The Majacraft Blog The official blog of Majacraft

28Apr/120

New Zealand Fibre Festival – The Journey (day 2)

Day 2 of the trip to the Fibre Festival this year was primarily the ferry crossing over Cook Strait. We had an 8.15am sailing with a check-in an hour earlier. As a result, our alarms had to be set nice and early at 5.30. After a quick shower, a couple of pieces of toast and a hot cup of tea we waved goodbye to Rosalie and Graham and set off again.  Being a public holiday, there was next to no traffic on the drive down to the terminal. I have been caught out in estimating my travel times in cities before and apparently the drive into Wellington from the Hutt Valley can take a looonnng time. Not so for us fortunately. The weather was again just beautiful and we watched a beautiful and colourful sunrise over the Wellington Harbour.

A few turns and we were parked up in the queue to drive on to the ferry. I was on to the idea of writing these stories so managed to snap off a couple of pictures to share.

Waiting to board the Cook Strait Ferry

Waiting to board the Cook Strait Ferry at Wellington

I met a very interesting guy from Auckland while I was waiting who was on his way to Christchurch to complete the electrical work on commissioning newly constructed chicken and pig sheds after they were destroyed in the Christchurch earthquakes. It was fascinating to converse with him and we chatted about motorcycle touring, bird-watching, business service, insurance and ironically, good van tyres. Half way through our discussion I noticed this guy wander up from the ocean and have a rest in the sun on the footpath.

Seal at Wellington

Seal at Wellington

It was soon time to be on the ferry so I was able to enjoy a hobbit-y Second Breakfast in the cafe.  The wind was quite strong on the way over and when I went out to sightsee for a bit, I found it was a two handed job to actually open the doors to get back inside again. I was again struck by how beautiful New Zealand was when we passed the hills off the tip of the North Island - now covered by a huge wind farm - and the rugged islands in the Tory Channel of the South Island. I had to settle and do a bit of work on the way too so spent some time finishing editing the Majacraft Spinning Manual so it could be sent off for a reprint.

Marlborough Sounds

View from the ferry of the Marlborough Sounds

After landing, it was a short 25km drive down to Blenheim and our motel, the Bella Vista. It was good to unload and rest for a bit and read my John Carter of Mars novel. The remainder of the afternoon was spent working on weaving looms and warping up (hopefully) some interesting warps.

A friend told us they were going out to The Argosy restaurant near Blenheim which is based around a restored Argosy aircraft. That sounded rather good so we made the drive out as well. The owners of the restaurant had done a great job of building up the story of the Argosy which had a huge amount of history surrounding it. There was a famous UFO sighting in New Zealand near Kaikoura in the 1970s and we learned that this was the aircraft that contained the observers. The aircraft was set up as a mini museum and we were able to investigate the interior which was fascinating. Plus the food was good too :-)

Both Glynis and I were quite tired after another long day so returned to the motel for an early-ish night.

27Apr/120

New Zealand Fibre Festival – The Journey (day 3)

Day 3 of the Fibre Festival trip was focused around setting up our stand. The doors to the Convention Centre were opened to traders at midday so we had some time in the morning to complete other tasks. I had another loom that I wished to warp up in a certain way so we needed to find a yarn shop to source some more yarn. The Warehouse (New Zealand's answer to Walmart) did not have what was required but we managed to find just the thing in a little shop in the back room of the local Christian bookshop. Finding the shop that is needed in an unfamiliar town is not always easy.

I have a very good long time friend, Jason, who lives near Blenheim with his family. We took a little time to visit Jason, Sarah and the children in their lovely home right on the coast before we had to be back at the show. They have very interesting life stories as he is a Paua diver (NZ shellfish similar to abalone) and she is a general practice family doctor and mum. An hour was not long nearly long enough to visit and we were soon heading back to Blenheim for the festival.

