Monday, April 6, 2009

Rokkaku Kite Fly

We got our 2009 National Kite Month started this past weekend with a Rokkaku kite fly. This was a Noreaster kite fly as well as a KONE monthly fly. Nice turn out, more than 20 kiters from Maine, Mass and NH, and most of them brought rokkakus to fly. For those of you unfamilier with kites, a rokkaku is a traditional Japanese kite, six sided, a fairly strict ratio of height to width but no real limit on size. They can be used for kite fighting but, unlike Indian and Pakistan style fighting where the fights are one on one, rok battles are usually mass battles, with 20 or more kites in the sky at once, trying to knock the other kites from the sky. But this was not a kite fighting day, just a friendly day of kite flying.

For early April, we did have great weather. The sky cleared mid morning and the sun warmed everything up. It did take a while for the wind to get going (and the forecast was for strong winds!) but once it got started the kites went up and stayed up.

Tony O and I both finished rokkakus in time for the fly. I finished mine the day before, a real last minute push. The crane kite was quite the project, much more detail than my previous kites, but lots of fun. As you can see from the picture, it turned out nicely. Tony O also finished a great kite arch, started just after the kite workshop we held in January. Two other workshop participants are working on archs so look forward to an arch fly.

Now that we got a real taste of warm weather, we are hoping more of it. Next week we plan to gather at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth to fly kites on Easter Sunday. That has been a tradition for many years and we hope to continue it next weekend.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Taste of Spring

Wow, what a day for early March in Maine! Sunny and the temperature reached the 50s. We hadn't planned on flying a kite but it was too nice a day to ignore. We grabbed the mini sled we made for Hank and took it out for a test fly. Hank has some giant flow form kites, 125, 252, and 450 square feet, all in the same color pattern, yellow, orange, red and black and I made a mini sled that matched his color pattern, complete with the banner tail. It is about 2 square feet instead of 450. We hadn't flown it yet so we thought we could fly it and get some pictures before handing it over to Hank.

When we got to Bug Light Park, we were surprised to see that most of the field was clear of snow. A mile away at our house, there is 2 feet of snow in the yard. We got the kite in the air and took some pictures, relaxing in the warm spring day and all of a sudden I noticed someone with a kite just over the hill. Easy to recognize, even from 100 yards was the pretty light blue of Hank's KONE rokkaku. Yep, he had the same idea we had, too nice a day not to fly a kite. Hank was out with his granddaughter Meagan and they hoped to fly his newest kite, Rolf Zimmerman's Owl. The wind was a bit too light for it but it did look good.

By the way, Hank was quite surprised by the mini sled.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Great book for kite makers

William Farber's kite making book, Painting With Light and Air is now available from the Drachen Foundation. My wife got a copy for me last year but she had to deal with international money orders and shipping from Australia. She did get the first copy in North America but it cost a bit. Now it is a simple click and you can get it for $35.

In the book, William Farber illustrates his method of creating wonderful pictures on kites using ripstop. His prize winning kites are many colored pieces of flying artwork. The kite on the right is one of two he made for the kite festival in Dieppe France in 2008. He gives step by illustrated step instructions for his modular method of kite construction, very much worth learning if you want to make more complex designs on kites. They don't have to be as elaborate as this one to benefit from his method.

I have found myself referring to the book before and during my kite construction, before to get some reminders of his design and color teachings, during to help with construction details. There are lots of great nuggets of information hidden in the pages from how to make perfect corners with your zig zag stitches to what to look for when buying a sewing machine. Little details that you might never think about spring from the book and into your kite building technique. I built a sewing table extension as suggested in the book. He even gives instructions on sharpening and tuning scissors! This is in addition to his chapter on design and one on the details of working with ripstop. To top it off, he includes detailed instructions on the building of two kites, one a large rokkaku, the other a small rectangular kite,

