Tuesday, August 12, 2008

High Tech Spinning

I was really intrigued today when I read this article in SAE's aerospace engineering publication. A company called Nanocomp has developed a method for creating very long carbon nanotubes ("very long" in this context is a millimeter), which, in itself, is quite impressive. Then, one of the things they are doing with these millimeter long nanotubes is spinning them into yarn on an electrically controlled spindle. I cannot even imagine spinning millimeter long fiber. I would love to see their process. The mechanical and physical properties of the nanotube yarn are amazing. A quote from the article, "These spun conductive yarns exhibit breaking strengths up to 3 GPa, with fracture toughness that is higher than aramids (such as Kevlar or Twaron). They also show enhanced electrical conductivity with the ability to carry more current with better conductivity than copper at high frequencies. " To put that strength into context, the metals I am familiar with have room temperature tensile strengths of less than 1 GPa. This product could have some awesome applications. I hope I hear about it when it does!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

State Fair

I went to the Indiana State Fair today with a couple of girlfriends and had a great time. Since I was raised on a hoosier dairy farm, I always like to buy my fair food from places that support local agriculture. So I started the afternoon with a milkshake from the Dairy Bar and ended the evening with a ribeye sandwich from the Cattlemen's Club. Both had crazy-long lines, but in both cases, the wait was worthwhile. There wasn't really time to see all that we wanted. We did spend some time in the animal barns, where we saw the world's largest boar (man, was he big!) and some very cute and friendly shetland sheep.

We also spent a lot of time in the Home and Family Arts building, which housed exhibits of painting, photography, glass work, and, of course, fiber arts. The spinners were well represented. There were lots of beautiful skeins on display. I entered one skein, which didn't look too awfully bad among the others, but I could see that I still need a lot of practice in that area. My biggest disappointment was in the turnout of weavers. In the non-professional-weaving-of-things-other-than-rugs category, I saw only five entries from three weavers. Yes, only three weavers! We have more than ten times that many talented weavers in our one local guild. Anyway, two of the pieces on exhibit were mine. One was a deflected double weave scarf woven of tencel and mohair, which won first place. The other was a crammed warp plainweave scarf of wool and silk, which recieved an honorable mention. Second and third place were taken by Nancy, who entered a painted warp scarf and gorgeous shadow weave scarf.

I was more gratfied than disappointed, though, as I looked at the display. While I was admiring Nancy's work, a woman came to the display, pointed at my deflected double weave scarf, and said quietly to her daughter, "This one is gorgeous. The colors are beautiful." I was tempted to tell her that I had made it, but I decided not to. That simple praise was more than enough. My friends always say nice things about my work, but I tend to think that friends are supposed to say nice things. To hear such kind words from someone who didn't know me, or even know that the work was mine, validated me in a way. I feel as if I can say that I am a weaver or an artisan with more confidence and not feel like an imposter.

After I left, I began to think about what it was, specifically, that so disappointed me about the poor showing of weavers. I think that exhibiting in the fair is a great opportunity to present weaving in a contemporary context to the community. When I was younger, I remember many times seeing weavers in old-fashioned costumes weaving plain vanilla rag rugs, and each time I thought, "It's nice that people used to do that." It wasn't until I saw weaving as a contemporary art that I realized that I wanted to weave. That's why I think it's important to show our work and let others know that weaving is still relevant.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Up and Running!

I remember the first time I ever rented a Lincoln. I was traveling for work, and there were no mid-size cars left. I couldn't understand why the rental car agent was in such rapture over this car. It didn't look *that* fantastic. I didn't understand... until I drove it. The way it felt was almost indescribable. There was a smoothness and ease to that car that I had never felt in any of the budget-friendly cars I had always driven. Weaving on my new Louet Spring is like driving that Lincoln. I finally finished assembling the Spring this week. I dressed it and wove off a sample, and the entire process was amazingly smooth. I am so pleased with it.

The sample I wove was sea-silk warp in plainweave, 18 epi. I am trying to decide between two different wefts: natural 20/2 silk and silver 8/2 tencel. Right now I am leaning toward the silver tencel, but I'll wait to see how they look after wet finishing. I chose plainweave for the first warp on the loom because I thought it would show most clearly if I needed to make any adjustments to the loom.

I've also been spinning. Right now I am working on a llama / merino / tencel blend that I bought at Franklin. I don't remember who sold it to me; their name isn't on the receipt :( I am really pleased with it. The little bits of turquoise really set it off.

I also recently met some friends at the bead store. I had been wanting some turquoise to go with a couple of my summer outfits, and I found just the thing. I made this necklace and bracelet of turquoise, silver, and brown glass beads. The large beads on the necklace are ceramic. I wasn't sure how I felt about the necklace at first, but it's growing on me.