Sweet

Things have been crazy lately – meetings, working (yes, working), historical society stuff, goats, dogs, house, garden, blah, blah, blah.  I got a message that Lenny was going to be working on the looms with a couple of mechanically minded guys.  The timing was poor but I made it work and was oh so happy that I did.

Any opportunity to spend time with Lenny and the looms is something to be cherished in my opinion.  It’s the closest I can get to my grandfather who’s been gone since 1976.  Lenny is a slight, flirty little man in his 90’s who loves, loves, loves the Crompton & Knowles W3 power looms.  They have been his life.  The look of delight on his face when he is running one is magical to me.

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This event (and it is one to me) also afforded me the opportunity to spend time not only with Peggy but two men who had as high an interest in these machines as I do.  One is a machinist, the other runs the vintage cards at a spinnery in VT.

Mechanical ability is an art in itself and I soaked in that energy like a very dry sponge.  It wasn’t until I looked at the photos/videos that I really began to see mechanics as artists.  The enthusiasm in the room was palpable.  The beauty of this machinery is with a little study they are understandable and magical to watch.  Lenny knows them like they are a part of his being, the others were meeting them for the second time.  They’d already spent time with Lenny and the looms, walked away and had to return – the machine’s magic is seeping into their souls (insert an evil laugh here).  When one of them told me they could watch them run all day I knew he was hooked.  The other, while trying to rig a part that would work said, “I look at the part and think ‘how can I make this better'”.  No sweeter words. . .

Now it has been a while since I’ve had that experience.  It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. Peggy brought it all together, fiber, weaving, machinery. Yesterday was a nourishing experience and I realize that being  around fellow creatives feeds me.    I slept well, I woke up calmer, I feel the need to sit at the loom and make something.  I realize how important it is to find what does that for me and to fit that into my life.  Everyone should do just one thing that makes them extraordinarily happy, or causes their minds to stretch in the effort to learn and understand something.  A workout for your brain.  It makes everything else just a little bit easier.

Grand Opening

It’s been a whirlwind kind of week in preparing the Browning Bench Tool Factory for its Grand Opening this coming Saturday, the 15th.  The historical society was given the use of a building that was moved and restored in 1976.  It was originally a factory building used in the making of small hand tools such as hand planes.

The idea of building another building for the display of sleighs, wagons and large agricultural artifacts had been discussed during the latter part of last year but the cost of doing so was just out of reach.  The Bench Tool had been used in the past for exhibits of local crafts on Old Home Day but has basically sat idle otherwise.  It’s a barn essentially with no insulation but tight to the weather.  It has a good roof and windows.  We figured this would be the perfect annex for our agricultural display.

The sleighs, wagon, and large agricultural articles have been moved in, the smaller stuff has been making its way over.  This past week with work bees we’ve sorted things to different floors and by industry, season or animal.  There are displays about sugaring and skiing, tools for ice cutting and wood cutting.  Dairy, haying and harvesting grains are included along with bee equipment and chicken brooders.

The third floor is a temporary exhibit on textiles and the manufacture.  Shirley (the loom) is set up and being dressed this week, I will be weaving there most Saturdays through the season.  There will be displays of other spinning and weaving equipment as well as some of the hand-woven artifacts from the museum.

One of the most important things for me has been the photographs.  The Historical Society has a treasure trove of amazing photos and I have scanned a good many of them in the past 10 months or so.  I’ve printed and mounted a great number of them to display along with the artifacts to put things in context.  So while the displays come together I think the photographs  will be the icing on the cake.  To see the town as it was 130 years ago is an amazing thing – open fields, amazing views, industry.  It’s difficult sometimes to wrap your head around it.

The trustees have come together and done an amazing job.  They all really care about the history of the town and sharing it with those that are interested.  If you are in the area on any Saturday through Fall from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. stop by and see what we have in our newly expanded museum, there’s something for everyone.  Also consider becoming a member or lending your support as we continue to uncover treasures to share with everyone.

