What Can You Embroider With a 4×4 Hoop? Ideas & Inspiration

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I get 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 an embroidery machine with a big embroidery field might be, not everyone has the money, space, need, or desire for a huge 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! 

4x4 embroidery ideas

What does 4×4 max hoop size mean?

4x4 hoop for embroidery

The maximum design size 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. 

(Learn more about embroidery hoop sizes and how this relates to design sizes.)

And, if you’re confused about your machine’s max hoop size, examples of popular 4×4 embroidery machines are the Brother PE535, PE545, SE400, SE425, SE600, SE625, SE700, LB6800, LB5000S, LB5000M, and Innovis m280D.

How to Embroider Larger Than a 4×4 Hoop

Can you embroider a design that’s bigger than your hoop?

Yes, you can stitch a design that’s larger than 4×4 on your machine!

However, you must 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? 

1. Splitting Embroidery Designs

splitting designs for 4x4 hoop

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 several free embroidery software 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. 

2. Using a Repositional Hoop on a 4×4 Machine

using a larger hoop size on a small hoop machine

Did you also know there’s something called a repositional or continuous hoop?

This hoop is 4″x6.75″ and allows you to stitch a ~4″x6.75″ design in two pieces (first split with software) 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 stitch the second half. 

For my 4″x4″ Brother machine, this is the repositional hoop I used. 

3. 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

print a template to help line up design

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, you can still split it to use in many cases. 

If you want 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 want 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!

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Using aHow to embroider free-standing lacemy How to embroider free-standing laceembroidery machine to make and personalize gifts for friends and family is one of the joys of holidays.  I prefer making personalized gifts in addition to or instead of money or gift cards. It fulfills my craft desires but also makes a meaningful embroidered gift to the giftee.  Here's a big list of some of the best embroidery gift ideas to make and give for Christmas and other occasions! Baby gift idea links gifts to make with an embroidery machine DIY embroidery gifts things to embroider for gifts, things to machine embroider for gifts machine embroidery gift tags LINK + ITH Machine Embroidery Gift Ideas If you're making gifts for specific holidays, check out these big free designs posts. . DIY Machine Embroidery Gift Ideas 1. Towels (Terry Cloth, Dish Towels, Tea Towels) If you're looking for a thoughtful, inexpensive gift for people that you don't know well, embroidered hand towels are always well received. Even close friends and family appreciate a personalized towel as a gift.  Fun things to embroider on towels are monograms, recipes, kitchen sayings, flowers, and other types of designs.  For the best results embroidering towels, use tear-away stabilizer with temporary spray adhesive or sticky tear-away stabilizer. Hoop the towel if possible, and if not, floating it is ok as well. Make sure to add a layer of water-soluble stabilizer on top.  Don't forget that adding a knockdown stitch or nap-tack stitch can flatten the pile of the towels.  2. In-the-Hoop Wallets, Wristlets, or Wallets Small in-the-hoop projects are one of my favorite gifts to embroider with my machine. If you have basic customization embroidery software, adding initials or a unique personalization to the front of the wallet makes a great gift.  And, who are we kidding, making in-the-hoop projects is never a hardship! Here's a list of where to find free in-the-hoop designs that contains website suggestions. However, I also recommend this ....A print book that comes with a fun selection of in-the-hoop designs is Modern Machine Embroidery (LINK.) The below purse was made from one of the designs.  K PURSE 3. Beanies For a great embroidered winter or Christmas gift idea, beanies are easy to make and fun to gift. You can snag beanies for a few dollars at Walmart or Target, and adding an initial or other personalization is easy.  Use no-show mesh stabilizer for dense designs and tear-away for very, very lightweight designs. A water-soluble topper is also useful when embroidering beanies.  4. Balsa Wood Ornaments If you're looking for a unique embroidery project idea to gift, embroider balsa wood! Be careful with design selection, use a water-soluble topper, and test settings carefully to achieve maximum success.  Read the full tutorial for embroidering on balsa wood for more information! 5. Embroidered Tote Bags Take a boring tote bag, and add an embroidered design for a cute and thoughtful gift idea.  Make the tote bag into a whole gift by stuffing it with spa materials (LINK), books, etc 6. Mug Rugs or Coasters Every year, I gift my grandmother with a new in-the-hoop mug rug. These are easy to make and fun to stitch.  Same with coasters. There are many cute embroidered coaster designs already out there, but you can further personalize them with monograms or even team names.  7. Embroidered Blankets A sweet housewarming gift, wedding gift, or even Christmas gift is an embroidered blanket. If the blanket fabric has any fluff, use a water-soluble topping to keep stitches from sinking down.  For simple designs on non-stretchy blankets, use a tear-away or wash-away stabilizer, which is removed from the back after embroidering. For dense designs on unstable fabrics, opt for a no-show mesh cut-away stabilizer for best results.  8. Free-Standing Lace Ornaments, Villages, Angels, and More If you've never checked out Embroidery Library's 3D FSL designs, you're in for a treat! These 3D embroidery designs are stitched on wash-away stabilizer, which dissolves in water after stitching. With a little sewing or other construction, you have a beautiful free-standing lace design that's perfect to gift (or keep!) 9. Bookmarks There are many in-the-hoop bookmark designs that you can use to stitch in a larger hoop size.  One other option is to make your own using denim! Check out my denim bookmark tutorial! Hair Bows Have little girls in your life? Monogram or add cute designs to store-bought hair bows for a fun embroidered gift idea.  Follow this hair bow embroidery tutorial to learn more.  Wine Holder While you can sew a wine holder easily, why not create one in-the-hoop? (Check arch nemesis here.) Add an initial, monogram, or saying, and this makes a perfect hostess gift! Koozie Whether it's adding a sports team logo (don't sell copyrighted products) or a goofy phrase, a koozie is a great embroidered gift for a friend who likes their favorite adult beverage or carbonated soft drink kept cold.  Pair a koozie with a six-pack and other themed paraphernalia for a cute gift idea! Embroidered Men's Tie Buying for my husband on demand is hard (which is why we don't buy gifts for each other anymore!) However, I'm always sewing or embroidering him new things.  Check out this embroidered tie I made for him to wear at work! For a super-simple design, a layer of tear-away stabilizer is all that's needed. For a more dense design, try no-show mesh or a cut-away stabilizer.  In-the-Hoop Key Fob Have a friend or child who needs a decorative key fob? Try making one in-the-hoop with your embroidery machine.  I prefer to embroider key fobs using marine vinyl that I cut to perfect size with my Cricut Maker (check out using an embroidery machine and Cricut together for more information.)  Reusable Grocery Bags For friends and family who like to shop sustainably, embroider a reusable grocery bag! While you can sew your own, this is an example of an embroidery blank you can buy from Dollar Tree.  Baby Bibs This cute embroidered baby gift idea is perfect for parents who love taking dinner-time photos of their kiddos.  I love the terry cloth NICE LINK bibs.  Burp Cloths Another DIY embroidery gift is adding a design to pre-made burp cloths for babies! While many embroidery enthusiasts like diapers for this, I prefer muslin burp cloths LINK.  Learn to embroider burp cloths! Baby Bodysuits What baby doesn't need more onesies? Embroidering onesies takes skill when learning to hoop properly, but once you've figured that out, you're good to go! In-the-Hoop Gift Card Holder This in-the-hoop project is perfect as a graduation gift idea or adding a little thoughtfulness to a Christmas gift card. As a broke college (and grad) student, I always appreciated gift cards and cash! Sweatshirt For Fall and Winter weather, a sweatshirt can be a cute gift! I love embroidering sweatshirts for my nieces and for my own closet! Check CF FOR PICS CHECK kimberbell check etsy Potholders or Oven Mitts The above potholder is intended for my aunt as a Christmas gift this year. Follow this store-bought potholder embroidery tutorial for more information on how I did this! If you have a large enough embroidery hoop, you can even create an in-the-hoop potholder .LINK. Paper Towels Here's a quirky embroidered gift idea for someone who's not too serious!  Use a layer of no-show mesh or cut-away stabilizer, and add your favorite low-density design to paper towels. Pack them in cellophane or a fun gift basket, and laugh at the uniqueness of this gift idea! Toilet Paper Same with paper towels, embroidered toilet paper is another whimsical gift you can make with an embroidery machine. Not everyone's going to appreciate this gift (my mother-in-law, for one), but the possibilities for gag gifts are endless here! Baseball Hats For the hat wearers in your family or friend circle, consider embroidering a hat! Duffel Bags (CW one) yoga mat Shoelaces LINK TO XMAS DESIGNS Let me know if you have any more embroidery Christmas gift ideas. I am always trying to grow my ideas list as it always seems like we have gifts to give!
How to Machine Embroider Hats
How to Embroider a name on ablanket

