Sunday, February 27, 2011

Progress Progressing

I cut out two more smaller purses Thursday, one in chestnut (red-brown), and one black, both to have black gussets.  

Then while I was working on them yesterday I made what may have been a tactical mistake.  I put the chestnut back/flap with the black front, and the black back/flap with the chestnut front.  They look really good that way, but that's not what I meant to do.  Ron said I should go for it.  They're ready to stitch/lace.

So yesterday I tried again at cutting out a black new small purse.  All that's left to do with that is the stitching holes, and the actual stitching and lacing.  I forgot how little time one thing takes, I've been doing mass production so much.

This afternoon we finally got pictures taken of the newest purses and some pouches I'd finished.  Here's a picture of taking a picture:

Sorry about the funny vertical bars, Ron's guess is that they're caused by a strobe effect from his flourescent photographic lights.  

Yes, the pouch is levitating.  Kinda.  No, there was no photoshopping, rotating the picture, etc.  

Magnets, however...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cutting cutting cutting

I went ahead and cut out two more of the new smaller purses tonight: another black one, and one with a chestnut (red-brown) front and back/flap, and a black gusseted. That one will probably get a black strap.

Ron doesn't think I'm crazy for starting these with the intention of finishing them for the craft fair. I have 2 weekends plus weekdays including 2 nights away from home.

But now, off to the tub.

Sticker Shock

Last night I investigated overseas shipping prices.

To a large far-east city, FedEx would be $90 or $170. Ouch!

Then I checked UPS: $215. Aaaaiiiieeeee!!!!

I think I ranted something at the computer about not needing fast service.

Not expecting much better luck, I tried the Post Awful.

A medium-size flat-rate box, limit 20 lbs: $45.

Blink blink.

Pricey, but not completely barking mad, and 8-10 days (presumably not including Customs) isn't slow-boat to China-slow, either.

Now we'll see what the customer thinks.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Planning Natter

I did some poking sbout yesterday, the default search result order on both Etsy and ArtFire appears to be by most recently listed. I can see from that listing bunches of items at longer intervals is not optimal. Listing one or two items at a time more often is going to be better for search result placement. It's also probably better for getting people to check your shop on a regular basis.

So, I think the plan for listing belts is going to be one style every day or two or three, probably starting with 1" buckled, 1.5" "mundane" buckled, or the kilt/Sam Browne (w/out shoulder strap) belts. I have a picture of the 4 colors of harness leather/latigo I use for belts, and a measuring diagram (because clothing size is abso-stinking-useless), I just need good shots of some of the hardware, and some finished belts.

Last night I was debating cutting out a couple more of the new smaller purses, since I'll be away from home and bored for 2 nights at the annual floodplain managers' conference. And this morning I was thinking that it's about time for another web sale.

From my mouth to the FSM's noodle appendage. This morning I had a message from a customer about a custom order. To the far east. Erm. Must check shipping options & rates. And design a pouch big enough.

iPouch Pics Plus

First up, the iPouch, sticking it's tongue out:

And here is my iPod, standing in for my iPhone (which I was taking the photo with) in a shot showing the lift strap in action:

Ron had a splitting headache last night, so I didn't ask for any photography. I did do dishes and got the Lace Mania purses ready to lace, and I think I have a plan on how to list belts for sale, so that was sufficient accomplishment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Posty Nattery Thingy

A week ago (that long?!?) we tried waxing some pouch fronts, and discovered that the heat gun was dead. At first Ron thought it was being crotchety about running on a 20-amp circuit, but it wasn't any happier on a 12-amp.
So Ron finished up the iPouch front he'd started and did the pouch front the order with the hair dryer, which is slower, and noisier. And has a broken on-off switch, making it a pain to use.

Thursday we went to Berland's House of and got a new heat gun.

Friday night and Saturday morning I worked on the ordered pouch, and laced it together before and after Saturday afternoon's MuseCon meeting. We made the belt yesterday morning, and shipped them off (we all had the day off). The pouch is brown with a havana (dark brown) harness leather back/flap and dark brown lace that almost matches the havana, and the belt is also havana. The pouch has an added pocket, which came out pretty well. I've done pockets in purses before by making them just a bit wider than the back of the pouch, but the customer wanted a larger pocket, so I worked out where and how to accordion-pleat the pocket to add space and leave margin for lacing it in. It came out rather nicely, and I should have taken a picture. Oops.

Saturday evening I finished the large black purse I was working on last week, and yesterday we made shoulder straps for it, the two new smaller purses, and the two Lace Mania purses that are in progress, and put the straps on the purses that are done. The other straps two have all the necessary holes, and just have to be riveted on once I lace the purses up (mass-production for the win). I got the lace mania purses glued together last night, I have to do is mark/punch the lacing holes in the gussets and finish installing latches, hopefully tonight, then I can lace them together.

