In-the-hoop toys and games to make for the holidays

By on November 14th, 2023
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So, have you tried making any in-the-hoop projects? Well, now may be your time to tackle it, especially since there are so many AMAZING in-the-hoop toys and games to make on an embroidery machine that make super cute and unique holiday gifts.  The kids will love them and parents will love them even more. 

Why make toys and games in-the-hoop on your embroidery machine?

OK –  I realize this is a first world problem, but when my kids were little, one thing I always dreaded about the holidays was the acquisition of so much more BIG, PLASTIC STUFF. Where do you put all of it? It was always SO overwhelming and so completely unnecessary.

So when I am gift giving to young kids, I try to be mindful of what parents might want for their young children, especially if the family does not live in a huge house. There is only so much room for the big plastic toys.

Fortunately, there are a lot of very unique toys and games that you can make entirely in-the-hoop on an embroidery machine. These projects are soft, durable, compact, inexpensive all while maintaining a high fun/entertainment factor. 

In-the-hoop matching games

When I first got the idea to make a game on my embroidery machine, I created a memory game for my nieces, making the set of tiles comprised of sweet barnyard animal faces entirely in the hoop. 

I also made a zipper pouch with my nieces’ names on it for storing the memory tiles. The girls loved it.  They were pretty little so there was a lot of excitement putting the tiles in and out of the pouch. Maybe even more so than playing the actual game.

in-the-hoop memory game

Little did I realize that I wasn’t the first person to come up with this idea. I was amazed to find a plethora of really cute In-the-hoop toys and games that are suitable for young kids. So, to inspire you for your holiday gift giving, I’m sharing some of my personal favorites. 

feltie matching game

In-the-hoop toys and games to make on an embroidery machine for babies

Under the sea quiet book by Gigilandnic

in-the-hoop under the sea quiet book
Photo by Gigilandnic and used with their permission.

When you’re a baby, turning book pages and sticking objects in pockets is a thrill which is why this fun little in-the-hoop under the sea quiet book is a real winner for wee ones. It’s full of bright shapes, animals and other familiar objects that reflect what babies are seeing in the real world. 

Soft books (as opposed to those hard, board books) are also winners for parents.  They are super light which makes them great for travel. 

And – most importantly – they are washable! Sometimes babies prefer to chew on their books as opposed to reading them. So, it’s probably a good idea to launder them every once in a while. 

In-the-Hoop Caterpillar Toy by Artapli

In-the-hoop caterpillar game
Photo by Artapli and used with their permission.

Little ones love to button and unbutton things. My kids actually had a button book when they were little that involved, yes – here’s a shocker, buttoning and unbuttoning things. And, it was a huge hit. 

From what I’ve heard, buttoning is great practice for kids’ fine motor skills So, not only is this caterpillar toy fun to play with, it’s also developmentally appropriate.

This in-the-hoop caterpillar toy is a perfect project to take on if you are limited to a 4″ x 4″ embroidery hoop because each piece is made separately and fits nicely in that space.  You just stitch out as many pieces of the caterpillar that you want. 

Good Night Cow by Stickdesign by Kerstin Bremer 

in-the-hoop goodnight cow
Photo courtesy of Stickdesign and used with their permission

These adorable plush animals made entirely in-the-hoop are designed to be hung in a baby’s crib or over a car seat. There is just something so sweet about these designs that you can’t help but think that they would be soothing for a baby.  Kerstin at Stickdesign has several different animals available in her Etsy store, one cuter than the next. 

In-the-hoop toys and games to make on an embroidery machine for toddlers

In-the-hoop Fishing Game by Nana’s Handmade Baby

in-the-hoop fishing game
Photo by Nana’s Handmade Baby and used with their permission.

Don’t underestimate the fun of pretend fishing. Kids go bananas for a fake fishing rod and fish.  I know this because I’ve witnessed it first hand.

At our  local children’s museum, they have an entire area dedicated to a pretend fishing experience and it’s super popular. 

So, why not make a fishing game in-the-hoop on your embroidery machine that can be played anytime, anywhere?

In-the-hoop Nativity Finger Puppet Set by C5 Embroidery Designs

in-the-hoop nativity finger puppets
Photo provided by C5 Embroidery Designs and used with their permission

What better way to remember the story of Christmas then to replay it with your fingers! These cute little in-the-hoop nativity scene finger puppets by C5 Embroidery Designs can be stitched out entirely in the hoop. Openings in the bottom slip right on to little fingers. Get ready for some dramatic reenactments! 

Doctor play set (as well as several others) by The Appliqué Place

in-the-hoop doctor play set
Picture provided by The Appliqué Place and used with their permission.

OMG – have you seen the play sets at The Appliqué Place? They are amazing! Little kids love to play pretend and the The Appliqué Place facilitates make believe in a lot of different realms.  Each set comes with several pieces that can be stitched out entirely in the hoop.

I personally love the detective / crime scene play set because I’m pretty addicted to true crime. Jeez.  I may just stitch it out for myself and act out one of my favorite Dateline Episodes.  But, The Appliqué Place has a lot of other ones, like a doctor play set, a vet play set and a fix-it / carpenter play set, as well as so many others

In-the-hoop games to make on an embroidery machine for bigger kids

The anal retentive side of me gets super annoyed when we lose pieces to board games.  I mean, seriously, how hard is it to put away all the pieces after you finish playing a game???? (That was to be read as a message to my kids.)

