Should you cross stitch without a hoop?

People often ask me if you can stitch without a hoop. It’s a question that comes up a lot on cross stitch forums and social groups all over the place, however, no one ever seems to ask why.
This at first seems like an obvious question, but many of you reading this instantly answered the question of “can you”, but most wouldn’t be able to say they’ve tried it. And that, in my mind, is an issue.
Stitching without a hoop may just be the easiest, but least tried cross stitch skill out there. But it’s also a fantastic skill to utilize in your stitching!
So I plan to tell you why you should try this underrated skill!

Can you cross stitch without a hoop?

Yes, you can cross stitch without a hoop, using the “sewing” method, where you stab the needle into the work, and stab it back out of the work before you pull the thread.


The Myth Of Issues

The main reason behind not trying out the sewing method is the myths behind it. Most of these are actually subconscious, but in all cases, aren’t actually valid reasons.


The first, and arguably biggest is tension. The concept of a hoop is to make tension so your stitches are perfectly placed. The theory goes that if you take away the hoop, you take away the tension. And whilst this does initially hold up, the way that you “sew” cross stitches changes how tension is applied.
Instead of keeping the fabric taught, you instead keep the thread taught.

It Looks Different

The second main concern is that it looks different. This one is arguably a big turn-off for many, as no one wants to try something and then be able to see it sticking out like a sore thumb for the rest of time! But once again, this isn’t the case.
Yes, your stitching method is different, the way you tension is different, and even the way you go about stitching it might be different, but in the end, your cross stitch will look the same.
It should be noted though that the sewing method is required for the “Danish way” and swapping between the “English way” and the “Danish way” will cause your work to look slightly different.

How to cross stitch animated gif illustration
How to cross stitch animated gif illustration

You Can’t Stitch The Whole Thing

The final point is actually an interesting one. Many people think that the sewing method works well for large singular blocks of color (and it does), but many people think that’s the only thing it’s good for.
I do understand this one, of all the reasons it does make the most sense, and in my mind, it’s kind of true. But actually, that’s the benefit!
There are people out there that do stitch the whole thing ‘in the hand’, but in my mind using this technique on large blocks of color is the perfect excuse. It doesn’t look different when finished, it makes stitching blocks of color easier, and there is one other big selling point too…

Darth Vader Star Wars Cross Stitch by VelvetPonyDesign (source: Etsy)
Darth Vader Star Wars Cross Stitch by VelvetPonyDesign (source: Etsy)

So Why Try It?

A lot of us want to learn how to cross stitch faster, and there are loads of techniques and tools specifically for it, but one often overlooked is the sewing method. What makes this crazier is that the sewing method is 50% faster than the “stab” method.
Everyone has been in the position before of sitting with one color over a massive length of time, wondering to yourself just when it’ll be finished, just when you can move on. Well; try the sewing method and you’ve just halved the time!
Got any techniques you think people ignore? Drop us a comment below and we’ll give them a try!
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Dianne

    I’ve been wondering about this for a while. I’ve been cross-stitching since I was 8 (so over 30 years) and have never used a hoop. But everywhere on social media I see hoops and then I started to question myself. But having always used the ‘sewing’ method, I can’t imagine going to the hoop & stab method. I feel like it would slow me down a lot.

    1. LordLibidan

      I personally much prefer a hoop with the stab method myself, but those who get on with the sewing method seem to really love it!

  2. Rianne

    I am so much into speed and naturally very restless so I started out without a hoop XD It does work faster!

    1. LordLibidan

      Glad to hear you gave it a shot! You can put another arrow in your cross stitch quiver!

  3. Robin

    Guess I need to watch your videos because I am clueless on sewing vs stabbing and English vs Danish. Although as a Danish American, now I want to learn! I use a hoop on some pieces (like a standard size pillow case with waste canvas so I don’t sew the two sides of the case together) and don’t on other things (baby booties, too small) or decorative pieces I am going to frame myself and don’t want crimping or potential smudges from the hoop (one of my hoops is vintage and I think the metal is tarnished).
    I would like to see a piece on pandemic anxiety and stitching. Have not felt like stitching since February, 2020.

  4. Katelyn

    So my main concern is actually dirt! I feel that by holding in hand I get my hands all over everything! I also worry about rubbing the stitches too hard and having them get shifted out of place. One benefit is it is much easier to weave in the loose ends in the back – especially when you’re playing thread chicken 🙂

  5. Alessandra

    Palestinian cross stitch is done entirely without a hoop, using the sewing method and special attention is paid to the back of one’s work (neatness and direction of stitches.) Perhaps most difficult to get used to is that the legs on your cross stitches do not all need to face the same way. It is more important for all the stitches on the back to go in one direction. That was historically a sign of a skilled embroiderer and would save thread, important since Palestinian Tatreez used to be done in silk threads.

    1. LordLibidan

      Oh, so they care more about the back than the front really? That’s interesting!
      Whilst there are a lot of cultures that savored threads, it’s neat to see that the form of the front of the work was almost led by this. In most cultures instead, the lavish use of threads for no real reason was almost seen as a positive, to keep embroidery out of the hands of the “common people”.