Hooping Skills: the most important skill to learn in embroidery.
I have said it before, and I will keep saying it: YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR HOOPING SKILLS.
I know, I know. I am such a nag, right? Nah, not really. I just want to get everyone to see that there is in fact a right way and a wrong way when you are hooping. How do I know this? Years and years of experience, thousands of embroidery designs stitched on just about every fabric/item you can think of, more learning, and tons of time figuring it all out. So why not take advantage of what I know, and then you know how to do it right? Why not set yourself apart from everyone else who does embroidery? You can do better, I just know it.
You are only as good as your hooping skills: It makes sense, doesn’t it? You can have the most beautiful embroidery design on screen, and when you stitch it out, it looks terrible. Why? Hooping skills, that’s why! If you don’t hoop something properly, it is not going to stitch properly. If you don’t use the right size hoop, you may have mistakes. If you don’t use the right kind of stabilizer, you will have issues. Everything comes back to proper hooping skills.
Learn them, and learn them well.
Here are the 6 biggest mistakes in embroidery today.
- Using the wrong sized hoop for the job:
I see this time and time again – using the wrong sized hoop! If you have a small design, you do not want to use a 5×7 hoop for that design – you want the smallest hoop that will fit your design. You can figure this out in your software, or even on some machines. My small single needle machine has some icons that tell you what sized hoop that you should be using. Actually, it doesn’t tell you the right size, it shows you the size that your design will fit on. It shows you the smallest size to the biggest size that is available. Yes, the machine will stitch a 2×3 design on a 6×10 hoop, but that is not what you should be doing. The smallest sized hoop for the design will ensure the proper stabilization and tension of the fabric and stabilizer when you hoop – and it will be easier to maintain that support when the design is embroidering. If you use a bigger hoop, there is a bigger chance that the material will slip during embroidery. Even if it slips a tiny bit, 1mm, that means that the part of your design that is stitching will be 1mm out. Ok, that might not be too much, but it is quite possible that it may happen a few times- and then you will be out of registration on your design. And that looks bad.
- Floating stabilizer instead of hooping it.
I am pretty sure we have gone over this one before. Let’s all say it together. Ready? Float a boat, not stabilizer. Or fabric. Or anything. Floating is for boats, not embroidery. If you want sub-par or OK, results, keep floating. If you want professional level, better-than-OK embroidery that you can be proud of, learn how to hoop properly.
- Not hooping the fabric or garment:
See above. Say it all over again, one more time. You need to hoop stabilizer AND fabric at the same time. Basting and (gasp) pins are NOT the same thing as hooping. Basting stitches may generally hold your fabric in place, but it is not hooped, and does not have the same consistent final results. You may think it is good enough, but in reality it just isn’t. There is nothing that can take the place of hooping. So hoop everything, please.
- Pulling the fabric:
Yes, this is a big mistake when you are hooping, I see it all the time – and yes, I can tell from a picture that it was not hooped properly, and sometimes I can even tell the mistake. And this is one of them! When you are hooping properly, you take the material and the stabilizer and put the hoop together kind of tightly,and when you have everything just so you make the hoop tight so that it will hold everything together. Before you tighten the hoop, you can make some small adjustments, depending on the type of material that you are using and gently pull the fabric into place. What if the material isn’t quite in the right place? What do you do? Some people think it is ok to pull on the fabric (and stretch it) to get it into the right position. While it may be ok to flatten or pull slightly before you tighten the hoop, anything more than that will cause you so many issues! Think about it, when you pull the fabric that is already hooped, you are basically stretching the fabric. When you are finished embroidering, and remove the hoop, what is going to happen? The fabric does not have anything holding it in the stretched position, so it is going to go back to its normal position, and that will cause some nasty puckering. It is better to hoop again until you get it right, without stretching the fabric. Keep hooping it until you get it right. There really is no point embroidering anything if it doesn’t look great when you are done, right? RIGHT? Take your time, hoop properly and carefully.