On the way back past the Convention Centre, we noticed traders setting up early so as it seemed time was going to be tight to get everything done, a quick reshuffle of our plans had us lugging all of our gear into the Convention Centre an hour earlier than we expected. For the next three hours it was a bit of a zoo as we arranged stands, assembled wheels, laid out products and tried to get everything in order.

Majacraft stand before

Majacraft stand before setting up

This year we had decided to try something new in the layout of the Majacraft stand. In the past, we have followed the NZ trend of having as many products on display as possible so people can find exactly what they need. What we had in mind this year was trying to go for a much simpler, cleaner design that hopefully presented what was out very elegantly. When it was all set up it looked great and just what I planned on and hoped for.

Majacraft stand after

Majacraft stand after setting up

We finished at 3.30pm so there was time for a quick trip back to the motel to play with the warp on the weaving loom and another cup of tea. Before we knew it, it was time to rush back to the Convention Centre for the opening night of the Fibre Festival.

The evening opening proved to be very busy and bustling. We had the opportunity to meet up with some familiar faces which was very nice. At 6.00 (with some trepidation), I was able to show the new loom to a small gathering of visitors. They seemed very enthusiastic about all the little innovations and overall were very positive about the new creative opportunities that could be made with it. At that point, my best summation would be "phew"!

We packed up at 7.00pm and had a quick meal in the Convention Centre restaurant before finishing up for the day.

I gave myself a late night treat at the end of the evening and went and watched The Avengers in 3D at the local cinema. I thought it was a super fun movie if you are considering seeing it!

 

26Apr/122

New Zealand Fibre Festival – The Journey (day 1)

I thought I would share about Majacraft at the New Zealand Fibre Festival and write about it as a kind of road trip. It is being hosted in Blenheim this year which is probably around 800 kilometres plus a ferry crossing from our workshop in Tauranga. We are quite unaccustomed to the huge road journeys that people can undertake in the likes of Australia, USA and Europe so 800km is quite a big deal for us. This post is going to be a catch up because I realised this could be fun on the second day of travel and it is now 6.00am on the third day.

We have been going as fast as possible leading up to the show developing some new ideas on presenting the Majacraft stand and trying to get a little project together that has been occupying our attention for the last 2 years or so! The responsibilities of attending the stand this year have fallen on Glynis and myself (Andy). Owen and Rob loaded the van on Monday afternoon evening while everybody else completed last minute tasks and construction to get us underway on Tuesday. Everything looked as prepared as possible so after a good night’s sleep on Monday and kissing my family goodbye, I arrived bright and early at 7.15 on Tuesday. A few more additions to the boxes in the van and we were on our way at 8.00am. The weather was brilliantly sunny and both Glynis and I were commenting on the journey down what a beautiful country we were fortunate to live in.

We planned on taking a slightly different route that what we would usually drive so we could make some deliveries. Instead of straight down through the centre of the island, we drove to Taupo then across to Napier so we could visit Kim at Waddle Inn at Otane then on to Crafters Heaven at GreyTown. We would then need to cross back over the Rimutaka Ranges to get back to Wellington for our Wednesday ferry crossing. The trip across the Napier-Taupo road was uneventful and in spite of much studying of the forests and hillsides, I did not see any deer from the side of the road.

Kim was not home so we had dropped the goodies on her doorstep and continued on for a short lunch stop at Owen's relative in Waipawa. Thanks Warren and Sue!

