“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you.”

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So much of Opera Celes has been about the hooping process. I can’t even guess how many hoopings I’ve done during this build but the process is one that I’d like to show you.

Embroidery Hoop – Noun

: either of two hoops fitting snugly one over the other for holding fabric taut while embroidering


The hooping process is, to me, the majority of the battle. I can easily spend 10-20 minutes preparing the fabric, stabilizer and guides before, after and during the hooping process in order to get the embroidery right where I want it.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

Hoop aides. They are a real and wonderful creation. While I can hoop without the use of one (like the one pictured above) they seriously help my sanity.

Right now, the hoop is gently cradled in place via magnets. This keeps the hoop from scooting around when I’m dragging dress all over the place.

Little tips and tricks to help

Once the bottom hoop is secured in place, I remove the top hoop and prep it for the fabric. My teacher taught me the trick of putting double sided tape on the bottom of the top hoop to help hold the fabric. Because, at some point, you are going to have to lift the fabric and hoop up to guide it into the bottom hoop that’s on the easel.

And trust me, there is nothing more annoying than working on the perfect placement of a design, only to have it slip off the second you move it. So to prevent that (and some swearing) the double sided tape turns the top hoop edges into a giant sticker. Gently gripping the fabric and keeping it in place when this all has to move.

Don’t know if that all made a lick of sense. But there you have it. Tape.

Derp face!

This is going to be the silliest part of the process, but because the dress is so big, I actually loose things in it.


So I learned early on to hold the hoop while I was moving the fabric onto and around the table. How do I do that? I keep the top hoop around my neck while my hands are busy and full.

Well. I look like a dork while doing it. But it works.

Grids – another wonderful aide!

So, two things here. First, you will notice that I have a paper, to scale, printout of my design. I’m a visual person and I have to have the design in my hands to move about when I place it. The paper design has “center” marked as well as a few lines to help me line it up in the hoop and on the machine.

I prep the paper design by spritzing 505 Temporary Adhesive Spray on the back of it. If you haven’t discovered the many uses and delights of that stuff, you’re missing out on a wonderful shop, go forward and find some.

It’s awesome.

By now, you may be noticing a theme of ‘sticker’ aides to hold things in place. I find that by having one less thing move on you, the better.

The second thing that I would like to illustrate is the use of a clear, plastic grid. This device lays in the hoop and has little tabs that hold them where they are suppose to. Orientation of this grid is crucial. For instance, you can’t have it upside down or backwards. Either or both mistakes will result in a wrong center point and will throw off your design’s placement.

So, between the paper printout and the clear grid, I am able to determine where the true center is of the hoop. I am then ready to move on to the next part of the process.

Stabilizer – its heating up now!

After ironing the stabilizer so its less likely to curl or warp on me, I use a secondary set of magnets to secure the stabilizer on top of the bottom hoop. This ensures that the stabilizer stays in place when I start moving a crap ton of fabric awkwardly over, on and around it.

Once that is all good and fine, the next act is to move the fabric/hoop combo onto the hoop/stabilizer combo and hoping nothing moved in transit. No matter how many times I have done it, this is always the hardest part for me. Even with the use of the tape and steady hands, the weight and bulk of the fabric can often make the fabric/hoop combo slip and mess up the work that I just did. If that is the case, I have to start all over again. 50/50 chance of success. Every time.


All the lovely fabric

The hoops are finally in place! Yay! Once I have made it this far, I go back and check to make sure that center is still center. If it isn’t and is off by just a bit, I can still move it around before I press the top hoop into the bottom hoop. This successfully sandwiches the fabric between the two, holding it taut during the embroidery process.

This is also a good time to bring up hoop tightness. While it is good to have it tight, I can’t tighten it too much or the fabric will get what is called “hoop burn”

“Hoop Burn happens when the hoop’s grip smashes a fabric’s fibers down and leaves an impression even after the hoop is gone.”


But, at the same time, having the fabric so lax that it is floppy and “flags” during the embroidery process is just as bad. This can distort and blur the finished embroidery.

Tension. It’s good in moderation.

Into the machine we go!

The next move is from the hooping easel into the machine’s module. This isn’t as bad of a move as the first one but if I’m not paying attention, the fabric weight can cause the hoops to come apart and boom! Gotta start over.

The audience should also note that the clear grid has been taken off at this point too. Because its clear, I have forgotten that the grid is there and have almost embroidered the blasted thing. Thus, I learned early on to take that off before I move it and accidentally embroider into it.

I should mention that it usually flys off when I’m moving it from the easel to the machine if I’ve forgotten to take it off. I usually remember its still there when it clatters on the floor.


Because I am incredibly lucky, I have access to a machine with a built in camera system. The machine can scan and take a photo of it all. This is my back up, just in case, holy crap did I get that upside down, Hail Mary.

Between the camera, paper design, grid and micro movement of the machine, I fiddle until the needle hovers over the center perfectly.


As one can see, the design is dead center and ready to go. From here, I can finally move the paper design and press go.


Well, that’s the short-ish explanation of my hooping strategy. Its a bit of a process but I have found it serves me well! With that, our walk together for the night has come to a temporary end. Thank you for listening as we journeyed together!


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