Sunday, April 2, 2017

Progress, Finally!

Yesterday I did teh business taxes for last year, and started our personal return. Today I finished them, and then turned the Etsy store back on, and listed everything that's in the house. That was an easy process - find things in either "expired", "inactive", or "sold out" sections, check inventory count, and hit a couple buttons.

Ron's getting a new DSLR, so the older Canon DSLR will be parked on an older, heavy tripod in the dining room. The old DSLR's vibration damper has failed, but since it'll be on a tripod that's no problem. We just have to figure out where the tripod in question has been stashed.

I think that's about it for now, haven't been doing much else Otter-ish since I finished the program book for the floodplain manager's conference.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Well, That Explains That

Well, That Explains That

A couple-few weeks ago I was home from work due to lack of sleep (mostly urpy dog tummy reasons), and got a call from a gentleman who wanted to order a belt. In the course of the conversation I brought up our Etsy store, and realized it was still on vacation setting from when we went out of town for my Brother's wedding. In May.  Oooooops. Well, that explains the dearth of Etsy sales.

Fortunately, the belt the gentleman wanted involved fairly minimal spelunking in the trailer, which Robin accomplished with minimal swearing. And I discovered that PayPal lets you generate USPS labels from within your account, which is convenient.

I've spent most of the last couple-few weekend working on the program book for the annual floodplain managers conference, so haven't gotten Etsy back up and running - besides being on vacation setting, all listings have expired, and I need to go through and see what I have in the house to re-list, as well as listing new things, some of which need to be retrieved from the trailer.
Book goes to the printer Real Soon Now (like next couple days).

Ron built the PVC frame to hold LED strip lights around the light tent. Not as bright as we were hoping, we'll see how it works for photography. Have made space in the dining room for a table for it and moved it off the drafting table, as it also turned out less amenable to taking down for storage than we were thinking.

Still working on doll clothes. The two outfits I sent out as gifts, as mentioned in my last post, went to my Mom, and she really likes them.




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Assorted Natter

I like my baby sewing machine. Its kind of noisy, and only has one speed (not particularly fast), and probably wouldn't appreciate heavier fabric/more layers, but it works fine for the seams on doll clothes made out of calico/quilter's cotton. It seems machine manufacturers have pretty much settled on one style needle and two of plastic bobbins, so although I bought a package of needles to keep with this machine, it wasn't a necessity (have both style bobbins on hand). Being only about 5 pounds in weight I can indeed pull it out and put it away with minimal effort. I may see if I can find a small battery-operated LED light to put on it, if I get around to it. Otherwise I just use my phone's flashlight function while threading the needle.

Been working on doll clothes, but as mentioned previously, also trying to take it easy on my wrist. Have two outfits finished that I need to iron and send to their new homes (gifts, not purchased).

Still haven't built the frame to hold LED lighting around the light tent, but that's scheduled soonish. Nor have I gotten a chair for the drafting table. I have, however, procured a self-healing cutting mat for it.

I decided that a large mat would be a useful thing for cutting out doll clothing (which I have a couple small mats for already) and paper for bookbinding. I was originally looking at Olfa mats at JoAnn, but fortunately thought to check the Dick Blick website. I got a 36" x 48" non-Olfa but well-rated mat for less than a 24" x 36" Olfa mat from JoAnn (largest size they carry). Came flat, and fits perfectly on the table, given space taken up by the clamps for the drawing arm and the area the arm occupies when parked to one side. It arrived yesterday, and garbage day was today, so the several acres of cardboard packaging went out this morning, thus a win all around.

Sunday I worked on cleaning up the dining room some more, attacking the shelves by the doorway to the kitchen with the help of Robin's muscles and long arms. Several boxes of old paperwork, specialty cookware, and other odds and ends that don't need to be immediately accessible went to storage. Several other items went out to the curb. In the space cleared off we re-arranged a bit, added a bunch of rolls of leather, and most of my bookbinding equipment, plus some doll clothing stuff. The result was both more open floor space and clearing off the drafting table. Which Robin promptly used to put up the light tent to take pictures of some miniatures.

My hope is to get the two bins of potion bottles and other glassware out to the trailer, but haven't gotten sufficient Round Tuits yet. We'd been keeping them in the house because I prefer they travel not in the trailer for fragility reasons, but there's no reason they can't sit in the trailer while parked.

Have a convention program book I need to start work on, for the annual floodplain manager's convention in March. Last year the old iFruit desktop conked out (well, no longer had the intestinal fortitude to run current Adobe software) and I had to finish the book on a laptop, with the new desktop machine arriving a day or two after the book went to the printer. Headdesk, headdesk.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Little-Bitty Bits of Progress

No chair for the drafting table yet.

On my book of poetry project, I dropped the file and paper off at the printer I've worked with for Windycon and MuseCon in the last week of December, and Friday I got the news that the printing was done (I said it was not a rush job). I decided to just have them UPS them to me, and they were delivered today.

Now that I know how many copies I have (they ran a few extra for setup on their end and mine), I can order board for the covers. And Saturday I stopped at PaperSource and failed to resist various designs of decorative paper for the covers.

Last week I ordered some PVC connectors, 3-way elbows, which are essentially box corners, to make a light frame for around the light tent and snake jungle gyms. Saturday morning we picked up some LED strip lighting for the light frame project.

A week or two before Christmas I messed up my right wrist, and it has slowly been getting better, Saturday and Sunday I dug out doll clothing parts, and then found more parts when re-checking small storage bins I'd previously checked the day before, and finished a couple kosode. I've been careful not to do too much and throw the healing back, and seem to be succeeding.

I, um, also bought another sewing machine. Yes, the big industrial beast, serger, and two standard/home-scale machines were not enough. I started looking at small portable machines, thinking that something small and light and not a big deal to haul out and set up would be nice for doing the short straight seams I do by machine on doll clothes.

