Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Embroidery Frame vs. Embroidery Hoop – A Dilemma!


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I have a dilemma. A Real Stitching Dilemma. And I’m hoping you can help me solve it!

If you’ve been reading Needle ‘n Thread a while, you’ve probably figured out that my Thing is surface embroidery of the free-style type. It’s what I love doing and what I do most, when it comes to needle-and-thread-related things.

But occasionally, I also enjoy a little foray into counted work.

Last year, I was challenged to undertake a very large counted project, one that will probably last years and years. I succumbed to the challenge, ordered the chart, accumulated and organized the 200 thread colors required, and prepared the fabric, so that I could at least get the gargantuan thing under way.

Vidal Madonna and Child in counted thread embroidery

The project that I’m doing is this chart of Vidal’s Madonna and Child. I found the chart through Golden Kite, a company out of Russia that translates works of art into “extreme” cross stitch designs. I first heard of Golden Kite through Larissa, who stitched these charts from Golden Kite and then framed this one with a glorious pearl and goldwork mat.

As far as cross stitch goes, these are definitely extreme charts. This is not something I would normally do. But I took up the challenge, and I really do intend to do it (over lots of time)!

But I have a problem.

My problem is this: I’ve got the piece set up on a Millenium frame, on a stand, in my workroom. And that would be well and fine, if I could devote workroom time to this piece.

But in fact, I can’t devote workroom time to this piece. My workroom time has to be used for the real work of Needle ‘n Thread. This particular cross stitch endeavor is a side occupation, something that I can pick up for an hour or so during the evenings, when I’m finished with everything else.

In order for that to happen, I need to be able to work on it inside my house.

And inside my house, I don’t have room for a stand and a frame.

Vidal Madonna and Child in counted thread embroidery

I know that doesn’t look like a lot of progress! Each of those basted squares is 20×20 threads, which means they’re made up of 400 stitches. I’m working with half cross stitches over one thread, on 25 count linen, using two strands of floss. Some of the colors are blended (the two strands are different shades) and some are solid.

There are many advantages to using a frame with this type of work. For one thing, the project is permanently set up and accessible. For another, it makes parking threads on this type of project much easier. A frame goes a long way to ensure even tensioning. A frame gives you room for your chart, so that it’s right in front of your eyes. A frame allows two-handed stitching, which means you make progress a little faster.

But there are disadvantages to a frame, too. They take up room. They require a specific posture, to reach the stitching area. (You can’t always cozy down on the couch with a project on a large frame!) And it’s more difficult to pack the whole project up and away, tidily, in a small space.

Hoop or Frame?

My question to you – especially if you’ve ever done this type of extreme cross stitch project – is whether or not you think a hoop is a viable option for something like this.

Can I work this project in a hoop, and achieve good results in the end? Can I work this project in a hoop, and still park threads in a normal way and keep track of which thread is which? Even when the hoop is removed at the end of a stitching session?

Have you ever used a hoop on this type of thing? If you used a hoop, what precautions would you take?

So, help me out, oh Ye Experts on Extreme Cross Stitch Projects! If you’ve been cross stitching for years, even if you aren’t into this type of extreme stuff, I’m sure you’ll have good insights that will help me out. I’d love to hear your suggestions, thoughts, precautions, advice… Feel free to join the conversation below!

Tomorrow, we talk stumpwork!


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(140) Comments

  1. I am working on a very large piece too – The Soul of the Rose, a JD Waterhouse conversion to cross stitch. I am doing mine on a stand with stretcher bars.

    Truthfully, I don’t see how you could do a piece this large on hoops. I would think that the distortion over time of moving the hoops would make the piece more difficult to block in the end.

    When I take a break from mine, which I definitely do, I take the bars off the stand and roll the whole thing together, using a bit of velcro to keep it all tight.

    I will be interested to see what you choose.

  2. I’ve completed two huge Chatelaine mandalas on hoops. I’m also working on a Luca-S piece that’s huge, too – and I use a hoop. I don’t have room for a stand because I used up the room on a loom.

  3. Hi Mary,

    When I have done the mega cross stitch projects – those that take years in the making, I have used a scroll frame. It is not as good as the millennium frame for tension, but is adjustable. You can change the side bars for different sizes depending on where you work on it. I can cozy up on the sofa or in bed with it and you can park your threads. I can also mount mine in a standing frame when I will be working on it for a lengthy period or holding the frame itself in my lap when I worked for short bursts (most of the time).

    My last major completed project (which took me 3 years) was finished with the requirement to do one strand of color per night. On some nights I did more, but stitched at least 1 strand each night. At times it did not seem like I was making much progress, but I did finish it.

    Good luck with yours.

    1. I agree here. I worked on a cross stitch for a 17×17 inches group of wolves in winter mountains. I did as you did, Christa. It was a scroll frame, I mounted it on the stand when I was working on it for a prolonged time, and held it in my lap for shorter spurts. And put it in the cupboard when I needed a break. My wolves may have been smaller than Mary’s but so many threads and combinations of threads made me slow.

    2. Crista, Sally-Ann, did you lace it also or just use the sidebars of the scroll frame to tension the fabric?

    3. I know you have already probably either given this up OR finished it but I agree with Krista. I put mine on a scroll frame. I had a 48″ x 18″ set of 4 Japanese characters I copied, enlarged & filled with different “blackwork” patterns in red silk. They were so fun & turned out beautifully. I didn’t have to park the thread since I used all the same color but I have done so in the past using a scroll frame. I loosened it after each session & popped it in a 100% cotton pillow case inside a plastic zipping pillow protector (waterproof & big enough for the whole frame) & tucked it away between sessions. When I wanted to work on it, I just pulled it out, tightened it up & let it sit on a stand. Now that I have a millennium frame, I imagine it will be even easier & take up even less space, since I can completely remove the piece from the frame. But my go-to for years were the dozen or so inexpensive scroll frames with the piece sewed onto the strapping on the bars & rolled up for storage. I have used a bound hoop, but removing it & putting it back oh so carefully is nerve wracking.

  4. I personally would not put a project of this type in a hoop. I would rearrange some furniture & make room for a frame in my setting area. Watching the video of the new millennium frame inspired me to setup a chair like the one in the video. That looked very comfortable. That would work in even a very small room.

  5. I love my frames but like you only in my sewing room. I wag my hooped stitching with me where ever I go like Doctors appointments. I know I have at least 30 minutes or longer to wait before I am called. Or if I am babysitting. I have to keep my hands busy, also people ask me questions and once in a while I have people ask me to teach. I love to help future someones knowledge about needle arts.

  6. I’m not sure I understand the dilemma. Do you need to keep the frame attached to the stand? And does the stand not fold up? I frequently have a project going that I can keep very compactly stored in the corner.

  7. Right now I’m working on the Heaven and Earth design “Old World Map”–not for the faint of heart! http://heavenandearthdesigns.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=3502

    I’m working with it in a 12-inch q-snap frame with a grime guard to hold the rolled fabric and keep it clean. https://www.etsy.com/listing/265526502/q-snap-cover-aka-grime-guard-kitty?ref=related-0

    I do all projects this way, large and small. I’m not a needle parker, but I imagine it could be done just the same as in a frame.

    1. I HATE stands, personally — I prefer stitching in the curl up and relax mode so stands just don’t work for me. and I find finishing off a strand on the back a pain on a stand.

      So I’m a Q-snap user as well… on everything nowadays except very small pieces, where I resort to in-hand. I like them so much I have a number of frame sizes which can mix and match according to my needs. They don’t allow the same tension as a hoop (or a Millennium Frame) but, for the most part, I don’t think cross stitch requires the same tension as free-form embroidery.

      I find that the grime guards are a little fiddly but they work to keep excess fabric out of the way. And Q-snaps don’t have the same impact on already stitched areas as hoops do, in my opinion. The only issue with them as far as I am concerned is they so NOT work well with pieces that require beads as well as floss. This should NOT be an issue with the Scarlet Quince, Golden Kite or HAED type pieces, though.

      I do remove my piece every session anyway (habit acquired of when I did use hoops, way back in the day) , place it in the project bag with the pattern, the floss and the Q-snap frame and clamps.

      Oh, and I’m not a needle parker either… but the Q-snap really should allow this, I think…

  8. Oh that chart is beautiful, Mary! I have been wondering and wondering what you chose!

    I have only seen these kinds of extreme designs through Heaven and Earth designs but I’m definitely going to check out Golden Kite as well.

