Video

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200105.avi

Product Pitch Video

Sorry about my disembodied hands, I tried to get all of me in the video but I was using a built-in laptop camera and I have a tiny bathroom, so no matter where I put the laptop the camera would cut off my head...

Idea Selection

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Here is a Pugh chart for my last 10 ideas. I chose cost to produce/develop, potential market size (niche vs. broad appeal), feasibility of developing, "fun factor," and clarity of the idea (how easy it is to explain/pitch, how clear it would be to a consumer picking up a package with it inside, etc.) as my criteria.

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Based on the chart, I chose "detergent that leaves a temporary stain or glow that washes out so you know when the soap is out of hand washables." I am not sure this is the most feasible idea, so perhaps I should have weighted that criteria higher, but I think the idea will work for the purposes of the exercise.

Product Name Ideas
Glow Soap
Terge-Out
Sure Detergent
Glotergent
Color Clean
Temp Soap


Video


Other images
These are the original sketches that Kasey and I did for the two variants of the idea in our brainstorming session.

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Assignment 6 - feasibility, sketch modeling

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UPDATE: Should be ready for comments now
NOTE: I spent a lot of time finishing this entry on Sunday night and Monday morning and then lost it when I hit "publish" and it told me "Your Movable Type session has ended" and when I signed in it apparently had not saved anything. It is odd because I thought it was auto-saving all along and uploading and adding photos last night was working. I will re-create the remainder of the entry after class... ugh :(


Here are 10 ideas I chose to play with for this assignment. I went off prior ideas, including brainstorming and SCAMPER, and then added a few new ones.

1. Clothes dryer based on a salad spinner that you attach to a bicycle wheel
2. Clothes dryer based on a salad spinner - countertop model
3. Nance's idea from my clothesline-based ideas: clotheslines between buildings used to have a pulley system to move clothes along the line; same could be used here to move clothes down to a basket as they dry and move wet clothes out on the line as you drive around.
4. Detergent that leaves a temporary stain or glow so that you know when all the soap is out

Some "mesh bag" ideas left me pondering the traditional rectangular-shaped mesh "delicates" bags. I had done some research on Ravelry (a knit/crochet site) when I was looking at products for blocking projects and saw some of the difficulties people have with washing yarn and finished products. With yarn, people often complained of tangling - I know the same is true of washing things like bras. You can wash some yarns in the washing machine, and it's generally recommended to wind it into a long loop and then tie through in several places - you don't wash it in a ball or anything!


(Source)

Here's a drying technique someone came up with:

(Source)

5. Laundry bag with hooks inside to corral bra straps
6. Laundry bag with elastic loops inside to "weave" yarn through
7. Bag with handle on top for washing in sink without "losing" it
8. Adjustable bag made from pantyhose nylon mesh
9. Drying rack that also allows you to "weave" yarn through
10. "Coatrack" style drying rack that you can hang in the closet (from hangers) and has posts/hooks to hang yarn (or small clothing items) from

Benchmarking and Surveying

I surveyed 4-5 people (one did not have time to look at all the products) and asked them about their willingness to pay for each product. I showed them sketches and explained verbally, and let them write down their answers, which hopefully increased honesty since it did not tie their opinion to their identity so closely.

1. Clothes dryer based on a salad spinner that you attach to a bicycle wheel
2. Clothes dryer based on a salad spinner - countertop model

There are "spin dryers" that are designed to be portable and more energy efficient than traditional tumble dryers.

This does look a bit like a salad spinner - it has a mesh basket inside of a translucent plastic outside. It is different from the original idea since it plugs into the wall. This particular model retails for about $75.

People were more willing to buy the "bicycle" version since it seemed like fun. Price range was $10-$30.

3. Nance's idea from my clothesline-based ideas: clotheslines between buildings used to have a pulley system to move clothes along the line; same could be used here to move clothes down to a basket as they dry and move wet clothes out on the line as you drive around.

Clotheslines involving pulley systems have been around for a while - this site has some good info on how clotheslines have been used in different environments, including stringing them between buildings. Full outdoor clotheslines with posts and all can run $100-$200. Obviously, a simple piece of rope is cheaper - 100 ft of "clothesline" sells for about $10. Pulley clothesline kits sell for about $70-$100 - lots of them here.

The original idea came from a rolestorming idea I had about hanging clothes outside an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage and letting them air dry as the user traveled. I'm not sure how well this would work today - cars move very fast, so the clothes would have to be secured, and the matter of dust, dirt, pollution, and weather would have to be taken into account. Perhaps the pulley system could be used to pull the clothes back into the car in the event of bad weather.

