Friday, February 26, 2010

Still Winding

Who knew that beam winding was such hard work? By the end of the day I was completely exhausted, more than if I had been weaving. It's taking me about 30 minutes per section for a variety of reasons:
- There should be a screen above the cones so the threads don't whip around each other and tangle in the eight feet up to the reed.
- A real tension box would make it easier to aim the threads into the sections
- It would go faster if I had plenty of yarn and could grab another cone when a thread runs out instead of having to wind cardboard cylinders from that point forward for every missing thread.

It's time to drink some coffee and steel myself for a long day of threading. At least I chose a sensible pattern: a simple pointed draft with a repeat that matches the number of threads per section. This will make it easier to catch mistakes.

(Sorry for the flash photos today. It's pouring rain and very dark outside. Natural light makes such a difference!)

[The colors look great!]

[Almost done! Just 5 sections left]

[Not much yarn left]

[Cone replacements]

There's a simple way to handle it when a cone runs out of thread. I grab another cone that has plenty left and wind cardboard tubes with replacement thread. These go onto a cone rack, feeding smoothly into the mix.

The problem with this is that it's time consuming. The more cones I lose, the more time I spend winding little tubes. In the future, I'll make sure I have plenty of thread before I start winding.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Warping Photos

Today's post is a series of photos to show how I get 1200 threads under tension onto the loom without tangling. This is my first time winding a full-width beam or winding 75 yards of thread, so I invented the specifics of this system yesterday morning.

The 60" beam is divided into 30 2" sections. That means I only need to handle 40 threads at a time. (Only!? Ha!)

[40 cones feed 40 threads at once]

[From the top of the cones through a reed hung from the ceiling. Notice the truckload of black cloth awaiting delivery...]

[Then they go down through a raddle]

[And into the homemade tension box. This device ensures that all threads are under the same tension when they reach the loom.]

[Aren't they pretty?]

[The first hour's work.]

After creating and setting up this whole system yesterday, I wound 10 sections, 1/3 of the beam. Today I'll finish the other 20 sections and head back into familiar territory: threading.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Own Design

[The brown warp threads, arranged roughly in order]

This week marks an important milestone in the development of my weaving. It's the first time winding my own full-width beam to produce my first line of merchandise.

Before I start, though, it's important that I know where I'm going. Computers are amazing. With the software that I use, I can visualize in great detail what my finished cloth will look like. I can test my design with various plied weft threads and see an accurate picture of the result.

The software is called Arahweave, and it's the Rolls Royce of weaving CAD software. You need to have a Linux workstation to run it, but the demo version is FREE! The demo doesn't save files, but it can export images. When I have the money, I will certainly be buying this program, but at over $2,000 it's not an expense to take lightly.

If you try Arahweave, expect a steep learning curve. It can do way more than other weaving CAD programs once you learn how. In the beginning, however you're going to wish you could save your work because it takes hours to create anything like what you want. In the end, the accuracy of the result makes it extremely worthwhile, especially if you're doing production. It's much easier to spend the money to wind a 150-yard beam knowing that the finished cloth is going to be what you want. I'll write a whole review of Arahweave one day, but today let me just show you the plan for my first production-scale cloth and a few of the weft combinations I've tested.

[The plan]

[Two-tone dark weft]

[Two-tone light weft]

[Three-tone green weft]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day and Night

[Clothes by Wonder. Photo by Wonder.]

I'm slowly ticking off the todo list items as my first faire approaches. Yesterday, along with weaving, I took some time off to hang out in the sun, chat with friends, and try on garb. Thank goodness Wonder has his faire garb box here and that we're about the same size. After I've worked a couple weekends, I should have some cash to buy a little garb of my own (whatever I can't make, that is...)

There are tons of visitors swinging through the land right now. Last night was a delightful few hours away from work, playing games and laughing into the night. On the way up the hill I noticed that it was very cold and the ground felt a little crunchy. Frost? Just a little...

And then this morning I stepped outside and gasped. It sure was frost! And lot of it by this morning.

[A very frosty scene]

[Breakfast TV, tuned to the frost channel]

One of the new garden crew was remarking just yesterday that "we can pull out all the stops now that the danger of frost has passed." I didn't laugh in his face, but I did let him know that we were nowhere near past the danger of frost. We're always learning!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunshine and Cloth

[View from my outdoor bobbin winding station]

It's just been too gorgeous to stay inside all day. It was nice to wind bobbins on the front porch, but even nicer to work with a view of the meadow.

Half the day is still spent inside, until I can figure out how to wheel the loom into the sun. Tomorrow's the last day of black cloth. It's been many nine-hour days in a row. Just a few more weeks until Faire!