I ended up ordering a Janome Sew Mini, which is 1/2 or so of the size of a regular machine, and weights in at only 5 pounds (a couple/few standard machines I saw weights on while browsing were in the 25-lb range). It does several stitches, but I expect I'll only use it to straight-stitch, with maybe the occasional zig-zag to finish edges. Only one speed, but for what I want it for, I think that'll be ok. The bits I machine-sew are typically only 2 layers of lightweight cotton, occasionally 4, so I don't need lots of power. It got good reviews, and takes standard Janome bobbins and needles. Thanks to Amazon Prime, it'll be here tomorrow. I am awaiting it eagerly.

(No, I am not a big fan of Amazon for Reasons, and will probably continue to try very very hard not to buy books from Amazon. But Amazon hit the sweet spot on the price/seller-trustworthiness curve, using Amazon Smile benefits MuseCon, so there we are).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Books and Bookbinding and Dining Room Un-Progress

Dining Room

No significant progress on the dining room over the weekend.

I did measure the space between the drafting table and the wall, and looked at horizontal surface options for that space.

Moved my tubes of rolled paper and book cloth to the dining room.

Moved some largish flat sheets of paper bought for book projects into the paper drawer of the drafting table.

Ron had an idea for taking pictures of merchandise, or more precisely, lighting them. The original idea was to put the light table up in the dining room, but the drafting table took that space. Ron has a light tent that can sit on the drafting table, though (and is also easy to put up/take down). 

In any case, the lights he has are bulky. He started thinking about alternative lights, and I made a comment about LEDs, and now we have a possible plan, based on some under-cabinet LED light strips we put on the shelves above our bed at the beginning of summer. The idea is to make a cube out of PVC pipe, holding four of the LED strips, which sits around the light tent. If we make it to knock down into two squares and some cross-bars, storage shouldn't be a problem. Found the light tent, next step is to pop it up and measure.

Books & Bookbinding

Apparently I've just decided to shift bookbinding natter to this blog, mostly.

Made a book for a Christmas present for a relative over the weekend. It has a couple issues I'm not entirely happy with, but not horrible. The block (interior) was pre-made, so I had to make the cover and case it in (attach interior to cover). I meant to pack it up and get it out in the mail yesterday morning but the bed's gravitational field was too strong and I ran out of time. 

I've been working on a book of poetry (not mine) in InDesign, last week I sent a PDF to the printer I've worked with for MuseCon and Windycon with questions about doing what I would like with it. Called with a follow-up today, got a partial "no", which I have a work-around for, and should be hearing back on the revised plan tomorrow. 

Over the weekend I submitted a quote request to a place I've been buying supplies for custom board cutting for covers for the above project. If I'm going to be binding mumble copies, I either need a board shear (not likely, given budget and space considerations), or I'd rather pay somebody to do the cutting for me. Cutting paper and book cloth is easy. Book board . . . not so much. Each cut requires multiple passes with a sharp utility knife, and one blade (segment) is only good for a couple/few cuts. 

Placed an order Sunday for more pre-printed book interior pages, paper for covers and endsheets, and, um, another shade of brown thread (yes, really), for Sooper Seekrit reasons. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Accomplishment Accomplished: Dining Room & Drafting Table

Yesterday morning I worked on the dining/work room some more. It isn't done, but it is to a reasonable hiatus point.

Last year, late summer/fall we had a feeder mouse escape from the doom of the hungry snake, and a couple weeks ago I saw it again, headed toward that room (how do I know it was the same mouse? The local field mice aren't black or that big). Little jerk has apparently been spending a lot of time in the dining room. It doesn't smell mousy, but there were . . . bits of evidence. Thus the drive to make sure I got the shop-vac out before the drafting table came in.

Yesterday morning I got the Gamma Seal bin of breakfast oats (which the mouse had *not* gotten into, but still needs to be evaluated for staleness) moved to a spot closer to the kitchen (intent was to get it into the pantry, but Robin, Organizer of the Pantry, says that will be a significant job), and the case of self-centering punches and the pouch molds put on the shelf where the oats were. Also condensed the leather stash, and in the process of doing those things found more hardware. Sob. I got that packed up and moved to the other side of the room with the rest of the hardware.

Went through glassware and kept a few things (for potion bottles) got rid of some, and have a few to go to a new home. Other things were put in the cleared space on the shelves above the sewing machine. My push yesterday was to get as much as possible up off the floor, to make room for the drafting table.

Ron exercised his Tetris skills and got all the manga and coloring books (which have been scanned in for electronic coloring) into one box. Got rid of other cardboard boxes, in favor of plastic bins, and now I even have more empty bins than when I started the cleanup.

Late morning we went to fetch home the drafting table, with a stop at the storage locker to drop off various odds and ends and pick up the Christmas tree and accessories. Disassembly of the table wasn't too difficult, as we brought plenty of tools, plus zippy bags and sharpies. I also added a good compass/divider, a nice stack of vellum paper, and a set of technical pens for Robin, to our purchase list.

Got home, invoked Jimmy John's while Robin brought table pieces in, and after lunch assembly began. Ron was able to put the table back together with less assistance than it came apart. It's a very nice steel-framed table, with a sturdy tilting top, and two drawers - one deeper with a tray one for pencils, etc., and a wide shallow one for paper.

It was a good thing I cleared as much space as possible - the table is big - the top is about 5' wide, and over 3' deep, and overhangs the back edge of the frame when down flat, with a rail for a drawing arm that is then clamped to the back edge. I was hoping to tuck the drafting table in next to the window, but it has to be out in the room about a foot for the top to clear a bookshelf when down. Even the green vinyl surface of the table (which I knew was replaceable) is in good shape.

I didn't see a stool near the table when we picked it up, and our friend didn't mention one. The two desk-type chairs in the dining room are too low. Way too low for me, mostly too low for Ron or Robin. The big steel-framed bar stool Robin so kindly lugged up from the basement is too high (So now I know I need something taller than 22" and shorter than 30" seat height, which most drafting stools fall into, based in my on-line shopping yesterday.) In the interim, I've asked Robin to look for a wooden stool that he's pretty sure that's in the basement, which may also be too tall, but if that's the case at least it isn't as awkward to schlep to find out as the bar stool.