As I analyze these ideas, I think my user research may have been targeting a segment of the market that wouldn't make that much use of the product - ideas about drying clothes in the open air might make more sense for people who can't afford a clothes dryer (i.e., not middle-class+ Americans) or people who are being extremely eco-conscious. In a part of the world where people commute mostly by bicycle, a user might be interested in attaching a garment to the back of the bike on a pole and letting it air dry, while a user like the ones I surveyed would say "just put it in the dryer." The market for the portable/countertop spin dryers might be interested...

4. Detergent that leaves a temporary stain or glow so that you know when all the soap is out

I don't see anything like this - the closest thing was some temporary stain for metal surfaces. There is also temporary hair dye, etc. I suspect the feasibility issue with this product is ensuring that the dye comes out cleanly from all fibers, so that someone's clothes don't end up getting ruined.

People surveyed said that if the product worked consistently, they might pay $5-6 for it to facilitate hand washing.

5. Laundry bag with hooks inside to corral bra straps

There are existing small bags for washing delicates. Some are partitioned to allow separation of garments - there's a "bra cube," a zippered "caterpillar" type bag for pantyhose, etc.

Handy Laundry sells a lot of small bags for about $5.

People surveyed indicated a preference for existing products or just washing things in the sink without the use of a bag, etc.

6. Laundry bag with elastic loops inside to "weave" yarn through

I don't see anything like this either. I suspect the market (yarn spinners, dyers, knitters, crocheters) is too small for specific products to have been designed. While many people knit and crochet, not all that many will be working with long, looped yardages of yarn like this:

And then deciding to/needing to wash and dry those items.

When I asked people about this, not all of them were familiar with the need the product was trying to fill, so had to extrapolate about whether they might buy it. Some people said it was probably worth "a little more over a typical bag like that, like $2-3" so the total price estimate would be $7-8.

7. Bag with handle on top for washing in sink without "losing" it

Again, while zippered mesh bags are common, I don't see anything with a handle.

The people surveyed had not experienced the same issues I had been trying to address with this product idea, so were unsure whether they would use it/buy it.

8. Adjustable bag made from pantyhose nylon mesh

Pantyhose are under $10, and I don't see anything else made from the material for laundry use. My goal with this product was to meet a size need between "too big" (mesh bags that lead to yarn or delicates tangling in the wash) and "too small" (just putting the item in a leg of pantyhose).

People surveyed said if they had a need for this size of laundry bag, made from the right material, it would be worth $5-$10 to them, similar to the cost of other laundry bags.

9. Drying rack that also allows you to "weave" yarn through

Most drying racks are made with crossbars - designed to lay clothes over or through. The closest thing to what I was thinking of is one that mounts on the wall. For drying yarn, traditional racks like this are often used, or clotheslines or hangers. Prices are $10-$25.


10. "Coatrack" style drying rack that you can hang in the closet (from hangers) and has posts/hooks to hang yarn (or small clothing items) from

Coatracks with hooks are $15-$30. I did not see anything that combines ideas in the specific way that I did.


Modeling

At Leonardo's Basement I did sketch models for 6, 7, and 9. I found a mesh tube of the type used for fruit(?) and turned it into a bag with a handle using neoprene strips and a knitting needle. I chose the neoprene because it seemed to be both flexible and waterproof. I chose the knitting needle because it seemed like a fun way of tying the project's theme into the sketch model, and it's possible the idea could be worked into later prototypes to use a product the user already has at home. Right now the top of the bag is sealed off with neoprene, then the yarn (or delicate clothing item) is inserted in the bottom and the bag is tied into a knot. This allows for adjusting the size of the bag so that the product does not move around too much for smaller items, but allows for a range of items to be washed. Testing or further brainstorming might change the method of insertion or method of securing the bottom.

Questions for this model:
How much extra space should be left for the item placed inside the bag? Too much and it might tangle or get caught, too little and it won't get clean or would get soap stuck in it or something...
What are some ideas for securing the end of the bag?
How much weight is necessary for the top to keep the bag from falling into the sink?

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The next sketch model involved a basic "delicates" mesh laundry bag with a top zipper and a seam around the edge. I knew I needed to make loops on either side of the inside of the bag. I contemplated just making fabric loops, but decided that they should be adjustable in width, so I used elastic. I also realized that weaving the yarn through the loops would be difficult, so I made them attach with snap tape, so that they can be opened or closed. I think the elastic I used is heavy - it's too thick, and it also would drag on whatever you wove through it since it's heavy in terms of mass as well. As a clothing design student and someone who works with fabric a lot, I can tell that the disconnect between the heavy elastic and the lightweight bag will cause problems. It's fine for this early sketch model but it's a problem to be solved for the future.

