Embroidery Library


Hoop Burn

and How to Avoid It

You're stitching a fantastic new design on a T-shirt, a special birthday gift for a friend. Everything is going perfectly. The machine reaches its last stitch, and you're delighted, until...

...you take the hoop off the fabric and find it's left a phantom ring behind. This is "hoop burn," and it happens when the hoop's grip smashes a fabric's fibers down and leaves an impression even after the hoop is gone.

"Fluffy" fabrics such as T-shirt and sweatshirt knits can be especially vulnerable to hoop burn, as can fabrics with a pile (such as terrycloth or velvet) and easily marred surfaces (such as leather). Hooping is a necessary part of embroidery, but you can't very well expect the recipient of your personally stitched gift to walk around with a hoop-shaped ring on her shirt. What's an embroiderer to do?

Some stitchers try to avoid hoop burn by avoiding hooping. Instead, they "float" the fabric by hooping only a piece of stabilizer, then sticking the fabric to the stabilizer. We don't recommend this in most cases, because unhooped fabric becomes very vulnerable to shifting and gapping. We've used the "float" method when embroidering velvet, because it's not washable, and once hoop marks are on the fabric, they're there to stay. (Ditto for leather - we used strips of fabric to protect the leather from the hoop.)

For most fabrics, the fix for hoop burn is simple: re-fluff up the smashed fibers with a bit of moisture. One surefire way to do this is to give the item a trip through the washer. Less severe cases may also be fixed by spritzing the hoop marks with water from a spray bottle, or directing steam from an iron at the area. (A couple of embroiderers have recommended spraying on a weak vinegar solution instead of plain water.) If you're hesitant to wash the item, give these low-key tricks a try. Some embroiderers use a light coat of spray sizing on the item to achieve the same effect. Stitcher Pam writes, "Spray a little spray starch on the item, wipe with a clean dry cloth and magic, the hoop burn disappears!"

To test the "just add water" strategy, we did our best to hoop burn seven different kinds of fabric: a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, a terrycloth towel, linen, denim, canvas, and quilter's cotton. For each fabric, we affixed cutaway stabilizer to the back with a temporary spray adhesive, and stitched out a design ... then left them hooped overnight, just for good measure. We machine washed and dried all the samples to get rid of the hoop burn. Take a look at the results below.





The T-shirt got a pretty good (or bad) case of hoop burn. Here it is just after unhooping. You can see the hoop burn as a light, slightly shiny ring around the embroidery.

And here it is after washing. The hoop mark has completely disappeared.





The sweatshirt got a visible case of hoop burn too. Look at the left-hand side of the hoop mark -- the details of the hoop's shape show that it's hoop burn, not just an indentation in the fabric.

As with the T-shirt, the sweatshirt's hoop burn was completely removed by washing and drying.



Terrycloth towel


Because terrycloth has a thick pile, an embroidery hoop is pretty much guaranteed to leave an impression.

No worries! Just run it through the washer and the fibers fluff up like new.




Of the less-fluffy fibers we tested, linen was the one that seemed likeliest to get hoop burn. You can see a bit of it in the upper left corner of this picture, but most of the visible ring is just the indentation the hoop left on the fabric/stabilizer layers, which a little ironing should smooth right out.

Here's the linen after washing. All traces of hoop burn are gone.

However, you'll notice a new white mark worn into the fabric -- that's from tumble drying the fabric too harshly. Which is a good reminder: after embroidering, always wash fabrics gently, according to the care instructions.




Denim is an invincible fabric in a lot of ways, and this is no exception. It didn't show any signs of hoop burn, just an indentation...

...which came right out in the wash.





Canvas is a pretty easy fabric to stitch with, too. Here you can see just a simple indentation from the hoop...

...and here's the sample after washing and ironing. No hoop burn!



Quilter's Cotton


Quilter's cotton, too, didn't show any signs of hoop burn -- only an indentation that the stabilizer helped hold in place after the hoop was removed.

Wash and press, and the embroidery is beautiful and ready to go!


Kenny is a master digitizer and Vice President of Production at Embroidery Library, Inc.

Ask Kenny! Send your questions to stitch@emblibrary.com.

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