In-the-hoop embroidery for beginners

By on April 11th, 2021
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in the hoop embroidery projects for beginners
free machine embroidery designs

Maybe you have heard of the term “in the hoop.”  It certainly gets thrown around a lot in machine embroidery circles. In fact, there is even a Facebook group called “Totally Addicted to In the Hoop Embroidery.”  But this new kind of embroidery can be a bit intimidating if you have never tried it. So for those of you who are ready to get started, I’ve identified some of the easiest, most straight-forward in the hoop embroidery for beginners projects.  But watch out! You may bet addicted too.

But first…

What is an in the hoop embroidery project?

An in the hoop embroidery project is one that can be made entirely in an embroidery hoop.  You see, embroidery machines are typically used to add embroidery onto an existing piece of fabric or garment.  But, with an in the hoop project, you are actually making a stand alone item.

What kinds of things can you make?

The types of items you can make in the hoop range from key fobs, earbud holders, purses, bibs, sleep masks, plush toys, etc… And they vary tremendously in complexity. When you buy an in the hoop design, it comes with instructions that walk you through all the steps for putting the piece together.

How do you go about doing it?

Typically, you hoop a piece of stabilizer – the type of which depends on your finished piece. Frequently, in the hoop projects call for water soluble stabilizer that can be completely washed away when the project is done. But sometimes you can get away with run-of-the-mill tearaway stabilizer if it will not show on the finished project.

Frequently, the directions will tell you to stitch out placement lines on the hooped stabilizer. Then you lay pieces of fabric on the stabilizer, using these stitch lines as a guide. Depending on what you are making, you will continue to lay down pieces of fabric, trim, zippers, etc… until you have stitched your entire project together.

What type of material do you use to make in the hoop projects?

Well, it depends on the project. A lot of the most basic projects work well with artificial leather or marine vinyl – like key fobs and hand sanitizer holders, but others work well with any old fabric.

Anything to keep in mind before starting an in the hoop project?

I have learned a couple of big lessons the hard way.  One is to remember to change your bobbin thread.  I typically use the standard white embroidery bobbin thread when doing most of my embroidery. But, for in the hoop projects, you usually want your top and bobbin thread to match.

Secondly, tape down your project well.  When you start folding fabric and adding elements like ribbons and zippers, you can create a bit of a trap. When the machine is traveling from one part of the hoop to another, it can get snagged on folds and other elements.

What are the best in the hoop embroidery for beginners projects?

I think that the best in the hoop embroidery projects for beginners are ones that are easy to conceptualize.  Some of the really complicated ones might take a little while for you to wrap your head around.  Start with the basic ones and then work your way up. Here are some really simple ones.


The only difficult part of making in the hoop earrings is adding the hook.  Most in the hoop earrings are just one or more little pieces. You stitch out an outline of a shape and then trim around it.  Then you punch a hole for the hook and stick them on your ears.

If you are looking for an in the hoop earring design for any occasion then you should check out Digiblue Pumpkin on Etsy. This store has 900+ styles of in the hoop earrings from baseballs for opening day to creepy Halloween in the hoop earrings.  My favorite is this the three layers of feathers earring design.

If you like the idea of making jewelry on your embroidery machine, check out my previous post about how to make in the hoop jewelry.

Earbud holders

in the hoop earbud pattern
Photo provided by and used with their permission.

It doesn’t get much easier (and functional) than this: a personalized earbud holder! The only caveat is that you will need to add a snap on the end. (Just get a basic snap kit – it’s easy).

A personalized earbud holder with a pair of earbuds inside would make a great party favor for a teen or tween birthday. I was actually crazy enough to stitch out 25+ in the hoop ear bud holders for my son’s Valentines. I’ll admit – it was a bit crazy, but he did give out the best Valentines.

Key fobs

ITH key fob set
Photo provided by Appliqué Geek Designs and used with their permission

When it comes to great beginner projects, it doesn’t get much easier than making key fobs. This set of multiple shapes of key fobs from Appliqué Geek Designs is a great value.  They are perfect for personalizing with a monogram, initial or design.

Hand sanitizer holder

in the hoop hand sanitizer holder
Photo provided by Designs by Babymoon and used with their permission.

You can’t have enough hand sanitizer on hand these days. So, a little hand sanitizer holder that attaches to a keyring to be easily clipped on a purse or a backpack is a great gift or a useful project to make for yourself.  This simple in the hoop hand sanitizer design by Designs by Babymoon is super straight-forward and easy to personalize.

Dog toy

In the hoop dog toy
Photo provided by Ivana Studio and used with their permission.

Whip up a new toy for your pooch 100% in the hoop. A simple bone toy (like this one from Ivana Studio) is quick and easy to make on your embroidery machine. Heck – make a few with all your scrap fabric. And, if you really want to entertain your dog, add a squeaky insert inside when you stuff it.


in the hoop floral coasters
Photo provided by EmbroideryEdytheAnn and used with their permission.

Usually I’m not a big fan of mug rugs and coasters, but I adore these elaborate ITH floral coaster designs from

Sleep masks

in the hoop sleep mask
Photo provided by Leles Designs and used with their permission.

A sleep mask is an essential item for anyone who values their beauty sleep. This fun set of in the hoop sleep mask embroidery designs allows you to make a sleep mask for just about anyone.  And the pattern couldn’t be simpler.

Pretend play toys

Unless you are around little kids a lot, you may not appreciate the entertainment value of play food. Play food and pretend play accessories are the perfect project to make on your embroidery machine.  And they are so simple to make – a perfect project for a beginner.  One of my favorites is this set of in the hoop play food by AprilSonneUnikate.

Like the idea of making toys and games in the hoop? Check out my previous post about the best toys and games to make in the hoop on your embroidery machine.


in the hoop letter banner
Image used with permission from Big Dreams Embroidery

A custom banner is a great way to honor a birthday boy or girl! And a cloth version made in the hoop on your embroidery machine can be reused year after year.  Even if you get cake smeared on it – just run it through the wash!  A banner flag is fast – so once again, easy peasy.  I like this simple letter banner from Big Dreams Embroidery because you can use the pattern to make any message you want!


in the hoop corner bookmark
Photo provided by Mickey’s Decorator and used with their permission.

There are loads of in the hoop bookmark patterns available, and they are all pretty simple to make.  Most are just flat rectangles with a silly tassel on the end.  I prefer the corner bookmarks and one with a bit more style.  Check out this in the hoop corner bookmark pattern with silly teeth from Mickeys Decorater to help you mark your spot.

Well there you have it!  I hope this helps you explore the world of in the hoop embroidery. Once you master a few of these simple in the hoop projects for beginners, you’ll be ready to take on just about any of them.

Good luck and happy stitching



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in the hoop embroidery projects for beginners

1 thought on “In-the-hoop embroidery for beginners

  1. Wow I love the key fob idea..specially for the hand sanitizer during this pandemic.

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