Hooping and stabilizing in computerized embroidery

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Machine embroidery
Module: Computerized embroidery
draft beginner
See also



Correct hooping together with appropriate backing (stabilizing are important factors for creating embroidery that will stay flat (more or less) and look like on the computer screen. On the software side you also have to take material constraints into consideration, e.g. add pull and push compensation or adapt densities or even the whole design.

There are two basic ways of hooping.

(1) Attach a stabilizer (also called backing) to the back of the fabric and hoop both together

Standard hooping (seen from the back)
Standard hooping (seen from the front)

(2) Hoop only the stabilizer and just put the fabric on top, e.g. using fixation glue or an auto-adhesive stabilizer. The latter method is used for creating embroidery patches, but can also be used in some "normal" situations, e.g. for delicate fabrics such as silk.

Fabric glued on top hooping
Hooping for a pre-cut patch, border partially stitched

It is important to hoop tightly. The easiest method is to tighten the hoop with just enough space left for the fabric plus the stabilizer to be squeezed in.

  • put one of the hoop parts on a flat surface
  • put the fabric on top
  • press down the second part.

If this does not work, then you can try pulling corners. To do so you may have to loosen the screw.

Testing the tension

A well hooped fabric must be tight.

The snow plow test

Glide your finger on the hooped tissue. It should not create "waves"....

The drum test

Tap on the hooped textile. If it sounds like a drum you are fine. This applies to non-elastic tissues without using a stabilizer and elastic tissues that you stabilized (as you should in any case)

Use of stabilizers

There are several types of stabilizers, e.g.

  • Water soluble: Used for freestanding lace (FSL) and also as topping for some fabrics, e.g. towels
  • Self-adhesive tear away: Used for heavy fabrics (but also lighter and softer ones with less good results since it is not very strong, but it is the most easy to use)
  • Tear away: Medium-heavy woven fabrics and sturdy fabrics. This has to be ironed or glued to the fabric depending on the brand.
  • Polyester mesh cut away: Used for T-shirts and similar
  • Cut-away: pullovers and such

The Brother PR1050X Operation manual (p. 254) recommends fabric/stabilizer combinations of which we reproduce some modified excerpts:

Fabric/Garment No. of Backing Pieces No. of Topping Pieces Comments
Denim 1 tear-away None Lower speed if problems
Terry cloth (bath towels) 1 tear-away 1 water soluble Increase density and avoid small lettering.
Fine woven shirts 1 tear-away None For high-density or highly detailed designs use two pieces of lightweight backing
Golf shirt 1 cut-away Optional
Corduroy 1 tear-away 1 water-soluble Use denser stitcher or denser/more understiches.
Lingerie or silk 1 or 2 lightweight tear-away Optional Reduce sewing speed
Knitting (sweater) 1 cut-away or adhesive tear-away 1 water-soluble Use tightly woven organza or curtain fabric in a matching color if knits have holes.
Sweatshirt 1 cut-away or adhesive tear-away Optional Two layers for detailed designs
T-shirt 1 light-weight cut-away or adhesive tear-away Optional Avoid stitch-heavy designs and make them low tension.
Fleece jacket 1 Cut-away or 1 heavy tear away water soluble Details depend on how stretchy it is. Use more light weight if the fleece is light.

As general rule:

  • Any fabric needs a stabilizer. If you are lazy use at least the auto-adhesive one.
  • Very small lettering needs topping on most fabrics.
  • Fine fabrics should use cut-away stabilizers. These are nicer to wear and some offer extra stability.

Special tips

Experience reports with stabilizers

The french sister wiki includes some tips with respect to specific products.

Stitching socks with a consumer machine

Ideally, to embroider on socks, you should have access to a machine with a small arm (e.g. like our Brother PR1050X). One also can wedge a sock onto a small 5x5cm frame of a machine that has a large free arm like our Elna 8300 (already less elegant solution ). Most modern consumer embroidery machines do not have a free arm or if they do, it is too big for a sock. In addition, sometimes small frames have to be purchased in addition.

The Embroider on socks article discusses three methods on how to embroider on a sock using a large frame on any machine.


Hooping tutorials

Selecting stabilizers