Blog Posts

Delicate Task of Providing Feedback

How do you assess your fibre art – or that of someone else?
The delicate task of providing feedback
Judi Tompkins 2017 ©

Sooner or later you’ll need to stand back and take a long, hard look at a piece of your own fibre art and assess the good, the bad and the “I gotta rip it out” aspects. Casting a critical eye over your own work is one thing, but what on earth do you say if a group member (often a friend) asks, “give me your honest opinion about my work?”                    

Gulp!

The first response is generally to mumble something generic like, “Gee, that’s really interesting.” Or “I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”  These responses do buy a bit of time but don’t address the problem about of how to offer useful and constructive feedback.

Feedback is important to both give and receive, but it needs to be offered with a bit of thought and reflection in order to be valuable to the recipient. Like most people, I tend to be highly critical of my own work and generally have a good idea about where I went wrong but fail to note where I went right – or where I could improve. It’s  difficult skill to have both a balanced view of my own work and that of others but there are a few general guidelines that help us offer reasonable, useful, balanced comments.

Note: The information offered here is for use by an untrained “judge” in an informal feedback situation and is not intended to represent the criteria used by the professional artist or a judge for a juried fibre / textile event. Most events or exhibitions, whether they be at the CWA or an Art and Craft Show, or a more sophisticated professional gallery exhibition or competition will have well-established, clear judging standards and criterion set in advance. As a result, professional artists and exhibitors are well aware of the standards and criteria they must meet.

Technical Skill Assessment

Try to assess the technical aspects of the piece – technique used, execution, construction – and any other demonstrations of the skill and craftsmanship of the person involved in making, finishing, hanging / installing the piece.

Construction
Caught! At Exhibition in Red Rock Regional Theaatre and Art Gallery (Cororooke, S. Victoria)
  • What kind and quality of backing is used? Is it appropriate for the piece?
  • What fabrics are used in the piece and are they appropriate for the technique used. For example: Perhaps a different yarn or fabric would have been a better choice for a Waldoboro style than what was chosen to achieve a particular result.
  • Does the piece include a label on the back with information about who designed / hooked the piece – copyright information should be included if appropriate; the date and location; the title of the piece if it has one; description of the fabrics used (new/recycled, other specific fibres and embellishments); care and/or hanging instructions.
Technique
  • If the piece is described as being in a particular rug making style, does the piece reflect that style? For example: Waldoboro, primitive, geometric. etc.
  • Does the piece look “good”? Is it clean, well-blocked and hang properly? Rugs for the floor and wall hangings should lie flat and not be hooked so tightly that they curl.
  • Fibre artists / rug makers are often very “touchy” about someone looking at the back of their rug. However, in formal judging situations or if the piece is for sale, the back must be seen.
  • Backing foundation should be well covered so no backing shows through the top. Loops should be an even height unless irregularity is part of the design.
  • Foundation showing underneath is generally unacceptable. The amount of exposed backing will depend on the style and design of the piece.
  • Avoid crossovers of hooked material, this not only looks bad, it sets the piece up for damage and fraying over time, particularly if it is to be used on the floor.
  • Have a neat finish. A number of different finishes may be used and the finish may depend on the work’s style.    
Design / Colour /Planning
  • Colours should be pleasing to the eye. Try to avoid an area “jumping out” at you. Brilliant colours can certainly be used for a desired effect or in keeping with the  general style. This can be very subjective and depends on the subject and design of the work. It may be intentional that a colour is used the way it is.
Artistic Considerations

Various galleries, art / craft shows and competitions generally have well-established  criteria that must be met before pieces can accepted for juried shows. Even if you are not a “professional” artist you can still learn a lot from looking at the established guidelines, standards and criteria that have been set for exhibitors within a particular venue.

Below is a Juror’s Statement (used with permission) by Jane Dunnewold (www.artcloth.com), President of the Surface Design Association. Jane prepared this statement for the 7Stitch Exhibit of Kentucky region members of Surface Design, held at the Claypool-Young Gallery at Morehead State College, Morehead, Ky , summer 2013.

I select work for an exhibition based on the following criteria:

Freshness. Yes, everything has been done, and yet we keep on doing it. What makes the piece a fresh version of something seen before? Maybe color, pattern or an unexpected, surprising element. Maybe materials used a new way. If a piece is fresh, it makes me forget the versions I’ve seen previously;  I  look at the piece on the screen and see something new.  