The advantage of making and using in-the-hoop games is that if you lose a pieces or two – you just stitch it out again. 


Actually – and you can call me cynical – you may even want to stitch out a few extra pieces when you initially make the game.  

Check out these amazing in-the-hoop games that make perfect gifts for bigger kids. 

Dominos Game by Goldilocks Designs

Dominoes game - Goldilocks designs
Picture provided by Goldilocks design and used with their permission.

Dominos is a game that’s not just for the young. In fact my brother and sister-in-law are slightly obsessed with playing dominos. But, I’ve never actually played with them because they are VERY competitive and they scare me a little bit.

Anyway, who knew you can actually make a set of dominoes completely in the hoop on an embroidery machine? Are you like me and not quite sure how to play dominoes? Check out these instructions. You can adapt them and include them in the gift.

Wait a second, maybe I’ve stumbled up the perfect gift for my brother and sister-in-law???

In-the-hoop Checkers Game by Jazzy Zebra Designs

in the hoop checkers game
Permission to use image given by Jazzy Zebra Designs

Like dominoes, checkers are a game that’s entertaining for both kids and adults.  A soft checkerboard with checkers is great for travel. You can simply roll it up and shove it in a bag.  And look how cute! This design even incorporates a pouch for storing the checkers. 

In-the-hoop Chess Game by Katie L Designs

in-the-hoop checkers game
Picture by Katie L Designs and used with her permission.

Well, who would’ve thought that you could make a chess game in your embroidery hoop? But if you stitch out the pawns in two dimensions as opposed to three, you can certainly can! 

My son enjoys playing chess so much that he stays after school every Tuesday for some intense elementary school play.  It’s actually pretty cute seeing a library full of little kids playing chess. 

Anyway, he does have his own chess game, but not one that is very portable. This soft, felt chess set is perfect for travel whether it’s across the street, or across the country. 

In-the-hoop toys to make on an embroidery machine for bigger kids

Art Set by Katie L Designs

in-the-hoop art set
Picture by Katie L Designs and used with her permission.

In addition to that cool in-the-hoop chess game, Katie L Designs offers another great in-the-hoop design that is suitable for bigger kids: an art set! Just add a few art supplies and you have a super cute take and go art set. 

It’s perfect for stationary to take to sleep away camp.  Or fill it with thank you notes and pens. (Or is that a bit passive aggressive??) 

Supplies for creating in-the-hoop toys and games

Perhaps you have noticed that some of these projects require you to use a variety of felts and/or vinyl materials. To make your process a bit easier, I would suggest ordering a variety pack of felts or faux leather sheets, or even satin if you are making stuffed animals. A multi-color pack of these materials is cheap and ensures. you have all the colors you need when stitching out these projects.

Not all the in-the-hoop toys and games require felt or vinyl – some can be made with regular quilting cotton fabric that you may already have in your sewing room.

Frequently asked questions about in-the-hoop toys and games

Now maybe you have gotten some great ideas for in-the-hoop games and toys that you can make on an embroidery machine. But, maybe you still have a few questions, or just want to learn more about these types of projects. Here are some frequently asked questions:

What type of stabilizer is best for making in-the-hoop toys and games?

It depends on the project. For projects like the in-the-hoop memory game, I suggest using a water soluble stabilizer. This is because the edges of the cards are left raw and you don’t want any stabilizer exposed.

But for other projects where the seams are finished, you can usually use a tear away or a cut away stabilizer.

How do I know how to make these in-the-hoop projects?

The best way to get started with in-the-hoop projects is to read through the instructions carefully. The companies that create in-the-hoop projects always include instructions. And, every project will be slightly different, so it’s important to follow the steps closely.

Can I make these in-the-hoop toys and games on a 4″ x 4″ hoop?

It depends. You can make some projects in a small hoop. For example, my in-the-hoop matching games can be made in a 4″ x 4″ embroidery hoop. It will just take you a little while for stitch them all out.

Always read the product description before purchasing any in-the-hoop toy or game embroidery design. Many of them usually require a minimum hoop size of 5″ x 7″. So, look closely.

What fabrics do you use to make these in-the-hoop toys and games?

Again, it depends.

Felt, faux leather and fleece are some popular fabrics for in-the-hoop toys and games.

Satin is great for animals or dolls because it’s soft and cuddly.

Felt and faux leather work really well for card games like the matching game I designed recently. These materials are also perfect for checkers and chess games because they are sturdy.

Fleece is also a popular fabric for in-the-hoop games since it’s thick, plush and durable.

Are there any free in-the-hoop toys and games projects available?

Yes! I haven’t done a comprehensive search, but Kreative Kiwi has quite a few in-the-hoop projects including a dominos set and this silly voodoo doll.

Check out my previous post on free in-the-hoop files that are available and I’m betting you’ll find even more freebies.

Ready to make some in-the-hoop toys and games?

I hope I’ve inspired you to make some in-the-hoop toys and games for Christmas.  Let me know if you try out these projects and how they all went. 

Happy stitching!


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in-the-hoop toys and games to make on an embroidery machine
AMAZING in-the-hoop toys and games to make on your embroidery machine.
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