The cleaning fairies come tomorrow morning, so there was a definite urge to deal with the disaster that is the rest of the first floor of the house - much of it as a result of working on the dining room. However, Robin's spent all day helping our friend clearing out the house the drafting table came from, so Ron and I got dinner at Culver's, and the cleaners will have to clean around all the clutter.

Back in the dining room, I still need to go through the big set of Metro-clone shelving, I suspect there's more things I can get rid of (like an extraneous clock radio and an adding machine), and/or space to be freed up. Also need to see what I can do with the shelves holding rolled leather, and half of the shelves above the sewing machine. Neither of those are likely to yield lots more space, but they're good candidates for incremental improvement.

I've had a couple ideas for the space between the drafting table and the window, for holding things one might want handy, especially if/when the top is at an angle. First step is to break out the tape measure. And we pointed out to Robin that the table is big enough to run several of his miniatures skirmish games on (they use 3' x 3' space).  And when I got home this evening there was a star field gaming mat sitting on the table (have to see if it will fit in the big drawer, which will keep it nice and flat). Note to self, put a "do not lean" label on the rail for the arm.

I give up, see G+ for the pictures I took yesterday, hopefully I can post before this app crashes again...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Plans, Accelerated

Due to my inability to resist buying a (used) real full-sized drafting table, which we are picking up tomorrow, cleaning up the dining/work room became rather more urgent.

Got home from errands a bit after 1:00, and started work. I got the workmates cleaned off, and many things put away. Unfortunately, many little things. The tool drawers are higgledy-piggledy now, but they can be neatened up later. I have a lot of bags of hardware, which have been semi-sorted into bins. 

The big wood-and-concrete block shelves are staying, which as I said last time was okay. But I made a significant amount of room on the bottom shelf, and have packed it full. I have filled a large paper shopping bag with recyclables, and have a not-insignificant amount of rubbish in a 5-gallon bucket. Several loose rolls of leather have been re-rolled and secured with stretch wrap.

The kitchen is cluttered with things to go to storage. Also one of the workmate, the round folding gaming table, and a few other odds and ends. Therefore, dinner was pizza. 

Ron tried to get me to be done for the evening by plying me with alcohol - a lambic before dinner, and hard cider with. But I was stubborn, and did a little more work afterwards, getting all the books onto shelves. And now I have a bin full of manga to go to storage (unless Robin wants to keep some here at home and finds somewhere to put them).

Tomorrow morning we go to pick up the drafting table, probably with a stop at the storage locker. The table is going to have to be disassembled to fit through doors, don't know how exciting that will be (haven't seen it in person). Don't know if I'll get much done before we go, but I do want to get the shop-vac into the room and hit the floor. We'll see how much I can get done in the afternoon. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

State of the Otter

Hello? Hello? Anybody out there?

So, last time I posted was October 2015. The last event Otter Necessities was at was WindyCon - in 2015 (November). Yeah, I've been quiet for a loooong time.

And Otter Necessities-wise I've done . . . pretty much nothing. 

Over the last few years I'd developed quite a loud and unceasing internal monologue. What I didn't realize, until I got it under control, is that the internal monologue was related to depression. The drive to Make All The Things was a way to shut the internal monologue up - or at least keep it occupied with the task I was working on (as in, narrating it). 

For over a year now the internal monologue has been ratcheted way down, to what I assume is about what any/everybody has as an internal though process. And the quiet in my head has been really, really nice. Even if the drive to Make All The Things went with it.

And on a less introspective side, we'd been doing a lot of conventions, and were getting more or less burned out and needed a break. We'd taken a year or so off at least once in the past. Giving up on one-day events and going to only weekend-long things helped, but the trade-off is/was losing whole weekends. 

Also, age: We're not as young and strong and invincible as we used to be. Backs and knees and ankles and whatnot get cranky. I don't like sleeping in strange beds. Staying up too late makes me cranky. Yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, it's been lurking in the back of my thought processes that we need to decide what direction the business is going to go, and words along those general lines finally got said earlier this week. Ron pointed out that Otter Necessities really is my baby, and is leaving it largely up to me. 

I *think* that I'm going to work on shifting business over more to Etsy; which means taking and editing pictures and creating and editing listings, but which is much less stressful on the body. I can put up 2 or three things today, some more tomorrow, etc. Etsy sales are fairly easy to process/pack up (at least with USPS flat-rate shipping), and toss in the mailbox. I do need to come up with better book-keeping for Etsy sales, but that's not a huge issue.

Ron suggested that if we make room in the dining/work room he can put the light table and a tripod with camera up, and make it easy to get good pictures. I've also been meaning to put doll clothes and books (I've been playing with bookbinding again) up, which means getting a bunch of pictures so I can list a reasonable assortment of whatever at once. 

And whatever I decide to do with Otter, the dining room is a complete disaster - a year of being used as a storage space has made it relatively impassible (although Tommy did go through it to the front entry, while on his cable, one evening). 

So, my plan is to start attacking the dining room. It may start as soon as this weekend - at very least, there's a six-foot table in there that can go over to the storage unit (and while we're there retrieve the Christmas tree and accessories, and look for the light table). I'd already planned to take the week between Christmas and New Year's off, with only one day's worth of possible plans for that time, which I may have just filled. 

After shifting easy/obvious things to storage I think I'll clear off and fold up the two Workmate-and-clone workbenches. Which sounds easy enough, but that "clear off" bit isn't as easy/breezy as it sounds. After that, see if I can find shelf space for a couple piles of books (leather, horse-tack, and military/history-related) that were evicted from the dining room. Plus some other things that have been sitting out/on the floor. 