Projects Finished and Beginning

It was moving day for Shirley and the walking wheel.  We’ve had these pieces of equipment in our living space for quite some time and moving them out today was quite the change.  There are now big swaths of open space (and endless amounts of dust).

I have finished the bulletin on Rowe’s textile history (a short course) for the Historical Society.  I had to write it in such a way that a layman could understand what I was talking about and keep it brief enough so people wouldn’t fall asleep as they were reading it.  No easy feat for someone who could talk about this until you pass out from boredom.

I had researched this from the 1780’s until 1900 or so in detail, the problem came when I had to put all of the research together.  There was the history of the equipment, the economic history, and the social history.  I had thought that the weaving history would be the fascinating part but found it was the people.  When I wrapped up the writing of the article I realized I wasn’t ready to let go of them, or their way of life.

I have found wonderful diaries, day books, account books from the doctors in town as well as merchant’s account records.  The beauty of this research is that it is in a town that is so small.  I built genealogies of over a dozen families and found out how intertwined everyone was.  With the diaries I learned about how stoic the men could be even in facing the loss of their spouses or children.  One line described what one could only imagine as something completely  life altering.  These books all crossed with each other over a certain number of years so it gave a fuller picture of daily living.  The only way that this could possibly be shared is if I wrote a historical novel.  A Peyton Place sort of thing using the characters in their own time and place.  On the back burner that goes.

With the research and writing done the displays are now being put together.  The Rowe Historical Society will be opening an annex to their museum on July 15th.  It is in an old factory building that was moved and restored for the U.S. bicentennial in 1976.  The building is wonderful and perfect for the large sleighs, wagons and agricultural artifacts.  The trustees are working hard to get the museum in good shape for their opening July 1st.   Having done the bulletin on weaving I decided that I would move the barn frame loom and the walking wheel in for the season and do demonstrations on the Saturdays we are open.  It’s nice to be a part of something that is so interesting and to watch and help it come together.

For the time being I will have to get used to the vacant spaces in the house but I have a feeling I will be seeing more of them in the next few weeks than I have been seeing them at home of late.  I will also finally get a warp on Shirley and run her through her paces. I feel good that this is where Shirley needs to be right now, spotlighting how amazing she was almost 200 years ago.  She’ll be teaching me right along with everyone that visits.

The Cloth

I apologize to my non weaving readers for something that may not be as interesting or easily understood but I have to do this.

There are three parts as I see it to this research project on the Satinet Factory in Rowe.  One of the most important to me was the cloth itself.  Having never seen a piece of satinet from 1840 or so I decided that the only way I could get a real visual of what they were making was to weave a piece myself.

I was pointed in the direction of a book titled The Domestic Manufacturer’s Assistant and Family Directory in the Arts of Weaving and Dyeing by J. and R. Bronson which was originally published in 1817.  The book is very informative and once you get the hang of the drafts they are very easy to figure out. This is a 6 shaft satin pattern.

So I did a little math, figured out the tie ups and started winding a warp.   Satinet was woven with a cotton warp and a wool weft.  I think originally it was for economic reasons.  Power carders and spinning were in place before the looms were so the mills prepared the fiber but the satinet was being woven by people in their homes on large barn frame looms.  Subcontractors in 1822 were being paid 10 cents per yard, or about $1.93 per yard in today’s money.  Satinet was also an inexpensive cloth to manufacture and the demand for it skyrocketed in the 1830’s  when clothiers began using the power-loom.

After talking to a few weavers who have an interest in historic weaving I decided that I would use 20/2 cotton and begin with a sett of 36 e.p.i. (partly because I have a 12 reed and the math was easy to do) . . . (sorry, not sorry).

I think cotton makes one of the most beautiful warps.  I love the sheen.  The question came up before doing this little experiment if the fabric would have been yarn dyed or piece dyed.  Everyone I talked to was in a different camp on this one so I decided to do a white cotton warp with dyed wool weft.  This also would make it easier to study the structure and see how the weft was covering the warp at different setts and beats.