    I am a beginner with these kinds of charts, I just started my first two (because I am insane and can’t do one like normal people!). Because they are quite large (the fabric is 36×27 on 18 ct), I found the scroll bars to be a better option. For me, having all that extra fabric flapping around outside of the hoop was annoying enough to distract me from the stitching part. I just couldn’t figure out a good way to deal with it. Maybe some of your other readers have good tips, I’d love to see them.

    So for right now, both projects are on their own scroll frames and I take them on and off the floor stand as I rotate them. I also keep them in a bed pillow size pillowcase to protect them from dust and sun and whatnot in between.

    Good luck on your project and thanks for the new shopping site 😀

    1. I agree with you Beth for I like to use the scroll rods and frames. This way all the extra fabric is neatly rolled up and out of the way. I stitch nightly on my couch and have found the scroll rods to be the most comfortable to use.

  9. I have an extreme project, The Astronomer, waiting for a Milennial frame. I don’t think I can do it right in either another type of frame or a hoop. Hooping means abrasion on already stitched areas as well as uneven pulling and stretching of the foundation fabric. I just think you will be disappointed if you use a hoop.

  10. When I was younger I did lots of extreme cross stitch projects. I used a scroll frame and I had a rocking chair where I used to stitch. I could lay the frame on the arms of the chair so it was supported and I had 2 hands free for the stitching. I stored the frame in a pillowcase behind the chair when I wasn’t using it.

  11. Hi – I love these large projects and have several on the go, but I, too, don’t have much studio space. Although I love using large frames, I’m too short to reach. Hoops just don’t work as too much fabric hangs over which has to be tucked in. Frustrating. The only thing that works for me are roller bars. I take them off the side pieces and roll them up safely when I’m not working. It is a pain to move the work up and down with side basting, so I make sure that is reasonably easy to remove, i.e. I use alligator clips. Hope this helps

  12. My husband and I (yes, he stitches as well) use scroll frames for large projects. Two reasons for that: 1. We can have just the active area of stitching available as we go which means no reaching to the distance top or having loose fabric flopping around. 2. The scroll frame easily comes off the stand clamp for storage if we need a break or want to stitch on a different larger design.

    Some people just stitch them in hand but that’s a lot of handling. With cross stitch I don’t find tension to be as critical as is needed with embroidery so scroll frames are just fine. And hoops leave those annoying circles all over the piece. Plus, if there are metallics or beads involved (the type of designs I enjoy) hoops just don’t go over beads well.

  13. I put my Heaven and Earth piece on a scroll frame and work on it when I can between other projects. I have seen over one pieces done with a hoop but the tension is always a bit off and the surface is bumpy. I think that they turn out better worked on a frame but if space is tight you might have to try a hoop and see if that would work for you.

  14. I guess you have to determine how long you want to be doing this amazing undertaking. I personally see the “scroll & roll” the most practical. Like Marilyn’s idea of storing in a pillowcase and the heads free straddle of the chair arms…..

  15. When working on very large pieces, I always use a scroll frame with stretcher bars. I have found that the frame keeps the fabric perfectly aligned and taut without the necessary tugging for alignment necessary when using a hoop. A hoop tends to distort and abrade previously stitched areas. It will also make it difficult to park your threads since you have more limited space. I keep my project in a pillow case, tucked behind my favorite chair. The frame rests upon the arms of the chair making it comfortable to stitch. If I am working in another area of my home, I sometimes use a TV tray to support the frame.

  16. I have VS Thea Dueck’s alphabet sampler on a single piece of fabric and am using a millennium frame – I would never use a hoop as I like a tight tension on my linen I would worry about marking or distorting the already stitched part when I moved on. I keep the frame in a double pillow case to protect it when working on another project. When I roll the top row of 6 letters I will put a piece of soft fleece on it before rolling.
    As for lack of room for a stand – I have a Needle Needs lap stand which I use at weekends away. A large frame will still sit on it and the arms of my chair help support the ends of the frame as it is so long. I use the short side stretchers on the frame and often work the top section upside down! Following a chart is just as easy that way and it has always worked for me.
    Good luck – look forward to seeing your progress.

  17. I have done quite a few big cross stitch projects in the past and to be honest, I think the easiest way is to not use hoops or frames, but to hold the fabric in your hand. It really is easier. Unlike surface embroidery work, you don’t need to have even tension. Cross stitching very forgiving. Especially if you are covering the entire space with stitches.

    1. Rui – I am another stitcher and I was hoping I would find another person who did not use a frame of any kind to make large pieces. I have made three giant pieces (as large as a door) and I do not use hoops or frames of any kind either. Thanks for your message.

      Karen Olson

    2. It’s good to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t use a frame or hoop for any cross stitch project. I find I get an even tension on the stitches just working it in my hand – and it is so much easier to just pick it up for a few stitches now and then.
      I seem to have perfected the art of going down into one hole and coming back up in the next with one stitch so I don’t have to use 2 hands to do it. It’s just like sewing.

      I’ve done several of the older intense Janlyn designs over the years and I like to work on 22 or 24 count linen – rarely work on Aida as I don’t like the look very much.

    3. Same here, I don’t use frames or hoops. I once bought a scroll frame with stand but I get stressed whenever I stitch on it as it requires sitting and I prefer cross stitching while slouched on the bed. For me, cross stitching is my stress reliever so it should be relaxing and stitching in a scroll frame takes away that. Even for bigger projects, I always stitch in hand.

    4. I haven’t done any megaprojects in cross-stitch, but I have done table runners on linen, and intricately cross-stitched placemats and such, and I have never, ever used any kind of hoop or frame. I just hold the work in my hand and try to keep my tension even, and the items have turned out to be absolutely beautiful. I’ve even won prizes for my cross-stitching.

      The only thing I have to use a hoop for is satin stitch. Otherwise, all my needlework is worked in hand.

  18. Hi Mary,
    I work counted cross stitch projects on the largest q-snap frame (18″?). When mounting the fabric, I add a layer of a soft vinyl shelf liner for glasses under the fabric and paper towels over the fabric before snapping the top cap on. The vinyl holds the fabric absolutely tight and the paper towel keeps my fabric edges clean. Then I roll up the extra fabric and tack into a log close to the frame. I can then balance it on my knee and the arm of my comfy chair and stitch away! I have never had a problem with marks on the fabric from being on the frame too long. Good luck on your project.

    1. Thank you, Janice. I thought I hated Q-snaps because I couldn’t get them tight enough. I can’t wait to try your suggestion.

  19. Dear Mary

    What a beautiful project, I can’t give you any advice as I haven’t done anything like this before, but I hope you find a solution to your dilemma and good luck with the project. I look forward to the talk on stumpwork tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your dilemma I’m sure you will find an answer to it from the advice of other readers.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  20. I only use hoops for VERY small projects. I have become addicted to the beautiful results you can get with slate frames. The stress that is put on the fabric (and any stitching) that’s under the hoop is extreme, and I don’t think it ever really recovers, no matter how you press it. I don’t like washing the embroidery, either, for the same reason.

  21. Over the years I worked on several of Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum’s charts, the largest being “The Wedding” ( did this one twice, one for each of my children when they married. The piece was approximately 14-1/4 x 19 and worked on 28 count linen. I found it easier to work this piece on a 10 inch round hoop, only because each one took me nearly a year to complete and whenever I was not diligently working in it, I would remove it from the hoop, fold it up until such time I was able to pick it up again. I love this designer – I also finished her “Baby in a Basket” birth sampler when my granddaughter was born. Love her designs–have a few others stashed away and hope to live long enough to tackle them as well. For me, the hoop is the way to go on such a large design.

  22. I think you will be disappointed in the results if you use a hoop, Mary. They tend to leave rings in your fabric and can easily cause distortion, to say nothing of your work that eventually ends up under the hoop ring.
    For a framed piece I slip it into a cover and put it behind a piece of furniture or under the bed.
    Good luck-it’s a huge undertaking but will be beautiful.

  23. What about a lap frame? I wouldn’t attempt that kind of mega cross stitch with a hoop either. A standard scroll frame will be less cumbersome and heavy than a slate or Millenium frame. And I would consider making room for a smaller floor stand in the house, you deserve comfort and ease of stitching anywhere in your home.

  24. I have, unfortunately, found that even if you immediately remove the hoop after each stitching session that is causes tension wobbles and (gasp) sometimes permanent rippling on the piece. I almost always use stretcher bars now because it is just not worth the risk and none of my work is remotely as involved as this one!