I have possibilities floating in the back of my head on how to accomplish things, we'll see how plans work out when confronted with realities. I was thinking of replacing the last piece of Metro-style shelving in the room with nicer wooden bookshelves that we have in storage, but on further thought the Metro-style stuff is deeper, with may be very useful. Or maybe the heavy-duty brick-and-board shelving will be modified or replaced. Or not, which is also ok. That room is never going to be pretty. 

I think I've mattered on long enough at this point, we'll see how it goes once I actually get started . . . 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Conception Convention Report

The Conception gaming convention at the College of DuPage was slooooow. IIRC we had 5 sales all weekend. On the plus side, one of those was significant, and the customer ordered another custom item. On the down side, duuullll. But we covered costs with the gross (haven't run the numbers to see if we were actually profitable). 

Need to do 3rd quarter sales taxes this weekend.

Just packed up a belt and pair of skirt hikes to go out to Texas. A day or two ago it was a belt pouch to one place, and a pair of skirt hikes to another. When packing up on Sunday I decided to consolidate skirt hikes to one batch, to keep in the house. They can move to and from events with the tails, which also live in the house.

Next event is Windycon, mid-November. Really need to make some stuff. Tomorrow we're off to a reptile show, and then we have to settle in the new snake we're picking up there (see the personal blog, which I'll go write the relevant entry for next), then clean the big snake cages and feed the colubrids. But I do have Monday off.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Conception Convention and Other Natter

This weekend is the Conception gaming convention, at the College of DuPage. I'm not sure how many vendors are going to be there - one e-mail I saw mentioned us and one game vendor. 

I've gotten pretty much nothing made since ACen, except doll clothes, which I wasn't planning on taking. I do have a batch of tails that need swivels, that I got after Count-I-Con. So I probably should work on that tonight...didn't happen.  But we did get the trailer hooked up and pulled out.

Tonight we also need to vacuum-pack rats (didn't happen). Because snakes. Did I mention that we're now up to ten plus the long-term border?  See my Google+ feed and/or personal blog. We had an . . . accident on Saturday, adding two more pythons - another ball python and a centralian carpet python. And Robin is rearranging and cleaning his room with a view to getting a blue-tongued skink. Because it turns out he likes things with legs better than snakes. 

Conception could be interesting, as it will be just Ron and I (unless Robin tags along for gaming on Saturday). Xap is going to Archon, a filk convention, IIRC. I'm thinking that we may limit how much gridwall we bring in, and maybe not put out some of the accessory things. OTOH, if we do our normal booth with gridwall setup, that will tell us how much extra 6' gridwall we have, which can then be put into the storage locker, instead of going to every event, especially since it gets stacked on top of the 7' gridwall in the trailer.  Exactly what we do for setup may end up depending on how we feel tomorrow. 

Our next event after Conception is Windycon. Which could be interesting in different ways than Conception, because they do tables, not booths, and we've been setting up based on 10' x 20' booth spaces recently. We'll figure it out.

And I really, really need to get working on leather things again.  

If nothing else, we're into another run on skirt hikes, and I'm out of small skirt hikes in the house/for Etsy. I was just going to go ahead and list some more knowing that I can make a couple in a few minutes, but first I need to check the supply of rings, so I don't list more than I can actually make.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Count-I-Con Report

Um.  Oops. Count-I-Con was two weeks ago and here I am only finally checking in. My excuse is that on Tuesday after Count-I-Con I got sick. Not horribly, mostly stuffy and tired. And then last Monday I chipped a tooth which led to two crowns and that was a distraction, and snakes are distractions, and here we are. More about all of that on my personal blog. 

Count-I-Con: Not a raging success. I think gross sales about covered what we paid for two booths (10' x 20'). We sold *no* belts, and only *one* belt pouch. *No* skirt hikes, which after the spring rush and continued favoriting of them on Etsy I thought they would go well - enough so that I grabbed the Etsy stash of them from home. The things that didn't sell makes my head all hurty. Also sold a doll kosode (put the doll clothes out since I'd packed them into the Thing at ACen), and a set of chainmail owl earrings and pendant. 

What we did sell, which was not actually surprising, were tails and bottles. I'm thinking that next year we just get a single booth space (10' x 10'), and bring tails, bottles, jewelry (lives in the house), and maybe the Etsy inventory. That's a small enough assortment it could all fit in the new truck (see below), and leave the trailer at home.

At least half the vendors were comic book dealers, which is not surprising, as it was advertising itself as a comic-con. This was the first comic-con type thing we've done, so we weren't sure how we'd do. A lot of attendees were one-day, stroll-through, not like SF/anime cons where most people are there for the weekend. There was a stage, and 1 or maybe 2 panel rooms, but the main thing was the vendor hall/artist's alley.

The new cut-down gridwall for backdrops worked well. Robin made us some more wooden front-stops on Friday (setup-only Friday afternoon, open Saturday and Sunday noon-six), because I'd forgotten about them until we were setting up. The new ones are 1x6, instead of 1x3, because we had that lumber in the house. Still need to be painted.

Also forgot about making something to support shield pouches, which flop around because of balancing on their bottom points. Got lumber for that project last weekend, along with black spray paint for those and the new front-stops.

And last week we got a new truck. A Chevy Silverado pickup, crew-cab, 4-wheel drive (the Explorer is not, because we screwed up, and that was a problem over the winter), automatic transmission. The Silverado is a "Work Truck" model, which means vinyl seats, no carpet, blah blah blah. But it does have cruise control, a stereo, and A/C, so we're good. We went to Madison in it after my crowns on Thursday, and its very comfy. It also gets better gas mileage than the smaller Explorer. Ron's still getting used to maneuvering it (mostly in regard to parking), I haven't driven it yet.

We traded in the Durango, which we were somewhat surprised to have lasted this long, and felt $250 was a fair trade-in price for. I'm driving the Explorer, and Robin gets the Kia, including taking over payments and the difference in insurance between it and the Durango. Win all around. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Slump Continues

Wow, its been a really long time since I posted - over whole month ago.

