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Hoop size vs. Sewing Area (part 1)

If you're new to embroidery, you might be wondering how big a design your machine can stitch. This varies from machine to machine. It is not possible to get an accurate sewing area size from measuring the embroidery hoop. This blog is the first in a series exploring the relationship between hoop sizes and sewing areas for embroidery.

How big a design can I stitch in my hoop? I've heard that it's not hoop size, but sewing area that counts. What is my sewing area?

It’s usually smaller than you would think, just by looking at the hoop. For the Brother PE-700 for instance, the open space in the hoop that comes with the machine (not measuring any of the plastic frame) measures 6 3/8”x 8.5” … But your sewing area with this machine is actually smaller than that. Some of the reason has to do with saving space for the presser foot within the hoop.

The needle is to the left, and most of the presser foot is to the right. See how the presser foot and its parts extends to the right a bit? To stitch on the right hand side without hitting the hoop, you need to “save space” for it.

Additionally, when you stitch, the needle (obviously) comes down. But look what else comes down. See that black screw -- the one you use to replace or tighten the needle? Even though the needle has plenty of room, that black screw is pretty close to the edge of the hoop, when the needle is in the down position.

If you are stitching something thick, like a towel, and have hooped it in the usual manner, the bulk of the towel can push that inner hoop edge even farther inward. If your design stitches right to the edge of the sewing area, there is a chance that the black screw can come down and whack the right side of the hoop. Ouch!

From the picture, you can see that the space needed on the left side of the needle is much smaller, but it would be odd to not be able to center your design in the center of the hoop, wouldn’t it? Perhaps that’s why we have the same amount of un-stitchable space on the left as well.

The presser foot has some space requirements in the back as well, So there is extra space at the top and bottom of the hoop, in which you won’t be able to stitch.

Okay, so now you know that hoop size and sewing area are not the same thing. Your hoop probably came with a plastic template, marked with the sewing area. You can see one in the picture above. No stitching can be done outside the printed area. You can also check your machine manual to find the sewing area. Fair warning -- that information is sometimes difficult to find. has a large embroidery machine database to assist you.

Just for your information, the plastic template is not for stitching with; it helps you to plan your embroidery placement. I know, you weren't really wondering about that. You wanted to know what is all over this machine. Cameras don't lie. It's white faux fur from a polar bear applique project. Now I'll quit writing and dust it off... And apply a little DK5 spray to that hoop, too!