Tall Ship “Tenacious” docked in Belgium (ship photo and rug); 26 x 28 recycled wool blankets, alpaca/mohair yarns, sari silk, sculpted, hooking Adaptation with image of original ship

 

Coherence. The parts work together. Every element is important. Otherwise, the composition/combination doesn’t make sense to the viewer. This is an area that usually benefits from distance, analysis, and selective elimination.

Workmanship. I propose a distinction between workmanship and technical proficiency. Technical proficiency is how good you are at something. Workmanship reflects the intention behind the work. In other words, a piece may look sloppy to an unappreciative eye, but further evaluation proves that refining workmanship could compromise the message. It’s a paradox. Sloppy isn’t good; but it might be – if it’s deliberate and suited to the content.

Delight. You know it when you feel it. Admiration! A perfectly organized composition. Spot on use of color. Humour. Quirkiness. Evidence the artist’s decisions were consistently guided by making the most elegant choice. Elegant as in: perfect for the piece.

Note from Jane: In this exhibition, each piece I selected fulfilled at least two of the above criteria. Sometimes freshness trumped workmanship, and sometimes workmanship trumped freshness. Coherence had to be there; not negotiable. Delight is personal. That’s reality. Rarely do all criteria meet effortlessly on one surface. It’s elusive, but it happens.

Thinking about taking a rug workshop?

Both one-on-one and group instruction are important

Rughooking activities are on the rise (finally!) in Australia and many of us are discovering that there are workshops available.  It can be a bit daunting to sign up for a craft workshop if you’ve never taken one before – particularly on a new craft. So,  what exactly should you look for or expect from a workshop and the instructor, especially if you are paying for it?

Before you commit yourself to taking – and paying for – a workshop session, give some thought to why you want to take it and what you hope to take away from the session. We most often decide to attend workshops and training sessions because we expect to expand on, or improve on our existing knowledge or skills.

Make sure the workshop you want can deliver what you expect. If you’re unclear, contact the instructor to clarify your questions. I know this is stating the obvious – and it is! However, many people set themselves up for failure or disappointment because they didn’t get the details about the skill level needed, what they would do or take away from the session.

So, here are some common sense guidelines you might like to use before you sign up to your next workshop.

 

Group at Landsborough Historical Museum

Questions to ask and answer:

  • Do you know – or have you heard about – the workshop facilitator? If you don’t know anything about them, have a search on the Internet to see if they have a website that describes who they are and what they do. Most people who teach workshops do them as part of their business and so will probably have a website. What kind of fibre art / textile art / rug work do they do? Do you like their style? Most workshop instructors don’t teach everything but focus on their particular area of interest or expertise. Do you know anyone else who has attended their workshop? If you can, try to get some word-of-mouth insight about the workshop facilitator before you make your decision. Sometimes you’ll hear that the workshop information was “great” but the instructor / facilitator was the “wrong person” to teach it!  Or that the instructor was good one-on-one but couldn’t manage the group. Then you will need to make a decision on what you are willing to trade-off.

  • Do you really need to pay for a workshop?Or could you simply answer a simple question through an Internet search or by watching an online demonstration or explanation? Money is tight for all of us, so target your training dollars on skills and information you can only get from a hands-on workshop.  The social aspect of training is also important and you may decide it is worth the money just to meet others at a session – a valid reason. Just be sure you have thought about your choice before paying for your sessions.
  • Who is the target audience for the workshop? Experienced hookers? Beginner hookers (with some experience)? General public/novice hookers (never held a hook before)? Be sure you are at the right skill level for any session you take. Otherwise you set yourself up for failure or disappointment.

·       What is the workshop focus?What is the title? What kind of workshop session are you expecting? A planning workshop? Designing? Hands-on hooking? Learn a specific technique or project?  Is the topic of the workshop narrow and well-focused?  If it is too broad, you may not receive the one-on-one help you want and need.

      Be wary of workshops that don’t limit the number of participants. The workshop teacher may have enough assistants so everyone gets individualized help…but often the teacher-student ratio is too high for a workshop and you are really attending a demonstration. A good rule of thumb – depending on the topic of the workshop – is one-to-six when learning a skill. Many more than that can be accommodated at a demonstration.  Ask the instructor what the ratio is when you sign up.  

But be sure there is adequate time for group interaction – after all, meeting others is also what many are looking for at a workshop.