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Questions for this sketch model: Should the loops be staggered (as I did this time) or be directly across from each other?
What can be done to secure the ends of the yarn once it is secured?
What other products might this idea be used for besides yarn?
Does the yarn tangle less with this product than just placing it in a bag loose?

I made a drying rack sketch model from a large piece of cardboard, plastic gears, foam tubing, and dowels. The gears were chosen for visual appeal and convenience, and the foam tubing should ideally be waterproof. The dowels are needed to support the weight of the yarn.

Questions for this sketch model:
Is the positioning of the gears optimal?
Is the number and size of gears optimal?
Is the overall size and shape of the board appropriate?
What else might a product like this be used for?

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SCAMPER - for me

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I applied "SCAMPER" to the idea " Sink with a spin cycle - labeled with arrows so that it looks like the whole basin rotates on an axis."

Substitute - I focused on the "parody" aspect of "substitute" and came up with a sink that looks like a top loading washing machine, rectangular in shape with a middle pillar and a lid.


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Combine - I combined the sink with the design of a birdbath ("Can I combine or merge it with other objects?") and decided the water would come from a hose outside, rather than mounting a faucet on it.

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Adapt - "Is there something similar, but in a different context?" I thought of DJ's turntables that also rotate, and you could find a way to make the sink make music when rotated, or hold a record on the top and have it work as a joint record player and sink.

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Magnify - Can it be made smaller? I came up with a "countertop" version at a smaller scale to wash delicates.


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Put to other use - What else can it be used for? I looked at my "birdbath" drawing and saw that it looked like a wineglass. You could fill a wineglass with (colored?) liquid, find a way to make it rotate and add lighting from beneath, and make it into a pretty decorative lamp.

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Eliminate - What's unnecessary or can be removed? Perhaps all that's important is the rotation mechanism, and an existing product can be used for the basin, such as a bucket.

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Rearrange - Are there other layouts I can use? I changed the shape of the basin from a bowl to a flat donut - perhaps a thin layer of water can be used to submerge clothes laid flat, rather than the traditional method of submerging them.


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HIT Matrix:

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I chose the nearest available "product," my cat. This may not be a standard usage of a HIT matrix and I'm not sure if it will work. I'm also a little concerned I mixed up features/functional attributes... regardless, here's what we have:
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And here's a couple of ideas I came up with based on this:

Basin + night vision = Sink like the previous freestanding/rotating models with lights on it so you can do laundry in the dark, or to avoid walking into it and stubbing your toe.

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Basin + warm = Bathtub that heats water after drawing it so you don't get cold in the bath.

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SCAMPER - comments for others due to weird errors

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First off, I'm getting "pending approval" notices on some of my comments. This happened to Nance trying to post on my blog over the weekend, and I didn't see her comments as pending (so I didn't see them at all), so here's a placeholder for the comments I had trouble posting so I don't lose them in case the blogs' owners have the same issue and can't see them:

Andrew M. Part I (Part II posted successfully): I'm applying SCAMPER to the idea "Water flow hits parts of the steel drum sink to make different notes."

Substitute - I assume that the original design was a concave semi-spherical shape? In designing a product like that the designer would have to experiment with subtle changes to the shape that would change the effectiveness or the tones. Water pressure would also affect it (how hard the water hits the sink). Elongating a half-sphere into more of a cone shape would change the effect.

Combine - How about combining the idea about lasers that project patterns onto the ceiling with the steel drum music idea? The patterns would shift based on where the water was hitting in the sink and coordinate with the sounds played for a multisensory experience.

Adapt - My kitchen sink is a double sink with a single faucet. Employing this idea for the steel drum idea, each half of the sink could be "tuned" differently to produce different tones.

Magnify - This idea could be used for laundry room sinks, kitchen sinks, and large dishwashing sinks in restaurants, all of which are different sizes and whose users would have different needs or reasons for wanting the product.

Put to other use - The question "how would a child use it?" is quite possibly answered by "often, and wasting water in the process" - if the sink makes noise or causes light patterns, a child would have a lot of fun with it and probably run the water constantly. To take advantage of this, perhaps it could somehow be employed in the bathtub, where when you draw a bath or shower it's ok to have the water running for a while. You'd probably have to change the mechanism by which music is produced if the tub needs to have a flat bottom?

Eliminate - You could eliminate the faucet entirely, and install the drum/drain outside for rainwater.

Rearrange - One of the questions is "Can I transpose cause and effect?" You could tie the faucet handles to your radio such that the radio turns off when the water is running, both because you can't hear it that well while the water is running, and to conserve water and encourage you to turn the faucet off sooner.

