As any embroider knows, a piece isn’t really done until you figure out how to display it in a nice way. Sometimes this is on a functional object like a pillow, jacket, or t-shirt pocket but other times, the piece is meant to be purely decrotive. Fortunately, the trend of leaving work in a hoop for display is helping alleviate some of the stress and cost of framing a fiber piece.
I have been searching for different hoops that I like to work with that also then have the right look for display of my finished works. I have looked at a lot of embroidery work and although I do see new products popping up (see list at end of post), what I have found does not always fit my needs so this has prompted me to explore other ideas that are more cost effective and readily available for me personally.
After noticing that several artists use a rounded rubber faux wood hoop to stitch and display their work, I was happy to find something similar online. At around $3.50-4 each these are more expensive than the most traditional bamboo hoops (which are around $1.25-$2.50 each) but I feel the cost is still reasonable due to ease of ordering (Amazon) so this was a good option.
The first couple of orders were great – the color was even and had a bluer undertone (bottom three pictured in stack below) and they did not look overly fake. The hoops were packaged well and were in good solid condition. My work looked nice in them (see below) and I really liked how well they held the fabric as there was very little slippage.
Despite the initial success with these hoops, my most recent orders from the same company featured sightly raised prices and more orange tones that made them seem a bit too “faux”.
I decided to try painting wooden hoops with acrylic paint after this. I painted a few black and while I liked them, I worried about the paint coming off onto the fabric and it was difficult to keep the hardware clean while painting. I did like this effect for more graphic works, like this Titan Centaur piece for my husband, but I missed the look of wood for my natural themed embroidery efforts.
I found a couple of artists who stain their hoops, like Emillie Ferris, and this seemed to reflect the right aesthetic for me. Ferris reports that she uses a stain with a varnish mixed in and when I looked up information about staining chairs it was frequently recommended to use a polyurethane sealant on any wood stain that would see contact with fibers.
I chose to use Dark Walnut Stain + Polyurethane from Rust-oleum to stain my wooden frames from Hobby Lobby. I tested the stain in multiple coats applied while tacky (above by lid) and more fully dried (below, please ignore my horrible nails… sanding and staining are not kind to your hands). This was very easy to wipe off the hardware with a dry foam brush during staining.
Despite how long it took me to sand the 24 frames I started with, the staining worked well and made a good smooth surface with no transfer of color once dry. With a foam brush, I used 2 coats on most but 3 on others and it took me about 6 hours to complete them. I really like this look now and know I will do this again… after I forget how much work it took. At least having so many will keep be busy for awhile.
My verdict: Somewhat worth it…
- Time to sand 24 frames by hand: about 3 hours
- Time to stain 24 frames with 2-3 coats: around 6 hours
- Estimated time factored into each hoop: 20 minutes
- Estimated cost per hoop: $1.50-$2.50 average for bamboo hoop, .25 cents (guesstimate) in materials, $4 labor (estimated on $12 per hour wage) = average of $5.75 per hoop
Why does all this matter? When factoring in the cost of labor and materials into anything I plan to sell I expect to use price points of $5 for 4 inch hoops, $6 for 6 inch hoops, and $7 for 8 inch hoops. When compared to some of the hoops that are available from other shops, this cost is pretty reasonable but it requires that you put in the time to accomplish the outcome. The look also is not as polished as some others so you really do get what you pay for when you buy something that is made more professionally.
The basic $4 average per faux wood rubber hoop does not seem so bad by comparison, however, if I could figure out a way to address the issues I have with them they’d be more cost effective than staining. I plan on trying to stain plastic hoops too… or just remove the original color in some way. There are a lot of advancements in paints for plastics so there is room for exploration. I’ll be sure to share my results in a future post.
If you are not up for staining your own hoops or just have a really special project or gift that you are working on, here are some really awesome hoops available for purchase online:
- Stitch Life Studio offers beautifully original lazer cut wood frames in a variety of shapes with patterning and motif embellishments for around $20 – $30 each.
- Auburn Hoops are minimal and unstained wood frames that also function as a hoop, providing a wide range of applications. They’re exceptionally well made and very reasonably priced at around $13 – $27 each.