Be wary too of sessions that attempt to cover too much; especially introductory workshops. There is a lot of groundwork to do and material to cover: “information overload” is not a good first experience and does not constitute “value for money”. An over-prepared teacher will keep you coming back.

  • How long is the workshop? Half-day? Full-day? Weekend?

Adequate time should ensure every member of the workshop can achieve each stage being taught. You should be able to complete – or nearly finish – whatever is planned for the session. I know some people “get it” quicker than others but a good workshop plans for that. What will you do if you finish early? Some workshop instructors will offer another small activity, but if they don’t, consider offering to help someone else – unless the instructor doesn’t want you to! Sharing knowledge and skills with others is all part of the craft philosophy.

·       What is included in the workshop fees and what must you bring? Lunch? Morning/afternoon tea? Are tea and lunch breaks provided on site or BYO? Will you bring food for a shared lunch? If you must leave the site for breaks or lunch do you know the nearest location? Or is there a map? What supplies are included? Are you expected to buy materials at the session? What will they cost and how can you pay? CASH? Credit Card?

  • Did you do and achieve the workshop goals? You will have to answer this for yourself? Was the session value for money?

More about the Simplicity rotary cutting machine

A number of people have asked about the Simplicity cutting machine after one of my recent posts. It is available at some – but not all – Spotlight stores and is probably available through patchwork shops since it was designed to be used by this craft.

A cutting machine can certainly speed up your work pace but trying to get good first hand information about how machines work – and how well they do what they say they do – can be quite difficult.

Recently, I was sent some great information from Western Australian rugger, Shelley Pinnell who writes about her experience with the Simplicity cutting machine (sold primarily for use by quilters).

Shelley says…..

I first bought the Simplicity machine to do patchwork with, but I found that it’s difficult to cut the strips really accurately, which is essential for most patchwork. When I recently decided to try rug making ( long arm quilting is my ‘business’ so it’s nice to do something crafty but different to relax!), I thought of trying the machine to cut the strips with because I have osteoarthritis in my hands and shoulders, so can’t cut for too long with scissors or rotary cutter. (My friend bought me a book on rug making and it explained about using rotary cutters and scissors, and about the purpose made cutters. Expensive!).

Here are a few of my observations using the Simplicity machine:

1. The blade of the machine is not sharp like a rotary cutting blade – the blade cuts the fabric by the pressure of the metal plate under the blade. It’s important to make sure you tighten the screw underneath the blade with a screwdriver, or the machine won’t cut at all. I orientated my screw head at 10 o’clock.
Be sure to buy extra blades for your machine.

2. I’ve cut strips 3/8″ wide – the smallest cut it will do – from old wool and wool/other fibre mix clothing from an op shop. I’ve found the more cutting I do, the more accurate I’m getting, but if it’s not perfect, it won’t really matter for a floor rug. It will cut strips up to 2 3/4″ wide.

3. I have found I need to tighten the upper black screw after 3 or 4 cuts as it loosens whilst the machine is cutting the fabric. It only takes a second to tighten it as it’s a hand screw, unlike the one beneath ( the one mentioned in point 1 ) which needs a screwdriver.

4. I found it’s also important to keep your eye on the guide plate slot where you feed the fabric in – keeping this level also helps accuracy, rather than watching the blade.

5. With the choices of fabric, I’ve cut 100% wool and wool blend successfully. The fabric feed easily into the guide plate slot, which means thick fabrics would not work. I’ve cut up several jackets and a dress, and the weight varied, but all fed into the machine easily. One herringbone patterned wool fabric had some slightly thicker areas but I managed to push them a bit with my fingers as I was guiding it through the guide. I tried a fleece fabric ( my daughter is doing a proddy rug!) and that didn’t feed into the guide too well. Old flannel pajama fabric needed two layers as it was a bit thin to cut cleanly. One fine knitted fabric was too difficult to cut at all – the strip wound itself around the blade inside before I could grab it behind the machine!

6. I’m not sure how long the blades last, but so far I’ve cut about 20 ounces of strips. The other important thing I’ve found is to clean the machine after a while because the fabric ‘dust’ accumulates on the metal bed, around the blade wheel and the compartment below the blade ( that’s what that’s for, to catch bits). I’ve also got a pinking blade but I’ve not used that yet.

7. You can buy a table that fits around the machine to support the fabric being cut. I haven’t got one yet, so I just use some DVD cases to the same height. I think this helps keeping the fabric flat as it feeds through the machine.