  25. I have been stitching (mostly cross stitch and other counted work) for 35+ years, and I have never gotten used to anything but a hoop. I have never–EVER!–run into any of the problems most people accuse hoops of (rings, smashed stitches, distortion, staining). I have done many epic projects over the years–densely stitched, blended colors, lots of threads–and all of them have gone on hoops. The only time I’ll break out a frame of some kind is if for some reason it’s absolutely critical for the whole design to be visible at the same time (like if you’re using a single type of variegated thread and need to plan the stitching path so the variegations are arranged in a pleasing manner).

    I know everyone has their preferences, but embroidery hoops are unfairly maligned IMO. I think it’s totally possible you won’t be happy working on a hoop (not sure how you’d manage the needle parking; I’m a one-color-at-a-time stitcher)… but I don’t believe the hoop will DAMAGE your work. I say it’s worth a try, at least, to see how it feels to you to work. If it’s annoying or you’re dissatisfied with the results, then you can always go back to some kind of frame. That’s another nice thing about hoops–SO EASY to change your mind, unlike committing to a slate frame or similar!

    Whatever you decide, enjoy it and have fun!

    1. I agree with you, Elizabeth. I have never had most of the hoop problems I hear people talk about. I do wrap my inner hoop with cotton twill for a cushioned “squeeze”, I don’t put it over beads, and remove it after each sewing session.

    2. Me, too. I have always used hoops for all kinds of sizes of projects and haven’t had the problems that people describe. I stitch one colour at a time as well and take the hoop off after each session. I think that’s why I haven’t had permanent rings on my pieces.

      Since I don’t know much about using frames, I always wonder how people reach into the middle when working on a large piece.

  26. I always use a scroll frame. If I am working on a tiny piece I will add fabric round the sides to make this possible. I hate piddly hoops. If I hold them in my hand, I’ve LOST a hand. It’s very important to do counted thread and canvas work with one hand above and one hand below.

    If I have the work on a hoop attached to a stand (which would free my hand), I might as well use a scroll frame and avoid those horrible hoop mark problems or struggles to get the right tension in hoop.

    I have never had to stretch a finished piece to make it square. I do, however, check the tension of the fabric from time to time as screws sometimes slip almost imperceptibly.

    The sides of my scroll frame allow for different widths of stretcher bars top and bottom. I can take one project out and put in another (narrower or wider)as needed, so I can have several projects going at once.

    My scroll frame also has adjustable sides for more or less exposure of fabric top to bottom.

    I protect the top and bottom edges from picking up “dirt” by covering them with strips of fabric which I safety-pin in place (to themselves, not the project). I haven’t spent money on the commercial items that fulfill the same function. I remove these strips when I roll to a different section of fabric and replace them. It’s the work of a minute.

    On the other hand, using a slate frame where the whole surface is exposed at all times forces one to reach uncomfortably to distant sections. And stitching a piece with the top of the design at the bottom close to the body to improve reach is very disorienting, and gives no pleasure. I also can’t work in an armchair, except, perhaps, at the closest section of the project.

    My stand is a commercial one, but nothing fancy (though not Michaels either). I’ve had it for many years so I can’t offer a source. When not in use it is very easy to remove the frame from the stand and fold the stand if necessary.

    The two most important thinga about my stand are (in no particular order)

    One: I can flip my frame to the back to finish off stitches. If a frame won’t allow that, it’s useless.
    Two: It “bends” in such a way that I can always stitch on it, whether I’m in an armchair on on the sofa. Who wants to be physically uncomfortable while stitching?

    I wouldn’t buy a frame that didn’t fulfill these two requirements.

    I’m a woman of strong opinions on this matter, but I hope my suggestions help.

  27. I too work large cross stitch projects and use Q-Snaps, usually 11 in square ones. I find this size isolates just the right amount of work area so I don’t get too overwhelmed. I also make a copy of my chart and cut out the area that I’m stitching and attached it to my fabric with very small cube magnets. This way I keep my chart close to where I’m stitching. I find it helps me quickly locate the symbols, area that I’m stitching,etc. it can be moved easily and provides a secure place for me to park my needle. And it is oh so satisfying to crumple up and throw away the pieces as I complete them! I roll the excess fabric and secure it to my Q-Snaps with large plastic clothes pin type clips that I got at the dollar store. They keep the excess fabric out of my way, but they are easy to move when needed. I’m sure this is clear as mud, but I can send a picture of my setup if it would help.

  28. To Mary and all of your cross stitch readers who replied,
    I am completely amazed at the bravery of you folks to attempt such huge projects! I am having so much fun with little creations of surface design. I can’t even fathom the scope of these huge projects you are working on. You have taught me to appreciate cross stitched art with a whole new appreciation. About the hoop or frame: I just try different approaches and finally it comes down to comfort and body position. Do what makes you feel good.
    Robin in New Mexico

  29. I have worked several large and complicated cross stitch pieces over the years and have found a frame is essential to proper tension of the fabric. I even go as far as buying a new frame if I want to start something new when I need a break from the first piece. I get my frames from K’s Creations in the Austin tx area, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

  30. Suggestion: This is a little “out there” and requires some labor, possibly a small cost, too.
    But what if you added hinges to the frame, to attach to a wall just like a picture? When you want to work on it, pull it out and set it on your lap. Maybe add extension brackets if it’s too close to the wall – and a forked wooden leg prop to hold it open…

  31. I’m working on a Heaven & Earth design that will cover one full yard of 28 count fabric. (Yes, you read that right — one full yard).

    I hoop using the Morgan hoop. I roll the extra fabric on the sides up and either pin them to the edge of the hoop. Since this is counted cross stitch, the hooped fabric does not have to be drum tight, so there’s no ridges on fabric or mashing of stitches — just don’t tighten it up all the way.

    I’d love to have a frame but I know my cat would consider it a tampoline

  32. Definitely use a Hardwick Castle hoop. Use the heavier hoop, pick a size you feel comfortable with and be sure to wrap the hoop with cotton tape. The hoops
    Come in a variety of sizes and shapes. I like the square with rounded corners.

    The nice thing about these hoops is they can be held by a System 4 floor stand if you want more support or do two handed stitching. You could also look at the hoops of Phillipa Turnbull – they fit both a floor stand and a lap stand.

    For stitch I always use a hoop. Makes for much easier stitching. Many sampler makers use no hoop at all – free hand with the fabric – and that is work on 36+
    Count and very large works. Experiment and see what hoop system works for you.

  33. When I started working on large cross stitch project like this from Heaven & Earth Designs I did use a hoop, but I quickly noticed that the large amount of excess fabric became quite a nuisance because it was constantly getting in the way. So I rolled the excess fabric so it would be close to the hoop and clipped the fabric at the ends using Clover jumbo wonder clips and a hair clamp in the middle so that it didn’t sag.

    1. I forgot to mention that when I tend to use a 10 inch hoop which usually allows me to center the area I am working on which then gives me the room surrounding the area I am stitching to pin my extra working threads using magnets.

  34. Hi All:
    I’ve been doing counted cross stitch since the late 70’s and have done many many large pieces. on small pieces, which are few and far between for me, I usually work “in hand” and tension has never been a problem. Any deviation in tension is usually worked out when I mount the piece on foam core with silk pins. Whenever the piece is large, like a Christmas stocking, Teresa Wentzler, Paula Vaughan, or Heaven and Earth, I use 2 Rod N Roll tubes. I’ve been using them for years and years. I roll the fabric not being worked onto one of the tubes on each side with the back of the fabric up around the tubes. That way the unworked fabric stays clean. This method also accommodates beads and metallic. They can be found at http://www.ineedlework.com/rr-18.html . I am not in any way affiliated with Rod N Roll but am just a completely happy stitcher.

  35. I am an advocate for stretcher bars. You can leave the project mounted on them until completion, parked threads are easy to identify.
    As far a space is concerned I use a tray table and a frame weight for my work. That leave both hands free and when I am not stitching I can just push the table off to the side out of the way.

  36. You’ll find it much easier to stitch this if the fabric is drum tight as it will “open” the holes between the threads (as it is now on your frame). Your stitches will be more even and you’ll be able to see better. A hoop won’t work well. The best choice is probably scroll bars with the sides laced or stitch clips on the sides to keep the fabric taut. You can put scroll bars in a floor stand then take them out and store away when you’re done stitching. Or prop them on the arms of your chair. I don’t even roll them up – I just put them in a bag (or pillow case) when I’m not stitching.

    I haven’t done any extreme cross stitch charts but I’ve done some big ones in my time!

