I took last Monday off from writing but it wasn’t a rest day. To say that the last 2 weeks have been busy is well and truly and understatement. It is all a bit of a blur and although I could check my notes and calendar to work out the exact dates when things occurred, quite frankly I can’t be bothered getting off the couch to go check. I figure in the great scheme of things it really isn’t that important.
I do keep very detailed notes and I have a habit of documenting and keeping pretty much every email and bit of paper, just in case I need to confirm something. This is a very useful habit to have when working in a lab. Taking detailed notes and writing up experiments is an essential skill, not only for reproducing one’s own experiments but also to provide supporting evidence for patent applications. There are very specific conventions and rules about how experiments are required to be documented. A bound lab book with sequentially numbered pages was the essential starting point. Although it may have changed in the five years that I have been away from the lab as electronic lab books were being tested when I wrote up my last experiment. Each experiment is supposed to be written up following the same format, starting with a title. The aim of the experiment was next and although extremely important is usually only a sentence or two. It can be very hard to define exactly and precisely what the aim of the experiment is but without this it is impossible to determine if at the end you have achieved what you had set out to do. Even with a clearly defined aim, I am sure that on more than one occasion I found when it came time to write the Discussion/Conclusion (which is after the Materials and Methods, and the Results sections) that I had answered a completely different question to the one I was aiming to.
So last week I was aiming to have a quantity of Striking Violet reeled silk dyed, packaged and ready for sale by Monday 27th April. I remember that date without looking as I knew I had the weekend to finalise the bobbin design and package the silk. The Monday itself was set aside for photographing the finished product and getting it up for sale. The bobbin design has been close to finished for a while now but the real test of the scalable design was to actually package a quantity of silk for sale. So the Friday before the weekend was spent driving across the city to get the bobbin and packaging components. I had various prototypes and sample components but I needed to pull it all together for the final design. It turns out that it is quite tricky to use ‘off the shelf’ packaging components to make something completely different and not have it look like Frankenstein’s monster. I was aiming for a finished cohesive look but without the pricetag or the 2500 minimum order associated with a bespoke packaging design.
I had approached the bobbin design from quite a few different angles but in the end I had to either modify or make and then assemble all the components by hand. I have been making the bobbins by hand all along but the production model needed to look as much as possible like it had been made by machine. I had been trying to make something more complicated when I realised that the prototype that I had put together for the epic shawl was perfectly functional. Although, I had been thinking that I wanted black packaging (as everything looks better in black) the white was necessary as I couldn’t be sure the dye from the black cardboard wouldn’t discolour the silk after prolonged contact. Importantly the bobbin design had been thoroughly tested so I knew that it would run smoothly, it didn’t have any rough or sharp edges and the joins were physically strong enough. I had discovered the hard way during winding the silk for the epic shawl that the connection between the flange and the core of the bobbin was a potential weak point. It really reinforced the importance of product testing and functional design.
The actual packaging also proved that testing is important as although I really wanted to use the Pharma jars the lip on the inside of the neck made it difficult to get the bobbin out and had the potential to snag the silk. So I ended up using something a bit more conventional which had the added benefit that I could get the packaging, machine cut to size. It turns out that poster tubes can be cut to length and are almost exactly the same weight as a similar sized Pharma jar. As they come in a range of diameters and lengths they are the perfect scalable packaging for bobbins and I suspect are less likely to attract the attention of customs officials when shipping overseas.
So I can happily conclude that I can dye and package the reeled silk for sale and now that I have done it once it should be a relatively simple matter to do it again. The silk was shipped a week ago now and I have been keeping an eye on the tracking data. The status at the top of the tracking page still says ‘In Transit’. The detailed information tells me that it has made it all the way to the United States but I will be just a little bit relived once the status has changed to ‘Delivered’.