what if? #2

Using yet another ‘fail’ piece of fabric painting, I placed the cut-out words from what if! #1 underneath and rubbed oil pastels and water soluble wax pastels over them before free machine stitching and couching too. I then roughly cut the piece into strips, and then small squares.

 

This simple six rows of five squares layout used all the squares and that was how I left it overnight.

 

This morning it seemed too safe and boring but more essentially, a pointless exercise if the text couldn’t be read. I also realised that I didn’t need to use all the squares so I selected the text squares, divided some other squares further and settled on this:

It reminds me of graffiti and I like that there are little pieces missing from the text. I also like how I succeeded in turning a fail piece into something I’d be happy to see on my wall.

The painted fabric is blackout curtain lining which doesn’t fray, accepts paint well and stitches through easily. The dark background is cotton sheeting and an additional layer of re-cycled white sheeting was stitched behind that.

what if?

I recently made this small collage piece and thought that if I could see it easily in my workroom and be reminded daily, I might actually challenge myself more often to take a familiar technique several steps further than I currently do. When I have a piece which I consider a fail, I try to work out what has gone wrong and mostly I think it’s my colour choices so even though I have two colour wheels and an Ultimate 3-in-1 Colour Tool within easy reach, and I decide to use colour combinations that compliment each other, what actually ends up on the fabric falls far short of the original expectations. I’ve also always known that putting random colours of paint on fabric and expecting the end result to look fabulous will rarely, if ever work, but I do it time and time again and get the same muddy results or clashing colour combinations each time. I’m never surprised when this happens and I don’t know why I haven’t stopped doing this, but I’m hoping that from now on, seeing my “what if?” collage will be like someone shouting, “STOP! What if you actually think about this before you paint/draw/sew/cut….” Maybe I need several of these collages in strategic places around my workroom. Hmmm.

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Not sure about the heavy border of black soft cord but I think the appliquéd letters are a success. The large piece of painted interfacing the letters were cut from was a fail, but in smaller pieces the poor colour combinations seem more acceptable. I would consider this collage a success but I can’t really explain why. Do you agree? I welcome your opinions and or suggestions for improvement. I’m already working on a second piece using the same letter cutouts but in a different “what if?” manner.

Cotton fabric background coloured with acrylic paints. Letters hand cut from heavy-duty interfacing previously splattered with acrylics, and free-motion stitched to the background. The blue rectangles (painted cotton sheeting scraps) were stitched around the borders using a normal sewing machine presser foot with reduced tension and a very short stitch length. Backing fabric (not shown) of bonded twill fabric.

 

home again

Home again yesterday after three weeks of voluntary maid service to Big Sis following her extremely successful hip replacement operation, and this morning it was strange not to have Jasper greet me with much tail wagging. This was him before he had his coat clipped a few days after I arrived and he seems to be saying “Haircut? What haircut? No-one mentioned a haircut. Is it open to negotiation?”. It wasn’t and he was duly coiffed into a slightly neater version of what he looks like here, but his coat seems to grow so quickly there’s already talk of another trim this weekend.

Sadly, my camera repair is going to cost half as much again as the repair shop assistant suggested it was worth spending on the repair and as I’ve had it six years and camera technology has advanced a little more, I’m looking for a replacement instead. I’ll have to make do with my phone camera for the time being. I just wish I could retain all the phone techy camera stuff I learn from time to time and not have to refer to the internet for refresher lessons each time!

Painting the Roses Red didn’t get stitched at all while I was away except on the journey north, and I haven’t taken any update photos yet. I had also taken some aida fabric and crochet cottons to try blackwork which was a new technique for me. I only had a few colour options but I quite enjoyed the process and found it easier than cross-stitch but doubt that I’ll do much more blackwork in the future. I can’t see myself ever needing a bell-pull or a tray cloth or yet another needle case which were the suggestions in one book.

6 scary chicks

I began making these chicks last December and until yesterday, I still only had two completely finished. I deviated from the original pattern after the first two were made (can’t remember now why) so I have two as per the pattern, and four with varying body shapes and skinny heads, as well as long legs. Let us just refer to them as ‘designer’ chicks and leave it at that. My original idea was to make a couple of dozen of these little birds but I couldn’t shape the wire into a consistent size and shape for the feet/claws even though I’ve made lots of samples. I solved the problem yesterday by making a jig from thick cardboard and pushpins, which I clamped to the edge of the worksurface. The jig turned a chore into a pleasure (almost) and as I had always planned to make a dozen or more of these chicks I now have no excuse not to have them made before Easter – this year.

