The caveat for this tutorial is for you to take this for what you paid for it ... but this technique has worked for me splendidly. I still consider myself a new embroiderer; I certainly do not know all the ins-and-outs of the proper way to do things.
From the beginning, I was instructed to cut the stabilizer big enough to hoop but no so big as to be sloppy; that much seemed obvious. For my 4x4 hoop, the smallest amount that I could cut and hoop was about a 12x12 square. After stitching the design and removing the excess stabilizer, I had a hole in the middle (where the design had been stitched) and was usually left with pieces that were *almost* big enough to use but not quite. Since stabilizer is expensive, I saved all those "almost big enough" pieces for potential future use.
It did bother me that it appeared as though I was wasting a LOT of stabilizer. (I did re-create secondary pieces of stabilizer by combining those left-over pieces like a crazy quilt, but that took a bit of time also.)
After thinking upon the dilema, it occured to me .. duh! ... that *only the area inside the hoop* really needed to be stabilized ... everything outside the hoop was excess.
My solution: make a frame to hold the stabilizer!
The instructions below are for my 4x4 hoop. I also have a 5x7 hoop, for which I used the same technique, just altering the measurements of the frame & the stabilizer for the larger hoop.
Step 1: The Frame. I cut a 12x12 square of the non-woven interfacing, then folded it in quarters. I measured the *inside* hoop area of my 4x4 hoop; it was approximately 6x6. From the *folded* corner of the non-woven interfacing, I cut a square 3x3, which resulting in a 6x6 hole smack dab in the middle of my non-woven interacing square. In essence, I made a FRAME of the non-woven interfacing ..... the hole in the middle is where the embroidery is done; the rest of the frame is held secure by the hoop.
I made the frame out of non-woven, sew-in interfacing ... the stuff you would interface garment collars, cuffs and facings with. There's nothing special about it. The brand name I have is Pellon. There are competitor's products that are comparable.
I chose the non-woven interfacing simply because it's sturdy (especially if you can find the heavy duty stuff) and it *doesn't ravel*.
Now, if you can't find a non-woven interfacing, I don't see any reason why you can't use a sturdy fabric. Maybe applying something like Fray Check or Fray Block on all the raw edges would help stop the ravelling problem .. cuz trust me ... as you re-use the frame, those raw edges *will* start to ravel!
Step 2: The Stabilizer. I now always cut the stabilizer 7x7, center over the hole in the frame and machine baste around the perimeter to secure the stabilizer to frame. I don't use spray baste because there is a lot of tension when this is hooped. I don't use pins because I need an even tension all the way around the perimeter. I need the stabilizer to be bigger than the hole because I need the stabilizer to overlap frame so it can be secured.
I now have a single unit: the frame + stabilizer is treated as one.
Step 3: Hoop the Frame/Stabilizer. Treat the Frame/Stabilizer as though it were only stabilizer and hoop it. You will see that only the area inside the hoop actually has stabilizer showing but the non-woven interfacing frame allows it to be stretched taut. This eliminates the excess stabilizer that used to extended beyond the hoop .. *this dramatically cuts down* on the stabilizer waste.
Step 4: Adhere the fabric to the framed stabilizer. If you normally hoop your fabric along with the stabilizer, you can do that at Step 3, but I rarely hoop my fabric any more. I normally "float" my fabric over the hooped stabilizer by using spray baste or pins (depending on the fabric). Not hooping the fabric completely eliminates hoop burn.
So, there you have it. I'm very sure that this technique is not new and although I've not seen it discussed or in a magazine .. I'm also sure that more experienced people have thought of it before. I've probably re-invented the wheel .. but I tell you, I was quite pleased with myself to have thought of it. :-)
The size of my leftover pieces of stabilizer has substantially decreased and the techique has not diminished the quality of the embroidered item.
Additional thoughts to consider: Make several Frames to fit your embroidery design needs.
* You could make a frame with a smaller "window" for those times when you need the 4x4 hoop but the design is much smaller than that.
* When I have a column design where I needed only a narrow strip of stabilizer, I've basted the strip of stabilizer to muslin pieces hooped *that* combination. The muslin isn't sturdy enough to be used as a frequently-used frame, but for a one-time use, it's just fine. To see an example of this, check my Ribbon Label tutorial