How do you finish your embroidery hoops? There are loads of options out there! For example, some people use running stitch, which they pull to gather their fabric at the back; others might use glue; and many stitchers use a blanket stitch to attach a piece of felt.
I think those methods are great, and I've used them myself! If other methods work well for you, that's wonderful!
However, my favorite method for finishing an embroidery hoop is cardboard - and in this post, I'll tell you why it's my favorite method, and how to do it.
I learned a version of this method years ago from my friend Beth (@purpose.bybeth), who would be angry with me if I didn't tell you that cardboard is absolutely not archival! Whenever possible, Beth encourages us to use archival mat board as cardboard alternative. The good news is that many of the benefits of using cardboard remain true when using archival mat board, and the steps are exactly the same!
5 reasons I back my embroidery hoops with cardboard
I use cardboard for all sorts of reasons - and I think you should consider it, too!
Using scrap cardboard to finish off your hoops helps to reduce waste by reusing materials you might otherwise throw out or recycle. I have a ton of cardboard at any given point, and it makes sense for me to reuse it as much as possible. In fact, I often encourage people who purchase my kits to use the boxes their kits arrive in for this very purpose! If you would prefer to use archival mat board, you can often get this same benefit by reaching out to framing shops in your area and asking if they happen to have scraps they're willing to give you!
This no-sew, no-glue method prevents traveling threads from showing through to the front of your hoop, and helps it to lay nice and flat against your wall. If those are your goals, cardboard works just as great as other methods; and, without having to learn a new stitch, source additional fabric, or look for the right glue, it's an incredibly beginner-friendly alternative, too.
You can cut your cardboard to fit into the back of your hoop perfectly. Although they look like they're all just a bunch of circles, embroidery hoops actually often have slight variations in shape. That's why I prefer to use something I can cut down to the exact size and shape of the actual hoop I'm finishing.
Once the cardboard has been in your hoop for a period of time, it will actually start to iron your fabric to your hoop so that it stays nice and flat, even if you remove the cardboard! Of course, this depends, in part, on the type of fabric you used, the amount of time your cardboard has been tucked into the back, and other factors. This isn't a guarantee, but it is a potential and likely perk!
Finally, unlike methods which require sewing or glue, it is super easy to remove a cardboard backing should you ever need to fix a project or re-tighten a project's fabric. I've had hoops fall off the wall, be stepped on by a certain unnamed cat, and not-so-delicately touched by people "admiring" my work. Let's just say the hoops that had been finished by glue stayed a little bit ruined forever, and the hoops that had been finished with sewing stayed in a "to-be-repaired" box for a bit too long. The hoops I've backed with cardboard, on the other hand, have all been quick fixes!
How to back your embroidery hoop with cardboard
Now that I have you convinced, it's time to teach you how to do it!
Step 1: Trace your hoop (ideally before you start stitching)
Start by tracing the inside of your embroidery hoop to a piece of cardboard. Whenever possible, I like to do this before I start stitching so that I can trace the actual hoop I'll be using - this helps me to get the best fit possible.
If you neglect to trace your hoop before you start stitching, and you don't want to go through the process of taking your fabric out of the hoop and getting it back in later, you can use the same size (and brand) of hoop to trace you circle - you may have to make a few trims to get it to fit perfectly, but that is always an option! Again, one of the wonderful things about using a material like this is that you can always cut it down to the perfect size.
Step 2: Carefully cut out your circle.
Cut your circle out, keeping in mind that this isn't a haircut - you can't grow it back out if you take too much off. If you cut the circle too small at this point, it won't tuck into the back of your hoop and you'll have to start over; if you cut the circle just a bit too big, you can always trim it down to fit.
Step 3: Gather your fabric and tuck your cardboard into the back.
Next, flip your hoop over to the back and gather as much of your fabric as possible with one hand, using the other to slide your cardboard over the back of your hoop.
Once you've made sure all your fabric is gathered underneath the cardboard, very gently press it down until it feels secure. Do not push it all the way down to the front of your hoop - that will lead to bumps on the front of your fabric.
Your cardboard should stay secure, but if it falls out it's super easy to place back into position!
And that's it! I hope this was helpful, happy stitching!