3. How to Hand Embroider Without a Hoop

Hand Embroidery Techniques by April Sproule
This is Part 3 in a 5 Part Series: Links at end of article  
 I will show you how I do hand embroidery without using an embroidery hoop.
You will be amazed at how easy it is, and you will also love how much better your work looks using this method.
I do most of my hand embroidery on linen. Linen is more loosely woven, so that constant tightening  and repositioning of your fabric in an embroidery hoop really can really stretch out and distort your fabric. Going hoopless works equally well on all types of fabric.
So let’s get started. Try this on a test swatch first until you get the hang of it. When I first tried this, I was really skeptical, but now I am a total convert. The only time I actually use a hoop is for something like intensive needle weaving where the fabric needs to be held really taut. Images below: left, working a stem stitch in linen and right, what your stitches should look like with correct tension.
Hand embroider without a hoop, by April SprouleHand embroider without a hoop, by April Sproule.
  • Mark your fabric as you normally would.
  • Start stitching as usual. Pay special attention to the tension, the tightness, or looseness of your stitches. You don’t want your stitches too loose, standing above the fabric. And, you don’t want the tension of your stitches to be too tight to the point where your fabric is puckering.
  • Steam Blocking
Hand embroider without a hoop, by April Sproule.Hand embroider without a hoop, by April Sproule.
Images Above: left, tension too loose and right , tension too tight.
   Any time you stitch an area, it is normal to get a little bit of tightening up in the areas that have been stitched versus the unstitched areas. If I am doing lots of intensive stitching in an area and notice this happening, I will gently steam my fabric from the back side. Sometimes I will steam the work, gently stretch it, let it cool, and then unpin it and get back to my stitching.
Hand embroider without a hoop, by April Sproule.