Woohoo, tied on and ready to go.  The piece in the loom was 6″ in width.  I used a single ply wool for the weft that seemed about the same size as the warp.  It was a left over warp from Peggy’s mill so I’m not sure of the exact size.   There were some slubs on the yarn which is what you see in the weaving.

I figured I’d start out with 36 p.p.i to make it balanced but found that I had to up my beat to attain 43 p.p.i. to cover the warp.  Also taken into consideration was the fulling that would occur in wet finishing.  I tried setting it higher – to 40 e.p.i. but that made a very stiff cloth.  I wove and wet finished 2 pieces at the two different setts with all different picks per inch, both about 12 inches in the loom.  When finished they both shrank to 5 1/2 by 11 1/4  which was much less than I expected.

The wrong side of the cloth is quite lovely, the fabric itself is soft and supple.  It was used mostly for trousers back in the day and you can understand it.  It has a nice hand but feels like it would wear extremely well.  It was also used for linings in coats and to make jackets.   Civil war uniforms were very often made of satinet as well.  My thought as I handled the samples was that I would love to weave some yardage for a jacket, it would be very comfortable.

My guess is this fabric would have been made with finer thread for a lighter weight but until I actually see a piece of it I won’t know.  The search continues here in town, we have an extensive collection of clothing.  I will also contact a few other museums to see what they have in their collections but at least now I know what I’m looking for.

 

 

 

Down a History Rabbit Hole

One of the best things I have done in the past year is become a trustee for the Rowe Historical Society.  I’m now one of the few that remember its founders and the excitement of putting the museum together and having tours conducted by them when I was a child.

Last summer the trustees had to move an entire room of things in order to do some repairs and refinish said room.  While doing so we cataloged the things that were in there.  It was a real hodge-podge of articles from large farm equipment to cameras to kitchen utensils.  As we were cataloging we moved many things to other parts of the museum that were more directly related to what they were.  I was cataloging a box of smalls when I found a 3″x 4″ printing block with the name Franklin Manufacturing Company  on it.

What caught my eye was the line “superior fabric, colour and finish”.  That’s when I knew it had to have come from the Satinet Factory that was in town during the 1800’s.  I brought the block to a friend, then a friend of a friend who teaches printing made a few copies of what I imagine was a tag of sorts for the fabric woven since No. Yds. is at the bottom of the print.

The print is beautiful.

I am currently working on the yearly bulletin for the Historical Society.  It usually has a little story about some interesting thing in town history and maybe a genealogy or story about the occupants of a particular house.  I originally chose the really broad subject of manufacturing but with the continued study of this print and what it meant I realized that what I knew about the Satinet Factory was limited and had seriously peaked my interest.

The last month or so has seen an immersion into the manufacture of satinet and textile mills in Western MA during the early 19th century.  Textile history is American history, it played huge roles in the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Now being a hand weaver and reading more and more about this particular cloth I decided it was something I needed to weave to get a perspective on what it is since I have yet to find any of it to look at (the search continues at the museum though).  Satinet is a fabric woven with a cotton warp and wool weft.  It was produced at an inexpensive cloth used in coats, uniforms and trousers. There are a few weavers that out there that have been more than helpful in this little quest and hopefully in the next few days I will put a warp on my loom to do a little sampling (something I never do but curiosity has gotten the better of me).

I’ve found a few photographs of the factory building after it had been abandoned (1876) and have looked at the location (under feet of snow).  I also read about “Factory Village” as the center of town was known at the time.  The Satinet factory was the single largest economic enterprise that has ever existed in this town yet it seems to be a footnote in the town history and I think that’s because no one really knew what satinet was and how it fit into the scheme of the local and state economies.

I could go on and on about this but there isn’t room (and I dare say interest).  What began as a small article could very well turn into something much larger with a little more digging.  There is an amazing textile history right here and I’m just beginning to piece the artifacts together with the research.  Thank goodness for the internet but at the same time I feel like it’s the technology that keeps people from becoming interested in the things that are right under their noses.  Maybe I can do a little to change that.