  37. I don’t often use a frame, and the ones I have are the very old-fashioned kind. Essentially, a picture frame that is padded and wrapped in fabric. Even the largest, which is around 14″ x 16″, is portable, and I can prop the away end of the frame on the back of the sofa or a table or whatnot. (Well, I take that back: I do have a slate frame, but it’s packaged away because we’re moving soon, and I didn’t see the point of setting it up only to take it down in a few weeks!)

    But I also use a quilting hoop for very large projects, especially the 18″ hoop. That one is too large for me to comfortably use when quilting, but is excellent for embroidery. Because the wood is thicker than that of an embroidery hoop, and the edges are rounded instead of sharp and flat, there’s very little distortion in the fabric. No rings from being in the hoop. I can also manipulate it and rest the away side on a cushion or on my knees when I’m being lazy and want to work from the sofa!

    Knowing you, Mary, you’ll come up with an ingenious solution that will leaving us all smacking our foreheads and wondering why we didn’t think of it ourselves! 😉

  38. I’m currently working on a extreme project by Nene Thomas. It will take me at least 2 years to finish. I’m using a round hoop on a stand. The hoop is about two feet across leaving me room for thread parking and still give me the ability to move the whole work where ever I want. I cover the work with a cotton tea towel to protect it from dust and my hands and the towel is easily washed as needed. For smaller projects I like the hand held hoops and medium projects the stretcher bars. I think for you the hoop stand will work

  39. Well, such a topic! I would go with hoop – making sure you remove each time you stop stitching.
    If the fabric has a large size, then you will need to keep it clean while stitching – not an issue, I am sure. A friend of mine uses pony tail clips to hold the bulk of fabric away from the back of the hoop.
    Without room inside your living room, I would go with a hoop – using a variety of sizes depending on the area you are working.

  40. I have been working on a large HAED. Since there are no pulled stitches and because I am living in a 27 foot travel trailer, I am working mine without benefit of hoop or frame. When not working on it, I roll it up and slip it into a artist’s mailing tube. So far, it seems to working out okay.

  41. Mary, Mary, Mary, why do you punish yourself?
    Even so my dear I had a look at the item and thought, why couldn’t she pick the smaller one.

    Well never mind my afore comments, I will write in silence.
    Hate hoops, all bar one – a large quilting hoop that I can work on in a lap frame. if I need to. The option is death and I will forever now stick to that option.

    If you have the Mille set up, could you use if the black stand was spare? Can’t remember the name. Something 4?

    Or is a table handy for you to use clamps?
    I have a table top stand from the same one who makes the No.4..

    I am not a curl up on the couch person I would never be able to stand again.
    Not knowing exactly what space you do have really just puts it as blather.
    All I can offer is clamps and a table or 2 two wooden seated bar stools and clamps. If those are handy. But that is space taking.

    What I would not do is take the work off Mille, so count her out of the stock taking and get another set of rollers and sides.

    I have a big tapestry of Shearing the rams, by Tom Roberts. This beast I have to say I hate and it is last on the list of UFIs. It is taking forever. I have done bigger but this one just goes on and on. 20 years of guilt. I think it is the colour very brown and orange Drab.

    I would never use a hoop even the quilt one as there is tramming and petite point on it. For my chair seats and backs and fire screens I make frames and there they stay and away in calico bags if too big for an old pillow case.
    I write a label on a scrap of calico and with a drop of hot glue stick to the case. what is it, name and date commenced.

    All the chair seats and backs are tapestry with basket weave on the back so does take a bit longer to do.

    Best of luck Mary I do hope you come up with a satisfactory answer to you problem, that doesn’t mean moving????


  42. I don’t work cross stitch or other embroidery on a huge stationary frame, no matter how high the thread count. For large dimension pieces I use roller bars and if necessary, lean the edge against a table and my body. This leaves me free to turn the piece any way I need to to make my short arms reach.
    This worked well for a LARGE anniversary sample I reworked into a wedding sampler on 28 count linen for my daughter many years ago

  43. I have worked many large cross stitch pieces and currently working on a piece that will be 45x60cm when finished and do not use a hoop or a stand with it.

  44. I use a hoop wrapped on both rings with bandage gauze. My hoop is a 7″/9″ Morgan lap hoop so that I have both hands free. I use the 9-inch side of the combo hoop and pop off the top ring whenever I get up from my chair, even to answer the telephone. I have never seen my wrapped hoops leave a permanent ring on the fabric nor crush my stitching. My next project is One Nation, a 28.5″ x 15″ American flag stitched on 28 ct. Cashel linen.

  45. I think you, Mary, will be disappointed with the drawbacks of using a hoop: both in the working and the result. I highly recommend making room for a frame. So you eat on the couch for a year . . . 😉

  46. Mary, this is going to be gorgeous!! – and we are all going to enjoy the updates very much. I’ve just finished the Serenity Harbour Sampler – – stitched over a year with updates sent out monthly – I stitched it over one on 36ct linen – and used my trusty Millenium frame for the whole project and am really pleased that I did. I find that stitching over one sends my fabric off onto an angle unless it’s held tight and straight on a frame – and when you get to the end of the project, if it has been held in shape on the frame, it’s going to be much easier for the framer to deal with.
    If I was not working on the project I kept the frame in a pillow case and leaned it against a book case – and just collapsed the arms down so the stand could fit into a smaller space.

  47. I used to do a lot of cross stitch (1970-80s) and had never heard of a frame, so I always used a hoop. I removed the work from the hoop each day when I was finished stitching. I washed the work when it was done and never had any of the problems listed here.

    Also, when I’m using a hoop I am always careful to put the outer ring on the work on top of the stitched areas and then push it down onto the unstitched area. When stretching the fabric taut into the hoop, I’m careful to pull on the unstitched areas. These techniques keep you from pulling stitches out of whack.

    Now I do only surface embroidery and nearly always use a frame. Exceptions are small works that will fit completely within a hoop.

    I bought a set of scroll frames then bought some lumber to make different size side bars and they work great. I love having lots of sizes so I can use a set that allows the entire picture to show when I’m working on it.

    Working on a piece as large as your’s would frustrate me knowing that my frame and stand would be tied up for 2 years! That just would not work for me.

  48. I use Q Snaps whenever I’m stitching on fabric. For a project of this size, I would use one maybe 14″ x 14″. You don’t need to have the whole area exposed at once as you can move them as you need and remove them when you are not going to be working for a while. You can tighten the tension easily as you work. If they are too loose, put a small piece of rubber shelf liner inside the curved part. Works beautifully. Then, after you have your project mounted so you can work on a particular area, roll the excess and clip with those cute red clips you told us about. This way you have a project you can hold in your lap and stitch on recreationally [like at night watching TV].

  49. Oh, go ahead and use a hoop if you want. I’ve been using hoops on my counted cross stitch for 30+ years, and have NEVER had a problem with squished stitches, distorted fabric, hoop rings or any other problems that people claim hoops can cause.

    If you’re worried about the fabric tension not being tight enough, get a plastic Bates hoop and have someone show you how to use it properly. I use exclusively Bates hoops when I’m using a hoop and can get my fabric just as tight as I could if I were using a slate frame. People who can’t get their fabric tight with one of these hoops aren’t using it right.

    I would recommend that you get a hoop size that allows your fingers to reach the middle of the hoop while holding it at the same time. For me, that’s a five inch hoop. Anything bigger and I can only stitch along the edge, not in the middle. And a five inch hoop is big enough that I’m not going to move it during a stitching session; there’s no way that I would ever be able to stitch long enough to fill up the entire space the hoop creates in one session. I’m lucky if I could do 300 stitches in that time. Certainly less if there are a lot of color changes.

    Finally, remove your hoop at the end of each stitching session. EVERY TIME. Putting it back on when you’re ready to stitch again takes less than two minutes. If you’re worried about dirt/oils from your hands, put the hoop in the dishwasher when you run a load, or wash it by hand.

    You most certainly can park threads with hoops. And I stitch two handed with my hoops all the time (of course, having a larger middle to prop the hoop up against helps a bit here). Use your fingernails as a laying tool.

    Or learn to stitch in hand. In my opinion, when washed and framed properly, it’s impossible to tell the difference between in hand, hoops or frames on these solid stitched pieces, if care is taken to make the stitching look good in the first place.

    Have fun! Looks like a good challenge!

    1. One other thing I forgot. With fabric sizes this big, you’ll have a LOT of excess fabric flapping about. Get some clips, roll the fabric up close to the hoop and clip them so they stay secure. That way you won’t be having to deal with acres of extra fabric in your way.

      Remember to wash the clips, too, so they stay clean. And take them off at the end of each stitching session as well.

  50. No doubt about it.. I use stretchers/quilting frames for everything other than very small or something in a finished piece of clothing.