Rita at Crafters Heaven had a lady visiting her that wanted to try two of our wheels so we had a deadline of 5.00pm before she shut up shop for the day. The trip was going nice and smoothly after leaving lunch and the magic GPS was indicating we were expected to arrive at 4.00pm. The van, as you may have picked up already, was *very* full and as I drove past the Tui brewery, I went a little quickly around a corner and it took a bit of care to make it around safely as the van did a strange wallow-y weave which I assumed was due to plenty of weight, too much speed and an unusually shaped corner. The wind had really picked up so we were noticing that the van was getting blown around quite a bit which felt a bit freaky to say the least. Despite assurances that the wind was the cause of the weaving and the tyres were just fine, Glynis was getting quite concerned so I stopped so we could check everything was OK. This was a personal challenge for me because once I am driving, I like to keep driving with no stops for things like hunger or bladders and certainly not looking at tyres - yes, I am aware of my need for personal growth here :-) So, back to the story, I did reluctantly stop and lo and behold, we had a back tyre that was somewhat ... deflated. Pride was swallowed along with a serving of humble pie.

The first challenge arose when all we could collect in the way of tools was the jack. Everything else was buried (we still think, not confirmed as yet) somewhere under the van load of goodies. As we were poking around the edges of the packages, a farmer arrived to collect his children from the school bus, he tentatively asked if we needed any help. "Yes please!" was our enthusiastic response. Off he went on his quad bike with about 6 children to find some tools and a jack. Then we waited ... and waited ... and waited ... and started looking for other houses that might contain helpful occupants ... and waited ... and finally he came back. Apparently the children had been parked in front of the TV with an apple and rugby training had been postponed. We were very grateful. The vans jack was not very useful so we used his and got the flat tyre off fairly quickly. The jack did seem to have some issues as it was a mongrel to pump up and it appeared (when the jack was not high enough to fit the spare tyre) that it was actually going down only slightly slower than I could pump it up! After rapid pumping and desperate pushing and nut tightening we got the spare tyre on. Phew, let the jack down and uh-oh, spare tyre could do with about another 30psi of air. The most excellent farmer suggested that the best bet was a slow trip down to Eketahuna (there is a "Wear the fox hat" joke around that relates to Eketahuna) and visit the tyre shop there.

After a very slow trip for another 10 kilometres we thankfully arrived in Eketahuna and found the Firestone shop. A very helpful man took the tyre off and while he couldn't see anything drastically wrong with it, he recommended against using it again as "they have very thin walls and you can't see what damage has happened on the inside. Did you drive far with it flat?" "Of course not" was my sincere and mostly accurate response. "Oh well, can you put another one on the same please"? He answered that they would have to order one in to get an identical tyre and they actually didn't have anything the same size on the shop as "it was a funny size". We should try down in Masterton another 40 kilometres further on. So back in the van we hopped, leaving the possibly ruined tyre behind. At this time our ETA at Greytown according to Ms Garmin the GPS was 4.50pm. The tension was slowly increasing...

Travelling that 40km was not pleasant. We had no spare and every little gust of wind or bump in the road that caused the van to weave a bit had us fearing that our spare was expiring as well. However, we did make it and we found our way to the Masterton Firestone shop. "No, no tyres like that, it is a funny size" was their greeting. They too would have to order another one in. We were considering our options, trying to find a tyre locally or perhaps take a chance on driving to Blenheim and ordering one down there. The general decision was keep on driving and stop at any tyre shop we could find. It was 4.30 in the afternoon and the following day was a public holiday so solving this was going to be tricky. As we were leaving Masterton, we tried the Goodyear shop and they too informed us "we don't have any of those brand tyres, they are a funny size. We do however have a different brand in the same size." Much deliberation later and we asked him to put on the mismatched tyre. He did it pretty much immediately so there was a great feeling of relief when we set off again. The GPS told us we were going to arrive at 6.00pm and the tension was much higher by this point as to whether Rita's guest would still be in the shop or have given up and gone home.

Quickly on to Greytown (what a very pretty place) and we arrived in the dark at the very cute Crafters Heaven, where Rita made us a welcome coffee. The customer had decided to wait (thank you Vegas Venus - Ravelry :-) ) and patiently watched while we put together a Suzie Pro and an Aura. We spent another very pleasant hour playing with spinning wheels before we set off again for our final destination in Lower Hutt. Owen's sister Rosalie informed us our dinner was getting cold. Greytown is almost at the foot of the Rimutaka Range crossing point and we still had nearly an hour to go. The crossing was much longer than I remember it, the climb up the hill is very long and winding and at this time very, very windy. Finally we were driving down the other side and following the Hutt River down toward Wellington. Our last treat for the journey was the GPS trying to direct us through a closed off public park in the dark but after everything else we had been through in the day, this was brushed off without a blink!

