Floating is a technique embroiderers use when the item they want to embroider is too small or to be hooped or else is un-hoopable in some other way. Basically, to float, you hoop your stabilizer only. Then you attach your item to the stabilizer. Attaching to stabilizer can be done with pins or temporary embroidery safe adhesives, or with a basting box. The basting box can function as your main connection, holding the fabric to the stabilizer. You can often go without those tricky spray adhesives or poky pins when you use the basting box.
This video shows the use of a basting box for floating a small piece of fabric. The basting box shown is an included feature of this embroiderer’s Husqvarna Viking Topaz. If your machine does not have a basting function, this is a perfect place for embroidery software to step in. Embrilliance Essentials, for example has a “baste design” feature you can add to any design before stitching. Embrilliance Enthusiast includes a “baste hoop” feature, which automatically fits the basting box to the hoop size.
There are many other applications for floating: shirts too small to go around your hoop, odd shaped or pre-constructed items, like tote bags, stuffed animal ears, tongues of shoes… so many creative options open up when you learn to float your fabric.