Your embroidery machine has finished stitching, and it’s the end of the design. You hold the hoop up; the embroidery is flawless. You’re so excited your project is finished that you remove it from the hoop, only to see markings around your stitch out! Is your garment ruined after all your hard work?!

hoop burn on fabric

Let’s learn more about hoop burn and how to treat it without an expensive visit to the embroidery emergency room!

What Is Embroidery Hoop Burn?

Hoop burn is the frustrating shiny marks on a piece of fabric that has been hooped using compression hoops with a tension screw. Burned fabric will have a mark in the shape of the hoop, which was caused by compression and friction from the hoop halves. 

hoop burn on hat

We all want even, tight (but not TOO tight) hooping, and we want to make sure the hoop does not shift at all. So what do we do? We turn those tension screws on our hoop, so the hoop is nice and tight without the fabric in it, and then we rock and twist and smash to get them secured while the fabric IS in it. In the process, your fabric is crushed, and you end up with marks that can remain.  

Friction is caused by the hoop moving under pressure and compaction because there is almost no room, so air and moisture are pressed out of the fabric to force it into place. For those old enough to remember wringer washers and getting little fingers caught in them, that’s hoop burn. Imagine shutting your fingers in a car door for those needing a more current example! When this happens, you have two things working at the same time.

Sounds pretty hopeless, right?

Well, you are far from hopeless, and we can save virtually all these projects.

What Fabrics Are Affected By Embroidery Hoop Burn?

Knowing your fabric content will help you significantly identify how to treat your burn; petroleum vs. natural fabrics can act differently and be susceptible to hoop burn.

Though you would not think it possible, under a large amount of pressure and movement, you can slightly melt and compact petroleum-based fabrics such as microfiber, nylon, or polyester (think of the fabrics you can melt even with a low iron). If you have had rope burn, you know that the temperature was not actually burning, but the combination of friction and pressure acts like a burn.

Likewise, anyone who has ironed a linen or cotton tablecloth by really pressing down hard will recall that shiny sheen on the fabrics, especially the raised areas like embroidery or hems. With cotton, silk, and other “natural” fabrics which rely on moisture to stay soft, you can actually press out the moisture and air between the fibers and smash them down. So when you want to restore what was taken away, we will turn to plain ole’ water.

Specialty fabrics such as velvet, terry cloth, netting, and more can be affected in that the pile or the threads in the fabric can be crushed or displaced, ruining your finished piece.

terry hoop burn

Learn more about the different main fabrics used in machine embroidery.

How Can You Remove Hoop Burn In Machine Embroidery?

In virtually all cases, you can remove or at the very least, lessen hoop burn.

Here are some of the best solutions we have found, and we encourage you to send us any solutions you have tried which are not on this list (please and thank you)!

  • Steam/water spray– we removed the water and air from most of the hoop-burned fabrics, and often quick steam with a clothing steamer or steam iron (held away from the fabric) or a spritz of water from a spray bottle will rehydrate the fabric fibers. It is often helpful to lightly brush the damp (but not wet) fabric with a soft brush.
  • Laundry– for those garments which can be laundered, a trip through the washer will erase hoop burn and leave your garment fresh.
  • Vinegar– is often under-used and misunderstood household cleaner. You can use a dilute solution, spray lightly on your fabric (do not spray on rayon), and steam with a steamer. Make sure to test natural fabric in an area you cannot see to ensure there is no color damage. Wash your garment and your set!
  • Lint brush– for fabrics like velvet and terry cloth, the best method is often to use a lint brush or sticky roller to tease up those fibers and loops.
  • Spray starch– can also help to rehydrate droopy, dry fibers.

These methods will not be very helpful for non-washable fabrics or surfaces such as leather and vinyl, but we will discuss how to prevent hoop burn on them.

While these suggestions may not remove all of the marks left from hoop burn, they will help. We do suggest that you test any treatments on an out-of-the-way corner on your garment or stitching to ensure they are colorfast and can be treated with water

How To Prevent Hoop Burn In Machine Embroidery

This is the question we all have on our minds. I know I don’t want hoop burn, so how do I prevent it?

If you need to continue using your current tension hoops, the greatest help will be in not overtightening your hoop. This may sound tricky, but how do you know when tight is tight enough? Check out our machine embroidery hooping basics tutorial below for helpful tricks and tips. 

Some things can reduce the damage from hoop burn. Remember that these methods are not a cure-all, but they will make your projects turn out smooth and un-damaged.

Magnetic Hoops For Machine Embroidery

Magnetic hoops are very easy to use and reduce the marks on fabric. They come with a top and bottom, which have extremely powerful magnets embedded in them.  

You must use caution when handling these because snapping your fingers between them will definitely leave a mark. Another caution is for patients with pacemakers- the magnet is strong enough to disrupt your device and should not be used.

Any hoop (including magnetic hoops) works perfectly with the Echidna Hooping Station. This hooping station makes hooping easy without the struggle!

Floating In Machine Embroidery

floating hooping

Floating is a method of hooping that works for small projects such as in the hoop (ITH) or light fabrics. In short, you hoop a piece of stabilizer and then baste, with stitching or spray, the item you are embroidering.  

This method is not recommended for shirts, hoodies, blankets, etc., as they are larger and will shift during embroidering. Floating is useful in that you are never actually hooping your fabric and, therefore, cannot damage it.

Masking Fabric In Machine Embroidery

masking hooping

You can make a mask like a mat in a picture frame to protect your sensitive fabrics (leather, suede, velvet, silk, etc.) from hoop burn. With fabrics like velvet which has a nap, take an extra piece of the same fabric and lay the nap side down, so you are nap to nap. This provides a cushion and gives the hoop a good grip.

Get your complete guide to properly embroidering on leather and vinyl garments to avoid problems and get better-embroidered results.

Conclusion: No More Embroidery Hoop Burn!

Here are a few of the points we covered…

  • The fabric needs room to breathe, don’t squeeze it! Make sure hoops can easily close and do not over-tighten. It is too tight if you cannot easily press your hoop in with some tension.
  • If you do find hoop burn, squirting water from a spray bottle or washing the garment generally resolves most problems, but please read the other treatment suggestions based on the fabric used.
  • Try a different hooping method, such as floating (if not a whole garment or heavy project), or consider magnetic hoops.

Thanks for reading & let us know if you have any other questions regarding hoop burn or if this article has helped on your embroidery journey.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out our Echidna Hooping Station to make hooping easy without the struggle!