- Not hooping fabric because you are worried about Hoop burn:
Hoop burn is no excuse for not hooping something properly. Yes, hoop burn happens! It really is not a big deal, and is easily fixed, and hoop burn will happen less and less the better you are at your hooping skills. We have also talked about this one, all you need is a little bit of steam. If you have hoop burn, have some tea – but before you make the tea, use a little bit of steam on your item to solve that hoop burn. It is literally fixed in 5 minutes. So don’t let hoop burn ruin your embroidery, learn to hoop properly and fix it quickly with a little bit of steam if you need to.
- Not using the right stabilizer:
You need to use the right stabilizer for the embroidery and for the fabric that you are using. Hatch takes the guesswork out of what stabilizer that you should use for certain embroidery. There are many types of stabilizer, but they fall into two categories: cutaway and tearaway. Cutaway offers more stability – it is thicker and more stable and you must use scissors to cut it away. Tear away is exactly how it sounds- you can tear it away instead of cutting it. Obviously tear away is much thinner and less stable than cutaway. There are also fusible stabilizers, water soluble stabilizers, no show mesh stabilizers and the list goes on and on. What happens if you don’t use the right stabilizer? Your embroidery will not look ok. Again, if for some strange reason you are OK with just OK, then keep using water soluble stabilizers for the back of towels…or forget using stabilizers and have none. Yes, your embroidery *may*look ok when you are done, and it may be ok, but it sure isn’t great. A lot of people can take their OK embroidery off their machine and gift it or give it to a customer or a friend. Hooah, you did your first or 100th embroidery. What is going to happen when they wash it? If you have no stabilizer, there is nothing to keep the stitches from moving around or clumping up and looking terrible. People don’t think of this part when they are done with their embroidery. Embroidery is meant to last through washings and regular use – but only if you stabilize it properly. Otherwise, the first time they wash your work, they will never use it again, and they will never come back to you again. Seriously. That is how it works.
If you take a tea-towel and do one design with a WSS (water soluble stabilizer) and one with a cut away stabilizer, stitch them out and look at them. OK, the cutaway is going to look sharper, be in registration and look GREAT. The other one is probably OK. Now wash them both. Now, look at them side by side. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. The properly hooped and stabilized embroidery will still look great, and the other one, well, not so much. I have seen people actually state that they will NOT use stabilizer on the back of anything because it doesn’t look nice with the stabilizer showing. Well, that may be the case, but that is how it is done! If you tidy up the stabilizer, it doesn’t look bad at all, but put your focus on the FRONT where the embroidery is – and when you ask your friend 6 months later “how is the personalized towel I made for you” the answer will be “it is still beautiful” if you use the right stabilizer for the job. After all, you do embroidery so it will last right? You do embroidery for kids so they can enjoy it, right? You do embroidery for customers so that they will keep coming back, right? If you do embroidery that only lasts through a wash or two, do you really think they will be coming back? No. No, they wont. I have a shirt that I embroidered about 10 years ago (it’s my favorite shirt) and I have washed it literally hundreds of times. And it still looks great and I still get compliments on it. Don’t you want that effect on your customers and friends?
My advice: Learn hooping skills and stop taking short cuts. You are only hurting yourself when you decide that hooping is too difficult to learn, so why bother? This works fine. The key word being FINE. I don’t want just fine, I want long lasting beautiful embroidery that I can be proud of. Oh, I know some of you are saying, “well, none of my customers/friends/kids have complained about it” and that might be correct, however, they may not complain, but they will go elsewhere. Guaranteed.
Here is a quick video that shows you some of the basic hooping skills. Even if you have been doing embroidery for a while, this video is going to give you a few pointers on how to hoop properly. Learn it, and learn it well. Once you start hooping correctly, your embroidery will change and look better.
Next week’s blog, we are going to talk about placement. Once you get basic hooping done properly, we have to put that together with placement and how to hoop properly the first time so that your embroidery design is centered and is in the exact place that you want it, on any fabric.
Until next time, hoop properly and Happy Stitching!