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Understanding Hoop Size & Sewing Field

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Understanding Hoop Size & Sewing Field

Click to enlarge The term “hoop size” used throughout the machine embroidery community is confusing. For example, you might measure your actual physical hoop to find it is 6.25 x 4.50” and you have been told that your machine can only sew a design that fits the 4 x 4” hoop, but in reality the actual sewing field of your particular machine model will not stitch a design that exceeds 3.937 x 3.937” - and not a fraction more! We can blame this conflict of measurements on decades of upgrades and changes to meet global demands for machines that require very fine measurements that can’t be calculated in inches, along with the struggle for some of us to grasp the metric system. But no matter where the confusion originated, the issue can be frustrating when trying to find the right size while shopping for designs, so let’s see if we can shed a little light on this issue.

With the exception of commercial machines like a Tajima that will stitch as far as its pantograph will reach, most every machine has a “sewing field” limitation. The sewing field is programmed into the machine software to not allow stitching designs larger than what has been preset for the main purpose of protecting the machine from damage. When a needle comes down on the hoop, the needle will likely break, and this can also crack the hoop, as well as cause other mechanical problems like throwing off the “timing” of the needle and hook assembly or other situation that requires a technician’s repair.

Be aware that unless your machine’s sewing field allows, you cannot purchase a larger hoop and expect it to work for larger designs.As well, some machines offer optional larger hoops, like the Plus Hoop for a small model Husqvarna-Viking, but in this case, to use the hoop for a large design, it requires splitting the design into sections no larger than the preset sewing field.Splitting the file is accomplished by using the appropriate software that in most cases won’t be included with the purchase of a larger hoop. 

Click to enlarge Hoop Size
Each design product page on EmbroideryDesigns.com includes the actual size of the design in both millimeters and inches. The product page also includes “Hoop Size” in inches, which is supposed to be the equivalent to the sewing field in millimeters, but humans like to approximate things. For example 100mm equals 3.937”, which is so very close to 4” that we who hate decimals round up the figure. Also the sewing field of 130 x 180mm equals 5.12 x 7.09” but we round down the figure to 5 x 7”. So, “Hoop Size” has evolved over the years to being just a term without mathematical accuracy, used to indicate the approximate sewing field limit in inches that your machine must allow in order to accommodate the actual size of the design.

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Sewing Field
The measurement of your machine’s sewing field limit is usually listed in the manual, sometimes buried where you least expect to find it. Some software programs, such as Embrilliance Essentials, offer the ability to check and set the sewing limit by machine and hoop size.Many of us have discovered our machine’s sewing field limit while trying to stitch a design that exceeds the preset boundaries.My Husqvarna-Viking Rose, an older model that runs from a program card with one small hoop and no image monitor, will try to stitch the design until it reaches the point where the design exceeds its sewing field limit of 3.93 x 3.93” – a frustrating waste of materials and time.On the other hand, some machines will simply refuse to stitch a design that is too large, and often won’t clearly reveal the reason, such as my Baby Lock Ellageo that doesn’t even recognize that the design is on the USB drive when the design size is more than its sewing field limit of 10.2 x 6.2”. Learn your machine’s sewing field limit, and you will be able to determine whether a design will fit within the recommended “Hoop Size”.

Click to enlarge Determining Hoop Size
First understand that the inch has been defined and internationally accepted as being equivalent to 25.4mm (millimeters) or 2.54cm (centimeters).If your ruler displays centimeters, just move the decimal one digit to the right to calculate millimeters. Following is a chart of approximate, but close conversions of sewing field limits. When shopping, be sure to double check the actual size of the design along with the recommended Hoop Size.

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Use the above chart to help you decide whether a design will fit within your sewing field limit when shopping for designs.And remember, if the design is within 20% too large for your hoop, our Design Support Team can decrease the size for you. Just call us with your order number after your purchase and we will resize and email the resized design to you.