[Photo by Dorje]

Friday, February 19, 2010

Full-Speed Production

[Cloth is stacking up]

It's tough to think of things to write about right now. I'm working fulltime to produce my cloth in time for Faire. It's the same thing day after day: weaving gorgeous solid black cloth. First I have to finish the black beam, and then I'll be weaving my own cloth. At that point I'll have lots to write about. It'll be my first full-width beam.

The weather has been unseasonably gorgeous. I now wind my bobbins outside so I can spend an hour at a time in the sunshine.

[Enjoying the outdoors. Photo by Bambi]

After dinner every night I am working on a new communications infrastructure. This organization has a couple of everpresent problems. Poor communication and record-keeping are one of them. This new system is designed to help fix them both, giving us a single place to discuss the business of all the committees, and keeping a searchable record of our decisions. It's in the very earliest stages of development, but is showing awesome potential.

This system is in private pre-alpha at this point. (English translation: it's set up on a computer here on the land, inaccessible from the internet.) It should go alpha this week, for review and improvement by the rest of the communications team. Then will be the time for others to join us in testing the beta. If you are a member of Nomenus and interested in helping out, please send me an email.

[Forum snapshot. All committees in one place.]

[Closeup on the activity bar. Shows what we're working on at the moment.]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Gorgeous Weather

[Sunny and Warm]

The last few days have been amazing here - warm, dry, and sunny. We realized that the tree pruning workshop needed to be done RIGHT NOW! Buds are bursting and trees are leafing out. In February.

[Caring for the trees]

The garden team this year is fantastic. They're making plans, preparing beds, managing compost, planting seeds, and more. Remember that my last career was landscaping in San Francisco. I learned pruning from my business partner, an expert pruner with years of schooling and experience. After practicing daily with him for a few years, I know a thing or two myself now. I was happy to pass my knowledge on to a new generation here on the land. When it seemed like they were getting the hang of it, I walked back up to my weaving. Boy, does it take willpower to sit inside and work when it's so beautiful outside.

[Mary of the Flowers]

[Hanging in the Sun]

And this scene right here is the toughest to pull myself away from - my friends, done with our weekly meeting, all sitting in the sun and enjoying conversation.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Night of Frogs and Owls

[Photo from iBird Explorer app]

Tonight, the dinner conch blew early and I headed down the hill at dusk. As I neared a tree right on the path, a strange sight beheld me: a tiny grey bird fluttered out of the tree to the ground. We stopped about 10', eyeing each other.

It was a 5" tall Screech Owl, loaded down with a very fat rodent, nearly the same size as the owl. No wonder it couldn't fly! The tiny bird looked up at me for about 15 seconds, obviously trying to decide whether or not to abandon the hard-won meal. And then it flew off to a tree and watched me walk down the hill. I have never seen such a tiny owl at such close range for such a long time.

After dinner, I returned to the loom for an hour, noticing that the rodent was no longer lying in the path. (I didn't think it would be...) When I stopped weaving and took off my hearing protection, I could hear hundreds of frogs and the insistent hooting of a screech owl very nearby. We hear them all the time, but never so insistent. If I had to guess, I'd say it was celebrating or, maybe, sending an invitation to share dinner.

By the way, I thought it might be interesting to share the amount of thread I use for weft. Here are three of four heavy boxes of thread. It's about enough for 3 weeks of weaving.

[Mostly black weft thread]

And this is the setup I use to ply the thread as I wind it onto bobbins. Here, 5 threads are passed through the cone of a thin thread which wraps around them as it unspools. This binder thread helps make sure that they don't come unplied as they leave the bobbin at high speed. This little trick prevents little loops from forming in the cloth. It was taught to me by my friend, Tien, whose blog you can read HERE.

[Plying setup and bobbin winder]

Spring Flowers

[Crocus in the lawn]

What a gorgeous day! It's traditional to take three days to "land" after traveling, but I don't have that luxury right now. There's just so much on my plate, but that's how I like it.

Yesterday, however, I couldn't resist taking the afternoon off to wander around in a t-shirt in the sun. This has been an extremely mild winter for the most part, and it has fooled even the plants into thinking that it's over. We need to hurry if we're going to get our fruit trees pruned before they wake up. Ordinarily, we'd have almost another month.

[Tiny Wind Flowers make a big color]

Piwacket was so excited by the flowers that he used fresh violets in the richest and most delicious dessert we've had in a long time. It was a pear and lemon Creme Brûlée. Here's how rich it was: this photo was taken after we had all finished eating. It looks like we'll have leftovers tomorrow!

[Violets in the dessert]

Today begins a big push to finish the bolt of black cloth so I can weave my own before the show in April. It's going to be tight.

