If you know me in real life, or if you’ve been following me on instagram, this next part won’t be a surprise because you’ve probably seen some pictures like this:
If you only know me through fiber, here’s a little background to catch you up.
I didn’t always dye yarn. In fact, yarn is somewhat of a 90 degree turn in the great “My Life Thus Far” story. I graduated from college in the late 90’s with a degree in engineering, and spent about 11 years designing and building autopilots for small unmanned aircraft, also called UAVs. I worked for small companies, on fast-paced projects with small teams and limited budgets. I learned a ton about how to design electronics and build them in the 100s to 1000s, using entirely domestic manufacturing. It turns out that this is highly applicable to building just about any device that uses electricity.
It’s fun to see how much the maker movement is exploding right now. There are so many great kits and parts that make getting a project going SOOOOO much easier and cheaper than it used to be. I mean, we used to do a lot of simple quick-turn prototype boards to test out some new sensor and see how it integrated with our existing electronics, or lay the groundwork for using it in a new design. Now you can buy a lot of that stuff from Sparkfun or Adafruit for under $10. It’s really given me a renewed excitement about electronics, and my brain is abuzz with ideas for linking things together, and making useful gizmos that will help a dyer out.
Above is an early peek at the guts of a project I’m currently working on and hope to launch on Kickstarter later this year. This one goes out to all of you folks who are tired of babysitting your skeinwinder. You’ve stood there for hours, watching it count up to 200, then flipping the switch to turn it off. You’ve known that there has to be a better way, a way that won’t turn you into a brainless zombie staring at a tiny LCD, zoning out and only realizing it when it’s at 247 and then having to stop it in a panic and manually unwind 47 turns and manage a spaghetti pile of yarn that hopefully won’t get tangled and make the next skeins a nightmare, and……..yeah, we’ve all been there. What you need is:
The SkeinMinder ™ keeps watch for you. It turns your winder off when it’s done winding your custom 423 yd skeins off of cones. It turns your winder off when it’s done re-skeining from your 2 yd dye hanks into your 1.5 yd final put-ups. It turns your winder off when there’s a giant snarl that brings everything to a screeching halt. It minds your winder, so you’re free to get back to the dyepots. So you can use that brain of yours to create and sell more awesome yarn.
The SkeinMinder is not an electric winder. It’s a single control box, about the size of a….package of Trader Joe’s Authentic Feta Cheese? Box of uncondensed soup? 1 lb bag of coffee? Brick? – that sits on a table. You plug it into the wall, you plug your winder into it, and you attach a very simple rotation counter and magnet. It has one big red GO button and some smaller buttons for changing the rotation set point and other stuff.
I really want it to have a super giant red button like this one in the final version. We’ll see if it works out.
Think you could use something like this? Want one right now? Please fill out this very short questionnaire, it’ll help me get an idea of your current setup and needs.
Have no earthly need for this, but know a hand-dyer or two who might? Please help me spread the word. Email them, share this post on whatever social media you hang out on, or do it the old fashioned way and tell them when you see them next. Thanks, your help is very much appreciated!
At this very moment, the first handmade (with love) prototype is currently being put through its paces by my friend Sincere Sheep, because you never really find out what things suck until you give your project to someone else. :) Which is why Uncle Alpenglow NEEDS YOU! I need FIVE highly motivated and communicative individuals to be early beta testers of the next version, which will be the first pre-production Minders.
What do you get? You get to be in on the ground floor of development for an exciting new product in your industry, even before the Kickstarter campaign is public! You get an early version that is hand-assembled, but made with production parts. You get it at a discount, with a free swap-out for the final production model. You get to make your needs known, and help tailor it to be the most useful yarn tool EVER. You also get my undying (or maybe dyeing?) love and a thank-you pile of naturally dyed yarn if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m looking for businesses with some specific needs, so please fill out the questionnaire. Be sure to select the “Yes! Me, please!” button. If it looks like you’re a good fit, I’ll let you know!
If you just want to be kept in the loop about the SkeinMinder and the Kickstarter campaign when it happens, please let me know with the form below. There will be lots of yarny goodies for the fiber person who wants to be supportive of small hand dyers, but does not need a SkeinMinder themselves. :) Just wanted to let you know.
I also want to let you know that this is just the beginning. I have ideas for even simpler tools. I have ideas for a really really REALLY really really cool drop spindle. I have more ideas than I can shake a soldering iron at. I can’t wait to turn them into reality.