Hooping 101: How to Hoop Towels
Hooping 101: How to Hoop Towels
Towels are one of the most
popular items to embroider. They're easy to find,
come in a variety of colors,
and are a fun way to dress
up a kitchen and bath.
Getting good registration or
alignment depends on
hooping. If a towel is not
hooped, or hooped loosely,
sections of the design can
be off. But it can be tricky
to hoop a thick terrycloth
towel. Today I'll share a
tried-and-true technique for
working with bath towels.
towels is a terrific way to change up
home decor, and they make wonderful
In the photo to the left
you'll see a roll of
rubberized shelf liner.
Rubberized shelf liner is
how I keep the hoop from slipping
when I'm trying to hoop something
You'll find this "hooping
helper" in the kitchen/ housewares section
of a store like Target.
rubberized shelf liner while hooping
thicker towels can really help.
I spread the rubberized
shelf liner on the table to
get a non-slip surface.
Then, I open up the bottom
part of the hoop as far as
I placed cutaway stabilizer
and the towel on the bottom
hoop. Then, the topping (water-soluble
stabilizer) is on top.
bath towel with stabilizer and topping
can take some effort, but will bring
consistently good results.
Next is what I call the "Hooping
Hokey-Pokey." I put my left
arm across the whole thing and wiggle and
top hoop into place. At the
same time I'm making sure that
the towel is evenly
positioned in the hoop,
straight so that the design ends up
straight on the towel.
Then, when everything is
snug as a bug, I tightened
the screw on the outer hoop.
Attach the hoop to the
machine and roll the bulk
out of the way.
"towel sandwich" of stabilizer,
towel, and topping ensures that the
in a design are properly aligned.
I embroidered the
Christmas Poinsettias Spray design
on a towel using this
method, and it looks
beautiful! The stitches are
crisp, clean, and
Now you've seen what works.
And next, I'll show you what
towel and topping with the stabilizer
ensures that the stitches of the design
are properly aligned.
Sometimes it isn't possible to hoop a
towel. The towel might be too thick, the
hoop is too thin. Maybe you've had a
towel hooped, but midway through
stitching the whole thing popped apart.
Yeah, me too. It's happened to most, if
not all, of us.
The alternative is to "float" the towel
on top of a piece of hooped stabilizer.
Now, I have to say that I don't like
this idea, and went into it kicking and
screaming. Embroidery hoops have been
used for 4000 years, and for good
reason. The hoop keeps the fabric taut
so that the stitches land evenly
(conversely, if something isn't hooped,
you'll see gapping and shifting). The
hoop prevents the fabric from puckering.
The hoop contributes to a high-quality
and professional look. I'm not likely to
discard the hoop without a very, very
But I gave it a try. And I found that
the results from embroidering an
unhooped towel were not the best, but
they were "ok."
Here's how I did it: I
hooped a piece of cutaway
stabilizer and then sprayed
the stabilizer with
adhesive. I pressed the
towel on top.
Then I basted
a stitch around the
perimeter of the hoop, and
pinned it all together for
If a bath
towel is too thick to hoop, then hoop
stabilizer, and affix the towel to the
spray adhesive, pins, basting stitches,
There are a couple of
problem areas, as you can
see. In the circled
area, the top stitches
aren't covering up the
understitching. This is
because the top of the towel
is wiggling back and forth,
as it's not held in place by
When the fabric is
only secured at the bottom, then the top
of the fabric is wiggling around as the
hoop is moving back and forth. And
that's when you see things fall out of
or hooping the stabilizer only,
can result in stitches being misaligned.
Hooping a towel will bring the best
results. And, sometimes using the
floating method will give "ok" results.
If you're using the floating method, and
are seeing some problems, like puckering
or shifting and gapping, then try
hooping the towel. If that isn't
possible, then read on for some creative
If you don't want to do the
Hooping Hokey-Pokey and
wrestle towels into the
hoop, but you're not
satisfied with the results
you're getting from leaving
the towel unhooped, then try
these creative alternatives:
The image to the left is of
Cozy Bath Coordinates
project. You can embroider
on a thinner fabric, then
sew that embroidered piece
to the towels.
Another suggestion is to use
the idea in the
Embroidered Candle project.
In that project I
demonstrate how to embroider
a design onto organza and
then remove the excess to
have a freestanding piece.
Use that theory, and then
attach the freestanding
piece onto a towel with a
simple sewing stitch.
The main focus of this article is about
hooping, but I'd like to add a quick
note about stabilizer: I always
recommend cutaway stabilizer for
terrycloth towels. Always. Every so
often I'll hear from someone that wants
to use tear-away stabilizer for a
I understand the desire to have the back
side of something look almost-as-good as
the front side. However, cutaway
stabilizer will bring the best results,
both long-term and short-term.
Consider the main benefit of tear-away
stabilizer: it's meant to be easily torn
away after the embroidery. But, because
it's designed to do that, it tears away
during the embroidery too. All of those
hundreds and thousands of needle
perforations weaken the tear-away
stabilizer during the embroidery. That
means that you're more prone to having
thread tension problems, more prone to
see puckering, and more prone to see
shifting and gapping, too.
Then, after embroidering, the towel is
going to be used and laundered.
Laundering breaks down the tear-away
stabilizer even further, and soon enough
the towel is going to come out of the
drier wrinkled. I don't mind pressing
towels for my own use, but I don't wish
to give a gift to someone that involves
ironing. For those reasons, I use
cutaway stabilizer, and recommend it for
giving the best results.
But, I decided to stitch
a towel with tear-away
stabilizer on the back side
to see what happened. I used
Bird in Berry-Bright Spring design
and a flour sack towel, just
as in the above example. I
hooped the towel with a
piece of tear-away
And I've never had this
happen before, but the whole
kit-and-kaboodle got sucked
down into the throat plate.
What a mess!
mishaps: Use cutaway stabilizer, rather
than tear-away or water-soluble, on the
Most towels can be hooped; but, I've
been known to wrestle with the really
thick ones. If you're struggling with
hooping a thick towel, perhaps there's a
thinner version available in a local
store. Or, you can use one of the
creative alternatives above (Cozy Bath
theory) to add embroidery to a towel
without struggling with the hoop.
Questions or comments about this
article? Send an email to
Kenny is a
master digitizer and Vice President of
Production at Embroidery Library, Inc.
Ask Kenny! Send email to