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I get very frustrated when people tell other embroiderers there’s no way they could EVER survive with only a 4″x4″ hoop embroidery machine. They make it sound like the world will end if you purchase a machine with a small hoop. That you’ll never be able to embroider anything unless you take out a second mortgage to purchase a machine with a monster hoop.
However, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with starting with a 4×4 hoop on your embroidery machine!
Because as nice as a huge hoop might be, not everyone has the money, space, need, or desire for a huge embroidery machine.
I started with a 4″x4″ machine (which I thought was a huge expense already) and happily had it for a long time before upgrading to the 5″x7″ machine I have now. I splurged and upgraded when we stopped pinching pennies after finally paying off our $300k+ of doctorate loans.
But darn it, I got a ton of mileage out of my small embroidery machine! And, I still use my SE1900’s 4×4 hoop more often than its 5×7.
So, if you are feeling down about your 4×4 machine or are worried that you made the wrong choice of machines, then let me answer the question, “What can you embroider with a 4×4 hoop?” The answer is…MUCH more than you think if you’re resourceful and know a few tricks!
What does 4×4 max hoop size mean?
The maximum size of design an embroidery machine can stitch in each session is a programmed function of the machine. Simply connecting a larger hoop will not allow you to stitch outside your machine’s programmed capabilities.
Thus, a machine with a maximum embroidery area of 4″x4″ will not be able to stitch a design in one session that is larger than 4″x4″ or 10cmx10cm in size. Even if you connect a larger hoop.
(If you’re confused about your machine’s max hoop size, examples of popular 4×4 embroidery machines are the Brother SE400, SE425, SE600, SE625, LB6800, LB5000S, LB5000M, and Innovis m280D.)
Can you you stitch a bigger design on a 4″x4″ hoop machine?
Actually, yes, you can stitch a design that’s larger than 4×4 on your machine! However, you have to stitch it in multiple 4×4 (or smaller) sections. Because the maximum size you can stitch at one time is 4″x4″.
How do you do this?
Splitting Embroidery Designs
Basic embroidery software can split big embroidery designs into small 4″x4″ chunks suitable for your machine! This means you can stitch a 30″x 30″ design, for instance, in many 4″x4″ chunks.
You will hoop the first section, stitch, release the fabric from the hoop, and then hoop the next section.
While it may take time to reset the machine and fabric after each section, the sky’s the limit here in the size of a design you can stitch.
I recommend Sew What Pro or Embrilliance as easy-to-use basic editing software, but there are also several free embroidery software that allow design splitting. And, some digitizers are awesome and will split the designs you purchase from them.
While splitting designs requires basic computer skills, there are many in-depth YouTube videos showing you the exact process for using each software. I recommend checking out The Baby’s Booty YouTube channel. She does in-depth tutorials for Sew What Pro using small hoops.
Using a Repositional Hoop on a 4×4 Machine
Did you also know there’s something called a repositional or continuous hoop? This hoop is around 4″x6.75″ and allows you to stitch a ~4″x6.75″ design in two pieces without having to remove your fabric to rehoop. Instead, you move the placement of the hoop in the machine. You simply stitch the first half, reposition the hoop, and then the second half.
For my 4″x4″ Brother machine, this is the repositional hoop I used.
What Designs You Can’t Split
Unfortunately, most large in-the-hoop embroidery designs cannot be split into smaller pieces and still stitch out correctly. If your life goal is to make a ton of ITH purses or bibs, for instance, you really are out of luck with a 4″x4″ machine.
Some other designs like appliques also haven’t been the easiest for me to split.
However, focus on all the designs you CAN use rather than the ones you can’t!
Embroidery Designs for a 4×4 Hoop
I have a huge list of where to find free embroidery machine designs. There are THOUSANDS of free embroidery designs for a 4×4 hoop.
I’d recommend clicking around the websites on that post and sorting by size to find designs that you like! And remember, even if a design is bigger, in many cases, you can still split it to use.
If you’re wanting to purchase designs, Creative Fabrica is a good place to start. They have a monthly subscription where you can download an unlimited number of their 10,000+ embroidery designs. Other 4×4-hoop friendly websites are Etsy, Embroidery Library, and Embroidery Designs to name just a few!
In-the-Hoop Designs for a 4×4 Hoop
If you’re wanting to make small ITH designs (for example, small coasters, felties, or even Christmas ornaments), here’s a list of where to find in-the-hoop designs.
That being said, I think Kreative Kiwi has one of the best selections of small (and lots of free) ITH designs for a 4×4 hoop. There are hundreds of options you can stitch!
What can you embroider with a 4×4 hoop?
Since I started this site back when I only had a 4×4 hoop and did more sewing than embroidery, a LOT of my tutorials were done with just a 4×4 hoop. Here is some 4×4 hoop inspiration below. Click on the images to be taken to that tutorial’s page if you want to learn more!
Besides the above projects, here’s a very non-exhaustive list of even more 4×4 hoop project ideas.
- Banners with each letter less than 4″x4″
- Key fobs/keyrings with faux leather, vinyl, or real leather
- Face masks
- Small redwork designs for quilts
- Putting logos on shirts
- Small fabric baskets
- Monogram anything and everything as long as the monogram is less than 4″x4″
- Birthday cards (Check out my tutorial for embroidering on cardstock.)
- Small zipper bags, coasters, bookmarks, and many other ITH projects.
Can you start a business with a 4″x4″ hoop?
Yes! There are lots of Etsy businesses with owners who only have 4″x4″ hoops. They sell custom patches, monogrammed towels, key chains, earrings, free-standing lace designs, and SO MUCH MORE.
While the “best” machine to grow a lucrative business with is a multi-needle machine, a machine like that can cost over $10k new. That’s a really big investment for a newbie with no existing customer base!
Don’t be discouraged if you only have a 4×4 machine at first. Make some sells, and build up to later purchasing the big machine if you need to expand your business.
A Good Facebook Embroidery Machine Group
While I’m generally not a fan of Facebook, there’s one great group I joined when I first got my machine. It helped me think outside the small hoop and discover how many things you can actually embroider with a 4″x4″ hoop! Check out Little Hoops – Big Ideas – Machine Embroidery with a 4×4 Hoop.
No one in there is going to make you feel bad for having a small hoop!
I hope this gives you some embroidery project inspiration! Just because you have a small embroidery machine does not mean that you should feel limited in your project choices.