  51. Mary, in no way would I use a hoop on a long term project! I prefer scroll frames with short stretcher bars. It keeps the work area well within reach, keeps work done clean and you can include a piece of muslin as a cushion for work done also having enough having out to keep the rest of the work clean when set aside. There are lap frames that will be comfortable holding the stretcher bars while being cozy on a couch.

  52. I love Heaven and Earth Designs which are extreme cross stitch using 25ct 1×1 and most of the time I have them on wooden rotating frames that go onto my Lowery. The Lowery doesn’t take up much room by the wall so we forget its there. I know a lot of stitchers though that stitch HAED on hoops or the plastic snap frames, they don’t take any room up at all. When not working on it I keep it covered with an old pillowcase to stop dust. If I do use a hoop I don’t tend to stitch for long as I don’t want the hoop to leave marks.

  53. I use a hoop when my work warrants it (stitches like buttonhole and running stitch I tend to do without a hoop). I don’t keep the work in the hoop if it’s going to be a while before I can work on it. I use a sit on frame when I need to have both hands free. This type of frame means I can sit comfortably on the sofa.
    I damp-stretch my work which removes any kinks from the hoop etc.

  54. I have stitched several projects on linen and have never used a hoop or frame. I stitch using what I call the sewing method. Needle comes through hole and out through hole in one motion. The fabric is rolled up or gathered up in my left hand. Granted it gets very wrinkled but I wash all my projects and then iron them before having them framed.

    1. Becky

      It’s great to find someone that does cross stitch the same way I do – thought I was the only one. It’s so relaxing to do it the ‘sewing’ way and simple to do just a few stitches at a time when you have a few spare minutes!

  55. You are one brave woman. I would never attempt something so large. As you mentioned room is a problem and that would stop me. I think the frame is the best way but understand this being a comfy couch project. Could you use a hoop and lap stand sitting in your comfy place? That way you could use a larger hoop that when holding a hoop in your hand. I will enjoy seeing your progress. God Bless you, Diane

  56. Hi Mary!
    I’m working on a Earth and Heaven 25 linen project. I am using a double hoop which allows me to us both of my hands and park threads easily.

  57. Great topic. I am working on a large piece on scroll bars and I was thinking of taking it off the scroll bars and moving to an embroidery hoop.

    After reading the comments, I think I will stick with the scroll bars and experiment until I get comfortable with working with a large project.

    When I finish stitching, I wrap the scroll bar in a twin bed sheet and put it away. I also use the sheet on my lap while stitching so the piece stays clean.

  58. Please do not use a hoop. I have done counted cross stitch for many years. When I first started I was sorry I chose a hoop. It distorted the crosses by flattening some but not all. I moved on to a rolling frame. The piece is pinned to the top roller cloth and the bottom roller cloth. Each end is rolled until the is a portion of the center unrolled that is worked. The rollers are then tightened to keep the work taut. After some years, I found it was easier simply hold a piece in my hand. You will become comfortable with the tension. I recommend the roller style. These are often used for crewel work as well. Hope this helps. Just don’t use a hoop, please.

  59. I have a small amount of nerve damage in my hands, so I don’t use a frame or hoop without a stand (I don’t have room for one), and I haven’t found a hoop that doesn’t cause major distortion, especially with large projects. My solution isn’t one most people would use, I don’t use either. I work in good light, use a grid like yours and I just use my hands like I’m sewing or hand quilting. The distortion isn’t near as bad as a hoop and I can smooth it out when I roll it up. I do have to be sure my hands are clean and grease free

  60. Dear Mary: I think I can suggest a compromise that may fit your need! Kathy
    Shaw, who is a wonderful Crazy Quilter, has the plans for making a 1/2″ pvc
    Plumbing pipe needlework frame on her website, Shawkl.com . I just built one
    and you can definately build a flat, dedicated frame just like hers and either not add the “stand” portion, or remove it and store it against a wall! Should cost you about $20 or less! If I can do it, anyone can-hope this works for you!
    Your website is just wonderful,and you remain in my prayers. Love, Amy

  61. I swear by Q-Snaps. While you wouldn’t want snaps to fit that very large project, they remove and replace easily. I would recommend the 8in square.

    I wish I had found them when I did my Mother’s Tree years ago. I used scroll frames then, and the project just didn’t work well in them.

    I am currently doing some 12 days of Christmas items and stitching them on a large piece of fabric My Q-Snaps just move around as needed.

  62. I’ve done some big ones, and I’d vote for frame, hands down. Especially if you’re stitching over 1×1. Repeated hooping can and will distort the weave, crush the ground cloth threads, or scrub the finish of already-stitched areas.

    I also use a Millennium roller frame (thanks to you!). I find it works very nicely with the shortest available extensible side-bars. The unworked areas scroll around the horizontal bars. I tend to pad the horizontal containing already-completed work with some extra well-washed muslin as I roll it up, just to protect stitches even more.

    I find that using the very short sidebars, the whole frame is far less unwieldy than a traditional slate frame, even on a massive project. The now smaller-footprint frame fits more easily on a smaller stand. My ancient Grip-It stand (outfitted with a longer clamp bolt I got at the hardware store) can handle the weight and balance of the smaller-side Millennium, although it is a tipping hazard when I try longer sidebars.

    Hope this helps with your decision process. And thanks again for introducing me to the Millennium!

  63. Mary: There is a compromise. Several of us in our stitching group have bought an R&R frame. It is a Q-snap type frame with additional parts. You can add the parts to have a table stand. Still can work with both hands. Best of all, you take off the parts that make it a table stand and use it like a “hoop.” I’ve also put on some parts so the “legs” can sit on my lap. Almost perfect as a lap “hoop” with the ability to again use both hands. I’ve never done such a gargantuan piece, but have a large piece of Aida on which I am stitching 20 bookmarks. The company is R&R enterprises, 13 Frederick Road, Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 1RS telephone: 01684 563235 Fax: 01684 562863 email: RandR@craftframes.fsnet.co.uk web: www. craftframes.fsnet.co.uk

    Some of my sister stitchers said they could not get the frame directly from the company. I ordered mine through an Italian cross stitch company. I forget the exact name; it has Casa in it, I think. The frames are 14″ x 14″ oe 14″ x 9″.

    Good luck!

  64. I’ve used the K Creations lap frame with larger pieces. It’s pretty reasonable and enables you to stitch with both hands and flip to see the back. Holding a hoop or q-snap is hard with arthritic thumbs, caused by too many hours of stitching, knitting and rug hooking. I look forward to seeing your progress over the years. Lol

  65. I’m normally a stitch in hand kind of girl, but if I need something taut, my favourite is a hoop held in a fanny frame and the fanny frame on a desk, counterweighted with a dive weight on the bit you normally sit on. It brings the needlework right into the sweet spot of my vision.

  66. Hi Mary. I had a similar experience to you. I started a HUGE cross stitch project in my sewing room (which also needs to be frequently converted to a guest room when we have visitors) and set it up on a frame and stand. I rarely touched it in that room and found myself lugging it out regularly to try and do in the comfort of my recliner at nights (almost impossible with a frame). And then it came to me… this is supposed to be fun! So I took it out of its frame, rolled and ‘pegged’ up the excess fabric (this project is going to take forever!) and hooped it up in my favourite hoop frame that sits on my lap. I have made heaps of progress over our hot summer months (with the cricket on the TV in the background) and have really enjoyed my stitching instead of thinking of it as something I “had to do”. My advice? Pop it in a hoop (remembering to take it out after each stitching session) and enjoy the simple pleasure of cross stitch in your ‘comfiest’ chair with a nice cup of tea at your side. Best wishes, Ros

  67. Mary Corbet ask frame vs hoop. The most extreme I have/will do is about 15 x15. I am most comfortable with an 8×8 Qsnap frame. Very portable..easy the take out/set up and easy to park/close up…usually easy to park thread however the more threads like over 40 you have, you may want to have a piece of paper along the parking side to write either top to bottom or left to right the symbol/number of your thread….when you unpark and use it up…cross it out. I usually do a quadrant or area at a time, which would either be a page or 5×5″ area. Take qsnaps off every time you stop. It doesn’t feel as daunting when the goal isize is small. Feels like you have accomplished something in an hour or two. I do baste but usually only a section at a time. I use the over 6 stitches (12 linen) under 4 (8)…i cross in the middle of the 6. This grides 10 x 10 like most patterns are with less basting than every 2 (4) stitches.

