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What is In the Hoop? (ITH)

Updated: Apr 3

In the Hoop or ITH machine embroidery designs use the embroidery machine to sew the seams that would typically be done by a regular sewing machine.


Some things that are frequently made using ITH embroidery designs are:

Zipper Bags, Coasters or mug rugs, Dolls, Felties, small bags or wallets, wall hangings, pillows, and even puppets ...




It's a terrible term that causes a TON of confusion and I wish the term would die. But it's been around a while and doesn't seem to be going away. (ʘ ͜ʖ ʘ)


We should call it ROBOTIC SEWING. That's what it really is. Your embroidery machine follows a program to sew something for you like a sewing robot. I prefer the term Robotic Sewing but I'll use it interchangeably with the term "in-the-hoop."


Isn't ALL machine embroidery done in the hoop? WHY YES! You're so smart! Without a hoop, your embroidery machine wouldn't even work! This is why the term "in the hoop" causes so much confusion.


But let's talk about what it IS and what it IS NOT.


In The Hoop (ITH) stitches SEAMS

A seam is where we sew one piece of fabric to another. There are different kinds of seams but embroidery machines are capable of doing most of the things a sewing machine can do. They are limited by the size of the hoop AND embroidery machines are not good at matching a curve to a straight piece of fabric the way a sleeve is sewn together. So those projects are best left to sewing machines.


If you want to sew seams that CAN fit in an embroidery hoop, and the seams can be sewn flat, an embroidery machine can do that for you.


in-the-hoop stuffed monster in progress


Stitching a design onto something is not "In the Hoop"

I know it doesn't make sense. I've already ranted on about how the term defies logic. Even though you stitch in the hoop every time you stitch a design onto something like a towel - it's still not considered "in the hoop" machine embroidery. That term is reserved for when SEAMS are being done by the machine.


Is Free Standing Lace considered an In the Hoop Design?

This one depends on who you ask.

Free Standing lace is created by stitching a lacy design onto a water-soluble stabilizer, then you wash away the stabilizer and you're left with the lacy design standing "freely" on its own.


I don't consider Free Standing Lace (abbreviated FSL) to be "In the hoop" because no seams are created. But it's not traditional machine embroidery either. Some people consider it "in the hoop." Especially when people create 3D projects by attaching multiple panels together.

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