Monday, October 20, 2008

Maker Faire was Fab!

This year's Faire was bigger than last year's - they had double the crafters there this year. I think it's because more local folks are discovering what it is.

I had planned on trying to get to the grounds the night before to just get the lay of the land - see if I had a table & chairs, but we arrived fairly late because there was an accident in Temple and the State Troopers literally shut down I-35 going south. A luck would have it, there was only one lane getting through on the feeder road because of construction. We were tired travelers and just wanted to sleep by the time we got to Austin.

Going the night before, turns out, was really not necessary. We got the the fair grounds by 8:30, checked in, found the booth, set up and were ready to go an hour later.

I got lucky this year in that a CSM'er who lives in Georgetown GRACIOUSLY accepted my invitation to come out and demonstrate - Sarah Easter - you rock! Thank you so much for coming.

The thing is, I signed up for the Maker Faire as a last minute - "oh, what the heck, I'll see if they'll accept me" kind of thing. I didn't really think through the logistics of actually showing the machine off and what I would need before I submitted.

As the time got closer, I started obsessing privately about what it was I was going to do and decided that I really needed two machines to demonstrate - one would be set up with the ribber, the other would be just plain knitting. I also printed off a couple of photo's that I got from Richard Candee's history of the CSM and some photo's I got from Roxana Baechle.

I posted in the local Yahoo group sock_crankers and Sarah answered my frantic cries for help. She has three machines - an NZAK, a Legare 400, and a Gearheart. The Gearheart is still being renovated, and her Legare is her best functioning machine.

Anyway, Sarah made it out shortly after I had arrived and between the two of us, we got the booth set up. Since we were still a little early, Sarah was able to punch out a pair of socks on her Legare in 45 minutes. My confidence in showing off the machines was really high. Hey, we could maybe even make a couple of pairs of socks while we're here.


Here's a photo of us right after we got the booth set up. Sarah's the red head.
On the first day I tried to explain the history of the machines. People REALLY weren't interested in that - they wanted to see HOW the machines worked. So the second day I would show them the anatomy of a cylinder needle and show how the fabric is knitted. That seemed to go over better. Sarah after a while was my heel/toe girl and knitted a mutant string of heels.

Saturday was CRAZY busy. If we were like Mary Berry who sells socks, we would have sold TONS of socks this weekend. Since we were Makers and not a part of Bizarre Bazaar, we really couldn't - and honestly we wouldn't have had the man power to do it. Sarah's baby hats were very popular, too.

So, what worked:

Having two people there worked great. I was the talker and showed how the machine knits by giving the anatomy of the cylinder needle and showing each stage of how a loop is made. I could then go into how the tension changes the loop size. We also had pulled out our extra cylinders we weren't using to show how we change the number of needles to vary the size of the sock. It was nice to have a dramatic difference in that Sarah has a 54 needle cylinder and some socks made on it. I had a couple of 72 needle socks made and I would compare the two socks. I also was fortunate in that Sarah is a wiz and has socks with ribs on the tops of the socks - so we could show how ribbing can affect the size of the socks, too. It was a fast way to show how we can control sock size.

The other nice thing about having the pair of socks still together was it allowed me to go through the steps - i.e., the leg and the foot are knit in the round, and the heel/toes are done "flat". It worked the best when I folded the heel open to show the increase/decrease of the heel. While I pointed on the sock, Sarah frantically showed how quickly she could turn a heel. It worked really well.

What I'd do next time:

  • I'd like to show more examples of other things you can knit on the machine. I have a couple of ideas - toys, wrist warmers, etc. . .
  • Bring a 10 x 10 carpet remnant. We were in the show barn. While the aisles where the people walked were asphalt, the booths were located on dirt. I felt filthy at the end of each day, plus the scrap yarn and socks would get dropped.
  • Bring a cooler with water. Since the machines are such crowd pleasers, we didn't really get a chance to get up and go get something. Little snacks would have been nice, too. One of our fellow Makers was SO great and would occasionally come over to feed us some cheese and crackers (you were a lifesaver - really!).
  • I'd ideally like three machines loaded. One to show how the needles make the fabric. One to show how to turn a heel. And the last on to show how the ribbing works. As it was, when Sarah, rightfully, spent time with her family, she set up her machine to rib so I would briefly show how the heel is turned and then could point over and turn her machine to demonstrate the ribber.
  • More people. While I had a BLAST showing off the machine, it would have been nice to be able to go and look around Maker Faire with my family. Being "on" for 8 hours non-stop is hard. My voice is pretty horse right now. If I can get more people, I'd also request a larger booth.
  • Wipes. Did I mention the dust? I ended up buying a small travel pack, but it would have been nice to not worry about running out.
  • Small trash can. We went through a lot of scrap yarn. Would have been nice to have a container rather than a plastic bag.
Oh, and our booth won an "Editor's Choice" award. (Whoot!) I'm aware it's really a ribbon for the machines, but still, it was nice recognition from the Make/Craft editors. They are really great enthusiastic people - you can tell they truly love what they do. It was fun sharing how the machines work with them.

J went over to Make: TV and signed me up for an audition. I briefly discussed the machine and showed the cylinders/sock width differences. If I get a call to do a segment - great. If not, I'm okay with that, too.

Note to any Maker Faire organizers: 10 pm quitting time on Saturday is INSANE. Most of my fellow makers bugged out around 6:30 - 7. I started packing up at 8 since I was literally one of a few Makers left. That and this is Austin, Texas. If you noticed, the fair grounds emptied out shortly after the Eepy Birds did their thing. That's because a lot of people were headed out to watch the game - not me. I headed back to the hotel to crash.

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