How To: Back an embroidery hoop

 In Textiles & Embroidery, Tutorials

[I originally posted this tutorial about backing an embroidery hoop as a series of stories on my Instagram.]

There are many ways to display our completed embroidery. I like to mount my work both in embroidery hoops and behind glass, it just depends on what each individual piece needs. Lately I’ve been favouring the hoop option, and I think it really lets the tactility of embroidery shine through.

This is how I like to finish off my embroideries that are displayed in hoops. It isn’t the only way, and not necessarily the best or right way, but it works pretty well for me!


Embroidery Hoop Step 1
Embroidery Hoop Step 2
Embroidery Hoop Step 4

Step One- Measure

Place the inner frame of your embroidery hoop over your washed and ironed embroidery. Position it how you want the embroidery framed. Then, measure an equal distance from the inner hoop all the way around to create a circular fabric “border” that sticks out beyond the edge of the hoop. In my Death’s Head moth example above I measured 5cm from the edge.

Step Two- Cut

Cut along the measurements you’ve just marked all the way around to create a circle of fabric.

Step Three- Zigzag

Stitch around the raw edge of your now circular fabric, just to give it some strength. I like to use the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine but you can also hand stitch the edge using whip stitch (like in my example above).


Embroidery Hoop Step 3
Embroidery Hoop Step 5
Embroidery Hoop Step 6

Step Four- Backing

Next, cut a circle of fabric that is the same circumference as the inner frame of your embroidery hoop. You will sew this fabric on as a backing after you stretch your embroidery into its hoop. I actually cut my backing fractionally smaller so that I can stretch it a bit as I sew it in place. I use felt for my backing, but you could use any fabric that will offer protection to your embroidery.

Step Five- Stretch

Now it’s the fun part where you stretch your embroidery into its hoop! Pop your embroidery in place and then tighten the screw of the outer hoop and pull the excess fabric around the edges through. Repeat tightening the screw and pulling the fabric through until the front of your piece is tight and wrinkle-free. Tap the front gently-it should sound like a drum. (Fun fact: an embroidery hoop is also known as a tambour, and in history a tambour was also a small drum!)

Step Six- Running Stitch

Work a running stitch using one long length of thread all around the edge of the excess fabric. I use Serafil to do the running stitch. It is super duper strong and there is less risk of it snapping when you get to the next step.


Embroidery Hoop Step 7
Embroidery Hoop Step 8
Embroidery Hoop Step 9

Step Seven- Gather

Once you have done the running stitch all the way around don’t end it off but leave the tail end of the thread free. Pull on the end of the thread to gather up all of the excess fabric. Help the fabric along the thread to get it well gathered. Once the fabric is all nicely gathered up put a few stitches in to keep it in place.

Step Eight- Stitch It On!

Now you can sew the circular backing you cut in Step Four onto your embroidery hoop! I use a simple basting sort of stitch for this part. Stitch the backing onto the gathered fabric edge.

And, done!

And that’s it, your hoop is complete! Now you can go ahead and hang it up as it is, or you can take it a step further and frame your hoopla behind glass.

I prefer to use this sewing method to back my embroidery hoops rather than cutting and glueing the fabric in place. This is because it less permanent than cutting and glueing! If you need to make any repairs to the embroidery you can easily remove the backing and gathering stitches. The excess fabric border that is gathered up also gives leeway if you need to cut any fabric make the repair.


Jessica Merle Death's Head Hawk Moth embroidery


  • Make sure that all of your tools are clean before you start working so you don’t risk marking your hard work in any way.
  • Put a clean towel on your work surface to protect your embroidery as you work.


Do you finish off your embroidery hoops in a different way? Please let me know by commenting below!

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Hand embroidered hawk moth by Jessica Merle SteytlerFront Cover of Rebirth, embroidery book by Jessica Merle Steytler