Summer slump has continued in force. We got three more snakes, one of which is Xap's. Lots more reptilian rumination over on my personal blog. MuseCon happened, was busy. Cut out some more doll clothes at and since MuseCon, and then some more over the weekend (after buying even more fabric) since they're amenable to working on in the heat. Misplaced a small cutting mat and both rulers I use for fabric, but was able to use a larger cutting mat and one of the safety rulers I usually use for leather instead. Got a new scale for snakes and packages. Got a new small mat and scale, and then the missing ones re-appeared. As they do.

This year for MuseCon we again shifted Max, The Grinch, and one of the Things into the storage locker, and packed all our stuff into the other Thing. This year we were smart and also put the contents of that Thing into the locker, instead of the house. Sunday we took the beverage cooler, bus tubs, and other stuff that was used for MuseCon back into the locker, and retrieved Otter Necessities stuff for Count-I-Con.

Count-I-Con is this weekend. Saturday afternoon (after doing errands and some non-necessary fabric shopping in the morning) I cut, marked, and punched the ends of amphora bottle hangers and cut and marked another batch of skirt hikes, all of which Ron then punched the holes in. Due to a mis-estimation, I ended up making about 66 amphora hangers, for 48 amphora. And Ron didn't point out that we still had some leftovers from the last batch, so I didn't even need 48. Oh well, they keep. The total for skirt hikes was 21 (12 large, 9 small). Sunday afternoon Ron assembled all those skirt hikes and bottle hangers. 

The bottle hangers are for home/Etsy, but I'll probably throw them in a bin to take to Count-I-Con - I they're likely to sell well there, along with amphora and tails. Skirt hike sales via Etsy have tapered off a bit, but I expect another surge next spring when the Ren Fair season kicks off again, and maybe with the Michigan fair and/or the fall/winter fairs in the SW.

While Ron was working on hangers and hikes, I attacked the 18 tails I had to sew swivels onto. Monday or so I remarked to Ron that it was too late to order tails for Count-I-Con, we'd have to do with what we had. Wednesday night/Thursday morning a little voice inside my head started poking me - didn't I order some, including ones over-dyed red, from New Place?  Was that before or after ACen?  I don't remember putting out red tails or selling any at ACen.  Thursday morning I looked at the e-mail receipt - I ordered after ACen (and my last blog post). So we have a reasonable supply of tails.  And I ordered Stupid Amounts of swivels earlier this year, so we're good there. 

I didn't quite mean to sew swivels on all the tails Sunday, but I wanted to get a good bunch done, and then do a couple/few each evening. So I got a dozen done. Ron was still working, so I did a couple more. And at that point, only 4 left to do was not worth leaving. So I finished them all. I think that's the most I've done in one day. And with lots of beagle help - every time I popped the lid on one of the bins I was taking from/putting in, I had Tommy and Gimli's attention. They were reasonably good - Tommy only tried to take one from me, and backed off when I scolded. But I don't and won't trust them farther than I can drop-kick a heffalump.

Setup for Count-I-Con, which is a comic-con type event, is Friday and Saturday morning, with open hours noon to six pm. Saturday and Sunday. The con's being held at the Lake County Fairgrounds, in Grayslake, so we can sleep at home. Yay. And we don't have to board the dogs. Double-yay. 

The dining/work room is still a disaster. I'm not even pretending that I'll get around to straightening it up again until the summer heat breaks (which it seems to have done, at least temporarily, but I'm not foolish enough to think that cooler weather is really here yet). 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Slump

In the last month-plus we've accomplished very little in the way of leatherworking. Nor have we cut down or done anything else with any of the new gridwall.

I have committed us to Windycon, and a gaming convention in the fall. Need to update the list of upcoming events. Plus I need to look at the information for next year's Geneva Steam Festival. 

The MuseCon book is done and has been sent to the printer, and Ron has posted PDFs of it and the schedule grid on the MuseCon website.  The grid is included in the book, but some people like to have it separately, and with double-sided printing it takes only a single sheet of letter-sized paper.

Skirt hikes are selling steadily on Etsy. I think it was two pairs over the weekend, and another two orders for three pairs today. 

In other news, we have new pets. I have Scatha the Worm, a Thayeri Kingsnake:  She's tiny, at about 14" long and 14 grams on Saturday. That's my little finger in the picture.


 Ron has Smaug, a ball python, about 18" long and 121 grams on Saturday:




AAARGH!  The kids from two doors down are over watering the neighbor's garden, and letting their dog enjoy the fenced yard. This is driving Tommy nuts, because I won't let him stay out and bark loudly and incessently. Pippin and Gimli can be polite, but Tommy is obnoxious. 

Time to retreat to the (air-conditioned bedroom, and shut the dogs in with me. Maybe Tommy will settle down...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Updated Things

Since I last posted, I got lots of goodies:
4 dozen amphora bottles - clear, red, purple, and lime (bright/light) green
Nickel-colored hardware for making modular belts.
Snaps. Lots of them (bottles use 2 snaps each).
Lots of leather - black and dark brown for modular belts, about a half-cow each, two half-cows of black latigo for belts, and A half-cow of thin black latigo for bottle wraps/hangers, belt loops, soft pouches, binding, and anything else I can think of.
A 2TB hard drive that talks to my iWhatsits. Not strictly Otter Necessities, but cool.
Started shopping for replacement power source at events.

One of the UPSes we use for powering things at events is pretty weak, despite not being very old. I think the problem is that UPS units are not designed to be charged, drained down, repeat a couple times, then sit not plugged in. The usual use for a UPS is to sit plugged in, passing power through to whatever is plugged into it, with only rare power-loss/drainage events. Plus, the way we're using them, the UPS takes AC current from mains power, charges its battery, gets DC from the battery, converts it back to AC to deliver to its outlets, and then the wall-warts for the devices then convert it to DC for the devices' consumption. This is Not Efficient, even looking just at the step of converting DC from UPS battery to AC at UPS's outlets. 

