Friday, October 25, 2013

Hacks, Semi-Hacks, and Good Ideas

     I tinker with things. I can't help it--sometimes it's necessary to mess with something to make it more efficient, or to make something more useful. These have picked up the inelegant name of "hacks." The word "hack" originally meant to cut something into pieces. It began to be used as a noun in the 1980s by computer people to refer to a piece of computer code. Since that time, the word has been attached to nearly everything that people tinker with to make more useful.
A Finnvard trestle studio stand
     There's an entire group of hacks that center on what one can do with furniture from IKEA, the well-known Swedish home furnishing chain. IKEA furniture--especially the cheaper, flat-pack stuff favored by college students--is great for hacking: it's cheap, plain, and modular. In many ways, it's the ground beef of home furnishings, and can be turned into a lot of different things.
     A lot of what's in the studio started off at IKEA: my work table/desk is a Gerton tabletop with Adils legs and a hutch (no longer available); a Finnvard adjustable trestle serves as a stand for my hand bobbin winders, my umbrella swift, my combs, or my hackle, depending on what I'm doing; an umbrella stand makes really good storage for yard sticks, long stick shuttles, and my monopod; while a partially-opened Bjursta extendable table is just the right size and height to be a stand for my table loom. The studio stays organized because I have a large collection of small wooden drawer sets and rattan baskets, all from IKEA. It's safe to say that my studio decor is "early IKEA," mostly because I can turn basic furnishings into what I need.
     The latest IKEA hack is a reed stand and additional storage. A stand for loom reeds--especially long reeds--is essential, as they will bend if not stored without weight on them. They're also horribly expensive: a decent reed stand (without additional storage) ranges from $250 to $400. I needed a better, less expensive solution.
The IKEA Ivar reed stand
     I cannot take credit for this idea: the original hack was by a woman on Ravelry who posted a picture of what she did with some unwanted IKEA furniture that had belonged to her college-age offspring. I liked it, but thought I could take it a bit further by using the taller version of the same shelving. The result is a seven-foot tall, skinny set of shelves above a reed stand that fits behind the door of the studio. This IKEA hack took the following materials (total cost about $65):

--2 84" Ivar bookcase ends
--5 Ivar 19" shelves
--1 Optimator stablizer
--2 19" long 1x3" pieces of pine
--4 36"x3/8" wooden dowels
--4 1 5/8" wood screws

My reeds (and some sticks),
all properly stored
It was a pretty easy task to assemble the Ivar bookcase, leaving a 48" gap between the bottom shelf and the next shelf. Once the bookcase was assembled, the real work began. I took each of the 1x3s and marked where I needed the dowels to go. After marking, I drilled holes most of the way through the 1x3s for the dowels (I used a drill press to get the holes the right depth), then cut the dowels into 6" lengths with the cutoff saw. Once that was done, it was a simple matter to tap the dowels into place with a mallet. The 1x3s are attached to the uprights for the bookcase at 15" and 30" from the bottom with the wood screws. The entire project only took a couple hours, and I have a reed stand with shelves above for various cans of oil, lube, starch, and air, my warping tools, my combs, and (at the very top) stuff I rarely use. Behind the reed stand are my two tallest (56") reeds: I decided that this was a better way to store them, rather than make the reed stand taller and need a step ladder to reach the shelves.
     All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how my new reed stand & storage turned out: my reeds are safe, I have more storage space (which filled up quickly), and I had a good time working with a bunch of power tools.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

East Bay Mini-Maker Faire

Our display table. Bea, Cookie, and me, getting
ready to start teaching.
     What do you get when you cross a science fair, a county fair, and a clean, G-rated version of Burning Man? You get Maker Faire. The brain-child of those crazy individuals at MAKE magazine, the first Maker Faire was held in the San Franciso Bay Area in 2006. Since that time, it's grown to 2 large Maker Faires (Bay Area and NYC), about 60 smaller, one-day "Mini Maker Faires," and a couple of international Maker Faires.
     Sunday, October 20 was the 4th East Bay Mini-Maker Faire (EBMMF), one of the oldest and largest of the one-day "minis." As Spindles and Flyers (one of my two spinning guilds) has been active in the Maker movement, and has done something at every EBMMF since the start, a small group of us showed up on Sunday morning to teach spinning on drop-spindles made out of dowels, cup hooks, rubber grommets, and used CDs. We worked hard, we taught a lot of people (around 200 people by my estimate), and we had fun.
     The Mini is a good warm-up for the big Maker Faire in May (May 17-18, 2014): I found we need a lot of space for teaching, and I'm toying with the idea of setting up a "restricted space" to demonstrate some fiber arts techniques that aren't as "kid friendly" as drop spindle spinning.

Step One: Getting the fiber ready to spin.
That's me, running the drum carder.

Step Two: Spinning. Lorah is demonstrating
how to draft to a young spinner.

Step Three: Plying. Jill is helping a young spinner
turn her spun yarn into a 2-ply yarn.