WFH

When I started working with Peggy the only compensation I asked for was blankets to give for Christmas.  Quite honestly, being there, observing and helping in small ways was really compensation enough.

In one of my earliest posts about Bedfellows Blankets – It’s Always Something – I talked about the problems of badly spun yarn.  There were two jobs that were being woven for the same person with the same bad yarn.  One warp was finished and shipped.  The other has seen an off again on again relationship with the loom over the past 9 months.  Yes, that warp and I have been in close contact since I started going there.  It’s now affectionately referred to as the WFH (warp from hell).  Two hundred yards that have slowly and painfully made their way into cloth.

The pattern for the original job was a twill but had to be woven with double threads to give it more strength.  A little over 150 yards were woven, repaired and brought to the finisher before making its way to the customer.

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There were hours of mending broken threads.  Finally during the summer, with the cost overruns the customer cut their losses and there we sat with 50 yards or so still on the beam.  It sat there for a while.

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Peggy rethreaded it a number of different ways and finally began weaving a few throws when time permitted.  Warp threads still broke but different yarns for weft helped a little.

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It was still an exercise in frustration.  But . . . the finished throws were quite beautiful.  I decided these were the ones I wanted for gifts.  I brought a couple home – one herringbone and one plaited twill and wrapped them for Christmas.   I asked if I got some yarn for weft could we weave one for me.  I got a resounding  “Are you sure?”

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I got some lovely Harrisville Highland which proceeded to cause no end of problems because the weight of the yarn was just a little too much for the bobbin winder.  The temps were subzero outdoors and around 55 in the weave room.  Antique, oil-filled machines do not like cold temperatures so the process was slow.  Finally we were off and running.

Ahhh, I love that sound.  If you turn the sound up as high as it goes that’s what it sounds like with your ear protection on.  I’m not sure why my grandfather wasn’t deaf.

Well, we were stopping every 10 to 15 picks as usual.  The whole process was pretty painful.  Photographing is was – challenging.  During that little video two threads broke that I didn’t see on either side of the frame.  Yup, now I was just thinking about the repairs.

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Knotting the fringe was the final job before wet finishing – into the washer, cold water gentle, line dry.

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The finished throw is truly wonderful.  The yarn fulled as I expected making a soft, thick blanket.  The fringe looks almost like raw wool ( it almost is) because it had to little twist in it.  I probably should trim it and will eventually but I’m just enjoying it for now.

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These past months have given me a new respect for artists who create these treasures.  People will buy them and love them but will never know what went into their making.  The time, the care and often  frustration.

Peggy wove 3 more throws the other day while I was there.  One went pretty well, the other two not so much.  There’s probably another 20 yards on the warp and I asked her when she was going to be done with it – just cut it off.  She told me she was going to continue to work on it.  She did it to honor the wool.  So with time and patience that’s what she’s doing and for me that’s the most important lesson of all.

If you’re interested in one of these throws contact Bedfellows Blankets and ask about the WFH.

 

It’s a Matter of Perspective

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I’ve been reading a number of posts and memes commenting on what a horrendous year 2016 has been.  If I take a quick look back I might be inclined to agree.  This was a year of tremendous loss for me personally.  Four people I loved dearly passed away leaving some pretty big holes.  Then there was the weather – hot, hot summer, not much rain, a garden left to the weeds.  We won’t even go into the news or current events.

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In looking through the photographs of the year I realized that some pretty fantastic things have happened as well.  With the death of my father I was given the gift of time allowing me to be involved in things that are close to my heart.  This brought me into situations where I’ve met some great people and have grown in ways I never expected.

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I’ve expanded my horizons by spending time with some wonderful weavers. They are the most generous people I know.  The weaving I’m doing today and the direction it seems to be heading right now is pulling from the history of the craft.  What began as weaving off a warp on a barn frame loom (a figure it out by yourself experience) lead to the purchase and moving of this type of loom to my house.  A mention of a few of these looms available in New England started the journey into bringing one home.  Snow and miles are not a deterrent to a weaver in search of a piece of equipment.

