Most beginner rug hookers like to keep the start-up costs down until they figure out if they're going to love the craft. There is nothing wrong with a hoop, they're just a bit more fussy to use as the backing can loosen while you work so you have to tighten it all down periodically.
In a world where we like instant gratification and less inconvenience, a hoop might seem like too much work. I will list the pros and cons of the hoop and you can decide for yourself what avenue to pursue. My advice would be to purchase a hoop that is 14" or 15" in diameter. Smaller hoops like the 10" are really too small and awkward to hold and maneuver. The work space is too small so you find yourself moving the backing around continuously to get to new areas to hook. Also, the closer you get to hooking near the hoop the more difficult it is to work the hand underneath. Your fingers won't have the freedom of space and will get cramped.
Hoops not specifically made for rug hooking are not really appropriate for this craft. They're lightweight and designed to clamp down on cottons or Aida cloth. There is a great deal of pressure needed to clamp down on hooked parts of your rug and your hoop has to be of strong construction to do this. If the design is smaller than the hoop diameter than you might get away with it but once you have to clamp down on hooked areas you have to exert a lot of pressure to tighten it down enough to hold the looser, unhooked backing in place. But, don't worry about clamping down on hooked areas as wool has a memory and will spring back as soon as the hoop is removed. Also, other craft hoops have short bolts so that when you clamp down over thick parts of the rug the top part of the hoop can be opened to the point where there is not enough bolt to tighten.
Tip: When starting a new project the hoops and backing are very light so when you pull up the loops the entire hoop will lift up off the table. This problem can be rectified by placing a heavy book over the top part of the hoop to hold it down. Once a bit of the pattern is hooked there will be enough weight from the wool to hold it down.
1. Turns easily to allow accessibly to every side of your design when hooking.
2. Portable, lightweight to carry to a friends house or pack in a suitcase for those trips to the cottage or abroad.
3. Inexpensive to purchase.
4. If using a hoop made specifically for rug hooking and is constructed of hardwood, it should last.
5. Hoops can have base installed to allow hooking in your favorite chair or the car.
1. Wing nuts are difficult to tighten with arthritic fingers.
2. Forces you to sit at a table instead of the favorite chair in front of TV
3. Too much fuss with all the continual wing nut tightening.
4. Backing continually loosens as you hook.
5. You have to allow enough salvage on your design to fit the hoop to be able to work in the corners of the rug. (Some commercial designs do not allow enough outer border, it should be a minimum of 3")
6. Putting your pattern in the hoop takes some time to get it even. Tugging can distort the image if not pulled only top to bottom and side to side. Tugging on the diagonal will shift your image and when you are done hooking that is what you will get.
7. You shouldn't leave your work in a hoop for extended periods of time or you might damage the backing. It is best to remove the project after every session.
Here is the information needed to make an informed decision, To be hooped...or not to be hooped....that is the question? Next blog I will discuss the pros and cons of grippers frames.