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New to in-the-hoop embroidery? “In the hoop” refers to an embroidery project that is created entirely in the hoop of your embroidery machine. Some have a bit of work to do after the machine work is done – for example, a zipper bag that you must turn inside out and close up. Snap tabs, eyelet fobs, charms, coasters, patches, bag tags, bookmarks.. these are all fun in-the-hoop (ITH) projects!
Your first question may be, “What do you use to make these projects?” so here is a blog post all about some of my favorite ITH materials!
Please note that the links provided in this blog post are accurate/active as of December 2022.
First off, you’ll need vinyl or another non-fraying material for a fob, inhaler holder, bookmark.. I have gotten a ton of marine vinyl from Joann, but in recent years they pared back their color selection. You can see their current selections by visiting this link and/or searching “marine vinyl” on their website.
Also at Joann, you can find non-fraying fabrics in the home decor section and, seasonally and varying by location, in the “cosplay” sections. I have used upholstery fabrics, canvas, and other fabrics I discovered by just going to Joann and browsing!
Don’t live near a Joann or can’t find what you’re looking for in town? You can purchase non-fraying vinyls and specialty fabrics online. Tip: search for terms “embroidery vinyl,” “faux leather,” “synthetic leather,” and “PU leather” (haha! It means “polyurethane”). Tip: watch out for heat transfer vinyl (HTV)! That is not the type of vinyl you want for ITH projects. Make sure you’re getting a thick leather-like fabric, not thin HTV.
I know everyone has opinions on Amazon, but it’s an easy way for me to share photos and links to what you might want to try. I also have an affiliate store, where I make a small commission if you purchase items after clicking on my affiliate product links. It does not matter if you purchase what I am linking to, and no, I do not see your name or purchases. 🙂
Here are some examples of faux leathers that I have purchased on Amazon, that I enjoy using for ITH projects. Notice the photos, thickness of the fabrics, and size of the sheets you receive. Usually they come in approximately 8″ x 12″ sheets, but sometimes they are smaller, so make sure you note the size.
To the left is a set of 16 pieces of faux leather in bright colors! I LOVE the fuchsia color in this set. And the aqua! You can get several ITH projects out of an 8″ x 12″ sheet!
Looking for something other than solids? There are lots available on Amazon. I love prints, but I have really had great fun using embossed leathers in my projects. For example, the cross notebook covers I made (left) were made using a beautiful embossed faux leather. I can’t remember exactly where I got this one, but I found a similar style on Amazon here and here.
Embossed leathers come in all kinds of styles. It’s not the greatest choice for a small project where you can’t see the design, but skip the applique on a mini composition book cover and you can see the embossed designs shine!
Another favorite product for stitching ITH goodies for me is CORK! Yes, cork fabric! Here’s a tip: cork comes in several different thicknesses. I’ve gotten cork fabric at Walmart – some with gold leafing or other decorative accents – but the brand my Walmart carries is very thin and cheap (you get what you pay for!). I use it as pockets for mini notebook covers, backing on fobs – anything that I don’t need a very thick fabric. Then there are other cork fabrics that are thick and luxurious! These are usually found at specialty shops or online, and they are more expensive.
Check out this Amazon cork fabric. Do you see how under “THICKNESS,” it says .65mm? That is about the thickness you want for fobs. That is a decent thickness. Always check that number, if given.
To the right are some hand sanitizer projects I created using the cheaper cork from Amazon. I used it as a base, yes, but I put a piece of thicker/stiffer vinyl on the back of each of those to make sure they weren’t too flimsy. My general rule is if I use one thicker fabric for the front, I use a thinner backing, or vice versa.
Speaking of backing, if you don’t know what I’m referring to, when making most ITH projects, you’ll want a piece of fabric to place underneath your hoop at the end of your project, then the design will stitch to sandwich that with your fob. This is to cover up the “ugly” back of your project. It gives your project a finished, professional look. Usually, I use blackboard fabric that I get from Joann. It is thin and flexible, but also a bit stiff and sturdy. Here is a link to the product I use from Joann; at the time I’m writing this, I can’t find this product on Amazon. Tip: at Joann, they recently moved the blackboard fabric to utility fabrics. So if you ask an employee and they don’t know what “blackboard fabric” is, just ask them where are the utility fabrics.
If you’re making ID card/badge holders, you’ll want a clear vinyl. Most of us in the ITH world suggest 12 gauge, but honestly you could get away with other thicknesses if you found it on sale, or in the remnant bin, etc.
My best suggestion for buying your first fabrics for ITH projects is to EXPLORE. I like to go to a fabric store or craft store and just feel different fabrics. It’s sometimes hard to tell online, but when you’re in a store you can touch and choose what will work! Your goal is a fabric that is thick-ish and does not fray (unless you want fraying, then go nuts).
Also keep in mind that you don’t need a big chunk of fabric for ITH projects. I know that vinyl can be expensive when you look at it by the yard, but I almost never buy an entire yard of any vinyl except white. I use a coupon, and I get 1/3 or 1/2 of a yard most of the time. That lasts me a long time. Even if you’re making a lot of one project in the hoop, a little goes a long way, so don’t get sticker shock!