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

Jasper

Just had to share this picture of an indignant Jasper. He’s modelling a new bathrobe made by Big Sis for getting him dried off more quickly when he’s been out in the rain/playing in the mud/had a bath. Fleecey outer layer, towelling inner. She told him he wouldn’t have to wear it in public but he’s obviously not convinced.

jasper-coat

 

Big sis’s wip 3 and a gift

A small parcel was ‘tossed’ through our letterbox today. I say ‘tossed’ because it landed at least three feet away from the door and the definition of ‘tossed’ according to one online dictionary is “to throw lightly or with a flourish, especially with the palm of the hand upwards. I can’t quite visualise the postman delivering mail with a flourish but that aside, I think ‘tossed’ is one of those words that deserves to be repeated several times, after which it somehow ceases to have any meaning at all.

Aaaany waaaay…. A big thank you to Big Sis who sent the parcel which contained fancy swanky thread snips. I hadn’t long ago bought replacement snips for about £1 but found them difficult to balance under my thumb due to the narrow blades so I added thumb supports of a sort. I used plastic tubing cut open lengthwise, rolled it around the base of the blades and secured the tube with duck tape. It worked surprisingly well and the snips were much more comfortable to use. My scrap length of elastic landyard kept the snips handy but I’ve been surprised that I haven’t yet snipped myself or my clothing when bending from a seated position to pick up something up from the floor. The new deluxe snips are designed to be hung around the neck when the very secure cover is on but I can see me putting the snips down on my work area and later expecting to find them hanging from the neck cord but they are bright enough to (hopefully) be found quickly.

thread-snips

Latest Footpath to Quarndon wip work done – a few distant fields, trees and hedges.

wip-fields

 

 

a new toy

This post is quite extremely wordy and is all about my new toy, an overlocker, so feel free to leave now!

I’ve considered buying an overlocker for a few years but always baulked at the price since it’s not something that I would use every day or possibly even every week. However….. when I saw that Aldi were selling them recently at a very reasonable price, I paid a visit to my local branch telling JP that it was too good a bargain to miss but I wasn’t surprised to find that they had none. I hadn’t spoken to Big Sis about the Aldi offer so I was happily surprised when a couple of days later, she rang me from her local Aldi’s to say that they were selling overlockers for £130 and did I want one? Of course I did, so she bought one on my behalf (and then went back the same afternoon to buy one for herself). Mine was delivered last Saturday by courier and I’ve been practicing with it every day since I took it out of the box. It’s a 2, 3, or 4 thread Singer,  model 14SH754.

Pros: no raw edges on seams from now on; rolled hems will be a dawdle to achieve; it’s fast; different types of thread give interesting results (much like on a sewing machine); most overlockers work on the same principals so videos online are helpful even if they’re not using your particular model to demonstrate with.

Cons: it’s loud but I’ve heard that said of overlockers in general; threading is neither difficult nor scary but can be a little awkward; increasing static from the overlocker (polyester) thread (I think) is causing me some concern; the instruction manual is basic and all the photo images are black and white only making clarification difficult at times; the book talks about yellow and orange looper threads but threading indicators on the machine itself are yellow and red; the light could be brighter and it would be beneficial if it shone over the stitching area and not mainly to the left of it.

Mrs G’s Handy Hints:

1. The coloured markers I stuck on initially to remind me of the threading paths and order of threading continue to be an excellent idea, particularly when using 4 spools of one colour.

2. I bought only one cone each of ivory and black overlocker thread so I filled empty sewing machine thread spools with overlocker thread using instructions from here but subsequently found that my Janome bobbin winder spindle will hold the spools securely and spin without needing a bobbin attached. When I used the ‘glue a bobbin on’ version using ancient Singer bobbins that were slightly curved at top and bottom, it was difficult to attach them dead-centre on the spool end. Also, when overlocking, the thread sometimes caught on an unseen spot or two of excess glue and the spool then rose up the thread holder in an attempt to escape or the thread stopped feeding through altogether. The bobbin-on-the-base is still a great hack though and might suit you more than it did me.

3. The following videos are just some of the many that I found to be extremely useful and I thank the folk that made them:

http://www.makery.uk/2015/05/serger-series-part-1-anatomy/

http://www.makery.uk/2015/06/serger-series-part-2-threading/

http://www.makery.uk/2015/06/serger-series-part-3-nailing-tension/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9t5UlT4ypA   (Singer instructional DVD in English)

http://www.sewingpartsonline.com/blog/beginners-guide-to-serging-episode-1   (11 episodes in total)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P32AaSlBXAw   (Curves and corners from a series on overlockers and sewing machines)

4. Doing a test piece before overlocking the real thing is Always A Good Idea.

5. Threading the overlocker does requires patience and some dexterity but the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. If the stitches don’t look right, re-thread the machine like you would your sewing machine if the tension was off. It’s all good threading practice if nothing else!

6. The tweezers that came with the overlocker look as if they wouldn’t grip anything in their smooth jaws and Big Sis said she wasn’t keen on them but I think they’re perfect for the job. I have several other pairs of (angled) tweezers but none grip the thread as easily as the ones supplied with the machine.

7. A loop turner is very handy for securing the thread chains at the start and end of a seam. I didn’t have one until two days ago and was instead using a very small crochet hook which was OK in the absence of a turner or the patience to thread a large eye needle with a short chain.

8. I’ve gotten into the habit of turning the tension dials to zero whenever I thread the overlocker but not always remembering to return them to where they were which is another reason why 4. above is important!

*  *  *

Am I happy with my new toy? You betcha! I’ve coped more than adequately without one but it is lovely to be able to finish off raw edges on a machine that’s built for the purpose and to sew a rolled hem without having to use a fancy foot on the sewing machine.

The first thing I ‘made’ was a dust cover, which JP says makes the overlocker look like an old-fashioned shop till. Using 4 threads meant the seams were stitched and overlocked at the same time. I’d show you the beautiful seams but I added a lining too so all the seams are now hidden. I also cnostructed a thread waste pocket using the overlocker (purely as another practice piece since the waterproof fabric doesn’t need to be overlocked) and although it’s a bit rough and ready, the pocket does the job and also stores my accessories bag when I’m done overlocking for the day. A handle from an old Ikea metal basket holds the front open, and additional support is given by two lengths of small diameter plant sticks which lie along the sides of the pocket and are secured under the excess fabric which wraps around a sheet of cardboard. overlocker

overlocker-cover

 

 

new neckline, new sleeves

Two posts in one day – you lucky readers! Way back in August, when I was waxing lyrical about my new sewing light (still fab by the way) I showed a top (smaller image below) I’d made from leftover ponte de roma fabric. I subsequently didn’t like the neckline much. Turtles and tortoises came to mind each time I tried it on so I restyled the neckline to lie flatter with an additional button detail. No piccies of that I’m afraid and not long after I did that, I decided I’d change the neckline again. I’m a woman, go figure.

This is the third and final change – Tee shirt fabric of a lighter weight than the ponte was used for the sleeve cuffs and neck binding with top stitching at raglan seams etc in matching pink thread. The upper sleeves were also re-shaped to give a better fit. I’ve worn it a few times and I’m happy with it. It might seem from the image that one sleeve is shorter than the other but I assure you they are both the same length and the hem is level all round too!pull on top

blue-ponte-roma-top