I think the solution is going to be some flavor of battery that the iWhatsits, the WiFi hotspot, and Xap's phone/tablet can plug into via USB. With two batteries, the printer has plenty of power for a day, and the batteries re-charge quickly. I'm not sure if it's going to be compact (phone- or tablet-sized) external battery booster packs, a larger battery/bank of batteries with built-by-somebody-else interface, or a battery with a simple home-built interface. Part of the problem is the cost and weight curves. Small battery booster packs are very light, but pricey and slow to recharge, and we'd need multiple. Bigger batteries are heavy. Purchased interface (box, connections, monitor) is nice, but more expensive than DIY. 

I was hoping to make hangers for all the amphora bottles, and assemble the parts for wraps for the non-amphora "naked" bottles we have over the weekend, but we didn't get that far. Saturday was re-scheduled with taking the dogs to the vet (Tommy has a UTI, Gimli needed a vaccination booster, Pippin enjoyed a gratuitous ride), going to the grocery store, and goofing off. Sunday was slightly more productive, with a trip to Batteries Plus, on-line shopping for various power options, and doing a bunch of cooking. But it wasn't exactly Otter-ish productive. Oh well. 

Speaking of the trip to Batteries Plus, after about 5 minutes of reading about battery packs for amateur-ish astronomers, I knew more about battery charging and care than the Batteries Plus employee we talked to - ie: a higher-capacity charger can damage a battery, particularly sealed ones; and you get better battery life by not discharging a battery below x point. I suppose he *might* have been feigning ignorance because abusing a battery means they sell you a new one sooner, but I think he really was clueless. 


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Modular Belt Prototypes

At TeslaCon I saw a vendor selling modular belts - sections of belts with various steampunky bits attached, and/or pouches permanently mounted on belts. The sections have a ring at one end and a buckled loop at the other.

After thinking about it a while, I decided to do my own version, and ordered hardware. My plan was to have swivels at each end of a section, which can either connect to the dee on the back of a pouch (which I started adding to them a while back for use as sporrans), or to a small ring.  I was originally planning to have some done for ACen, but that didn't work out.

Today we finally got around to working on the project. We made prototypes from inexpensive leather, which will likely be taken apart in the long run to serve as patterns. The sections are 1-1/2" wide (standard man's dress belt width). 


On the top are the buckle and billet sections. The other vendor sells them separately, but I can't think of any situation where you'd want one and not the other. They also make the billet very long, we made the prototype 5 holes long. 

Under that are short and long plain sections, connected to a ring. Ron also pointed out that you can attach the swivels to each other directly. 

The buckle/billet section is 16-1/2" long (center hole), plus or minus 2". The short section is 7-3/4" long, the long section is 10-3/4" long. Adding a ring adds 1".

On Tuesday I'll be ordering some dark brown leather to make the actual parts that will be for sale. I'm starting out with brown with brass hardware. The parts are assembled with Chicago screws, so they're reasonably easy to shorten, and I'll get brass Chicago screws to assemble them (prototypes have black screws). I'll also have some leather strips available, to make semi-custom sections. I'm starting out with plain sections, we'll see about making sections with loops, gears, etc. later on. 

I chose swivels, buckles, and rings are also available with a nickel finish, which I'll do with black, with black Chicago screws. 

Of course, the obvious way to display these is hanging. Good thing we got more gridwall and hooks . . .

Slightly Late ACen Report

ACen (Anime Central) was last weekend. I took Monday off to recover, on Tuesday I travelled to Springfield by trains for work, spent Wednesday inspecting various floodplains and levees in the southeast corner of the state with a co-worker, and returned home Thursday by trains. So the thingy bits have been a little impaired. I wrote the draft of this blog post on Friday, and then forgot to post it. 

We got pretty much nothing done in the way of prep for ACen Monday through Wednesday of last week, so Thursday morning we packed things up, updated inventory, etc. It actually went fairly calmly.

Setup opened at noon on Thursday.  I drove my car, Ron and Robin were in the truck pulling the trailer, and Xap, Wash, And R. met us there. I was on River Road when Ron called - the trailer had come un-hitched. On Northwest Highway. (In front of Des Plaines Honda, if you know the area, came to a stop a block or so east). Ron had instinctively hit the brakes instead of coasting to a stop, so the tongue ended up jammed under the truck.  They jacked up the truck and  shoved the trailer back a few inches to clear it, re-hitched and continued on. Yay for trailer chains. Yay for the police officer who kept them from being rear-ended while jacking, etc., and didn't give them a ticket.

Thankfully, that was the biggest excitement, which was much better than the plumbing disaster last year. Ron stopped at Master Hitch on the way home and had the bent tongue jack replaced for less than $50. And then went out and got a new spare tire and rim for the truck, after checking under the truck for damage and finding that the spare was flat, and the rusty rim probably never did hold air.  Which was still cheaper than the plumbing disaster.

Ron and Robin stayed long enough to set up the gridwall. Robin had to work in the evening, so he left with Ron. Setup went reasonably well.  We had a similar configuration to last year, except I moved belts back and had tails and other thing in front where belts were last year. I also put bottles on one of the front-facing tables, instead of soft pouches.

Although I've retired knitting stuff, we added jewelry, doll clothes, and books, which took a table I used for pouches last year, and bottles took more table space. As a result, I was forced to get creative with shelves and pouches.  In the end it worked out pretty well.

Friday morning we brought some larger shelves we haven't been using, and a couple other things we forgot. 

Sales were good, but not as good as last year. We sold a *lot* of bottles. Spheres and amphora were the most popular. Also tails, soft pouches, and belts, particularly wide ones. We sold more 3" belts than we have in a while.  And unlike last year, light-colored tails went first. The ways of customers are a mystery.  

