First, the traditional rule--stitch on Aida using a hoop and stitch on linen "in the hand". In actual practice, people do whatever works best for them. Most who like their fabric taut do tend to avoid hoops in favor of scroll bars or Q-Snaps when working on linen, as hoops may damage the fabric. See section "6. Hoop or Hand?" for the "in-a-hoop vs. in-the-hand" debate. The discussion in this section assumes that you have decided to use a hoop or the like.
Tip--Put your project in the hoop or bars backwards. This method is sometimes called having the project "in the well." It prevents the front of the design from touching anything when the bars are set down. It also provides more room on the back of the project for ending threads.
Most of the following items may be used with a stand. Some people like the stands, as they can then do "two handed" stitching. This is a method where one hand is always above the cloth and the other is always below. People who have trouble holding projects for long periods of time also may find stands useful--they help avoid or reduce effects from tendonitis, arthritis and cramping.
There are lap stands which either straddle the lap of the stitcher or are anchored on one side and have a part to sit on. The bigger stands are floor models and may take up a great deal of space. Some of them come with chart holders, lamp holders and even magazine racks.
One side benefit is that stands are usually in plain view with the current project highly visible, ready to be complimented and begging to be worked on. People with cats may find that felines appreciate stands too, to the dismay of the stitcher.
Standard hoops are made of wood or plastic. They are inexpensive and widely available. While most are circular, there are some oval shaped ones. A variation on the hoop consists of a plastic outer ring and a metal inner spring/ring.
Common complaints about hoops:
- Having to move the hoop as stitching progresses can be a nuisance.
- A hoop placed over existing stitches may distort them.
- Marks, stains or creases may be left in the fabric.
Make sure your hoops are clean. Plastic hoops can be washed in the dishwasher.
Remove the hoop when you are not working.
A set of scroll bars consists of two wooden scroll bars and two spacers. The fabric is attached to the scroll bars (which look like dowel rods). The spacers hold the scroll bars apart. They may be attached with wing nuts (cheaper) or with wooden knobs (more expensive).
There are several methods for attaching the fabric. A bar may have a strip of heavy-duty material stapled to it. The fabric for the project is then basted on, using a strong thread such as quilting or carpet thread. Another style has a slit in the bar into which the edge of the fabric is placed. A third style uses a groove in the bar and a tube or rod to hold the fabric in the groove.
Scroll rods and spacer bars are available in many sizes. Select a scroll rod size that is slightly wider than your fabric. Any fabric longer than the spacer bars is rolled up onto the scroll rods.
Much more of the project is "in-range" than with a hoop. Tension is not even in the horizontal and vertical directions, but this isn't too noticeable if the scroll tension is kept very tight.
It is possible to purchase a basic set of scroll bars quite cheaply, so you can experiment and see if you like them.
Suggestions--Mark the centre of the scroll rod, to make it easier to centre the fabric. When attaching the fabric to the scroll rod, work from the centre and work out to the edges.
Q-Snaps are manufactured by the Q-Snap Corporation, located in the USA in Parsons, Tennessee. Q-Snaps consist of four pieces of white plastic pipe, about 1" in diameter, which are joined at the corners to form a square or rectangle. The fabric is held onto each side by a shell of plastic which snaps down over the pipe.
Q-Snaps are sold in packages of four sides, in lengths of 6 inches, 8 inches, 11 inches and 17 inches. They are then assembled by the user to form, for example, an 8x11 inch rectangle.
People who use them like their versatility. The fabric creases caused by hoops doesn't seem to occur. The tension is even in both the vertical and horizontal directions, unlike scroll bars.
Stretcher bars are made of wood. They are sold in packages of two sides. I have seen them in lengths from 4"-40". The sides are assembled to form a square or rectangle.
With stretcher bars, the entire project area is visible at all times. Some people prefer to use stretcher bars only with stiffer fabrics, such as canvas, but other stitchers like them even for soft linens/evenweaves.
The edges of the fabric should be prepared in some way to make them stronger and to stop them from fraying. Basting, hemming or binding tape are recommended by different people. The fabric is then attached to the frame with quilting tacks or staples. Start at the centre of each side and work out to the edges. The fabric should be taut, but not distorted. The tension is even in both the vertical and horizontal directions, unlike scroll bars.