Can I embroider without an embroidery hoop?

When you start embroidering, the amount of materials and products that are out there, might be overwhelming. But is everything really necessary, such as an embroidery hoop?

The hoop is a tool that is used during embroidery, but nowadays it is also used to display a finished project.

Short answer: an embroidery hoop is not necessary, but you’ll get way nicer results WITH an embroidery hoop.

Maybe you don’t have an embroidery hoop, or you’re afraid the hoop might damage your project? The latter is something that can certainly be avoided. How to do that, you’ll read in this paragraph.

Embroidery without a hoop: the disadvantages

The reason why I always recommend the use of an embroidery hoop is that there are a few drawbacks (atleast to me) to stitching without a hoop:

  • You make the most beautiful stitches on tight fabric. Without a hoop you’ll have to constantly keep trying to get your fabric tight, which might get tiring real fast.
  • By trying to keep your fabric tight, your hand might cramp
  • If your fabric is not tight enough while stitching, it may contract in some places due to the pressure of your stitches. This causes ugly dents and wrinkles.
  • Your project is more difficult to handle (unless it is very small), because of the loose fabric

What fabric will you be stitching on?

The necessity of a hoop might change depending on the fabric you’ll be doing your embroidery on.

Cotton fabric

When using regular cotton fabric, I would recommend always using an embroidery hoop. Whether you will embroider freely or do cross stitch, you’ll get the best results from working on taut fabric. If not, your stitches might be too loose or too tight, resulting in dents and wrinkles in the fabric.


Aida is one of the most popular fabrics used for cross stitch. This type of fabric can be quite stiff, which makes it easy to hold while stitching. An embroidery hoop might not be necessary.

I used to cross stitch without a hoop, but once I tried it, I didn’t want to stitch without one anymore 😉


Linen is also often used for cross stitch projects. This is way less rigid than aida and therefore I’d definitely recommend using an embroidery hoop or frame. This will make your stitches much more even and beautiful.


It’s also best to use an embroidery hoop for stitching on clothing. Take extra care not to stretch the fabric too much though! With some clothes or accessoires, such as a cap, using a hoop is more dificult, but you could opt for an extra small hoop. If the fabric is rigid enough, such as with a shoe, you can simply stitch without the hoop.

Embroidery with an embroidery hoop

Which size embroidery hoop do I need?

It is not necessary to use an embroidery hoop the same size as your project. Some projects just don’t fit in an embroidery hoop and even if it fits, it’s not always convenient. If your hoop is smaller, simply move the hoop around while you move to other sections of the project.

Preventing damage from using an embroidery hoop

If you use a smaller hoop than your projects size, please note the following:

  • Do not leave your work in the hoop when you are not working on it. It can create ugly wrinkles that are difficult to remove. You might also be flattening stitches that have already been done. If you’ll be framing the embroidery in the hoop itself, this doesn’t matter as much.
  • Try to clamp as few stitches as possible between the rings of the hoop itself. If necessary, e.g. towards the end of your project, untighten the screw from the hoop a bit