It’s a machine worth looking at if you need reasonably accurate strips and you have physical limitations like me.

Thank you for your encouragement in my beginning journey with rug hooking! Shelley

****

Thank you Shelley for taking the time to write to me and detail your experience with this cutter. If you want to see one of these machines “in person” so if your Spotlight shop doesn’t carry it,  you can send them a note through their online shop to let them know you would like a demonstration of the machine through your local shop. I believe that JoAnn Fabrics also carries this rotary cutter.

You can find more reviews of this cutter at: Craft Tool Review

http://www.crafttestdummies.com/craft-product-reviews/craft-tool-review-rotary-cutting-machine-by-simplicity/

Hope this is useful.

Judi

Simple, inexpensive frame for beginners

Those of us who are teaching and promoting this wonderful craft try very hard to keep the cost down for new hookers. Thanks to  Robin Inkpen (Donnybrook Hookers) in WA we have a  great idea for a simple, inexpensive and very workable frame for new hookers.

Step 1:  Buy an artist canvas at your local craft/discount shop.

Step 1 New Artist canvas

 

Step 2: The canvas needs to secured to the back of the frame. This canvas strip will help to hold the frame together so add enough staples to secure the full length of the strip.

Artist Canvas stapled at back 2

 

Step 3: Flip the canvas over and staple along the outer edge before you remove the centre of the canvas. You should now have a stapled strip of canvas on the front and back of the frame to provide structural support.

Canvas removed from centre 3

 

Step 4: Lay the frame on top of a square of prepared hessian. You may wish to draw your design on the hessian before you move on to Step 5.

Canvas cut out with hessian 4

Step 5: Fold and stretch the hessian tightly over the fame and staple securely.

Hessian covered frame from back 5

 

Step 6: You’re finished! You can start your next project with a quick and inexpensive frame. If you need more tension, simply re-staple the fabric as you need.

Hessian Tacked to frame from front 6

Many thanks to Robin for a great idea!

Judi

 

Strathalbyn, SA – Rug Expo

Do you “up-cycle”? Learn how to turn your fabric stash into wearable art, decorator items and more using traditional and contemporary techniques.

Places are still available for the workshops next month (Oct. 11 & 12) in Strathalbyn, SA.

Fibre artists  who are all members of both the International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers (TIGHR) and the Australian Rugmakers Guild (ARG) will meet in “Strath” to offer you an interesting weekend of workshops, discussions, and great company!

Don’t miss on your chance to learn this craft or expand   your current skills

Click the links for workshop descriptions.

STRATHALBYN RUG HOOKING EXPO

Saturday & Sunday, 11 & 12 October 2014

Town Hall, High St. Strathalbyn, South Australia

All welcome

Workshops available

  1. Waldoboro (3D)/ Sculptural hooking; Judi Tompkins Profile Workshop Description
  2. Hooking an A3 sized facial portrait from a photograph; Portrait Workshop Chris Noorbergen
  3. Fibre Sculptures; Maggie Whyte Artist Profile & class description
  4. Braiding Techniques; Kathleen Smith & Barbara Philllips Profile and Workshop Description
  5. Proddy;   Miriam Miller
  6. Punchneedle Hooking; Jacqui Thomson Profile & Workshop Description
  7. Dyeing Safely in the Kitchen;  Joy Marshall Class Description
  8. Traditional rug hooking; Jo Franco Profile & Workshop Description
  9. Toothbrush rug making;  Judith Stephens Profile & Workshop Description

 Beginners Welcome – tools/supplies provided.

For bookings, please email rugcraftersaustralia@yahoo.com.au or phone 08-8536-3451
You can also go to the Current Calendar tab of www.rughookingaustralia.com.au for workshop and instructor profiles.

More about “that” cutting machine

G’day!

I’ve had a range of emails and comments regarding the cutting machine mentioned in my last post and I thought I’d try to summarise what I’m hearing.

The few people who have purchased/used it have complained that the blades dull quickly (and so don’t cut) or that the cutter doesn’t cut a straight strip.

A few thoughts (and I have not used this machine or even seen it demonstrated although I may ask the next time I’m in Spotlight):

Whenever you buy any product that uses disposable parts, whether it is a battery, gasket, bulb or cutting wheel, it seems sensible to me to order several (or even a quantity) when you buy the product. This is particularly important when it might be a “hard to find” or unusual part. So….don’t expect a cutting blade to last “forever and ever”.