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This was also a year of reunions.  I’m not sure if it had to do with the loss of mutual friends or it was just timing but I spent more than a few of my weekends with people I love from past lives.  Calls out of the blue from friends I haven’t talked to in decades.  Calls from people on the other side of the world.  Calls to gather and just remember how much we truly like each other.

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It was a year of new-found friendship as well.  Like minded people coming together to work on projects of mutual interest.  Being more involved in a town of this size has brought me great satisfaction, friendships new and renewed and an understanding of the effort needed to keep it all together and keep politics out of it.  No easy feat.

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I think what I really learned is it was is all a matter of perspective.  My photography has helped with that – I’m a glass half full kind of photographer.  I try to share the wonder and beauty around me.  I realized a long time ago that worrying about the big picture is pretty destructive.  It’s not that I have my head in the sand it’s just that on a grand scale I know there’s very little I can to about it.  You can’t spend hours in the day projecting what is going to happen down the road, you don’t know.  Things unfold the way they unfold and it’s always in slower motion than you think it’s going to.

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Going into 2017 my goals are to learn more about the things I love and share that knowledge with those who will listen (and even those that won’t – sorry).  Perfect my crafts and teach others how to do these things.  Be kind and generous with my time.  Stay connected in a meaningful way to my friends – old and new – because you never know who needs what when and sometimes big change can happen by doing what you think is the littlest of things.  Most of all, never lose that sense of wonder.  There is so much to see and learn even in the smallest of things.

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Giving Thanks

 

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I watched American Experience on PBS last night – The Pilgrims.  I must confess that it was pretty dry and I had a tough time staying awake through the whole thing but it was enlightening in a couple of ways.

When the pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower they did so as refugees really.  They had been persecuted by the English because they refused to give up their belief system and be members of the Anglican church.  At the time you risked fines, jail or death if you were not a member of the Church of England.  In order to be able to practice freely they made a number of attempts to leave England as a group.  They finally escaped to Holland and spent 10 years worshiping in their homes.  They didn’t speak Dutch and the only jobs they had were menial in the textile and clothing industry.  They had nothing really.

What they did have was their community.  While in Holland they realized the culture of that country was not in line with their strict beliefs and worried about their children growing up in a land of loose moral character.  They wanted to create a community where they could grow in their beliefs without the influence of outsiders.   Living in a bubble of their own making they were truly naive about the ways of the world around them and taken advantage of by people at every turn trying to make their way across the Atlantic.  They left England very late in the year and arrived in New England on November 11, 1620.  Think about that – it’s now November 23 and it is cold.  They had just spent 66 days on a cramped boat and landed in wilderness.  No shelter, no food, nothing.  They survived but in greatly diminished numbers.

I feel many immigration stories are the same.  There is always some extreme reason to leave your home.  People don’t want to leave where they have lived, worked and played their entire lives unless they feel they have no other choice.  I think they also have the conviction that where they plan to go will be better.  Bill’s family left Lebanon in 1908 to come to America to build a better life and I would assume to escape political and religious turmoil.  How scary is it to use every last penny you have to get to a place where you don’t speak the language, don’t have a job or a place to live and you know no one?  I will tell you that the hardships they endured were incredible and probably not at all what they expected.  They had each other and their children and did what they had to do to survive with the conviction that this would be better at some point.

I wonder how far into their journeys did they wake up and think “what was I thinking?” or begin to lose sight of the reason for leaving home and country to begin with.  I don’t think we can really know the hardships they were living but I wonder if they thought the hardships they came into it were worth it.  There was no going back for them.

