Cross stitching, and needlework more generally, has grown as a hobby in recent years. Not only is it allowing a younger generation to get into a more “old-fashioned” craft, but it has also offered people a soothing, almost meditative way to spend some time during the pandemic. Personally, I hope to see people continue this new love affair beyond 2021 and build a better relationship. I also hope to see more younger crafters trying out cross stitch.
Cross stitching is a brilliant entry point for needlework because you don’t have so many stitches to learn and there are some simple patterns and tutorials. However, it is too easy to rush into getting fabric and patterns and to forget about one of the most important tools. You need a good cross stitch frame.
Let’s look at a few products to see what you can get.
1) Similane 5 Pieces Embroidery Hoops
There are so many packs of cross stitch hoops out there that you can’t go too wrong. This one has five rings from 5.1 inches up to 10.2 inches. This means you can swap between sizes as needed for various projects. The screw on the top tightens it up nicely and is easy to use. This one is appealing because of the use of natural bamboo. It looks great and should be more durable. There are other packs with multicolored plastic, but those aren’t as reliable long-term. There is also a lighter feel here that should reduce pain or fatigue in the wrists and hands.
2) GONCHAROFF Tapestry Scroll Embroidery Frames
This scroll frame is a popular and affordable option for first-timers. The design is simple with the adjustable rods to keep the material in place. While it calls itself a tapestry or embroidery frame, you can use this for cross stitch too. The simplicity and quality mean that you can try out a range of projects with ease. The smooth feel of the beech is nice compared to some of the plastic models out there. It also comes in three sizes – small, medium, and large – to suit various needs.
3) Shine Shop 814 Plastic Cross Stitch Frame
You will also see a lot of plastic cross stitch frames out there. This one is designed to clamp fabric in place nice and tight on all sizes to keep it taught and ready for stitching. While plastic can be less durable and not as nice to the touch, this one is stronger polypropylene and should hold up to repeated use. It might have been nice to see more size options than this 11 by 11-inch model, or more colors, but it is still a great starting point.
Upgrading to a hand-free lap stand or free-standing device for greater efficiency.
With time, you may feel that you need to move on from working on a hand-held cross stitch hoop in favor of something a bit more convenient. There are a few different styles out there to choose from and you can keep this in mind when narrowing down your search. I will highlight some of the best models on the market below. Those options are:
- 1) The simple cross stitch lap/desk stand. These are popular because they bring the project in for close-up work while remaining hands-free. They aren’t too big compared to other solutions, but you do not to be careful with the dimensions and stability
- 2) The sit-on lap stand. This alternative option takes the basic idea of the lap stand and adds an extension to sit on. This should make the product more stable but there is the issue of long-term comfort.
- 3) The floor-standing adjustable cross stitch stand. This is a more substantial option that will take up more space, but could be perfect for those with big projects who need a large and stable set-up.
- 4) The universal needlework stand. Universal stands are a little different in that you can set them up to hold separate frames and hoops for a variety of needlework projects. This could be a good idea if you are keen to play with different forms and aren’t solely into cross stitch.
Frank A. Edmunds needlework and cross stitch stands.
Before we look at some of the products in more detail, I want to talk about one of the more commonly found brands. Frank A. Edmunds is a big name with a lot of different options out there. Some are better than others. For example, they have a lap model that you sit on to hold in place that is meant to act as an adjustable scroll frame, but there are issues with the tension. There are also comments about quality control that I can relate to here. Some examples of these frames are literally a little rough around the edges. They could be fine with a little sanding, but who wants to have to deal with that. Thankfully, there are a lot of great products in this range too.
1) Frank A. Edmunds Universal Craft Stand
This option is a large free-standing wooden frame made from American hardwood and is adjustable to different angles depending on your project. All you need to do is adjust the clamp to hold onto hoops or other frames for a range of needlework projects. You need to have the frame and hoop first, which is why I left this sort of product until last. There are lots of positive comments about how it changed the way that users worked and allowed them to continue at their desks for longer. It is 37.5’’ tall but you can fold it up when not in use.
Be aware that there is an “updated version” – or “upadate” as it currently says on Amazon – for more than double the price. There is nothing in the picture nor the description to indicate why it is better – so I am going to assume that it isn’t and recommend that you stick with the original 6111 model instead.
2) Frank A. Edmunds Adjustable Lap & Table Stand with Scroll Frame
If the Universal Craft Stand sounds like too much too soon, which is understandable, then this could be a great alternative. This desk stand focuses on one process with the scroll frame. This frame pivoted on a secure stand, allowing you to angle the material just right for comfort and a better look at your stitches in the lights. While many will appreciate using this as a table stand, I also like that it is wide enough for use as a lap stand. It can sit over your legs for close-up work as you watch television – or simply to help you get more comfortable.
The scroll frame is suitable for fabric 21’’ wide, and the working area is also 8.5 inches tall. This is more than enough for working on some impressive cross stitch projects. Just be aware that the assembly instructions aren’t great, and this can affect the tension and overall stability of the product.
3) All About Embroidery Needlework Floor-Standing Type Stand with Adjustable Frame
Moving on to a different brand now, I want to highlight this model from All About Embroidery. This is a large floor-standing option that gives you the opportunity to pull up a chair and get just the right angle on larger projects. It should be easy enough to set up your fabric on the adjustable frame and to tilt the stand for the best position. I also like that you can rotate the frame holder 360 degrees so you can see the back of your work.