Nance Part II (Part I posted successfully): Here's SCAMPER for a second idea - "central tubing hooked up to drink source."

First of all, this idea probably would require modification for sanitation reasons. When you drink from a straw, there's usually liquid that touches your mouth but then slips back in the glass, as far as I know. I'm thinking of some kind of central "spider" hub of tubes that has a valve at the end of each part of the tubing that stops/collects "backflow."

Substitute - Rather than the straws leading to a central area, each customer could get a little packet of liquid that they attach to a straw/tube and squeeze, like a Capri Sun or a toothpaste tube. The packet materials could be recyclable or refillable and somehow be easier to clean or cheaper.
Combine - You could make the tubing/straws curl and twist, like the "twisty straws" that kids like.
Adapt - The tubing could run along the wall to a central source, and be lit with those little lights that run in tubes, like Christmas lights. (Like this: http://www.infiniteinnovations.com/main.asp?p=4_176 )
Magnify - You could make a communal drink container at the center of the table with tubing for each member of a party. This might avoid the sanitation issues for families or people who "share germs" anyway? Couples might find it romantic, like drinking from the same milkshake or those iconic images from Lady and the Tramp with the spaghetti... you know what I mean.
Put to other use - You could use this at home for people who brew their own beer and keep kegs of it around.
Eliminate - The keg could be used as a table at the bar so people could just sit around it and drink.
Rearrange - The kegs could be hanging from the ceiling and the tubes could come down the wall or straight from the ceiling to the customer.

Brainstorming

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In order to make my topic more accessible to brainstormers from diverse backgrounds, I generalized it to "hand-washing clothes." Sam, Taylor, Ellen, Kasey and I gathered in the classroom and conducted some warm-up activities (improv, eating candy and Oreos) and then brainstormed.

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We did open brainstorming on the topic for 8 minutes and shared ideas as we thought of them. I think the sharing helped people continue a fun, relaxed mood after the warm-up activities since we were being positive about others' ideas ("oh, that's cool" or nodding) and laughing at clever or silly ideas. This might have slowed down idea generation though and I did find myself making tough choices between speed and detail (for clarity) in the drawings. Results: 36 ideas, 8 minutes, 5 people = 0.9 ideas per person per minute.

Ellen had to leave early so we just had 4 people for the rest of the session. We moved on to negative brainstorming and came up with as many ideas as possible. Results: 21 ideas, 5 minutes, 4 people = 1.05 ideas per person per minute.

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Then we did two rolestorming rounds - for the first, Sam came up with identities and assigned them (equine vet, mummy, Puritan, and terrorist ) and for the second I did it (Disney princess, Queen Elizabeth II, fraternity brother/"bro," and evil twin). I think rolestorming went a little more slowly because it took a little longer to frame ideas in light of your role, but it did help with thinking outside the box - constraints often help with creativity when they give you a jumping-off point or help you narrow down an overwhelming field of starting points. Results: Total of 29 ideas, 8 minutes, 4 people = 0.9 ideas per person per minute.

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After this we took all the ideas and sorted them into categories on the floor. We then each took 5 post-its and voted on our opinions of the best ideas. Here are the 20 final ideas:

1. A clothes dryer based on the design of a salad spinner (Sam, regular)
2. Speeding agitator blades in the basin with the clothes (Taylor, negative)
3. Fish that clean your clothes (Sam, negative)
4. Washer genie (Sam, rolestorming)
5. Sink with built in dehumidifier (Ellen, regular)
6. Pull out drying rack for top of sink (Ellen, regular)
7. Magic carpet soap (Sam, rolestorming)
8. Carriage clothesline - clothes would be attached to top of buggy or carriage and taken for a ride (Kate, rolestorming)
9. Detergent that leaves a temporary stain in clothes so you know when all the soap is out when the color is gone (Kate, regular)
10. Glow in the dark detergent - similar concept (Kasey, regular)
11. Privacy screen for top of sink when you wash your delicates (Ellen, regular)
12. Individual barrels/buckets for washing different kinds of clothes - I labeled them "Thine Underthings," "Thine Stockings," and "Thine Mistress' Unmentionables" (Kate, rolestorming)
13. Robotic washer arms (Kasey, regular)
14. Waterproof bumble ball (Taylor, regular)
15. Clothes-rinsing mesh - placed flat between shower head and floor of bathtub with clothes laid on it so water falls on them (Kasey, regular)
16. Sink with a spin cycle - labeled with arrows so that it looks like the whole basin rotates on an axis (Ellen, regular)
17. Fabric softener that makes clothes impenetrable to x-rays (Kasey, rolestorming)
18. Hang 'n' wash - appears to just be a pair of jeans tied around the shower head (Taylor, rolestorming)
19. Porcupine fabric softener (Kasey, negative)
20. Bathtub segmenter to divide bathtub into smaller basins for washing (Kate, regular)