What they all had when they came here was community.  They had their friends, families or at the very least like-minded people with a similar plan in mind.  Today I can look at all of their situations and wonder how bad would it have to get for me to leave?  I realize even in the chaos and idiocy that has embroiled the country I have been in for the past 60 years I live a good life.  I have a home, heat and food on the table.  I have wonderful family and friends.  I am able to talk about anything I want – race, religion, politics – without fear of imprisonment.  I can make my own choices, go where I want, do what I want to do.  This past year has been a rough one on many levels.  The news is always sensational and instills fear in the hearts of anyone who listens but if you step back you have to realize that how your life is today is no different from what it was a month ago.  Fear is something that can take over your life and prevent you from living at all.

We all need to count our blessings.  Seems trite but without reflection and gratitude we can end up living a miserable existence surrounded by the things that have come to us through the true misery of others.  Look at what you’ve got, think of the life that you have and work on making that little piece of your world better.  Being able to do so is something to truly be thankful for.

 

 

 

From My Perspective

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Okay, there are some things I need to say.

Everyone needs to calm down.

I have a confession and possibly some internal insight to share.  The first election I voted in was in 1976 – Carter/Ford.  I voted Republican and we all know how that turned out.  I voted Republican in every election until Barack Obama ran.  He ran on hope and change.  I thought we needed change in a pretty big way, besides John McCain had pretty much lost his mind and Sarah Palin was his running mate.  Yeah.   I didn’t vote for either candidate this past Tuesday.  I was informed when I went to the polls, I voted for every other representative and the state referendums but I broke into a sweat, felt a little dizzy and stayed in that booth for way longer than I should have. (I was the only one there and all of the poll takers know me, they must have wondered).  I looked at the candidates (all of them) and thought I simply can’t do it.  Do I regret it?  No.

The other confession is I once believed social media to be a good thing.  On the night of 9/11 the internet was really in its infancy.  We had dial-up and chat rooms.  Somehow I ended up in a chat room for the employees of Cantor Fitzgerald and there was a man pleading to hear from anyone he knew and worked with there.  There was silence.  It was the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced – it made it real for me in a way that nothing else did.

Fast forward to the year 2016 and I can tell you that my circle of friends on social media has gotten much smaller.  One of the reasons is politics, yes but the other is the things that are patently untrue that continue to circulate as truth.  I confess that I can be a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to this sort of thing calling stuff out and spending time on Snopes but is this really how I want to spend my time?  I’ve also realized in the past few days that all it is doing is inciting anxiety and fear in everyone who faithfully (or obsessively) checks their status hour by hour.  Yes, guilty as charged.

The day after the election was awful, two days after still bad.  Today the armchair quarterbacking continues as we all try to come to grips with the election results and what it means.

Here’s the thing, we need to stop looking at the election of Donald Trump as the end, it’s not.  We need to take a rest from this frenzy of posting at all (or reading). The friends and family that I have on social media are still people I care about but I need to  be part of their lives in a different way.  We need to gather our friends and neighbors together and build a community of help and service.  Break bread together, have a game night, stop living in your home in isolation.  Volunteer for anything that will help you to know someone new a little better.  Person to person contact, have a real conversation.  Yes, it may be about politics but it takes on new meaning when you talk to someone face to face.  How many times have you sent an email or comment that someone took in a way that was not intended?  You need to see a person’s body language or hear the inflection in their voice.  Better yet look into their eyes.

Today I’ll work a little in my garden, weave a little and then prep to visit my grandson to help celebrate his first birthday.  So many children have come into my life in the past couple of years.  I think we owe it to them to help build a community that will support them without all of the anger.  We are all better than this.

When a Project Comes Together

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I had a cone of 20/2 silk in my stash and decided to modify a draft to make it work.  I love weaving snowflake twills and thought the sheen of the silk would work with a tone on tone project.  I was not disappointed.  The photograph just doesn’t do it justice. This is one of those pieces where I wove the first repeat and had difficulty stopping because the results were just so amazing.  This is one of those rare occasions when the vision and results are in line.

It’s a beautiful day out, I need to go vote and then I should clean out the gardens.  This is one of those days where I have to consider weaving a reward for finishing other projects.