I also finished my first iPouch. It was designed for old Nokia N810 devices, which are a little different in size than iPhones, but I'd taken iPhone size into account in the design. The iPouch is a little deep, so I added a lifter strap to go under the phone to help pull it out. It's a snug fit with the cover I have on my iPhone, but not as bad with a naked phone. I still have to trim the end of the strap, currently it looks like the pouch is sticking out its tongue. I'll try to remember to get a picture tonight.

Didn't get pictures of the new purses or belts this weekend, I may send Ron upstairs to do that while I work on the Lace Mania purses. I'd like to get belts posted to Etsy and ArtFire. Which reminds me, I added sales tax handling to my Etsy and ArtFire shops. Hopefully it doesn't cut into sales, thankyouverymuch Todd Stroger, I just looooove 9.5% sales tax. (Yes, I'm charging my local sales tax on non-local purchases, although I explain on both sites that I will adjust for other Illinois rates if contacted pre-sale. I'd rather not perturb the Illinois Department of Revenue, thanks).

Downloaded a blogging app, Blogpress, to my phone. I'm typing this in mail on a real keyboard, then I'll try posting via cut and paste through Blogpress. Initial poking at the app looks promising.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Quiet-Ish Day

We took today off as a post-Capricon recovery day.
Worked on the new smaller purse in brown yesterday and today, now it just needs the shoulder strap.  Also figured out how much they cost to make, and I think the selling price will be $35-40.  

Got another internet order today.  A belt and a custom-ish hard pouch (particular colors, and adding a pocket).  Fortunately, I have a front for that size pouch molded, which cuts the time needed to make it.  The front does need to be waxed, which we'll probably do tomorrow. 

I'm wondering if my Etsy store is generating non-Etsy traffic.  You have to join Etsy in order to purchase through Etsy, I'm wondering if there's some people who don't like that "feature", and look for the same vendors outside of Etsy.  I suppose I could add an optional box to the web contact form/verbiage on the website "contact us" page asking how people found us.  

I have a bunch of other pouch fronts needing to be waxed, too.  We haven't done that job in a while.  Did some trimming prepartory to waxing. Also went out and dyed some of said waiting-to-be-waxed fronts black this evening. 

Today I also worked on lacing together the large purse I'd gotten ready for working on at Capricon.  I thought for a little while today I'd lost the gusset, which would be a royal pain in the backside, but I found it - if it had teeth, it would have bitten Robin when he didn't find it.

Also drew up a hard pouch back in CAD - IIRC I'd originally done it with pencil and paper, and I'm not sure where the original is.  But I had one cut out of leather, so I was able to reverse-engineer it. 

Sounds like I did a lot, but it didn't seem like it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Purse

Here are a couple pictures of the new purse.  The body is about 5" tall, 7" wide, and 3" thick; with a wider flap, and with the curve in the flap it's actually about 5-1/2"-5-3/4" tall.  I wanted to pull the flap down a little farther, but I screwed up and punched holes in the flap for the larger rotary latch.  Oops.  

Yes, I know my backdrop has dog hair all over it.  It isn't a backdrop so much as a chunk of fabric left over from a mending job, propped up on a water bottle and a pile of other stuff that was sitting within reach of my seat on the couch.  And the pictures were taken with my iPhone camera (which really isn't a bad little camera). 

Once the purse has a shoulder strap it'll go upstairs to the light table and have a proper portrait taken under the for-real photographer lights with a DSLR.

Still Not at Capricon

Still not at Capricon, but feeling better.  I think I may be pretty much done with the fever nonsense.  On the other hand, I'm tired and crabby.  I tried to go to bed about 8:30, but I didn't get to sleep until some time after 10:30, and then didn't sleep well.  Hmm.  Part of my problem was comfort temperature-wise, maybe it was a fever thing.  Anyway, I think the tired and grumpy is related to the not-sleeping part.  

Got the 2011 books started.  I think I've figured out record-keeping for mail-order (ie: internet) sales that will actually be useful. We've had 4 already this year, which is at double what I've done in previous whole years.  And as I said previously, I'd like to increase the volume of internet sales.

I did realize this morning that there is some more internet-sale record-keeping that I need to deal with: membership and/or listing fees for ArtFire and Etsy.  Artfire charges a flat monthly fee, Etsy charges listing and sales fees.  I'll can roll the Etsy fees for items that sell into the sales record-keeping, but I need to account for costs associated with items that don't sell, and the ArtFire fees.  Must think about how best to do this.  