Sunday morning I compressed bottles and moved some pouches to that table, and moved some shelves of small soft pouches to where tails had been, to keep things from looking too denuded. I also got rid of the upper rows of hanging bottles, and the lowest row of tails, so the hanging displays that were left still looked reasonably full. I think a smaller area with a higher density of merchandise looks better than spreading out too thin, and the rows I got rid of were enough above or below eye level that it looked ok without them. 

One ACen staffer said they thought attendance was down this year, but numbers weren't available. I think that and the mysteries of what customers want is the explanation for sales.

Robin wasn't available for packing up, due to work, but R. Came back, along with P.  Which was good because I bought another vendor's booth - 17 pieces of 6' gridwall, hooks, shelves, and some other grid accessories.  The plan originally was that yesterday we'd be cutting gridwall down to 4' and 3' tall to act as table/Things backstops, and sorting through the other stuff so I know what I've got to work with - they boxed everything up for us, and would even have boxed the gridwall. But that plan didn't work out, because of lack of motivation. 

Two plushies followed me home, a big red panda, and a yak-like thing based on an Inca moon god. Yes, I have a plushies problem at anime cons.  We also bought some art, and Ron got a couple pose able figures (Link from the Zelda games, and Sammus from the Metroid games). And we drooled at the preview figures of Darth Vader and storm troopers done as samurai, available next month.

I think that I'm going to do the doll clothes and books as Etsy only. Except I forgot to put them in a bin to come in the house, so that'll have to wait until after Lake Count-I-Con in August. Anyway, we sold one each of books and doll clothels, but not enough to justify table space. Sold one bracelet, and had lots of people looking - Ron thinks having more made/out will help.  Didn't sell as many hard pouches as soft, and no hanging ones.  I did, however, have an idea for keeping shield pouches displayed better - with the pointy bottoms they fall over easily.

Although the cutting-down gridwall plan didn't happen yesterday, I did order tails, bottles, and new bins. The two bins I've been using as in-the-house bins were translucent plastic, and just haven't held up to the rigors of schlepping UPSes, the cash box, etc. So I ordered Rubbermaid Brute replacements - The Brute line is more well-known for garbage cans, and is supposed to be even more durable than the Roughneck line, which is what we've been using for merchandise for years. 


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Catching Up & Cutting Down

Heard back from Midwest FurFest a couple days ago. We didn't make the first cut, so we're wait-listed. Considering that I requested four tables and I don't think I want to try to do it with fewer, I'm not expecting to get in.

Robin is mending, still a bit sore. 

Today I cut strips for a Sam Browne-ish belt for myself to wear at ACen. While I was at it, I started cutting into the side of green latigo I got recently. Here it is ready to start marking and cutting a straight edge on the spine side. There's some foreshortening from the angle I took the picture at, but the far end is narrower - that's the neck end, the closer end is the butt end. For reference, that's a 6-foot long level that I use as a straightedge.

Straight edge marked and cut. I debated between cutting it at an angle the way I did, or having roughly equal width sections cut off each end; I decided this way would maximize the width available for cutting belts. I cut freehand (along a marked line!) with the head knife laying on the cut off section. 

Three 1-1/2" strips cut off for belts. The strips are cut with the strap cutter laying on them.

I reduced the leftover wedges from creating the straight edge down to two medium horizontal soft pouches, including belt loops, dee straps, and bottom reinforcements - the left-hand pile. THe middle pile is scrap that's about to be thrown out. The right-hand pile goes into the scrap bin. 

The parts marked, round holes punched, lots of chisel holes punched (3-4 at a time), rivets set, and a few more chisel holes punched (along the bottom joints, through both the body parts and the bottom reinforcements). 

The buckle and the dee rings in the last picture are for my belt. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another Weekend Already?

Robin saw the surgeon Wednesday, and will have surgery on Friday. Which from an Otter Necessities perspective means that he will definitely not be available as muscles for ACen setup/teardown.  Checking with Marmaduke and Wash to see if they'll be available, or if I need to line up other(s). 

Also, I'm going to be barking mad by the time Robin is off of the 10 lb. weight restriction. You know what weighs more than 10 lbs?  The air compressor. The work tables. The 55-lb anvil. Workmates. The cast-iron frying pan, I think. The cast-iron dutch oven that lives on top of the freezer, which is kind of high for me to reach. Tommy. Pippin. etc. 

I haven't heard Pippin cough since Monday, although he was less than 100% for a couple/few days. Either a Cornell University or American Veterinary Medical Association web page said the CIV vaccine can shorten illness, so I'm guessing that's what happened. 

Yesterday and today Robin airbrush dyed parts for 9 pouches for me. See above re: the weight of the air compressor and work table, so yesterday morning I was schlepping things out to the porch before leaving for work (then in last night, out again today, got Ron to bring them in tonight). 

Today we also worked on:
*   Skirt hikes - another 3 pairs of large ones to list on Etsy. I'm wondering if now that I have more than one pair listed I'll sell some more
*   Hangers for amphora bottles I started last weekend. I marked the strips, Ron punched the holes and put the snaps in. 
*   Wristbands. I cut the big pile of coiled strips into short pieces, and trimmed the ends. Those still need holes and snaps. 

At one point this afternoon a roll of lace fell on the floor. Before I got around to picking it up, Tommy decided it needed to join all the toys outside. To his credit, he did drop it when I barked. 

And, to finish up the day, we applied for vendor space at Midwest Fur Fest. They have a 48 hour window to apply, which is from noon today until noon Monday, then they fill the rooms from the applications received.  We hadn't planned to apply, but Xap found out it had opened, we discussed it, and applied. We won't be doing Boar's Head, or Con-Alt-Delete (that we cancelled due to sickness last year) this year, so timing should work. The cost isn't outrageous, and should be easy to make in sales given the size of MFF. Any way, we don't know unless we try and we can't try if we don't submit an application, so there we are. Or went. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weekend Not According To Plan, Otter Necessities Edition

A couple weeks ago Ron mentioned that we could use another set of shelves for the storage locker. Friday night on the way home from work, I was thinking about cleaning up the dining room some more, and wondered if I could send one of the sets of shelves from the dining room, along with some of the contents. 