Besides the above projects, here’s a very non-exhaustive list of even more 4×4 hoop project ideas. 

  1. Patches
  2. Felties
  3. Banners with each letter less than 4″x4″ 
  4. Key fobs/keyrings with faux leather, vinyl, or real leather
  5. Face masks
  6. Small machine embroidery redwork designs for quilts
  7. Putting logos on shirts
  8. Small fabric baskets
  9. Monogram anything and everything as long as the monogram is less than 4″x4″
  10. Birthday cards (Check out my tutorial for embroidering on cardstock.)
  11. Small zipper bags, coasters, bookmarks, and many other ITH projects.
  12. Embroidering a QR code
What can you embroider

Can you start a business with a 4″x4″ hoop?

Yes! Many Etsy businesses have 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! 

So, don’t be discouraged if you only have a 4×4 machine at first.

Make some sales, 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 will make you feel bad for having a small hoop!

Conclusion

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. 

8 Comments

  1. Brenda Guajardo says:

    This has to be the best newsletter I’ve read in a very long time. It’s incredibly helpful and filled with so many good resources. Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks for the positive encouragement!! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  2. What a wonderful and very good source of review, thank you!

  3. Fatimah Bakare says:

    This really comes in handy. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. I really needed to read this. I had been lamenting over getting a bigger 5×7 machine but just didn’t want to spend that much and not be sure if I wanted to stick with it. After reading this article I am now going to buy the 4×4 and build my business with that. THANK YOU!!!!!

    1. Best wishes with your business and your new machine!

  5. You made my day! Can’t wait to try out your tricks! So informative! Thank You so much!

  6. Jeannette Rivera says:

    Con deseos de comenzar un pequeño negocio en este campo por años. Sin embargo, la información tan clara y valiosa nos facilita al momento de elegir la máquina adecuada. Gracias, éxito!

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