Ethnographic Research

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The sink theme I will be exploring for this week is one that is perhaps a little niche, but can create a great amount of frustration for me when I deal with it. After completing a knit or crochet project, most experts will advise that you block the project. What this usually entails is applying moisture to the fabric in one way or another, shaping it, and letting it dry. There's lots of opinions as to the best method to block different types of fibers and projects - a steam iron is commonly used, or a spray bottle. If you want to aggressively block something (really change the shape or open out the pattern, as for lace) you often wet block it, though. Eunny Jang offers the following reasons for blocking a knit project:


It make seaming easier, neater and more even by flattening edges and creating perfectly matched pieces;
It evens stitches out, creating a perfectly smooth, coherent fabric that drapes and moves beautifully;
It aids in finessing the fit and sizing of a garment
It gives a finished, balanced look to even the least flawed fabric, a look impossible to achieve otherwise.

Here's a cute visualization of pinning out a piece (same source as above):

And here's some "before and after" images to give you an idea of some of the changes (source: BeadKnitter)

(Source: Lisa Naskrent)

Here's a simplified explanation of wet blocking for crocheted garments (source):

1) Dunk the project in a sink filled with cool water. You can add a drop of fragrant liquid wool wash or shampoo to the water first if you like, no rinsing needed. Get the piece totally wet. Avoid excessive wringing or twisting.

2) Drain the sink, press gently to remove as much water as you can. Either throw the piece in a washing machine and run a spin-only cycle, or roll the piece in towels to soak up as much moisture as possible.

3) Lay the damp piece on a roomy, flat, moisture tolerant surface, like a not-wood table or spare bed or clean floor covered with towels.

4) Gently but judiciously push, pull, straighten, smooth and fuss with the fabric until the piece has the finished dimensions you want.

5) Allow to dry completely.

So we have five steps that all users may or may not follow (it is fairly common knowledge among crochet designers and experts that the hoi polloi of the craft don't know or care to block things) and which may incorporate different products or parts of the home/studio/work area: sink/basin, towels, boards, pins, measuring devices, etc... this is getting complicated!

Wet blocking can resemble hand washing a garment and laying it flat to dry. Sometimes pins are used to hold the desired shape of the damp piece before it is allowed to dry. What I learn about the process and products involved might be generalizable to hand-washing clothes (or it might not). Personally, I commonly hand-wash smaller items such as underwear, and if I'm blocking a sweater or shawl, it's a much larger piece of fabric. In a tiny apartment, I find myself pressed for space, especially regarding something that is wet and might drip, and then needs a safe space to dry. Getting the fabric wet in the first place is another challenge - do you use a bathroom sink (too small), a kitchen sink (needs cleaned first sometimes, especially for those of us who are lazy about dishes), or a bathtub (way too big)? How do you get the excess water out of the piece? How do you transport it to where it will be laid out? What do you lay it on, how do you protect that from water damage, and so on...?

USE PRODUCTS - how do I do it?

I don't have a project ready for full wet blocking right now, and I don't have time to make an entirely new one this weekend, so here's a picture of a shawl I made and blocked:

I thought I had a photo of it on the blocking surface itself rather than just a blue sheet, but the layout of the piece is similar to how it would've looked while I was blocking it.
After completing the crocheting, I took the piece and filled up the kitchen sink with cool water, and submerged the piece for 15 minutes or so. I took it out of the water and moved it to the other side of the sink, where I squeezed as much water out as I could without wringing it, since I didn't want to twist it out of shape or apply too much pressure to it. Once it wasn't dripping wet anymore, I carried it over to the living room, where I had a board covered in plastic set up. I laid out the damp piece on the board and rearranged it into the right shape. This took lots of fussing as I wanted it to be symmetrical and balanced and not overly stretched. At the house I was doing this at, there was a limited amount of floor space and I had to move around the work carefully so I didn't step on it or trip and fall on it. I wasn't wearing shoes so I wouldn't step on it with my dirty shoes on. This would be a rough process for someone with a bad back or mobility issues - I was really crawling around on the floor. One side of the board was up against the couch so I was climbing up on the couch, too.

Once I had it laid out the way I wanted, I used pins to mark the edges of the piece. I was constantly adjusting the edges of the piece before I placed the pins to keep the symmetry. I didn't go around the piece in a circle, rather I started on one side and did a few, then a few on the other side, etc. to keep it balanced.