While it is not a book for beginner kite makers, they could certainly benefit from the book. Much of the book's information can be useful for kite makers of all abilities. The sewing tips and the chapter on working with ripstop is good for all of us. The details of his more elaborate kite making methods can simply inspire us. And if all that is not enough, he includes color photos of more that 20 of his kites

The book is available from the Drachen Foundation for $35.
Painting with Light and Air

The Drachen Foundation is a non profit organization devoted to sharing knowledge of kites worldwide. Their store includes books and kite making materials and the money helps support the organization.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New kite project

For more than a year I have a had an idea for a kite but have made no progress other than a few sketches and some mental pictures. One problem I had was how to put some of the complex features together using layers of ripstop and stitches. Now that I have a sewing room, I felt it was time to get started on the project.

To start, I reread some of William Farber's book, Painting with Light and Air. He suggests a modular approach when sewing complex designs and I had been pondering the method but couldn't quite figure out how to use it. But the approach does make sense and I have started to use it to a small degree. Not all designs work with his method but with more complex designs, this is a great way to work.

The kite I made this weekend is not the kite I am aiming for, rather, it was a practice piece, using some of the design elements and colors to see how well they work together. This is the same size kite we made in the kite workshop a few weeks ago. That is a fun size, small enought so you can get quick results and you don't mind if it is a complete failure, not much waste with so small a kite. And, if the kite works, you have a nice little kite you can fly or give away.

By the way, Farber's book is not yet available in the US but he did tell me that the Drachen Foundation ordered a number so it may be available from them soon. It is a good book for kite makers wanting to step up to the next level in applique. His kites have won prizes in Dieppe France as well as Dieppe, New Brunswick.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

kite making workshop

Tony Otis and I held a kite making workshop on Jan 10 in Tony O's kite workroom. This was the first time Tony O taught a workshop (I ran a fighter kite workshop a few years ago) but he is a fine kite maker and a very patient teacher. The sewing experience of our participants ranged from well experienced to first time on a sewing machine. But they were all new to kite making, only two had even made one kite before.

We furnished the kite makers with the material to make two complete diamond kites, including applique material and a template to make more of the same sized kite. They all hemmed their kite sail and attached the pockets in the morning and after a lunch break I demonstrated an applique process, drawing a design, tacking the fabrics onto the kite sail, sewing the design and completing it by cutting out the extra fabric. Then they all got to try the same.

A great job was done by all. They all created one or two color designs and added them to their kites, all will be flown with pride. Hard work, slow at times, but we all learned plenty, including the teachers. We hope to do another workshop later this winter, perhaps sewing a Della Porta kite.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Day Kite Fly

Today was the beginning of our kite flying for 2009 and some of us braved the 15 degree F and the 20+ mph winds and stuck a few kites in the air at Bug Light Park in South Portland, Maine. Tony O and I flew Powersled 24s and were glad we chose 500 # line. There was no snow on the field so I was not tempted to get out my power kites and skis. The 40 mph gusts were another reason. Allen was more sensible and just got out a little sled. Don and John got some kites out too, a papillion and a rok, brave choices for the wind that day.

Most of us lasted no more than an hour out there before retreating a mile or so to our little Craftsman cottage in South Portland for a pot luck New Years Day feast. Lots of good food and drink. A big hit was my rhumtopf which I started last July. It is a fruit preservation style featuring rum as the preservative. So some rum soaked fruit over ice cream may be an annual feature of the New Years Day pot luck.

Most of our kite flying today was while seated, with a plate of food and a drink in hand, all talk. At a show of hands, at least a dozen of us said that they have plans to attend the kite festival next August in Dieppe, New Brunswick. It looks like kite flyers plan ahead. We have not heard many details of the festival other than the date but I have heard unofficially that many of my favorite kite makers will be there including Robert Brasington from Tasmania and Bas Vreevick from Holland.

Our next kite event will be in 10 day, a kite making workshop for new kite makers where we will make small diamond kites with ripstop nylon and wooden spars. Tony O and I hope to inspire a few more people to start making some creative kites. Pictures to follow the event so keep reading.