After a quick evening meal and some nice conversation, bed was very well received following 12 hours on the road. Thank you to the very generous people in the Wairarapa who helped us get back on the road and showed much hospitality. It was certainly a ... memorable trip.

 

Filed under: other stuff, People 2 Comments
2Oct/1110

The Aura Toolkit App

Aura Toolkit Tile

The Aura Toolkit app for Windows Phone 7 has just been published to the Marketplace (Windows Phone Marketplace). This has been a project I have been experimenting with for quite a while and am very excited to have it available finally. As a quick disclaimer, this post contains some of my own opinion so bear this mind as you read on.

The main feature of the Aura Toolkit is the wizard that allows you to select Bobbin Drive and Flyer Drive ratios (by touch) and then it auto-magically can calculate the draw and twist per inch for yarn. It also has a selection of recipes as well as ratios and dimensions of the Aura. It uses the very cool Panorama control as well as some other neat bits I have found or made. The best bit to share is the price...

FREE!

Here are a couple of screenshots

Aura Toolkit Intro

Aura Toolkit Intro

Aura Toolkit Tools

Aura Toolkit Tools

Aura Toolkit Wizard

Aura Toolkit Wizard

If you have a Windows Phone and would like download it, look in "Tools and Productivity" in the Marketplace.

The question that I am sure is going to come next is "Where is the iOS/Android version?". Well, <opinion>Microsoft has excellent tools, resources and online support. I find WP7 to be very elegant and innovative and produce quality apps in a short time. Also, it is easier to get an app noticed in the Marketplace as WP7 is 'on the up'. I am very excited to see what the Nokia phones are going to look like which are going to be coming out before the end of the year and I also suspect the integration with Windows 8 (middle of next year) is going to be pretty special too. From what I understand iOS has a steep learning curve. Android does not have hardware standards and multiple versions of the software so making sure the app runs reliably everywhere is not easy. It will be WP7 only for a while unless I fancy some new challenges.</opinion>

So there you have it. Download it, review it, rate it, make suggestions (I already have some ideas for a newer version). It will remain free because we want to support Majacraft spinners and give you fun tools to help in your creativity.

You can get it here Aura Toolkit

Until next time.

Andy

1Oct/113

The Price Rise.

If you are not already aware, we have issued a price rise that is effective from October 01. In the interests of making sure you know as much of the details around this - because it is a large price rise compared to anything we have done previously - I wanted to offer this background.

The first obvious issue is the volatility of the exchange rate, particularly the New Zealand dollar against the American dollar. Since I have been working at Majacraft I have observed fluctuations between 58 and 89 cents - nearly 50% change in value. This makes it very difficult for our dealers to run profitable businesses. For example (and this is a hypothetical number), if the exchange rate increases by 10% from the time we set the prices and a dealer margin is 10% then dealer actually sells a product for nothing, that is $0.00. The dealer's margin would in effect be wiped out. As a brief aside, the NZ/US exchange rate has varied by approximately 10% over the last 10 days. Our dealers are an integral part of Majacraft and therefore it is essential that we look after them as best we can. They cannot run their businesses and pay their bills without making a little profit on the products they sell. So, the first part of the price rise that you have observed is about Majacraft looking after dealers.