  68. With long term projects they stay in better shape(cleaner and undamaged) for the long haul on a frame….which is covered when not being stitched. I know what a nuisance it is because it is in the way!
    It’s all a trade off☺️

  69. Mary –

    It is a beautiful design.

    Feel free to delete this, rather than post it, if it’s too silly. I don’t do small counted cross stitch projects much less something on this scale, so I am drawing from another textile craft. My mother is a quilter, and her wood quilting frame is suspended from the ceiling with heavy cord (or clothesline rope). She can quickly drop it down into the middle of her livingroom and stitch away while watching a ballgame or Dancing with the Stars.

    It’s always been there. First in their bigger house, and now in her small apartment in a senior complex. The handyman for the complex put the hooks into the ceiling for her, but she doesn’t need any help to get the quilt down to work on it or to roll it back up out of the way. (She’s 85.) Her mother (my grandmother) had the same kind of frame in her house.

    Seems like the same concept might work for a large embroidery project. I like the consistent tension of a frame, and I really like having the use of both hands.


  70. Hi Mary,

    I’ve never tried the extreme stitching found on Golden Kite or Scarlet Quince or HAED, but I have been cross stitching for 35 years or so and have tried every kind of frame (or non-frame) around. For what you’re looking for, I would heartily recommend a Q-Snap. They allow for holding your material firmly, you can protect your project fairly easily, you can easily use your Just A Thought stand if you so choose, or stitch it hand. It’s easy to tuck it into a back, or take it apart. At least, it’s worth looking into.
    Just my two cents.

  71. Frame definitely. I find that hoops tend to stretch the material a little. This doesn’t matter on smaller projects that fit entirely within the hoop, but can cause distortion over a long period of stitching. Also, if you have put the hoop over an already stitched area, it can flatten and abrade the thread, damaging the finish.

  72. That is a very ambitious piece but satisfying. I just finished a piece on Congress Cloth that took me 4 1/2 years and just left it on my stand (overed with an old pillowcase) when I wasn’t working on it. But I had the room to leave it in the living room where I stitch behind the chair where it did not interfere with anything.
    I am most fond of using hoops especially on fabric but I make sure the botton hoop is wrapped and remember to take off the hoop if I am not stitching for a few hours to prevent the hoop forming a semi permanent hoop mark in the fabric.

    I’m sure you will find the best method for you in no time.

  73. The piece I’m working on at the moment is kind of epic (to me), called ‘Purity’ by Missys Cross stitch.

    I tried the old holding it in the hand – epic fail way to much fabric!!

    I now have it in a standing hoop, it is the “Quilter’s Hoop, by Fran A Edwards”. I know it says ‘Quilters’ but it is the only big hoop I have and it does a wonderful job of sitting in the corner until I find a moment or two to stitch a little more.

  74. I don’t do a lot of counted work as, like you, I prefer surface work. When I did counted work in decades past I used a hoop.

    My EGA chapter was doing a counted work biscornu. The leaders of the project were two very involved in needlework, very long time stitchers who do a lot of counted work. According to them one is never suppose to use a hoop or frame for counted work. I was shocked to learn this. I did the project (very small in terms of projects) without the hoop and was fine, although I think that if the project was a larger one the hanging fabric would constantly be in my way. I like a hoop (frame would do the same) as it keeps the excess fabric around the area I am working away from where I am working and allows my hand to move from up to down and vice versa easily.

    I have never used a frame for a project just for the reason you gave – no room to leave it set up. (I am about to finish two projects that I have been working on for more than and just under a decade.) My choice would be a hoop.

    Is it possible in your case for you to set the project up in a frame and be able to remove the frame from the stand (my stand which I use for the hoops and also takes frames allows them to be put in and out of the frame quite easily) and store the frame when not in use?

  75. Hi Mary,
    I am working on a large piece for my granddaughter’s birth announcement (she is 19 months….she might get it by the time she is 5 years old lol). I like the stretcher bars for these – helps me keep track of where I am better than a hoop. The downside is that it is not as portable, however, I wouldn’t take something that required that much concentration with me while traveling or visiting.

    Have fun- I am not a great fan of large counted cross stitch, but sometimes you find a design that you just have to do! Mine is Mt. Rainer embedded in a border and birth announcement.

  76. What a dilema! A frame is better for the fabric – a hoop is more practical. The project is beautiful – I hope to see in a few years in its splendor!



  77. Hi dearest Mary,

    Just to say that personally I agree with the minority. Much easter to hold it in your hand. No frame no hoop. The only time that I would use à frame is for needle weaving and fill ins.

    Enjoy your journey Mary and as you say to us, try them all and pick the one most suited to you. 😉

  78. I have done many counted cross stitch patterns, some of them quite large. I’ve always used stretcher bars-I can’t for the life of me picture doing this kit with a hoop. It’s bound to go wrong.

  79. Mary

    I have completed a MysticStitch counted picture entirely using a 4 inch hoop which I find the most comfortable. The completed project looks great. I did it one over one on 28 count, not possible of course with blended threads. I didn’t park threads either.

    I wonder if you could use qsnaps and attach the qsnap to a standing frame? Others may have tried this.

    Another tip is not to stitch exact blocks of 20 x 20 threads but to stitch a little way outside the side of a square, or you can apparently get a block effect.

    Looking forward to the replies

  80. Hi Mary,

    For many, many years I did cross stitch using only (unbound) hoops — frames were difficult to get and I liked to sit with my feet curled up beneath me on the couch when I stitched. I liked my fabric to be taut, so I would periodically pull on the edges to readjust its tension as I went. The projects I did ranged from small to large, and I even started a Heaven and Earth project using this method.

    I have never noticed any long term negative effects (even though I would often leave a project on a hoop for a long time … tsk, tsk). Any flattening of the stitches would wash out at the end and there was no noticeable wear on the fibres. Perhaps I was lucky, I don’t know.

    One thing I did not do was park threads. I always used up a thread (or did all the stitching in an area with a particular thread) and finished it off before going on to another. I suspect that taking the work off the hoop may make parking tricky, especially as threads would likely get themselves trapped when next putting the project in a hoop.

    Regarding being able to see the chart while stitching, I use one or two needle minder magnets to hold my chart in place somewhere on the cloth within the hoop/frame. You can move it around and fold it so that what you are working on is close to where you are stitching (making working copies of the chart is helpful). Folding also makes it less floppy. If I’m running over the edge of a page onto the next, I fold them so that they lie together. I find this works well and they stay in place even when I turn the hoop over to end a thread.

    I hope this helps. I use a frame most of the time now as my furniture has changed, and I find I can no longer hold a hoop in my hand for long periods of time. I also use a ‘fanny frame’ to hold hoops (which I now bind, much better for keeping the material taut — thank you so much for the lesson). I have a large gingham curtain I’m doing chicken scratch on which I’m doing pretty much using the above method, although with a large hoop attached to my ‘fanny frame’… there is nothing like two handed stitching.


  81. I vote keep it on a frame of some sort. I’ve got 2 sizes of scroll frames (the ones with a ‘slit’ in the middle – not the ones you sew the fabric onto – I’m awful I know) and the side bars extend below enough that I rest one of those bars that edge on my leg. I hold the frame in my opposite hand. This is my preferred method as it means I almost never touch the fabric after I set it up.

    I also have q-snaps which depending on the project I use. I tend to use these for “smaller” projects where I don’t need to move the fabric often. I used the 18″? length with 12″ height q-snaps to stitch Teresa Wentzler’s Spring Carousel Horse. I ended up moving the fabric 3-4 times in the 8ish weeks Spring took me to stitch.

    My largest project was 12″ by 16″ and every single square of that was covered in stitches. I bought my second scroll frame just for this project as my first frame was too small (16″). Spring may have been ‘larger’, except only the horse was stitched (no border), so it was less work.

    I have hoops and I probably didn’t use them “appropriately” as I had grime and hoop marks on the projects. I ended up using a 12″ (plastic – shoot me again) hoop as it meant I moved the fabric less. I was somewhat frustrated with them which is why I tried the scroll frame for my biggest project (at the time) which was 11″ by 13″ or so.

    If you use qsnaps or hoops, find a way to roll the excess fabric up so it doesn’t get in the way. On my qsnaps I either use (hair) butterfly clips or (new) chip clips. (Ok I admit I’ve got a paper clip on my current qsnap project. It’s on the very top of the fabric and when framed any creases won’t show.)

    As far as parking threads, if you use a hoop, it may get tricky to not get them knotted up if you take the project out of the hoop. Scroll frames are fine for parking.