We looked at it Saturday morning, and concluded we could. They weren't be used particularly efficiently, especially in terms of being able to get to the contents. We unloaded them, determined that the several bins and boxes could go, and then Ron and Robin had the challenge of getting them apart. Metro-style shelving that's been in position for somewhere between one and two decades can be difficult to persuade apart, but they got it, with much whacking with a heavy maul, swearing, and at least one bruise.  

I pushed the leather cart that had been living in that corner into the corner, and found/remembered the uprights for Elfa shelving that I had gotten a couple years ago, then decided were too short. They were the right length to put shelves up where the big shelving unit had been, above the leather cart. As a bonus, we had some lumber just the right length for that section of wall, which had formerly been a bookshelf in the living room. Ron was thinking wider shelves (the lumber is about 7" wide), but I decided to go with those for now.   

So I set off for the Container Store to get the top bar the uprights hang from, and shelf brackets. I was also looking for something to replace the old Elfa wire baskets that hold scrap leather, from a much older Elfa drawer unit (great as Elfa is, it wasn't up to the load). Stacking bins would work, but I ended up getting Metro parts to make a cart to set them on. The advantage of that is wheels, so it can be moved around easily. 

On the way home, the car died. It had been scheduled to go into the shop Monday, for what turned out to be a failing/failed crankshaft position center. So I had a delay waiting for Ron to come pick me up and the tow truck for the car.  We eventually got home (the truck may have made a stop by an ice cream store); Ron and Robin put up the shelves while I put the cart together, and then Ron helped me put things away. 

Whereupon I discovered a bin that should have gone to storage. For some reason, it was in an illogical place on another shelf, which is why I missed it. I also discovered an oil spill, fortunately contained by the lid of the Rubbermaid bin below the aforementioned one. Yes, an oil spill. IIRC lightweight motor oil for the splitter, from an oil can that had made a bold leap for freedom some time in the past. Simple Green and heavy duty shop paper towels for the cleanup win. Tommy stealing the roll of shop towels for the naughty. 

Saturday afternoon and Sunday we worked on various things. 

We went through one of the scrap baskets, and pulled out a bunch of straps to make embossed wrist bands. We reduced the contents of that basket enough that I was able to consolidate it with another, and then sent the empty out to the curb (where it disappeared, as well as an old wire dog crate we evicted from the basement). I still need to go through another big bag of scrap, but I'm reducing the chaos of the room.  I actually have notable amounts of OPEN FLOOR!  See the pictures at the end of the post.

Ron embossed a whole bunch of brown leather strips I'd dug out. Stupid Amounts, really, but it was time to use them for something. I also found a couple strips long enough for belts. I also cut some black leather into strips, which Ron embossed, and strips for amphora bottle hangers. 

I worked on pouches Sunday and Monday. I'd planned to take Monday off, since I'd be car-less and didn't feel like stealing the Durango from Robin. Except I did end up taking it to take Pippin to the vet. Monday afternoon/evening was then interrupted by a doctor's office and then ER trip for imaging Robin. Hernia, following up today with a surgeon (more details of dog and human medical adventures on the personal blog). 

I didn't get to bed until 2 am yesterday, kinda woke up between 5:30 and 6 while Ron was getting up, and then went back to sleep until 8. And then I was still a zombie, so I stayed home.  And in the afternoon worked on pouches some more.  By bedtime (early!) I'd gotten to this point:



The stacked rolls are embossed strips ready to be made into wristbands. The pile is 10 pouches ready to be laced up, 30 or so strips for amphora bottles, and some tools. Not shown are three more pouches that are mostly done, or the two I finished (and posted to Etsy) last night. 

Here's some pictures of the dining room to finish up:


The corner is where the shelving unit, filled that whole section of wall, used to be. You can't really see it, but the cart holding rolled leather (and other things) that's currently pushed into the corner used to sit where the loose rolls of leather and small bins are, those were further into the room. The white Metro cart/shelves holding the white mesh bins is the new cart. 




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book-Keeping and Taxes

I haven't achieved a lot since Geneva Steam. I did get a bunch of pouches cut out, which have been mostly sitting waiting for further work. I also followed up on some back-ordered bottles and stoppers, and got some more of each. 

Last weekend I finished getting the 2014 books caught up. Ron did all the sales throughout the year, except for on-line ones, so finishing up was recording about half the purchases and the on-line sales.  I also did the first-quarter 2015 Illinois sales taxes. Yay for switching to quarterly sales tax reporting.

Yesterday I did Otter's income tax returns. As per past years, I don't bother paying Intuit to fill in lots of zeroes for me, I do them by hand.  We passed a gross receipts threshhold that surprised me a bit, and made me check to see if I needed to do any new/different forms, but no changes resulted.

This morning I did our personal income taxes. Ouuuch. In addition to about twice as much income from Otter Necessities as in 2013, we kinda forgot that in 2014 Robin:
  • Turned 21
  • Was not a full-time student
  • Worked a fair amount
Which meant that he was no longer a dependent, so we owe some money. Not a horrible amount, but ouchy. A small increase in withholding for the rest of this year should get us back to getting a refund.  Yes, I prefer over-paying throughout the year and getting a refund. YMMV. 

A couple days ago Robin brought the lumber that used to be a bookshelf in the living room (replaced with a nicer Ikea shelf unit) back into the house. It's going to become a stand for de- and re-constructing saddles on. What I'd like is this nifty saddle stand, that pivots tilts and is adjustable in height, but I can't really justify the price (which is not as much shown, as I pay wholesale), or the space. Thus, getting Robin to build me a simple wooden one, to sit on top of one of the Workmates.

And now, off to work on more fun things, in the way of pouches. Well, more fun than taxes. I'd rather start disassembling saddles, but I don't have a stand to work on yet, and its still a little chilly. And the saddles are still in the storage locker.