You’ve just placed the very last stitch on your embroidery project and now you wonder – what to do with the finished piece? Likely, a lot of hard work went into it, and it surely deserves a place of choice. There are many different ways to use and display embroidery pieces, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to simply leave it in the embroidery hoop. By neatly finishing the back of the hoop to hide the wrong side of the embroidery and encase all seam allowances, you can turn a useful embroidery tool into the perfect frame!
Embroidery Hoop as a Frame?
The “hoop art” look is not for everyone, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of it when I first started embroidery. To me, the embroidery hoop was only temporary, a tool to help me as I embroidered, but nothing more. I much preferred framing my pieces in real frames. It takes a bit more time and it can get more expensive, but it looks really stunning and suits certain styles of embroidery a lot better. Over time though, I’ve come to appreciate a good hoop as a frame.
For one thing, embroidery hoops are generally much cheaper than traditional frames, and for another it really is easier to leave it in. The fabric is already all nice and taut, and the placement of the screw allows you to hang it on the wall very easily.
I also came across beautiful faux wood hoops recently, and they are definitely a wonderful option for displaying embroidery! Prettier than normal bamboo hoops, they are more made to be hung on the wall than to keep the tension even as you stitch. They come in different sizes and shapes too, and you can find some in Michaels stores.
How to Finish the Back of a Hoop (Without Glue):
Again, as with many things regarding embroidery, there are many ways to finish the back of an embroidery hoop. Some like to use hot glue, a piece of cardboard, felt, a piece of pretty fabric, etc… There are many options. I personally prefer to stay away from glue if I can, and use a needle and thread. My method is a bit lengthier than many I’ve seen, but I find it neater.
To show you how I do it, I’ll be finishing my Blackberry Branch project from my Venetia post in one of those faux wood hoops I mentioned earlier.
The easiest way to back a hoop without glue is to use a piece of felt. Felt doesn’t fray, so you don’t have to worry about raw edges and it’s quicker to sew to your hoop. But what if you don’t have felt, or you’ve ransacked your stash and can’t find a suitable colour? Yes, this is what happened as I was preparing this tutorial. I couldn’t find a decent piece of felt that I liked for this hoop, so I came up with a different way to finish the back. It’s a few extra steps, but it looks amazing!
1. First, there are two measurements we need, from the inside hoop ring. Gently pull it out from your work (or if you happen to have a second hoop of the same size, use that one!) and trace around the outside on a piece of light cardboard or cardstock paper. Cut the shape along the line you just traced and set it aside for now.
2. The second measurement we need from the inside ring is optional. Since I’m finishing a piece of rather heavy embroidery because of the beads, I’ve decided to add another layer of fabric to the back. I traced the inside circumference of the inner ring on a piece of felt (the felt I deemed too bright to show on the back) and cut it out. We can also set it aside for now.
3. Now we need to trim the hoop allowance of the main fabric to about a ½” seam allowance all around.
4. Once that’s done, flip the hoop to the wrong side and place the piece of felt inside the hoop if you’ve decided to add it.
5. Then, run a gathering stitch (running stitch) around the seam allowance to gather it against the inner hoop. Secure your thread and snip.
The raw edges of the main linen fabric will continue to fray and I don’t like leaving the gathering visible, so I will further cover the back.
6. Using the cut out piece of cardboard from Step 1, place it over a piece of decorative fabric of your choice, on the wrong side. Add ½” seam allowance before cutting the fabric.
Note: If you want to finish the back of your hoop with felt, you don’t need the cardboard or cardstock. Simply cut out the felt to the size of the inner hoop without seam allowance.
7. With an iron, press your cut out piece of fabric to make sure there are no creases.
8. Working on the wrong side, center the piece of cardboard on the fabric. Sew a gathering stitch around the seam allowance. Pull to gather around the cardboard.
9. Once you’ve secured and snipped your thread, we are ready to attach this piece to the back of the hoop. To do this, we will whipstitch the cardboard-covered fabric to the gathered seam allowance around the inner hoop ring. Use matching thread or contrasting thread to create a nice border if you have confidence in your whipstitching abilities. 😉
And the hoop is now fully finished with a beautiful back and ready to be hung on the wall! I like knowing that there’s a pretty back behind the embroidery, even though no one will likely see it haha! Which is funny because I have a very different attitude when it comes to the back of the actual embroidery…if it’s going to be hidden, who cares about a neat back? Lol.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are many variations on how to close the back of an embroidery hoop. Instead of gathering stitches, you could use glue, just cardboard or cardstock and no fabric at all, just felt, etc. I don’t like using glue because I find it messier and knowing me I’d probably end up with an ugly glue smear all over my embroidery. I prefer to use needle and thread when I can, but using glue is not “wrong”. It’s certainly quicker! Note that it is harder to stitch over glued fabric. If you glue down your seam allowances instead of gathering them, it becomes harder to sew the back fabric to it if that’s how you wanted to finish the hoop.
I hope you found this tutorial helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have a different method for backing your hoops? Glue or no glue? If there’s another way to back that you’d like me to cover, I’m very open to suggestions.
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