A quilting hoop is a circular device that is used to hold sections of material straight and taut while quilts are sewn by hand. It typically looks like two thin circles that fit snugly together with a knob on top of the outer circle. Quilting hoops usually are made with wood or durable plastic and come in a variety of sizes. Some quilting hoops are equipped with lap or floor stands. Oval and square quilting hoops also are available and have become popular among many quilters.
A quilting hoop is used by placing the desired section of basted quilt fabric over the inner hoop. Making sure the fabric is straight, the quilter should place the outer hoop over the quilt and press down firmly until the inner and outer hoops are aligned. The tension of the hoop can be adjusted by turning the finger bolt, or butterfly bolt, on the outside edge of the outer hoop. More experienced quilters might prefer slightly less tension, but a beginner might benefit from using more tension.
When working with a quilting hoop, the quilter should work in the center of the hoop and avoid the very edges, because the hoop could warp and cause the fabric to stretch. Sewing too close to the edge of a hoop also can disrupt the stitches, and the quilter might not achieve the desired results. The quilter should move the quilting hoop as the sewing project progresses.
Some quilting hoops come equipped with a lap or floor stand to support the entire quilt. These models are more expensive but can make the quilter more comfortable while stitching. It will lessen the stress on the quilter’s back, shoulders and arms. Quilting hoops on stands are larger than handheld hoops, thus enabling the quilter to stitch in a larger area without having to move the fabric. There also are swivel stands that make it easier for the quilter to move the hoop into a different position without causing stress on the arms.
To select the right quilting hoop, a quilter should measure the distance from the inside of the elbow to the second joint of the first finger. This length is the largest diameter quilting hoop that can be used without causing the quilter shoulder or back strain. The quilter should choose a quilting hoop that seems most comfortable for the current project. Quilters often own several sizes of quilting hoops.