’s start hooping!

One of the most important things to remember when hooping your cap is that the center seam of the hat lines up to the center mark on your cap frame.
center seam cap frame


Step 1

Step one is making sure our cap frame is properly secured to the jig. You will know it’s secure because it will click into place and will have no, to hardly any, wiggle room.

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 11.36.57 AM

Step 2

Now we want to get the cap frame into position for our hat. We’ll start by moving the peak mount out of position as well as the band.

hooping hats embroidery hooping hats embroidery hooping hats embroidery hooping hats embroidery

Step 3:

Now that the jig is ready for hooping we need to prepare the hat itself. We’ll start by moving the band on the inside of the hat out of way, as the band will be placed underneath of the plate on the jig. (Be sure to try and align the red line to the center seam)
hat band embroidery hat band embroideryhooping hat for embroidery

Step 4

Now that our hat is on the cap frame and the band of our hat is securely in place, we’re going to take the cap frame band/strap and secure it so the teeth of the band lines up to the base of our cap. Once in position, push the strap down to lock it. Be sure there is no excess space where the peak of the hat meets the crown.

how to hoop caps how to hoop caps


Step 5

Now for our final step, we’re going to start by placing material over the peak of the hat to avoid unwanted markings on our cap (hats are generally one of the hardest materials to get hoop burn out of). Once the material is in place simply engage the peak mount to ensure the peak of the hat won’t hit the machine while it’s embroidering.

foam on hat hooping foam on hat hooping

Your hat is now successfully hooped! Once ready simply remove the cap frame from the jig and place on the driver.

Visual Learner?

If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a great quick tip video I put together explaining the process.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel now for more great embroidery tips & tricks!


Hooping a cap can be difficult, but using the proper hooping accessories will make a word of difference! Follow the steps above & you shouldn’t have any problems. Also it is extremely important to remember that embroidery designs MUST be specially digitized to be stitched on a cap. Any regular design you pull off of a design site won’t do.

Do you have any hat hooping tips & techniques for beginners? Let us know bellow, we love hearing alternative techniques!

By | 2019-03-07T11:26:27+00:00 November 6th, 2018|Embroidery Basics, Machine Embroidery How to Techniques|5 Comments

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  1. Kathy Bogle November 10, 2018 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I’ve never had a problem with structured caps but sometimes have a hard time hooping unstructured caps. Any suggestions?

  2. Houston embroidery service March 24, 2019 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    Gгest delivery. Great aгgսments. Keep up the good wοrk.

    • Embroidery Legacy March 29, 2019 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed the article!

  3. Graham April 10, 2019 at 1:08 am - Reply

    I’ve managed to find a hat hoop to suit my Brother NQ3500D single needle machine. Proper preparation is definitely needed to ensure the designs stitch out properly.
    Your book, Digitizing Made Easy, provides such useful information and gave me so much more insight into design layout, stitch types and stitch lengths (which I’d never even considered changing from default before). My embroidery has improved dramatically.
    Thank you.

    • Embroidery Legacy April 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm - Reply

      I couldn’t agree more, preparation is key.

      Thanks for the kind words Graham, I’m glad you found the book useful!

      I appreciate you taking the time to leave some positive feedback.

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