There are LOTS of options! Let’s look at some of them. Three this post, and another three types next post, because as I was writing it it grew out of hand!
Hold it in your hand
Lots of embroiderers just hold the fabric “in hand” when they’re stitching.
Pros: easy to transport, one less thing, piece can be easily folded up and stashed away when not stitching.
Cons: Sometimes even tension is difficult to maintain in your stitches, techniques like goldwork, punchneedle and tambour work MUST be worked in a frame for the tools to work.
Hoop (tambour frame)
Cork-backed, sprung-steel hoops like my grandmother taught me with don’t seem to be available any more. Which is a shame, because I liked them. The springs did wear out over time, though. Now we have plastic hoops with lips, inexpensive wooden hoops and expensive wooden hoops, and ones with a plastic frame and a springy-metal inside. Some of these were originally designed for machine embroidery, some for punch-needle, and they all have their own quirks, deserving of a whole post on hoops. In general, though:
Pros: come in lots of sizes and shapes. Easy to transport. Small ones can be held in the hand easily, and larger ones fit into clamp-style floor stands for two handed stitching. The plastic ones can be made drum-taught, and the wooden ones are just pretty. The inexpensive wood hoops make lovely frames for hanging your work as well.
Cons: Don’t always keep fabric tight. Cheap wood ones can break when you tighten the screws. The plastic ones sometimes wear out and the bolt slips. Even expensive wooden hoops should be wrapped with bias tape to keep them from marking the fabric. Need to be removed form your work whenever you put it down for more than 5 minutes so they don’t leave ring-shaped creases that can’t be ironed out.
I consider Q-Snaps to be just about equivalent to hoops. Originally made for the quilting industry (hence the “Q”, and created from PVC pipe material, Q-Snaps snap together into various configurations and then hold the fabric with an additional polyvinyl clamp over the top.
Pros: Easy to put fabric in and move around. Can be reconfigured for different sized fabric, as long as you have enough parts.
Cons: Sometimes the snap gets loose and doesn’t hold the fabric well. (This can be mitigated by running it through your dishwasher in the top rack, and running the heated dry cycle, which shrinks the polyvinyl back into shape.) When they wear out, they aren’t recyclable, so for the eco-concious this could be an issue.
Come back later for Scroll Frames, Slate Frames, and Millenial Frames as well as Stretcher Bars