This one is more expensive at over $100, but the quality seems to be there and you get a lot more wood for your money. Most users are happy with what they get. A small minority say that it needs regular adjustments, but the rest aren’t bothered by that.
4) Guofa Embroidery Hoop Stand
Finally, on the other end of the scale in terms of price and size, there are desk stands like this for smaller projects and a different hands-free experience. Here, there is a small hoop on a hinge attached to a wooden pole. You can raise and lower the angle for the best view and reach behind the hoop easily. There is then a nice curved stand for stability. This one has a 10.4-inch hoop, so just enough for first-timers.
Unfortunately, there are some comments about the stability and reliability of the screws that show that this is for more casual or temporary use. You can start with this to get a feel for cross stitch and then move on. The low cost means you aren’t wasting any money doing so.
Why are cross stitch frames so important.
Cross stitch frames or hoops (depending on your preference) are essential for achieving the best results and designs. It is so much easier to work on a piece of fabric, whatever the material or project, if you have enough tension for a taut, flat surface. This stops the pattern and images from becoming distorted and allows for a neater set of stitches. You can test this theory out with some loose cloth and a piece in a hoop. It will be so much easier to create the best stitches and image in mind with the hoop.
That is why I want to talk about some of the different cross stitch hoops, frames, lap stands, and other devices that are available. There are some brilliant tools out there that aren’t too expensive and will make a big difference. You may also find that the increased ease-of-use encourages you to continue with bigger, bolder projects.
How to choose the best cross stitch frame for your needs.
We all have our personal preferences and quirks when it comes to crafting and needlework. Some people can’t get into the right rhythm unless they are sat at a desk while others prefer to get more comfortable in an armchair. Some will be happy enough with a traditional cross stitch hoop or frame to hold while others won’t go back having tried a hands-free method. Ask yourself the following questions.
1) Do you want a hands-free cross stitch stand or a more simple frame or hoop?
In this guide, I will discuss both approaches and some of the products available. First-timers may not feel they are ready to pay out for a more substantial piece of equipment until they gain more confidence. I completely understand this, which is why you will find some simple hoops and frames for beginners. Those with bigger ambitions can try a hand-free solution to reduce fatigue or pain in their hands and make things a little easier.
2) How big does the product need to be to handle your projects and plans?
Size does matter with cross stitch hoops and frames. A massive frame can allow for space for big pieces of fabric and bigger projects. But, this may be intimidating at first. It all depends on what you are comfortable using at first. Are smaller models more comfortable in the hand or too restrictive? You could always buy a multi-pack with a range of options.
3) Is the product easy to adjust regarding both the tension and the angle of the frame?
The tension on the frame is crucial and the last thing that you want is a piece of fabric gathering or slipping because of the construction of the frame. The worst products weaken and loosen over the session, leading to repeated adjustments. This quickly takes you out of the zone. Find something that previous users say is easy to set-up and that allows for adequate tension.
4) Is it well-made and likely to last a long time?
Durability is another concern here. There are some frames that are well-made with quality wood and strong joins. Cheaper plastic ones could be at risk of snapping. Remember that this is something you are going to want to set up and adjust time and time again. It can’t become weak and unstable after a month.
5) Are you getting value for money with your choice?
Value for money doesn’t just mean that you have a large frame for a cheap price. In addition to that longevity, you need to be sure that the frame has all the features you need without becoming overpriced. Some brands will charge a lot for an adjustable wooden frame with few extras. Then there are the universal stands that are more affordable. Shop around and see what you can get within budget.
Choosing a traditional cross stitch hoop or frame for your first projects.
If you are completely new to this sort of craft, I recommend starting with a simple frame or hoop and seeing how things go. There is no point paying out lots of money for something you barely use. At this point, you may not be sure that cross stitch is the right fit for your crafting desires. So, starting out with a simple hoop or a scroll frame gives you that starting point. You can get stuck into a project and then reevaluate. If you get the bug, and wish you had a hands-free solution for bigger tasks and longer sessions, you can then upgrade.
There are three common types of structure for adding tension to fabric and helping you with your projects. They are:
- 1) Wooden hoops. You may think of a wooden hoop as being a better fit for embroidery than cross stitch. This is true, as you can create a tighter tension on a thin piece of material for more detailed work. But it doesn’t hurt to have one of these in your box of tools when starting out with needlework. You may find that it is a great portable tool for practicing stitches and playing with new ideas.
- 2) Scroll frames. These frames let you stretch out a piece of fabric with spreader rails and dowel rails. It is a really simple option that can work well for cross stitching projects.
- 3) Stretcher bars. These are great for keeping your material taut in all directions and are adjustable. Pay attention to the size. For example, some brands may offer smaller 8’’ options and go up to around 20’’. Maybe start small if you are new to this sort of craft and get something bigger at a later date.
Find the right cross stitch fame to suit your needs.
There is no doubt that it is important for all newcomers in the world of cross stitch to get some kind of frame. But, the right choice will come down to your preferred style, size, and set-up. If you enjoy using a standard hoop or scroller frame then find one of a good quality and stick with it. If you want to upgrade your set-up with a lap stand or free-standing solution then go for it. As long as you have fun working with the product and get the results you were after, that is the right option for you. Check out our other page about cross-stitch vs. embroidery.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.