    I suggest trying to find a way to support the frame in your living area to stitch with. A sawhorse that you can stow elsewhere when not in use or something. (Dad tried to make me a frame holder with camera tripods…not successful, but it was an idea for stuff we had around the house.)

  82. I used to do all cross-stitch in hand, even the really big ones. Then arthritis took over and I started using Q Snap frames. But when I went to doing repro samplers, the Q Snaps weren’t big enough to use without smushing the stitching. Then you reviewed the Millinium frames and stands and I heard the Hallelujah Chorus! lol I have quite the selection of sizes. I know lots of people use hoops, but I just can’t “tolerate” smushing the stitching. Just my quirk. The Millinium frames let me stitch two-handed which is easier on the hands. I also have a small house, but leave my frame set up with a project waiting at all times. My husband so far has not complained. If we have company, I move it to my sewing room, otherwise it stays in the living room. Sometimes you just gotta make it work! lol

  83. I come down firmly in the frame camp having experienced snagged stitches, stretched fabric and frame marks. Those would be heart breaking on such a special embroidery.

    Since you set your own work schedule, would it be possible for you to stitch on this big work for an hour or so in your studio. Then in the evening stitch for the same length of time on a small Needle ‘n Thread piece? The homework would need to be at a stage where you weren’t photographing the work.

  84. Mary, I think the caucus has spoken with most in favor of your using scroll bars. I must take issue with you because I looked at the Heaven and Earth website and found an absolutely beautiful FREE project that would take me years and years in addition to the number of projects on which I am already engaged. I downloaded it………we’ll see. Your fellow stitchers have such great ideas, thanks for your column and the forum it provides. I learned so much. Blessings, Charlotte

  85. Holy moley. I’ve done some large counted projects in my time, but this is outer-space over the top! I usually do counted projects in hand, without any hoop or frame–it’s faster and very easy. But I think the size of this would make it impossible. I’d go with a scroll frame, I guess. I can’t see that a hoop would go well.

  86. I would work something like this on a frame where you can leave the work in situ and roll it round If you use a hoop you will have to keep taking it off after your stitching session. Will your frame come off the stand if so pop it in a pillow case when not in us and tuck behind a cupboard and fold up the frame Good luck it wol appears to take a long time to complete bu will look lovely.

  87. Bom dia,
    sou brasileira e bordo ponto cruz, e a minha experiência diz que não precisa de nenhum suporte. Na mão é mais confortável e pode levar para qualquer lugar.
    Espero que ajude

  88. Mary, is it possible to leave the piece on the frame bars and clamp it to your kitchen/diningroom/tv tray table when you want to work on it? I do large canvas work this way, storing the pieces (yes, the several I have in progress) upright in pillowcases between work sessions. They fit neatly behind chairs, sofas, what have you this way. I have a pair of small Sears Craftsman clamps especially for this purpose.

  89. DO NOT USE A HOOP!!!!!! This may seem practical at first, but as you move the hoop across the worked surface, you will be stretching stitches. Golf threads will definitely not like this. I suggest a roller frame that only shows a small section of the project at a time. Find one that is designed to fit in your lap or that you can sit on the base on your couch. Given the number of threads you are using, I would suggest ending off the threads every time you stop, or continuing the work to a stopping point. Keeping track of all those threads will be a nightmare. You should have considered this problem before you committed to the project.

  90. For what it’s worth, when I stitch with a hoop and new threads that I don’t have to worry about running dyes and what-not, I’ll toss the whole thing in the wash when I’m finished. Put it in a pillowcase to protect it from the beaters, wash it, and dry it it. This usually gets rid of hoop marks – and I’m a bad stitcher in that I never unhoop something unless it’s finished or I need the hoop for another project.

    For a large project like this, I’d recommend a standing floor frame. But let me explain my reasoning here: all that fabric eventually gets to feeling pretty heavy, and puts a strain on your ‘hoop hand’. I’ve found for larger projects, I have to stitch on a floor frame or table frame of some sort, or else I can only stitch for about half an hour at a time. That’s frustrating.

    I have some stands where the frame is tilt-able so that it is almost parallel with the stand, then you can possibly slide it behind the couch or something when you’re not working.

    -Monika in Mobile

  91. I highly recommend a frame. With that much fabric your hand will get tired if you have to wrestle with a hoop. I like the frame because I can keep one hand below and one above and speed stitch.

  92. I am old enough to have been taught embroidery at school. Cross stitch featured heavily
    (I think we were being prepared for marking our trousseau). We never used hoops or frames…

  93. I do a lot of what you call extreme cross stitch. I’ve tried many frames over the last 30 plus years and I still prefer Q-snaps. They are lighter than most big hoops and you can square the piece up better. Better still, there is no risk of hoop marks which can occur even with a couple of hours working. Many floor frames can accommodate them. If you have trouble with slipping, try some of the thin rubber shelf liner under the cloth.

  94. I do a lot of what you call extreme cross stitch. I’ve tried many frames over the last 45 plus years and I still prefer Q-snaps. They are lighter than most big hoops and you can square the piece up better. Better still, there is no risk of hoop marks which can occur even with a couple of hours working. Many floor frames can accommodate them, but I prefer to balance my work against my knee. If you have trouble with slipping, try some of the thin rubber shelf liner under the cloth. I fold the extra fabric and sew a strip of muslin folded so it covers both sides to keep the extra fabric clean. I read some of the other comments about stitching with one hand on either side, but that does not allow you to smooth the threads so that they lie side by side. You should use a laying tool to achieve this. I don’t park, but I will try to work so there are not very many isolated stitches. Generally, this means that most of the time I am working vertically, rather than horizontally. I do wash my pieces by hand and I’ve never needed blocking to straighten the piece, but if you are only going to work half-crosses, you probably will need to do this. Half-crosses will distort the fabric, just as in needlepoint. I hope this helps, but in the end, it’s up to you and what feels comfortable to you.

  95. I’m absolutely addicted to a stretcher frame (with my new Needlework System 4 stand that I got for Christmas!). I like a very taut tension, and I don’t feel that I can achieve that with a frame – besides, I simply CANNOT put an embroidery frame over my beautiful needlework; the very thought of it pains my heart. As well, I really do want to see the entire project all at one time rather than just a segment of it. My current project (GlenEagle) is about 25″x25″.

    I am more than willing to sacrifice the “cozy up on the sofa” option so that I can sit in my chair with my floor stand and my pattern. The only exception to this rule is ornaments (which are, of course very small and worked in a hoop), or Hardanger, which I work freehand, no frame or hoop at all.

    1. After I pressed “submit” on this post, I re-read what I wrote and realized it made no sense at all! What I was trying to convey was to DEFINITELY use a stretcher frame – your choice of manufacturer. And if at all possible, mount the frame on a stand to allow for two-handed stitching. It is embroidery hoops that I don’t like. The tension is uneven, and I just cannot bear to mash a hoop down on top of my stitched treasure. I wouldn’t dream of doing needlework without a frame.

  96. Hi Mary – never fear….you CAN curl up on the couch with your big new piece! I have made three very large cross-stitch pieces and I did not use a hoop or frame of any kind while I was stitching them. Since I have done cross stitch my entire life, I feel as if I am able to sew without pulling on the fabric at all. One of my two pieces was 31 or 32 epi and the final one was at least 32 threads. I have pictures of both of the large pieces. One would fit easily on a door. The other is narrow and horizontal. I do have pictures I can send on a regular email.
    I have thought about you so often and I am hoping you are on the mend. Karen Olson

  97. I use a 6 inch hoop on just about everything I work. I have done one piece that was 20 inches by 40 inches cross stitch on linen. I have found that it is easier to roll up the extra fabric into your lap and hold just the hoop in one hand to stitch. It is easier to concentrate on just that six inches than seeing all that fabric on a frame. A hoop can also be easily taken on and off for storage of the project. Linen is very forgiving and just about any wrinkle can be steamed or ironed out.

  98. I cross stitch large projects often. You could use a qsnap fairly easily. You could also use a scroll frame. I created little clips for the sides using pretty elastic and suspended clips. Two on each side work great for tension. You could then either hold the qsnap/scroll frame or set it on your JAT stand for 2 handed stitching. When I stitch I use a quasi parking method. I’ve never really had an issue. I’m not a fan of hoops but to be honest, I’ve never invested in a quality hoop. I think a quality hoop would work fine. If you use the scroll frame, release the tension when you’re not stitching.