The second part of the price rise is an increase in our wholesale price to dealers. Majacraft relies on about 50 suppliers of goods and services to create a wheel who have their own businesses to keep going. Every month, we receive notification from at least one of these suppliers, "due to ... we are raising our prices of ... by 2%/4%/5%/10%". It often does not seem a great deal at the time and because we have wanted to make our wheels as affordable to everybody as we possibly could, Majacraft has absorbed these increases and tried to improve the way we do things to offset them. However, recently we have had a detailed investigation into the cost of producing Majacraft products and it was sobering. The little increases that have been going on for years have actually put us in a position where in some cases it is costing us to create products. In addition, due to our own high standards and customer expectation, we are taking much longer, using better components and doing a superior job to what we did even as recently as 12 months ago. Just like you, we have families and mortgages that need taking care of. If Majacraft does not make a profit we cannot take care of our responsibilities or invest in developing exciting new fiber tools for you.

As a user of Majacraft products you will unfortunately directly feel the effects of this price rise. When I say unfortunately, I sincerely mean it. It is Majacraft's ideal that we create the best products we can for the most affordable price possible and it is with great reluctance and reservation that we have carried this out. I often smile when I meet people that come to visit our workshop because the most common response is along the lines of "is that it?". Many people expect Majacraft to be a mega factory with a huge workforce churning wheels out by the 100 (and swimming in vats of cash! :-) ). In truth, we are actually only 9 people - and not all full time - working out of Owen and Glynis' converted farm implement shed working as hard as we can to make a living. Probably very similar to yourself. As you would hope to be paid a fair wage for your days labour, and have a job to go to next week too, we hope for these things too and raising the prices as we have done has been a necessity to achieve this.

I have noticed that some people have commented that because of the cost, our wheels are likely to be out of their reach now. For this I am very sorry as I would prefer everybody be able to have the opportunity to experience what we create if they choose. I personally believe that Majacraft wheels are excellent value for money. I am intimately aware of the time and care taken in the making of each product, the high quality (and consequently expensive) components that are used as well as the excellent service and guarantee given. We do not want to compromise any of these areas and diminish or minimise what we offer you. I am very grateful for your support so far because I actually love being a part of enabling people to create beautiful things with their own hands. It is indeed deeply satisfying.

I hope this explanation has given you some insight into what is involved in Majacraft and the reasoning behind the price increase.

Sincerely

Andrew (on behalf of Majacraft)

Filed under: other stuff, People 3 Comments
5May/102

The Aura-gle has landed

Well here it is, the games and teases are finally over and our 18 month long project has been liberated into the wilds. Our new wheel the Aura has been overwhelmingly well received and we have been really excited by how much people are enjoying it. I spoke to Dad (Owen) this afternoon and he was just buzzing about their trip to the US. He said they had been made to feel so welcome by all they had met and were very grateful for the genorosity they had been shown.

If you are interested, Rob and I were interviewed by Granny G and she has posted the podcast of the interview on her web site (www.grannygcrafts.com). I have listened it through and was really pleased how it came out. I tend to be my own worst critic and usually don't like the way I sound recorded (I think I sound like I am talking through my nose or something!) but Genny must have done some audio magic as I thought it was great.

Hopefully Mum and Dad will have some Maryland photos I can share with you when they return on Saturday. Until next time...

Keep cool 'til after school.

Andy

Filed under: other stuff, Wheels 2 Comments
21Apr/103

Majacraft Maryland Schedule

Hi there

Glynis has just passed me the schedule for their travels around the Maryland Show (and the presentation of a certain super secret spinning wheel). I said I would post it and here it is. If you want to come and meet them or Lexi and test drive the new wheel then come along. I know they would be happy to meet you.

Saturday morning:

Yarn Barn - from 10.30am – Glynis and Lexi  - Main Hall - D 08,09,10
Earthguild –from 10.30am  - Owen - Main Hall - C08,09,10
Ellen’s Half Pint - Owen - Main Hall - B 13

Saturday afternoon:

Susan’s Fiber from 2.30pm - Glynis & Lexi - Building 2-  07,09,11
Stony Mountain from 2.30pm – Owen Barn 6 – 10,12
The Spinnery from 3.30pm – Owen - Barn 6 – 09.