Once it was pinned I laid towels on top of it. I had to use more than one towel to ensure the surface was covered, so there was some overlap. I was using old towels from the laundry room rather than the towels we used for ourselves for showers. I pressed the towels lightly to absorb some of the water, but didn't press too hard. I also did not want to dislodge the pins which were sticking up. I left it overnight this way and checked on it periodically the next day until it was dry. Then I took off the towels, took out the pins, took off the piece, and folded up the plastic and the board for re-use.

MAP TRENDS - what's out there, product wise?

Common products for blocking include blocking boards and blocking wires. Wires are used for things like shawls that need to have straight edges - you can use straight pins, but they can lead to a wobbly edge since they don't pull the fabric consistently along the length. In my personal experience, as well as according to crochet-garment maven Doris Chan, who refers to them as "instruments of torture," blocking wires and the like are usually used for knitting rather than crochet because of the differences in stitch construction - knitting is more likely to curl and thus need more aggressive blocking.

In terms of blocking surfaces, here's some things sold as blocking boards:

from Knit Picks:

from Ohio Table Pad Company - this seems to be the "official," but it's $90, and a lot of searches and discussions focused on how to make your own to avoid that price tag:

Doris Chan recommends a "roomy, flat, moisture tolerant surface, like a not-wood table or spare bed or clean floor covered with towels."

Personally, I use a cardboard gridded fabric cutting board that folds up, with plastic garbage bags laid over it to protect it. You can see through the plastic to see the little squares and make sure the measurements are correctly and things are lined up. Then I lay towels on top of the piece to absorb the water.

In the "user experience" section I talk more about what people use as blocking boards - the common feature seems to be that you can stick pins into it if you need to. Presumably something that is too hard wouldn't work.

USER EXPERIENCE - what do people in the craftoblogosphere and on Ravelry have to say about blocking?

I used the Ravelry forums to look for posts about blocking. Here are some observations:

One user posted a photo of her sweater blocking on her bed with the comment "tonight I sleep on the floor!"

Another user questioned whether to put her sweater through the wash and then dry it flat in order to block it, or to use "old school blocking," presumably a reference to wet or damp blocking. She commented "I don't have a lot of room in the apartment," so space might affect what decisions people make about blocking, which can affect the success of the finished piece.

A post in the "Tools" forum discusses blocking boards. A common at-home solution turns out to be what I use - using a "Cardboard sewing board from Hancock Fabrics/Jo-Ann" and covering it with plastic. Some people use a clear plastic sheet rather than my garbage bag solution. These flooring mats were mentioned - they must be popular, since Amazon lists a knitting blocking kit under "Frequently Bought Together!" Styrofoam boards and exercise mats were also mentioned. Someone else took pieces of plywood from Home Depot and covered them in checkerboard fabric in order to have a grid.

Here's TWO AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT I came up with:

When I block things I use a cardboard surface with plastic over it to protect it, but plastic itself is not absorbent. But I often need to be able to see the grid below in order to make sure I stretch the piece to the proper measurements (and don't over-stretch or pull it out of shape). I have not found a way to incorporate both "absorbent material" and "precise straight lines" in my surface that I lay the piece on.

Oh right, this is supposed to be about sinks and basins! As I mentioned before, I often find that the bathroom sink is too small, the kitchen sink is full of dishes, and the bathtub is too large. I've tried a smaller plastic basin that I fill with water from the bathtub, and that's not bad, but it's not ideal for everything. I imagine most people would chafe at buying a new product for this purpose alone, but you never know, and it's possible an exciting product could be repurposed, or other solutions could be devised for my complaints about existing options to make them work.

I got a little disorganized doing this research - if there's a "next step," I think I'll focus in on one particular stage - like the blocking boards themselves, or the sink/basin space used to get the piece wet, or the problem of having a large flat space in the home without having to sleep on the floor or run the risk of having your cats tear up your project while you're at work.

Idea Wallet

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I am maintaining this on Pinterest - right now it's mostly personal creative stuff and there's not much having to do with sinks, but I will add to it.