6-scary-chicks

This image shows the underside of my little jig. I didn’t need four pins in the end but I did add a few more at the other end so that the cardboard wouldn’t crumple at the other end under the pressure of the clamp.

wire-jig

embroidery stand part 2

Others have written reviews about the Lowery Workstand and there are images as well as one or two You Tube videos to boot but there isn’t much detail available regarding the dimensions. I bought my stand from Sewandso.co.uk and apart from limited information in one or two customer reviews, the website gives none at all in any of the product details tabs which is surprising. The Lowery website is not much better. Hopefully my review will fill in some if not all of the gaps.

The first image shows all the pieces: the blue on the base is protective film (attached to both sides) and the assembly sheet recommends that the film be left on the underside ‘to protect your floor covering’ but I can’t see how a thin film alone would be sufficient to do so. The ‘L’ arm resting on the baseplate is the longer one, and the standard one is already inside the main upright which together with the clamp, a large allen key for securing the upright to the base, and the height adjuster, all came shrink-wrapped to a cardboard sheet.

lowery-package

The Lowery base is made from a tough grade of aluminium and the other parts are I think, made from steel.  The ‘L’ bars are solid so I think they’ll stand up to a lot of wear and should not crack under pressure from the lever screw.

The short arm of the standard ‘L’ bar is roughly 6″ (15cm) long and the addition of the clamp arm extends this by approximately 5″ (12.5cm) at most, depending on which point along the ‘L’ bar you choose to secure the screw.  If your sewing chair arm means is wider than 6 inches (15cm approx) then you’ll likely want a wider ‘L’ bar as I did.

The larger ‘L’ bar measures 12″ (30.5cm approx) along the short side and added an extra third to the total cost. The longer side of both ‘L’ bars is approximately 18.25″ (46.5cm). If you sew whilst in a bed, you might need an even bigger ‘L’ bar but the Lowery website states that custom lengths can be ordered.

The main upright is screwed to the base with the supplied allen key and is 19.25″ (49cm) long. The holes that take the height adjuster are 2″ (5cm) apart and the workstand can be adjusted between 20″ and 36″ (50 – 91cm) up and down. The height adjuster (which I would call a split pin) comes with a protective cover for the split end.

The workstand took only a few minutes to put together. The information sheet gives several suggestions to solve any tipping problems caused by the weight of the work, such as putting telephone directories on the base but when I lifted the skirt of the settee cover to check the available gap, there wasn’t enough space for a directory even if I’d had one, so I wedged the stand in place with two spare rubber doorstops which I had handy (don’t you?). So far, this option is working well.

lowery-base

If you want pretty, this stand is not for you. If you want a stand that visitors will admire for its beauty, this stand is not the one to choose. Industrial was what JP called it and I agree, but if like me you appreciate simplicity and good engineering it could be what you’re after. (I suppose you could yarn bomb it to improve the aesthetics.) The hoop/frame clamp is heavy but extremely sturdy and easy to loosen or tighten. I chose to pad my hoop with heavy duty duster cloth plus two scraps of lightweight wood before tightening the clamp to better protect the fabric, any existing stitched areas and the hoop edge. I’m sure it will be well worth it. The red ribbon visible on the neck of the screw has one of those spring-loaded badge holder fitments attached from which hangs a small pair of scissors.

lowery-clamp

This last image shows my working setup from the front. It may not stay this way but so far it’s extremely comfortable and I can keep my reference pictures/book on my lap rather than spread over the settee or coffee table. Unlike some seat stands I’ve used, I don’t have to adapt the Lowery for stitching as a left-hander – a big plus in my book. The scrap wood in the clamp at the front holds my magnifier quite securely and I can easily change the position of the magnifier by moving it along the length of the scrap. I’ve also added two sticky magnets to it to hold needles and a ring at the top of the hoop hold whatever threads I need for the part of the embroidery I’m working on. Out of shot down the side of the settee is the lever screw which keeps the ‘L’ arm in place. The screw is the same as the one on the clamp arm and is easy to loosen or tighten. The only downside is that I keep forgetting to loosen it before swinging the arm away when I want to get out of the chair. When I first used the stand, I had the clamp screw facing upwards, which is incorrect and having rectified it, I can confirm that it’s less in the way when on the underside.

lowery-setup

Overall, I think the Lowery workstand is going to be a winner for me. I like the uncluttered look of my new setup and I won’t have to constantly tighten wingnuts. I should also be able to use the Millennium frame on it and I might even be able to clamp that tapestry I began in the early 1980s and maybe even finish it! I won’t toss my hybrid lapstand just yet as I can’t see the rail network being happy to find a Lowery workstand in the aisle on my journeys to Scotland!

