Understanding Hoop Sizes- machine embroidery


When it comes to numbers, we live in two different worlds.  Some of us view numbers through a millimeter/centimeter/meter lens.  And some of us view them through an inches/feet/yards lens.  As home machine embroiderers, we are caught in the middle because the industry needs to cater to both.

The stitch outs for embroidery designs need to be precise.  The stitching is also extremely small.  Did you know that one millimeter equals .039 inches?  Well, not really – it is actually .0393701 inches!  While embroidery machine companies and the digitizers operate in the world of small, precise millimeters, they also need to accommodate those who view numbers through the inches lens.  As a result, names associated with hoop sizes have become somewhat muddled.  On occasion, this has caused frustration for the home machine embroiderer.  So it is important and necessary to understand the capabilities (and limitations) of the hoops that you own.

The Details

Lets delve into these muddled details using SweetPea’s Dog Table Runner.  The description for the Dog Table Runner indicates that the blocks can be made for a 5×7, 6×10, and 8×12 hoop.  

Dog Table Runner

Lets use the 6×10 size for this discussion.  What does a “6×10 block” really mean?  Industry standards state that a 6×10 size hoop is one that measures 160×260 millimeters.  160×260 mm is actually 6.29×10.2 inches!  Those who live in the “inches” world call it 6×10.  However, to stitch out this design a hoop that is capable of stitching 160×260 mm or 6.29×10.2 inches is needed.  Smaller won’t work even if it is only a fraction of an inch smaller!  

A prime example of how hoop size names have become muddled and confusing due to labeling for both worlds is the 150×240 hoop.  It has a stitching field of 6×9.6 inches and the hoop is sometimes referred to a 6×10 hoop (because we round 6×9.6 up to 6×10).  As stated in the paragraph above, the industry standard of a 6×10 hoop is 160×260 mm or 6.29×10.2 inches.  This means a 150x240mm hoop cannot handle a 6×10 design even though some embroidery companies refer to it as 6×10.  Confusing and muddled for sure!  (And remember these are industry standards.  These sizes have not been arbitrarily set by SweetPea.)

SweetPea, as most other digitizers, use the industry standards for their designs.  The sizes that SweetPea digitizes to are listed in the following table and in their Help Center.  There are 4 hoop sizes that have a stitching field size that is slightly less than standard hoop name:  4×4, 7×12, 8×12, and 8×8.  The other 4 that SweetPea digitizes for are slightly larger than the standard hoop size:  5×7, 6×10, 9×12, and 9.5×14. 

hoop sizes

Your Next Steps

Given this background on hoop names, hoop sizes, and the reality of the actual stitching sizes, what does the home embroider need to do to ensure that the selected design size is appropriate for their hoops?

First, and most important, find out the size of your hoop in mm – not in inches.  Some hoops have the size right on the frame.  If you have a hoop that does not have the size on the frame, then look in the manual or online to find the size in mm.

Hoop Photo

Second, compare your measurements to the chart above.  If your hoop is a 200×200 hoop, then you know you can stitch out a design that fits a 200×200 hoop or smaller.  That is, you can stitch out a design that is 8×8, 5×7, or 4×4.  

What about hoop sizes that aren’t listed above?  Let’s use the 360 x 200 hoop as an example.  If you only know the mm but not the actual stitching field size, it can be calculated.  Use an online mm to inches conversion (just google “mm to inches conversion” and a number of links will be returned).  You can also do this by hand, using the international standard of 1 inch equals 25.4mm.  360×200 mm converts to 14.17 x 7.87.  Once calculated, reference the the table above and find out which standard sizes the hoop can accommodate.  Based on the calculations, the 360×200 hoop can use all of the sizes listed except for the 9×12 and 9.5×14 hoops.  

And finally, with the information presented above, take the time to inventory your hoops and document the file sizes that each can use.  Keep this information near your embroidery machine for quick reference.  Here’s a sample inventory sheet:

my hoops

What About Multi-Position Hoops (a.k.a split hoops)

A multi-position hoop — also called a split hoop or multi-hoop — allows the home embroiderer to stitch multiple designs without having to rehoop stabilizer and fabric.  (Note that the term “split hoop” is not the same as “splitting a design”.)

There are limitations however.  That is, the design size that you are able to embroider can not exceed the maximum size that your machine is capable of doing – not what the hoop itself can do.  For example, let’s say you have a 5×7 machine and you find a 5×12 multi-position hoop.  The largest design you can embroider remains at 5×7.


In summary, understanding exactly what your hoop size means in terms of its name, its size in mm, and its stitching field size is essential for a successful embroidery experience.


  1. Very helpful, I am actually making a dog quilt with your Dog Table Runner pattern. I have a new Brother machine and the Hoop I am using seems far too big, I was hoping a 9.5 inch square hoop might be big enough for the 6 x 10 dogs. Good job I didn’t buy the frame as I now realise it won’t do and I shall have to get a bigger one. Thank you so much for the advice. I am a real Sweet Pea fan

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