Thursday, February 14, 2008

Review: Embroidery Hoop and Online Store

Last week, I was working on a cross-stitch project and couldn't stand the embroidery hoop I was using. Just the week before, I had bought a wooden hoop at Michaels to replace the crappy plastic hoop I bought a long time ago when they were all out of wooden ones. I wouldn't even call it real wood – it's made of several layers of pressed "wood" that is prone to splitting and splintering. You get what you pay for - $2 for this Made in China piece-of-shit (which I'll refer to hereafter as MICPOS.)

So I started thinking… What is with the options we have for needlecraft and sewing tools? People used to be able to hand down quality heirloom tools from generation to generation. Nowadays, everything is cheap, mass-produced, throw-away plastic/"wood"/metal that I wouldn't even see fit to donate to a thrift store. What happened to the handmade, lovingly crafted or carved tools of old? Thus began my search for a quality embroidery hoop.

After some webbing around, I came up with two good contenders – Elbesee from the UK, and Hardwicke Manor from Germany. Both have hoops that are hand-carved from solid hardwood. Both have rounded edges so they do not mark your fabric. And both have quality brass screws and fittings. I decided to go with Hardwicke Manor since a review said that the Elbesee didn't feel as sturdy and wasn't sanded as well as the HM. (But I think I will order one in the future just so I can see for myself.)

When I received the hoop, I was amazed at the quality and beauty of it. The weight is heavier than the MICPOS which is fine – at least it doesn't feel like a  balsa airplane. :-) Here are some comparison pics with the MICPOS:

 On top is the MICPOS.  Notice the huge crack - I haven't used it more than a week!

   The larger screw is the HM.  Note the better metal quality.  See the pieces of pressed wood on the MICPOS?  :-(

 HM hoop has screwdriver notch so you can tighten the hoop easier while it is lying flat on a table.  (Look at the piece of "wood" peeling off of the MICPOS in the background.) 

 Although the HM tag said to wrap the inner hoop with bias or twill tape to prevent marking, a reviewer said she never had to do that with its rounded corners

The Hardwicke Manor hoops come in sizes from 4 to 12 inches in various shapes and widths. Depending on your fabric, you will want a thin hoop (5/16") for delicate linens and silks, medium (5/8") for muslin and aida, and thick (7/8") for canvas and other heavy fabrics. Prices range from $6.50 to $20.50 for circle hoops. Expect to pay more for oval and square shapes.

Both Elbesee and Hardwicke Manor are brands that are hard to find in the US. I tried ordering the HM hoop the first time from Criss Cross Row and I DO NOT recommend them. After placing my order online, I got the automated confirmation but no other replies. I wrote them email twice, called them twice (the number they posted as their voice phone was a modem or FAX), and I FAXed them a letter. No response.

Needle in a Haystack on the other hand, was an EXCELLENT company to order from. Most of their staff was away at a trade-show, and they still made it a point to write me and let me know what was going on. Now THAT is great customer service. Once shipped, my hoop got here in a short two days.


KathyKirby said...

Thank-you so much for the information on the HM hoops. I am so happy for the pictures, as well. You have saved me alot of grief and money.......
Kathy Kirby
Hamilton, IL

khrome said...

You're welcome, Kathy! And thanks for leaving me a message - it's nice to know these blogs are helpful. :-D

Anonymous said...

The .98c-2$ special hoops (made of balsawood I was told)from most local craft stores are crap.. I own a couple of hardwicke manor hoops and adore them. I also own a DMC or two and an anchor brand or two and a couple Elbesee's. They are also reasonable quality with real wood and brass fittings. My father sanded the elbesee hoops and rounded thier corners for me, so if you have a husband/dad that can do it for you, those are nice too. I bought different brands to compare them all. I spent years having to buy new balsa hoops every couple of months because the screw closure tore/ split or otherwise came off the cheap wood. It is sad that stores offer the balsas instead of quality ones..

khrome said...

Thanks for you comment, Anonymous, and your tip about Elbesee's. I agree, I can't figure out WHY stores would sell the crappy hoops. I'd rather pay the price difference for quality - something that can potentially be an heirloom - instead of some cheap hoop that I have to replace every so often..

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I'm new at cross stitching and I can't praise the Hardwicke Manor Hoops too. I love them. Would love to have the money I've spent on those cheap hoops in the past at Joanns and the like. Wouldn't go back to them if they were given to me. I bought mine at the Needle In A Haystack on-line. Now I'm looking for a hands free clamp or stand. If anyone can recommend something, please do so. Sincerely, Theresa

khrome said...

Hi Theresa! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Those hoops are great, indeed. I haven't tried any stands but hopefully someone else will have a recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Just a tip. I just visited a brand new store in my area, called Hobby Lobby. They had just opened so had limited stock, but did have Hardwicke Manor hoops (had the cottage mark on the side) under another brand name for sale. So those who have access to that store might want to take a look.

khrome said...

That's a great tip! Thanks!