My understanding is that this cutter is for – and used by – people who are quilters and scrapbookers. With that it mind I can understand why it is so important to cut an accurate and straight piece of fabric/paper. However, for those cutting wool or other fabric for hooking, a slight variation doesn’t really matter…unless of course you are a hooker who demands a perfect cut…a cut that is still pretty difficult to achieve with a pair of scissors or a cutting mat. It’s up to you.

Finally, even with the expensive fabric cutting/wool splitting machines that we can buy from O/S the fabric used is always an issue and has an impact on the cutting consistency and how quickly the blades can dull.  With these expensive machines the general recommendation is that you only cut wool or fabric that is mostly wool since, wool doesn’t dull the blades as quickly  and the machines are not designed to cut lightweight synthetics or other fabrics. (Remember..I’m speaking in generalities here).

Things it would be interesting to know:

1. Can this machine cut wool? What weight?

2. Does cutting synthetic fabric dull the blades faster than wool?

3. Does another sewing machine company other than Singer make a machine like this?

OK….I don’t want to give up on this cutter too quickly if it has the potential to cut certain fabrics in narrow strips,

Judi

Alternative Cutting Machine?

After you have been hooking projects for a while, many of you are tired of using scissors or the cutting mat and rotary cutter, after all “I just want to hook – not cut!”

If you are faced with this frustration and tempted to buy a fabric cutter (also called a fabric/wool splitter) from one of the overseas, online shops you are confronted with the obvious drawbacks about the cost (international shipping alone is very expensive for an already expensive machine) and how to decide “which one” you want to buy (particularly since parts and maintenance must also come from overseas).

I have noticed – but hadn’t found anyone who used one until recently – that there is a fabric cutting machine made by Simplicity  for sewers/quilters and it is available in Australia from places like Spotlight, Lincraft and online.

According to the Simplicity information, the machine:

Cuts fabric, paper, canvas, and more by pressure
Adjustable guide for cutting strips from 3/8″ to 2 1/4″
Lightweight for easy portability
Blades will last longer than traditional rotary blades
Eases the strain on wrists, especially when you have 100’s of strips to cut (such as cutting strips for rug hooking
Ships with straight blade and pinking blade

Here is a YouTube video of what this machine looks like and how it works.

The promotion says that it will cut “canvas” but I don’t know what that means….I wouldn’t be surprised if it would cut lightweight wool but I don’t know about heavy blankets. It might be worth checking on if  you want a cutting machine for your projects.

As with anything that requires blades, I suggest you order a quanity of them when you buy your machine because these machines probably don’t have long-lived blades.

I hope this helps!

Judi

Finally…after a long break

G’day to all!

Sorry for the long break in writing my blog, and I thank you for your patience! I thought I would bring you up-to-date on a few of the projects I’ve managed to finish and I’ll update you on what the “Sunshine Coast Rug Crafters” have been doing.

This commission piece went to the USA and my second piece of bespoke "fibre taxidermy" ! The piece is 74cm (29in) x 54cm (21in) and is heavily sculpted (the dog is 3 1/2in thick or 9cm), The couch, blue ball (just edging into frame) and the piece of furniture in the background are all sculpted as well to varying depth. The piece was made with Alpaca, Sheep and Mohair rovings; recycled wool blankets; knitting yarns; beads and buttons. And Yes...that is a cockroach on the couch! The man who commissioned this for his wife is a real prankster (he's a pediatrician)and tends to make and leave fake bugs/spiders at friends' homes! So...I thought I would include his "signature" for his wife...neither he nor she knows I have done this! (A number of people have suggested that I "lose the roach" but I couldn't! Since this is a bespoke piece that has meaning only to the people it was created for....so.....the "bug" has meaning to them....doesn't matter what I think! I was however able to NOT include a rather hedious lemon yellow/bubble gum pink toy octopus that they sent a swatch of fabric from...I made a replica of the toy and put it (tentatively) on the piece to see if they wanted it (It looked horrible!) and within hours they said to leave it off (whew!)....but they DID want me to send the toy with the piece! So, there is no accounting for what makes folks happy!)
This commission piece went to the USA and my second piece of bespoke “fibre taxidermy” ! The piece is 74cm (29in) x 54cm (21in) and is heavily sculpted (the dog is 3 1/2in thick or 9cm), The couch, blue ball (just edging into frame) and the piece of furniture in the background are all sculpted as well to varying depth. The piece was made with Alpaca, Sheep and Mohair rovings; recycled wool blankets; knitting yarns; beads and buttons. And Yes…that is a cockroach on the couch! The man who commissioned this for his wife is a real prankster (he’s a pediatrician)and tends to make and leave fake bugs/spiders at friends’ homes! So…I thought I would include his “signature” for his wife…neither he nor she knows I have done this! (A number of people have suggested that I “lose the roach” but I couldn’t! Since this is a bespoke piece that has meaning only to the people it was created for….so…..the “bug” has meaning to them….doesn’t matter what I think! I was however able to NOT include a rather hedious lemon yellow/bubble gum pink toy octopus that they sent a swatch of fabric from…I made a replica of the toy and put it (tentatively) on the piece to see if they wanted it (It looked horrible!) and within hours they said to leave it off (whew!)….but they DID want me to send the toy with the piece! So, there is no accounting for what makes folks happy!)