  99. Mary…Your dilemma is one like I had and still do…5 yrs agao I started a major project…and I knew at the time it was going to be a job instead of fun but I gave in and did work on it for a very long time and its still not done….when I received this project a gift from my son for Xmas I was so excited and knew he would be excited if and when I completed it…I didn’t know at the time there were stands and table tops thingys you could buy to help you….so I did it in a HOOP omg Mary it was so un-comfortable lol….not to mention the size was 24inches wide by 60 inches long…picture that in a hoop…..well after a couple weeks of back aches dropping my needle etc etc etc…my husband said why don’t we go to the craft store or hardware store and buy a frame for it…I looked at him and thought you do that after its completed lol…anyways I went to the store and we had the gentleman behind the counter give me some ideas on what I could do he suggested a canvas frame that he would attach it to and that I could also use to frame it with……it worked for awhile but then 2 xmas’s ago I bought a stand with the frame and that is where it is parked now until I finish it…..thankfully I have a spare bedroom that I have it in when not working with it and you know what its really pretty to look at now when I breeze by it and talk to it and say I going to finish you before I turn 70 something lol…..so don’t get frustrated try to put it somewhere you can reach it when you can other wise your going to go crazy…..well this has turned into a book…good luck making your decision it will be the right one for you…..Trish in Maryland

  100. I’ve done lots of counted crossstitch projects and doing one now. I never use a frame. Linen is very forgiving and softens as you use it, so a frame is not necessary. Project that I’m working on has 75 different floss colors, many 1/4 stitches. When I’m finished for the evening, I lay out flat and it’s fine.

  101. If you are going to work on a project of that magnitude, you need a frame AND it must not only be the appropriate size for your project it must allow you to provide the appropriate support for both the weft and warp threads of your fabric. If either of those are distorted by your stretching, the final piece will make you unhappy. Who wants that after years of stitching?!!!!!. (1) You need a frame, appropriate size,(2) the weft and warp of the fabric correctly aligned, and then you will be “good” however long the project takes.

  102. Hi Mary,
    i have fallen in love with this project of yours. i am also considering trying my hand at it. do you think it would work as an emblem on the back of a roman chasuble! how big will the finished piece be using a 25 count linen? the gold and blue would be perfect and i would embellish it with goldwork threads etc. Will you please, please continue to show us your progress. as to hoop or frame, i look forward to the advice of others. Monica. Australia.

  103. Oh Mary, this is a difficult one! Some years ago I embarked on an extreme project (a x-stitch version of ‘My Sweet Rose’ by J W Waterhouse) and I used a handheld rectangular frame as I didn’t have a needlework stand at the time. It took me two years to complete that project and at the end of that I vowed I would never start another large project until I had a floor standing frame. I was stitching for several hours in the evening (as I guess you might want to do with a personal project) and awkwardly balancing the frame across my knees, but my neck, back and arms became very stiff and sore by trying to balance the frame and stitch. It was hard on my eyes too as there was nowhere to place a good light/magnifier which is essential for a large x-stitch project on linen. I eventually bought a Necessaire stand, frame and clip on light/magnifier and the difference it made to my stitching comfort and stamina was amazing. I couldn’t be without it, however it does take up floor space. Have you thought of getting the Needle Needs seat frame that will hold the Millenium stretcher frame? That would allow you to work with both hands and keep your embroidery in it’s current frame. I don’t like using a hoop for a project like this because you either have to keep re-hooping each time you stitch (life is too short for that nonsense!) or risk distorting the fabric. The seat frame wouldn’t take up anything like the same room, it’s portable so could be stored in your work room when you’re not using it and you could clip your mag light to the frame. Do let us know what you decide on and how you overcome the dilemma! Wishing you all the best with your new project. 🙂

  104. I don’t like hoops, i use q snap frames. They keep the tension better. I use them on large cross stitches, stitching one area and the moving it. A lady below said this would distort the piece but it doesn’t. I don’t know about parking threads though, i don’t do that, i just count across to the next area it’s used and stitch until i finish the thread

  105. What a beautiful piece, Mary! Thank you so much for posing this question. I do not do “extreme cross stitch,” but would love to use a standing frame. I will be reading responses with interest,since I have the same space issue you describe.

  106. Hello Mary, I have all my large cross stitch pieces on Millenium or Quantum frames on a stand similar to your Necessaire. The one that needs to be transportable for Guild I have on a K’s Creations lap frame. This could be good for you as it folds down flat for storage.

  107. This is probably not what you want to hear. I stitched Thea Gouverneau’s Collage of New York on 36-1″ linen. It took me three years nine months to complete. The only way that I was able to accomplish this was by using 36″ scroll rods with 10″ tight tension sides, attached to a Shay Pendray Floor Frame. Not a pretty sight in my family room. It kept the project taut and I could put in a few stitches whenever I had a few minutes. The frame moved all over the house as I needed the space in the family room. If I had to stitch it only using a hoop or Q-snaps it would never have gotten completed. The completed piece was well worth the inconvenience.

  108. Hoop or frame – most interesting and brings up another question for me–what lap stand do you recommend that will hold a frame rather than hoop? I love working with the Evertite frames and would like to be able to use with a lap stand….or do I need to opt for a floor stand?

    Your articles are so helpful and instructive. Many thanks

  109. I repeat, two handed stitching will not produce the right effect unless you are only stitching with one thread. It would be a shame to have put in so much work and come up with something less that perfect. Even with one thread I would feel compelled to stroke it so it caught the light just right.

    1. I love your surface embroidery. I haven’t done any in a while, just some Brazilian. I do mean to try some of your designs soon.

  110. Hi Mary, I’ve been cross stitching since the 80’s and my vote is for a frame. I use scroll frames and stitch using both hands. I don’t use a stand, I just prop the left side on the arm of my chair and the right side sits in the crook of my right elbow with my right hand underneath. I generally stitch in the comfort of my recliner but sometimes on the couch. A group of us at work used to make cross stitched pieces that I would make into a quilt. You could always tell the pieces that had been stitched in a frame from those stitched in a hoop. Those from a frame were always in pristine condition while the ones from hoops to put it politely were not. I am currently working on a project that is 24″ wide by about 34″ long. Like others have said, I would be slipping it into a pillowcase or other cover and putting it behind the couch or chair when not working on it. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  111. Mary ~ First let me say that it’s nice to see an occasional article on counted cross-stitch. I have been reading your newsletter for years, and even though I don’t embroider, I love it and often learn things I can use in my craft. However, I would never choose a project like yours or the HAED designs – I do primitive and folk pieces, like those from Blackbird Designs,

    Anyway, to the point: I prefer a hoop, although with a design that large I would probably use a frame. Once a month I get together with nine like-minded women, and some use a hoop, some use a frame, and one woman does it free-hand. So I think the size of your project, and personal preference, decide what you use to hold the fabric while you’re working on it.

  112. I’ve been meaning to add this for a few days but been too busy.

    I noticed that quite a few people were encouraging you to stitch in hand without a hoop or frame. My Mother used to do this and for cross-stitch I think it worked OK. Where it did not work so well were some cushion sized tapestries she did in tent stitch – because all the stitches were angled to the right the whole piece of work ended up angled in this way, i.e. the canvas became warped. Hence I would definitely not recommend you go this route.


  113. It will be a work of art even in progress. Use what you know in your heart already you want to try. And if that is a frame then so what if it takes up some space? Think of it as furniture, like a spinner does her wheel. It is your living room, after all, so live in it. And if after you try something for a while you don’t like it, who can stop you just changing to something else? Getting started, that’s the biggest trick…

  114. Hi Mary
    I have been cross stitching for 20 years and have done some large complicated pieces. I use as large a hoop as I can hold for these and there is room to park needles. A gentle wash and ironing onto a soft towel when slightly damp will get rid of any marks and creases. Recently I have been getting cramp in my left hand from holding the hoop. To overcome this I have just bought a Lowery frame. Its wonderful. It takes up very little space in a room and can hold all sorts of hoops and simple frames. You will be able to cross stitch faster as you can use both hands as you usually do with your freehand embroidery. Its the favourite stand for professional stitchers and needlework teachers. Hope this helps.

  115. Hi there!

    I’m a couple years late but what did you decide to do?
    I’ve started a HAED on a scroll frame with a stand. I really want to work on it but I don’t. I have to do something because I really like the design. So, what was your solution?
    Happy day!

    1. I ended up setting it up on one of my millennium frames, so that it would roll up as areas were finished. You could do the same with a slate frame or with a scroll frame, but if using a scroll frame, I’d probably seek some kind of solution for lacing the sides, to give good tension in all directions.

  116. I’m doing a 16×16 Thomas Kincade I’m having issues it’s a thicker tapestry what can I put it in to begin my project?

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