"Dressing the Hoop"

Dressing the Hoop

Now that you have wrapped the hoops what you need to do is place the fabric into it. But before you do that examine the fabric.

Ignore the design stitched on the fabric but look at the woven threads, also called weft. This is the thread that runs back and forth across the fabric from the left to the right side. Then look at the warp threads, they are the threads that are tied on to the loom and hold the weft. They run up and down the fabric. They are the strongest threads in the fabric and provide most of the stability you will have in your embroidery.

A way to find the top of the fabric is to take a corner of the fabric in both hands and place either hand on opposites sides of the corner about three inches down from the tip of the fabric and pull slightly. Which ever way the tip of the corner points is the top of the fabric. That is the surface the weaver would have looked at as the shuttle was thrown back and forth.

As a weaver, I know that either surface will be acceptable for embroidery. As there is no right or wrong side of the fabric I am weaving, unless I have to make a join in the weft thread, then the surface I am looking at will be where I place that knot and that means as a weaver I would use the other side of the fabric as the top surface so that the knots will be hidden. Actually, I would not do that either, I would pull out the shot and make a splice on the selvege edge with the old and new threads, but as an example to illustrate my point that either side of the fabric is the same I have used this example.

Not that the side of the fabric matters with even weave fabrics. The only time a top surface matters is for printing a design and only then to find the right side of the design. And maybe during the finishing of the fabric I may want to place a particular finish like starch and because maybe the heat from the rollers in the bolting process could scorch the starch I will fold and bolt the fabric with the best side out. The best side being the one with the fewest scorches.

The most important consideration is the bias of the fabric, which you don't want to find! Take the time to find the true middle vertical and horizontal threads of the fabric by marking a single thread up and down the fabric center and another from side to side and place these on the hoop marks. It makes all the difference in the world. I don't have to railroad stitches if I use the hoops. And there are no distortions in the stitches, they lay true and straight as does the fabric.

Marking the hoop. Look at your wrapped hoop or frame and find it's 90 degree axis. I have placed a ruler on the vertical line of its axis as seen in the photo of the hoop shown here. And its horizontal line as shown in the photo below. Now this is not easy to see on an unmarked hoop, but I had some help with the handle.

If you don't have handles make a mark on the top of the inside hoop on the wrapping fabric with a tailor's tack of black thread. A tailor's tack is a loose loop that has the tails well knotted a short distance from the stitch, then the tails are cut about an eight of an inch away from the knot. You make a loose loop so that it is easy to cut the marking stitch away and you don't have any risk of damaging the fabric cutting it away. Make sure the thread is a contrast to the fabric but that it is not going to rub off or bleed if it ever gets wet. Don't leave any long tails either, they will get caught in something.

Now on a piece of paper, draw a line around the inside of your inner hoop, cut out the circle inside the marked line and then fold it in half. Open the paper and insert it inside the hoop flat on a tabletop. Use the fold line to mark the bottom line by placing the top of the fold under the top tacking stitch and then marking the bottom line where it touches the hoop. Again make a tailor's tack at the bottom mark.

Take the paper circle and fold it in half again to make quarters of the circle and use the new fold line to mark the hoop from side to side. Be sure to place the top and bottom fold under those marks on the top and bottom of the hoop.

You will need to finish the edges of your fabric. Then take your fabric and fold it in half, lightly creasing this fold line, open the fabric and fold it in half again but on the opposite side of the fabric to create quarters. Lightly crease this fold line then open the fabric. Find the center horizontal thread and the center vertical thread of the fabric and mark them either with a disappearing pencil or a contrasting thread that will not bleed or rub off onto the fabric.

Lay your hoop on a flat level surface to place the fabric on it correctly. Use the top and bottom marks on the hoop to place the vertical or warp thread of the fabric parallel or beside these marks, then use the side to side marks on the hoop to lay the horizontal or weft threads of the fabric beside those marks. Remember the vertical warp thread runs up and down the fabric and the horizontal weft thread runs from side to side of the fabric.

The reason for this placement of the fabric is that it will prevent the fabric from being pulled on the bias. Fabric that is pulled on the bias gets larger! It creates a bowl and will pooch out or in near its center. Any stitches done over an area that is on the bias will not ever look good no matter what you try to do to fix them. The fabric threads keeps shifting in a bias pull and the stitches can not be set correctly.

Now place your outer hoop over the fabric and then tighten it. You will need to pull the edges of the fabric to draw the fabric tight. I like to pull in the center of the fabric so I don't get any diagonal or bias pull in the fabric. I don't like any play in the fabric so I get it pretty tight. Then start stitching! If you keep the wrapped outer hoop just above the fabric it will keep the edges of the fabric cleaner and it gives your hand a little gripping lip.

I have a method of working in a hoop that is convenient for me. I wear a handeze glove on my left hand and work with both hands to make the stitches. I hold the hoop with both hands switching back and forth so that I make the stitches under the hoop with my right hand and finish the stitch with my left hand. I am sure that at one time it was a lot of work doing this switching but I don't even think of it now. And I am a very fast stitcher! I also can place this hoop on a frame with a special clamp and can flip the hoop over just like a scroll frame. 2003, Linda Fontenot, www.AmericanFolkArts.com