Bug List

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  • Cats drinking out of my water glass
  • Forgetting to charge my cell phone overnight
  • Lugging my laundry, coins, laundry key, and detergent down to the laundry room
  • Remembering to bring coupons to the store
  • Cat litter is cheaper if you buy it in bulk, but I can't carry a 50-pound bucket on my own so I feel forced to pay more per pound so I don't hurt myself
  • My car beeps at me when I have it on and I don't have my seat belt fastened, but sometimes I need the car on but I'm not in motion or near moving cars that could pose a hazard - this was more of an issue over the summer when it would be hot to sit in the car without the AC. Presumably the same will be true when it gets cold.
  • At my apartment complex we went six weeks between when they stripped the asphalt and the painted lines off the parking lot and when they repainted. As a result I often lost the game of "musical spots" late at night when people would park slightly too far apart and take up more than their fair share of space, leading to insufficient room for all the cars.
  • I vastly prefer the taste of pop in cans over bottles, but there's not a good way to preserve the carbonation of cans once opened.
  • I have a webcam clipped to the top of my laptop, and every time I close the laptop I worry I will snap the plastic when the clip on the cam gets trapped between the top and bottom of the laptop. Yet if I take it off, I worry I will step on it or otherwise damage it once it is free to roam around on its cord.
  • I can't use that webcam on my desktop because the cord won't reach between the USB drive on the tower and the top of the desk where the monitor is.
  • I hate getting a haircut because I hate looking at myself in the mirror wearing a funny cape, and I get bored. I feel like reading a magazine/book is not a good option because I don't always have the option of holding my head at the proper angle. I suspect there are some product-based solutions to keeping me entertained while under those constraints.
  • It's hard to listen to music in the car because I hate the radio and it feels unsafe to fiddle with my iPod while driving. I often have specific things I want to listen to so simply pressing "go" on a generic playlist would probably not be rewarding.
  • I have a small container of over-the-counter medicine that I carry in my purse, and it keeps coming open and spilling the pills in my purse. They then get crushed into a powder that gets on everything
  • I went shopping yesterday and had to look in three or four places in one store to confirm whether they had a particular product in my size. I wish there was a self-serve way to check that stuff because I hate talking to employees. I don't like "browsing" when I shop and want to be able to walk in, figure out if they have what I want, pick it up and go without fearing I overlooked something.
  • My cats spill water on the kitchen floor a lot. Since it's clear, it's hard to see and I step in it a lot.

Mind Mapping

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For the mind mapping/product idea assignment for the sink/basin theme, I started out with three big categories based on location: home (encompassing kitchen (sink), and bathroom (sink)), public locations like offices and schools where there's a row of sinks in one place, and a third location - thinking of a sink in the basement of a friend's house that was originally part of a darkroom, and is now used for beer brewing. I've also used it for dyeing fabric. (I ended up not coming up with any products specifically for this type of sink, but it was on my mind map.)

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To get into a "playful" mood, I watched a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and played some cute games on my phone. I came up with the following broad categories/problems to approach when designing products:

  • Kitchen: How can washing dishes be made more appealing? I don't own a dishwasher in my current apartment, and it's hard for me to get motivated to wash dishes.
  • Kitchen: My mother's cat will ONLY drink water out of a pitcher or other tall container placed on the kitchen counter or in the sink area - she isn't interested in bowls, or anything placed on the floor. This results in cat hair on the counter, cat hair in the food, cats trying to get into water glasses (my personal recent quest to "drink more water" by keeping a glass near me is frequently foiled by my cat sticking his head in the glass and drinking it, or knocking it over) ... and at the same time cats need to have water available for themselves and perhaps there is a solution that would please both cat and owner.
  • Kitchen: Drying dishes. Thinking about public spaces makes me think about other ways that things are dried, like hair driers, hand driers in public bathrooms, etc. Perhaps there's a better product than an ordinary dishtowel for drying dishes.
  • Public places: In the sink area of a hotel room, there's often little giveaway bottles of shampoo, conditioner, etc. What are the ideal containers for these products? Which products should be given away? What will people actually use and what goes to waste? I know a lot of people take them home even if they don't use them during their hotel stay.
  • Home uses: Sinks produce water, which gets on anything stored near the sink. What can be done to keep things dry that are stored near the sink (either by design or out of necessity due to a lack of space) that shouldn't get wet?
  • Usability: As an undergrad I did a project working with residents of a local assisted living facility. When designing things I often remember the importance of catering to older, mobility-impaired, vision-impaired, etc... users. Turning the faucet on and off seems like a particular frustration to someone with arthritis, for instance - if you can't turn it on, you can't brush your teeth or wash your hands, basic hygienic necessities. If you can't turn it off, you have to listen to annoying noises and waste a lot of water.
  • Here are ten specific ideas based on these themes:

    1. Making dishes more appealing: I think of a few homes I've lived in where there's a window above the sink. Being able to look out the window and experience the natural light would make standing at the sink more appealing, but right now I just have a wall behind my sink. How about a fake window that would go on the wall and make it look like you were looking outside? It would be a waterproof material (so not just a poster with a photo of the outdoors) and perhaps be customizable. An advanced version could actually be a computer screen (there would need to be a way to waterproof it - perhaps a sneeze-guard type plastic protector at the base) that would change and perhaps even offer a waterproof touch screen for customization, authentic outdoor bird sounds, etc.
    2. Making dishes more appealing: I wear big ugly rubber gloves when I do my dishes. They're a pleasing shade of lavender, but what can be done to make them more fun? For the morbidly inclined, a pair with a print that looks bloodstained or like surgical gloves might lead to the opportunity to chase friends and family around the kitchen while making creepy grabbing motions with your "bloody" hands. A print on the fingers that lets you form your hand into a talking animal head might entertain children, and so on...
    3. Cat products: Mounting a water bottle like a hamster bottle on the wall that then auto-fills into a pitcher or glass of the kind the cat prefers - saves the human the trouble of filling up the glass, and controls the amount of water in the glass at any given time. Securing the glass to the countertop would avoid issues with the cat knocking it over. A sturdy plastic pitcher might also work - my mother's cat prefers a ceramic pitcher that's heavy enough to avoid spillage, but ceramic seems dangerous nonetheless. A cute design and text that says "Cat Water Only" on the side would avoid issues with naive visitors pouring themselves drinking water from it.
    4. Drying dishes: As a child I was always fascinated by the "sprinklers" in the produce section of the grocery store that turned on and off to keep the produce moist. Something like this could be installed beneath the kitchen cabinets, only instead of producing water it produces air to dry dishes.
    5. Drying dishes: How about a big metal basket that attaches to your windowsill that you can put dishes in to air dry with the air from outside? Maybe a lid if you want to hang the basket on the outside portion to avoid birds landing on your dishes ... you could hang it inside but the water might drip on the floor...
    6. Hotel mini bottles: Not everyone needs the products given away by the hotel, and sometimes people need things they don't have in the room, and have to call the front desk or go shopping. How about a vending machine in the hallway that sells the products? Either swiping your room card would give you one bottle per day (to avoid abuse) or the products would be sold for a dollar or two (charged to the room so you wouldn't need change or bills when traveling). Given that they have vending machines for things like iPods, this probably isn't that hard to design. Choices could include brands of shampoo and conditioner, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and maybe even other hotel "necessities" like condoms...
    7. Hotel mini bottles: As for the bottles themselves, they could easily be made more playful and appealing. Two big complaints I have about them is that the product is frequently hard to get out of the bottle, especially as it nears the bottom, and that the bottles are often hard to tell apart from each other. When showering at 5 AM before an out of town job interview, I don't want to confuse the hand lotion with the conditioner. I'm at a loss right now for how to figure out how to get shampoo to come easily out of a tiny bottle, so perhaps get rid of the "tiny bottle" idea entirely and mount dispensers on the wall in each room that can be refilled easily, much like a soap dispenser in a public restroom. Large letters (including Braille) would label shampoo and conditioner and provide information about the brand and type of the product... perhaps vibrant color-coding would help make it playful and clear, too.
    8. Usability for faucets: Thinking of playful faucets makes me think of animal shapes - I'm sure "elephant trunk" has been done, but what else has two smaller symmetrical shapes on each side and a longer one in the middle? (Get your mind out of the gutter, this needs to be kid friendly!) I've thought of reindeer/elk antlers for the hot and cold faucets, leaves and a tree trunk, a lamppost with lights (the faucet handles could light up)...
    9. Faucets: This is so simple I bet it's been done, but plastic, grippy covers for the metal faucets to ease grabbing and turning them with wet hands or when the handles themselves are wet. The hot cover would be red and the cold would be blue - I imagine that older or developmentally disabled users might have trouble remembering which is which and could get burned, so a more visible reminder than a tiny H and C would help.
    10. Preventing things from getting wet that shouldn't: This feels outlandish, but I'm picturing small platforms that you can put appliances on, like your toaster, that are set into the counter. Flipping a switch causes them to raise up above the surface of the counter at varying heights, and then they can be lowered again for use ... the platforms remind me a bit of a video game. The platforms would be just the right size for each appliance and could be raised and lowered individually, or all together.


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Recent Comments

  • paul@cliqstudios.com: Brilliant mind map, you've comprehensively covered a lot of ground read more
  • Taylor Hill: I've had that same blog issue TWICE. I'm still trying read more
  • grim0168: Nice sketch models. I like how you explain what questions read more
  • Nance Longley: Argh! That happened to me on my first blog. It's read more
  • smit4461: From Kate's Blog SCAMPERIN' TIME! 5. Sink with built in read more
  • smit4461: Uh, holy detail, Batman! You present interesting problems that I read more
  • olso4235: Thanks for the descriptions of what you were referring to, read more
  • schof052: Hey Kate This is a really fascinating read. I have read more
  • spoox007: Although I interpret you're approach to lean towards the left read more
  • solzx007: I like #8 a lot - you could have colored read more

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