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Newsletter

[The front cover of a new, improved membership newsletter]

It's been a wild few days as we travelled back from San Francisco and settled into life on the land. I promised to get our organization's internal newsletter, The RadDish, converted to an email-distributed PDF format. This was a huge task, requiring about 20 hours of work on the formatting/internals, another 20 hours on the content, and 5 hours figuring out the database and mailing list distribution.

My goal with this project is to uphold and enhance the spirit of cooperation and empowerment in the organization right now. Our members can review minutes of January's meetings and see agendas for February's meetings. Most committees are open to all members, and it's our hope that people will jump in and help with the ambitious project goals we've set for 2010.

If you are an active Nomenus member and would like to update your membership to receive the new digital RadDish, please send me an email ( and I'll forward you the form. For now, we need a signed paper form, but the Communications Team may make it easier in the future.

Today, the rains have subsided and given way to beautiful sunshine. It's warm and very, very wet. I went down to the swimming hole to check the creek level and found that our mushroom-laden alder tree fell across the creek in the rain.

[October, standing up and covered in mushrooms]

[Today, tipped into the creek and smashed on the rocks]

And, on a wildlife note, last night we heard a mountain lion killing a deer just a few feet from my back door. It was a prolonged, blood-curdling jumble of deer screams, lion screams and struggling. I got up this morning to find lots of muddy skid marks and overturned leaves.

Life sure is different out here in the country!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Meeting Facilitation Apps

During Great Circle, several people asked me to show them how I was doing the magical things they saw coming from my phone. While the meeting progressed, I used a bunch of apps to do a variety of tasks:
- Edited online proposal documents that others could review
- Added items to agendas for later meetings
- Edited and distributed a new org chart to clarify a proposal
- Shared quirky photos of our meeting, including a panorama
- Enhanced remote participation with announcements of upcoming agenda items

For online document creation and editing, I use NoteMaster and Google Docs. This app allows for remote editing, and has been my saving grace in developing the artist in residence program proposal. When I wake up with an idea or some new concept comes up during another meeting, I just jot a note into the document to flesh out later. When it was time to propose it, I sent out read-only links to the document and hit the floor.

[NoteMaster, a syncing Google Docs editor]

As the board meeting progressed, many items arose that need to be handled in lower committees. When this happened I pulled up Bento, a general purpose database program from the makers of Filemaker. In there, I've created a database for meeting agendas. I just add the item to the appropriate committee's agenda and it'll be waiting for me when the meeting comes.

[Bento manages my agenda items database]

To help demonstrate the place of an Artist In Residence within the greater community, I developed an org chart using InstaViz. As the Great Circle created more committees, I was able to edit the chart and share it with others. I printed a PDF for my presentation and shared an image on the Twitter stream for remote participants.

[InstaViz lets me draw and share charts]

With so many people in one room, the only way to give a good feel for the scene was to share a panorama, created with AutoStitch. I shot three photos to make this montage.

[AutoStitch lets me take wide snapshots to share with remote participants]

And finally, I used Tweetie to interface with Twitter and keep in touch with remote participants. Every agenda item was announced as it came up, and the results announced afterward. This was our first time doing that, and I'll bet we will find other interesting things to do with this technology in the future.

The Tweetie interface allowed me to view only the traffic that had the #GreatCircle hashtag, ignoring all of my regular Twitter traffic.

[Twittering the proceedings]

All-in-all, this Great Circle went off very well, with almost seamless interaction between the main circle in San Francisco, a satellite circle in Wolf Creek, and several callers for specific agenda items, including our first international participant from Guatemala. We are learning to harness technology to enhance the experience. Let's see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Circle's Over, I'm Artist In Residence

[Sitting around the conference phone, making decisions]

The Great Circle is done. It went amazingly well. There were a couple of times when tempers flared, but even then the meeting was conducted in the spirit of love and understanding. We made a ton of fantastic decisions and did it quickly.

One of the biggest things we did was to empower subcommittees to make most of the decisions and do most of the work. The functionality of many of them will depend on the work of one that I'll be heavily involved in: the Communications Committee. Once we've done our job, the membership will be able to find out what's happening in the other committees and get involved.

[My rendering of the new Org Chart]

Almost last on the agenda was my proposal, creating a new role in the community: Artist In Residence. We've talked about this for years, but nobody's ever written the program. In my first short AIR term, I'll be working with the Caretakers and Community On The Land committee to flesh out the details of a proper program so that others will know how to apply for this position and what it will require of them.

So today my brain is mush. I've spent many hours preparing for this meeting and now it's over. A good night's sleep (check!), a walk in the sun, lots of water and some healthy food should bring me back to normal.

Tomorrow I drive with my cohorts back to the land and get back into the swing of weaving, now without the time-consuming responsibility of a Caretaker. Woohoo!