 

Cotton, tab-top curtains dyed using Scribbly Gum Bark.
Cotton, tab-top curtains dyed using Scribbly Gum Bark.
This 12" x 15" piece was a two-day project made for a gallery show in South Australia..the theme was "Botanicals"....two trees are made with Scribbly-gum bark-dyed cotton and the "rocks and flowers" are slightly Waldobored with wools and panti-hose.
This 12″ x 15″ piece was a two-day project made for a gallery show in South Australia..the theme was “Botanicals”….two trees are made with Scribbly-gum bark-dyed cotton and the “rocks and flowers” are slightly Waldobored with wools and panti-hose.

 

I originally made this piece to enter in a competition that was to be a travelling exhibition ...theme was "living colour" and the pieces had to hang vertically, be of a specific dimension and had to have a hanging pouch in order to be hung (and I really hate hanging pieces this way!). I had the piece finished about the time my husband became ill (and subsequently died) so I just dropped the project. I never did like the "rules" that were imposed on the piece but I also don't like leaving projects undone...so this weekend I framed the piece. "Migration" is a beach seen as a small plane flies up the beach...so you see whales migrating up the coast and people who have migrated to the beach. The hooked piece is 16' x 38" (41cm x 96cm) - which is a cm larger than the "rules" said it could be...and you guessed it, when I put an exterior frame on it it's so big I could hardly find a place to hang it...nevermind get a good photo! The frame makes the overall size 34" x 48in (85cm x 124cm)! I deliberately didn't center the piece in the frame...and I've started to tie a few things on the seaward side that you might find in the deep ocean (abalone, coral...and I'm still adding things); shells,bones and driftwood are tied on the "washed up on the beach" side. Not sure I like it very much - particularly don't like the corners and would never have made corners if I were doing this again. The piece was made from knitting yarns; buttons for beach umbellas; seeds for driftwood; and the rocks are Waldoboro sculpted with "sand" in the cracks. The "people" and "surfboards and boats" are made with beads.
I originally made this piece to enter in a competition that was to be a travelling exhibition …theme was “living colour” and the pieces had to hang vertically, be of a specific dimension and had to have a hanging pouch in order to be hung (and I really hate hanging pieces this way!). I had the piece finished about the time my husband became ill (and subsequently died) so I just dropped the project. I never did like the “rules” that were imposed on the piece but I also don’t like leaving projects undone…so this weekend I framed the piece. “Migration” is a beach seen as a small plane flies up the beach…so you see whales migrating up the coast and people who have migrated to the beach. The hooked piece is 16″ x 38″ (41cm x 96cm) – which is a cm larger than the “rules” said it could be…and you guessed it, when I put an exterior frame on it it’s so big I could hardly find a place to hang it…nevermind get a good photo!
The frame makes the overall size 34″ x 48″ (85cm x 124cm)! I deliberately didn’t center the piece in the frame…and I’ve started to tie a few things on the seaward side that you might find in the deep ocean (abalone, coral…and I’m still adding things); shells,bones and driftwood are tied on the “washed up on the beach” side. Not sure I like it very much – particularly don’t like the corners and would never have made corners if I were doing this again. The piece was made from knitting yarns; buttons for beach umbellas; seeds for driftwood; and the rocks are Waldoboro sculpted with “sand” in the cracks. The “people” and “surfboards and boats” are made with beads.

Judi

Frame Clamps – again!

Reminder about which clamps work best on some of the frames.

