Clamps that will work for frames

Presently, the frames and tools for rughooking are the expensive imports from the USA/UK or Canada (but we finally getting a few things made here!)  As a result, we in Australia have had to develop a frame that is both locally available and inexpensive for new hookers.

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


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