First, my preferred frame is the Lapstitch Mini or Lapstitch Doodler, both manufactured by Images Stitchery Design. The two are variations on a basic design. I like it for two things: design and functionality. These frames are beautiful wooden standalone stitching frames. They're visually attractive, light-weight, and wonderful to handle. They are also easy to use. The scroll rods have a large fabric strip onto which you attach your fabric. You can baste it on by hand or by machine, thanks to the width of the strip. You can also just pin it on, which I have been known to do more often than not. Stitching is a better way of getting the tension even, but with enough pins, you can get even tension.
I love stitching at a table with this frame. It sits there oh so nicely all on its own, allowing two-handed stitching. I have a nice Daylight magnifier on a base that I can bend over the top, making it even more delightful. (I always, or almost always, use a magnifier. Why suffer for vanity's sake?) When I'm at home, sitting in my preferred spot at the left end of the sofa, where I have a side table on which sits my Daylight tabletop light and magnifier (in case I haven't said it before, Daylight is my favorite brand of light and magnifier for stitching), this frame works beautifully in my lap. I prop one end on the arm of the sofa and the other on my lap and stitch merrily along with both hands. Because the frame is so light, flipping it over to anchor threads is simple and not cumbersome.
Another frame that I like a lot but use less frequently because it isn't quite as self-sufficient, so to speak, is the Handi-Clamp scroll frame. This is a hybrid of the traditional scroll frame and the Q-Snap. Instead of the fabric strip on the rod, there is a clamp like the one used on Q-Snaps. So it combines the best features (to me) of both types of frame: no basting of fabric and easy movement within the piece being stitched. The main drawback with this frame is a functional one. You really need to have a lapstand or floorstand for it to be optimal. While it's possible to stitch without a stand, I find it more cumbersome and more likely to cause hand fatigue in my left hand (I'm right-handed). But if you already have a stand with a universal clamp, this is an excellent choice.
Since I mentioned Q-Snaps, I'll say a little about them. Not a frame that I go to first, second, or even third; but lots of people love this style. It's a four-sided frame, so you control the tension on all sides of your fabric. I find it hard to get my fabric lined up evenly (yes, I'm a tad anal about getting things aligned properly), which drives me nuts when preparing to stitch. Then, there are just a few sizes available, so sometimes you have to move the piece of fabric to get to the next section to be stitched. And you have to go through the whole alignment thing again. Not my cup of tea, but that's me.
Hoops are the most basic type of stitching frame to me. You can get tension all around the area to be stitched pretty easily and can align the fabric within it fairly well. The main drawbacks are hand fatigue and creases from the hoop. Creasing can be reduced (but not eliminated in my experience) by wrapping the bottom part with bias tape or, my preference, that rubbery mesh shelf liner you can get in the grocery store. You have to remove the hoop when you're done stitching to avoid really intense creasing, something I don't always remember to do. If you like hoops, though, my favorite is the Hardwicke Manor hoop. These beautiful wooden hoops feel great in your hand, so smooth. They tighten with a screw, and I highly recommend adding a small screwdriver to your stitching tools so that you can tighten the hoop properly. They're not cheap, but they'll last you a lifetime.
These stitching frames work well with counted thread and surface embroidery primarily, although I know needlepointers who use scrollframes. I'll talk about what I like to use for canvaswork next time, along with lapstands and floorstands.