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Meet The Author: Bonnie Landsberger
Bonnie Landsberger has been a crafter and hand embroiderer since childhood and a machine embroiderer and digitizer since 1986. She was the in-house head digitizer for a 50-head embroidery shop for 11 years and later offered custom digitizing services and stock design sales through her web site for Moonlight Design since 1993. She currently also holds a position as a customer service representative at EmbroideryDesigns.com. Bonnie has won several awards for digitizing, including a gold medal in the 2002 Digitizing Olympics and grand prize in all categories & first place for Winter Holidays category in the Stitches Magazine Great Greeting Card Contest 2003. Her embroidery and digitizing technical articles can be found in various trade magazines and she is currently a contributing writer and Editorial Advisory Board Member for Stitches Magazine. You can also find more of her articles online at EmbroideryDesigns.com and will continue to contribute articles to our Learning Center.

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Charles D Oct 04, 2014
Lucid, informative, useful, and to-the-point. Everyone, regardless of experience with embroidery hoops needs to read this article, copy it to file, put it next to their heart, and better yet, put it to use. Outstanding.

Su H Oct 04, 2014
Very useful info! Saving the conversions.

Anonymous Oct 04, 2014
Very informative, Thank you :)

Anonymous Oct 04, 2014
Excellent explanation--really cleared that up for me!

Mark W Oct 04, 2014
This is a very helpful article. It really gives a good explanation of the sewing fields and the charts are eyeopening. I didn't know my industrial machine had a 10mm smaller sewing field then my personal (single) needle machine. Great Article!

Anonymous Oct 04, 2014
Helpful information when deciding on designs that are very close to the machine's limits. Especially appreciate the tables for each machine which would be a great help when shopping for a new machine.

Mary F Oct 04, 2014
I appreciated the detailed information above. It settled some of the frustration I have had in the past with patterns that my machine wouldn't accept even though I used what I thought was the proper hoop size. Thank you Bonnie and EmbroideryDesigns! Mary

Anonymous Oct 04, 2014
This brief, but informative article helped me understand these basic terms and how they apply to my embroidery machine. Something every machine embroiderer should know. Understanding hoop size and sewing field helps assure success in stitching out your designs. The included charts are also very helpful.

harriet s Oct 04, 2014
I found the article did it's job: it clarified some of my muddled thinking about hoop/design problems.

Anonymous Oct 04, 2014
All of these subjects of information are like getting a degree! Great help Thanks

Joann T Oct 04, 2014
Great information. I learned after purchasing a design that the Brother PE 770 will not display the design if it is larger than the hoop area allows.

Marilyn W Oct 06, 2014
This is an incredibly excellent article. I don't know how many times I have been curious about the hoop size on a particular machine, and I often had to do a bit of searching to find it. To me, at least, it's the most important issue! There are a couple of inaccuracies, however. The exact large hoop sewing area for ALL the Singer XL machines--XL-400 (SEQS-6000),-550 (SEQS-6700) (all are named Quartet), Quintet, XL-420 and XL-580 is 10.24" x 6.30". The exact sewable size on the large hoop for ALL CE machines--CE-100 (SES-1000), -150, -200 (SES-2000), -250, -350 is 4.49" x 6.69". The SES and SEQS are simply HSN's model numbers for the same machines.
Bonnie L Oct 16, 2014
Thank you so very much Marilyn for your helpful comments! The information you offered regarding the Singer machines has now been added and this article has been updated. I am sure that the corrections and additional facts will offer more clarity for those who own the Singer machine.

Gina A Oct 06, 2014
Thank you so much for this, it's really helpful.

Charles D Feb 25, 2015
Everyone needs to read and learn from this article. Well written, to the point, and most useful. Outstanding effort. Many thanks.

Lynnae C Mar 20, 2015
I just learned something new.. thank you so much.. I appreciate it so much. I am very new to embroidery an had a machine now for a year but haven't been able to do much yet.. I also have a program to I can see what the des. is first an change colors an ect. but I wish I could see them in inches an not the mm is there a table I can download so I know what size it is

Patricia R Jul 21, 2016
The hoop size info is great, however, I would like to see you add the various formats for the machines. That would help those of us who make and assemble designs for others.

Carrie S Oct 21, 2016
As a very new owner of a Brother SE400, this information is excellent! I'm printing and keeping the info handy, and near my machine. Wonderful customer service! Thank you!

Karen E Aug 23, 2017
Very helpful. Thank you.
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