I hope you’ve found this review useful. If you have any questions you think I can answer, leave a comment.

embroidery stand part 1

For more than a year I’ve been using an embroidery stand which is a mixture of parts from a Siesta Sonata seatstand and a Siesta Stitchmaster seatstand because individually, each one had failed in some way. The hybrid has been modified and tweaked as different problems or needs have arisen, but the older it becomes the more it now requires regular first aid of some kind.

lapstand-setup-2

lapstand-setup-4

I prefer a hoop to a frame but gradual hoop droop is a common problem with any stand due to wingnuts frequently slackening, and recent first aid at the point where the horizontal bar and the side arm connect, now prohibits the full pivoting range the bar was previously capable of, thereby restricting access to the underside of the work.  Is it too arrogant of me to suggest that the basic design of the average embroidery stand is the problem, in particular the joints and fitments? Could it be that the designers are mainly people who do not embroider or understand the needs of the embroiderer? (I would be delighted to be proved wrong, so if any manufacturer out there would like to send me any of their stands to test and review, feel free to get in touch!)

As my hotch-potch of a stand could soon require major repairs that I am not capable of undertaking, I began looking for its future replacement using the following criteria:

  1. it should not require a second mortgage to pay for it.
  2. if purchased from overseas, shipping costs should not be almost as much as the cost of the stand.
  3. it should securely hold a hoop or a frame equally well.
  4. I should be able to easily swivel or flip the hoop or frame to access the back of the work.
  5. the height and angle of work should be adjustable.
  6. it should be comfortable and stable on my lap no matter how I sit or which chair I choose.
  7. if a floor stand, it should not dominate the room.
  8. it should be strong and stable but not too heavy.
  9. the joints/bolts/wingnuts should remain firm until I choose to loosen them.
  10. is should be easy to set up and dismantle.

I think my criteria are easily met but after many, many hours of internet browsing and reading as many reviews as I could find, several American makes were excluded due to a high purchase price and or shipping costs or nil deliveries to the UK, as were any lap or seat stands that were designed only for frames. It was becoming depressing. I wondered if I couldn’t design a stand myself. I knew what I wanted, I had pencils and paper…

Over the following weeks I became frustrated at not being able to translate the ideas in my head into any kind of viable reality for “Mrs G’s Ultimate Embroidery Stand” (spoken in the same way as the voice said “Herge’s Adventures of Tin Tin” at the start of the tv programme many years ago). Once or twice I felt I was close to success but a foamboard mini-prototype could only take me so far, foamboard being good, but not that good.  What I really need is an engineer, or a carpenter, who can tune into my brain or interpret my doodles and go “Ah! I know what you want and how to make it”. Sadly, I know that this is unlikely to ever happen so I reconsidered the shortlist and on Tuesday morning succumbed to the little devil on my shoulder and ordered a Lowery Workstand from SewandSo.co.uk. It arrived within a mere 24 hours(!) and I will tell you all about it in part 2.

lowery

 

 

 

 

Kardinal garden 4

Love-in-a-mist (left), English daisies (right), and Ajuga, or Bugleweed, or Blue Bugle, (front middle) now completed.

On the outline sketch illustrating which flowers are where in the completed embroidery, ajuga is listed, but ajuga is not included in the flower glossary of stitch directions. An internet search gave the alternative name of bugleweed, which is how it’s listed in the glossary. Grrrrr. My knowledge of flower names is minimal at best and without the internet search I would likely have assumed that the ajuga stitch instructions had been omitted entirely!

I have several minor complaints about this otherwise excellent book, one of which is that it would have been so simple to include the relevant stitch directions page next to each flower on the sketch layout page. Instead, a search through the alphabetical glossary is necessary each time a new flower is begun, and without an index at the front or back of the book, much time is spent flipping backwards and forwards between pages.

My own solution was to print a copy of the sketch page and on it I noted the relevant stitch directions page number next to each flower. I then also added a sticky tab (with the flower’s name on it) to the edge of the relevant directions page. When I’ve completed a flower, I move the sticky tab to the top of the page. (I don’t remove them completely in case I want to add a bit more later and need to check the thread colour). Sanity restored.

kardindal-garden-4