Rughookers in Australia tend to use a wide range of fabrics, yarns, rovings and whatever comes to hand, which means that the much favoured – and very expensive – “gripper” frame is not very practical for those just starting out.

For example, this Puritan frame uses gripper strips with wire brush-like spines (like a dog grooming brush only stronger) to secure the fabric. "Puritan" frame with gripper stripsThese gripper-style frames (and there are many, many styles at many, many prices available on the Net, but in the end they all rely on this gripper system to maintain fabric tension needed for hooking). The gripper frames are great and I love the ones I use BUT they can really cause problems if you hook with non-wool, fabric strips!

If you use delicate fabrics, knitting or novelty yarns, pantyhose, silks or other lightweight materials, you’ll find that your stitches pull out when you attempt to reposition the fabric on the frame, unless you are very, very, very careful.

If you do a lot of Waldoboro style hooking – like I do – then you’ve also experienced my frustration of suddenly “losing” something  I’ve just carefully hoved and sheared!

What to do?

Those of us working with new hookers have been encouraging them to consider using one of the inexpensive frames being made in QLD, SA and NSW – or even make it themselves! (The PVC type frame is very easy to make and doesn’t need glueing).  At this writing, only one lap frame sold in OZ uses gripper strips; the others are either timber – or tubular PVC  – lap frames.

When you use a non-gripper frame, you secure the fabric to the frame using a clamp of some sort. It is particularly important that the clamp is easy to use; easily opened with one hand;  is inexpensive; reliable and won’t damage the fabric.

Over the last few months, I have scoured the Hinterland of the Sunshine Coast and endlessly surfed the Net in an effort to find what I think are the best (for now) clamp options for hookers using embroidery hoops or lap frames (timber or PVC) without gripper strips.

For the Hoops…my best find is the Eagle brand 100mm (4″) Spring Clamps (Cat. no.  C 174010) which costs about $3.50/each. I suggest you use at least 3 to hold your hoops together while you hook (placed roughly in a 12-4-7 position). Some people have been using bulldog clips or other large round paper fasteners but they are difficult to use on the thickness of timber + hooked fabric, and they generally don’t open far enough. The Eagle clamps will easily open wide enough to allow you to grip both fabric and timber, with the added benefit that you can work the clamp with one hand. Since these clamps are metal they also won’t break if you drop them.

Eagle Brand Spring Clamps (100mm or 4")....you need at least three to stablise a hoop for hooking.

For the lap frames, the Eagle brand 150mm (6″) spring clamp (Cat. no. C 174020) wins hands-down when compared with the cheaply made plastic clamps (black/orange) that are commonly found in the major discount shops and hardware stores.  This larger clamp is surprisingly easy to open with one hand and its “mouth” is large enough to accommodate both the timber and the worked fabric.  I suggest that you need a minimum of 6 of these clamps and 8 is probably better (so you can have the extra tension if you need it).

Eagle Spring Clamp fully openFrom Mitre 10 (that’s where I ordered them) these clamps cost $4.20-$4.50.

Eagle 150mm (6") Spring Clamp; Catalog number C174020There is another spring style clamp (2/$3) that I was able to find at a few of the discount hardware shops. They are similar to Eagle’s product but are yellow instead of blue and are made with a lighter weight metal but will work well and are easy to use.

Sprng Clamp (Bonkers/Dollar shop) yellow handles fully openFor those of you who have tubular PVC lap frames, you may find that round-style paper clamps simply don’t maintain a good tension on the fabric.  If that’s the case, consider using some of the sheet rubber (like used in cupboards to keep dishes from sliding around) and put a layer of this material on the frame before you add your fabric; the clamp should grip better. You can also use this rubber fabric on timber lap frame if the fabric slips or loosens.

I think the Eagle spring clamps – rather than paper fasteners – will work well (and probably better) on the round PVC frames, just as they do on the timber frames.

Keep in mind that most hardware shops will order in the clamps for  you if they don’t carry them so you aren’t forced to use the extremely difficult to open and use, black and orange plastic clamps that seem to prevail at most shops.

I hope this helps!

Judi

I’m back finally…

Thanks to all of you for your patience during that last few months of my “silence”. Those of you who know me personally know that my husband died a few weeks ago after a short illness.

I will take another week or so to finalise some things but will be back “online” early in May. Fibre art, rughooking and this wonderful rughooking community will serve as a positive  focus for my energies.

Thanks to all of you for your patience, care, concern and support over these last difficult months.

Judi