Sunday morning:

Carolina Homespun from 10.30 am – Lexi and Glynis - Main Hall - C 24
Three Waters Farm from 10.30pm  - Owen - Main Hall - B 23
Bullens Wullens from 11.30am – Owen - Main Hall - D 06

Sunday afternoon:

Misty Mountain Farm from 2.30pm– Glynis and Lexi – Outside South - S 4
The Fold from 2pm - Owen - Barn 3 - 18
Uncommon Threads from 3.30pm– Owen - Outside East -  E7
American Cormo Assoc - 4H from 4.30pm  -Glynis & Owen–  Outside East - E13

I hope you can make it to the show. We are busy making preparations for Owen and Glynis flying out on Sunday 25th April.

Until next time.

Andy

Filed under: other stuff 3 Comments
24Mar/101

Here comes a blogtastic day

After working hard out in the workshop for the last ... forever, I am back in the computer seat and am planning on posting lots of content today. Rob is out taking photos so keep your eyes open for more Majacraft goodies.

The first thing I have been wanting to share with you is the evolution of our flyers. For a long time we have been aware that the shape of the flyers affect the spinning in a considerable way. A flat or square flyer spinning at high speed creates a deal of wind turbulence and this requires work on the part of the spinner. To reduce the work required, we have changed the shape of the flyer bar to be more aerodynamically efficient and are very happy with the results. In our testing, the turbulence produced from one of our new flyers is much lower than anything we have come across. We think this innovation is going to be great if you are spinning fine or fast over a long periods.

Majacraft aerodynamic flyer

Majacraft aerodynamic flyer

6Mar/108

I am still here

The posts have been somewhat far between since Lexi visited nearly two weeks ago. I have not forgotten to do a post camp post (hmmmmn the way to a palindrome there). There has been a lot happening in the workshop over the last week that has been very attention demanding. We have a new guy joining our team on Monday and are very much looking forward to what Lance can do with us. There have been preparations necessary for his arrival. Baz has been working on the first run prototypes of a new product we have had quite a few requests for. The feedback from people who have tried them has been very encouraging so far. Components for 'Serenity' have been coming in and we are working hard to have it ready for the big release in May. If you are a subscriber to our newsletter, keep an eye on your inbox early next week as there is a special message coming soon. On top of all of this, we have had our lovely friend Therese Cruz and her family visit. It was great to catch up with her and you know, 'talk shop'. Oh yes, there were wheels to build too :-)

As you can see, lots to do. I am looking forward to sharing more about these with you over the next little while. Until next time.


Andy

Filed under: other stuff 8 Comments
22Feb/106

Back from camp

Good morning/afternoon/evening to all,

I have arrived back at Majacraft after a fantastic weekend at Lexi's camp, exhausted but brimming with ideas. Where to start? Well, first off, it was AWESOME! For me the thing I enjoyed most about it was not necessarily the techniques that she taught - which were great of course - but more about looking at spinning in different ways, thinking about how to spin in different ways. Lexi was delightful and our time with her seems over far to quickly. We are definitely going to have to invite her back!

I also very much enjoyed the company of the camp members as well. We had a lot of fun and it was great to meet many that I have only known by name. Special mention of course must go to the theatre company that presented an adaptation of Cinderella. Unfortunately both the cameras are still in Wellington so this is going to be a 'words' post rather than a graphical feast, the photos will follow later this week.

It was also nice to be able to share the new wheel with the camp. We had an opportunity for free time to try it that several people took up. There is still tweaking and development going on as we work to making it as perfect as possible.

And finally, congratulations to Nicole who won a Majacraft spinning wheel with our spot prize. She is going to university this week so having a wheel to take with her during her studies is likely to be a pleasant surprise.

Bye for now.

Andy

Filed under: other stuff, People 6 Comments