Trying something new this year to keep paperwork from floating around the house.  I've got one binder for all my paperwork from purchases, and another one for on-line sales paperwork (in-person sales don't generate as much paper, and I've been dealing reasonably successfully with them for years).  Hopefully the binders I got are too small, at least for the sales paperwork.  

Yesterday in the afternoon/evening I put away some patterns, and then printed out and put away some of my own designs and binderized them, too, to hopefully limit the re-re-re-printing from the CAD files because I mislay them.  A few months ago I got one binder to store my bought patterns, now there's a matching one for paper patterns of our own design.  Lexan/plexiglass patterns have a drawer of their own.  Which reminds me, I need to get some more plexi and get Ron and/or Robin to make me some more templates for things I'm still using paper patterns for, but I make with some regularity. 

And now, Ron says I need to go see if more food helps my temper.  And then I think I'll finish sewing the body of the small black purse prototype.  Then I have to decide if I want to rivet the shoulder strap on, or sew it.  I'll probably rivet it.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Not-At-CapriCon Report

As I whined over on my personal blog, I'm not at Capricon this weekend

I had two little pouches, the two new smaller purse prototypes (two prototypes of one design), and a large purse ready to work on while hanging out at the Cafe and various places, as well as some pouches.  I got the flap laced and most of the sewing done on one of the new purses before I came home yesterday.  After I got home I was too out of it to work any more.

This morning I figured I'd work on pouches and purses, since I wasn't all better.  But then I remembered the pile of Otter paperwork that needed sorting, so I've sorted that, and been poking at the books.  I've got the last bits of 2010 transactions entered, but I left checking my aggregate-all-numbers spreadsheet formulas to make sure they're pointing at the right places until I'm a little more clear-headed.  

Now working on 2011 transactions - I've been procrastinating on putting the internet sales in until I decided what I was doing for record-keeping (mostly format thereof), and making sure I was doing sales tax on internet purchases correctly.  

Making progress there.  

However, I think once I finish the last couple spoonfuls of my yummy yummy Avgolemono soup, I'm going to chase the dogs out for a few minutes then go sit in the tub.  

And I'm afraid that the eye infection from hell I had a couple years ago, which took months and months to clear completely away, may be trying to make a comeback.  This distresses me even more than missing Cap. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

State of the To-Do

Went in to my Etsy store, picked a half-dozen-ish items, and re-listed them, and realized I need another picture or three to list belts.  I have one picture with most of the hardware, but not our "mundane" belt buckle & keeper set or our kilt belts.

In the process of responding to an inquiry from the website, I went to the basement to see what leather I had down by the formerly-cutting table (lately a beekeeping equipment table - must figure out how to rectify that). 

While I was in the basement, I had Robin bring me the leather and dies to cut dee holders for the purses.  And then I put Robin to work cleaning up the basement workshop area (since much of the mess is because of his not putting things away), and started die-cutting scales out of the great big bin of scrap I sent down during the dining room cleanup.  Like most of us, Robin works better with company (and encouragement and suggestions).  He found a significant section of floor!  Woo-hoo!

OTOH, I don't think I'm getting around to further paperwork sorting today.  It's a fair tradeoff for getting some basement cleaning and scale cutting done.  Now I really need to market said scales.  It would also be nice to figure out some other product for small scrap, but haven't come up with one.

I finished the Capricon Cafe and Musecon party signage and flyers yesterday, just need to be uploaded for printing.  I also did a new business card design for Otter Necessities, which has the current e-mail address (otter at our domain).  The old cards had my old e-mail address on it.  I also need to consider pointing the web contact form to the Otter Necessities mail address instead of my personal gmail as it does currently.  I check my personal gmail more often, but pointing it at the other would make some sense, and I can get into the habit of checking it more than once per day.

Oops, rather a digression there.  Anyway, the new business cards have the "new" e-mail address, I cut down the amount of verbiage on the front, moving a line or so to the back and also referring customers to Etsy and ArtFire.  I decided to spring for full color, and Ron said get glossy.  So in a week or so I should have 250 shiny new pretty business cards.

Now, off to do dishes and then work on purses.  So, even though the paperwork sorting doesn't appear to be happening, I'm doing pretty well on the to-do list.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

More Current than Catch-Up

I have, IIRC, 5 purses cut out now: 2 of the new smaller purse, in brown and black; a black large rectangular purse; and 2 lace mania purses, again one brown and one black.  I also cut out replacements for the little pouch I sold this week, and finally got to FedEx yesterday - a brown one and a black one of that (although I'm mentally classifying that one as Steampunk/Sam Browne Project, which is Not-Black, but brain said "make black" and I did). 

The little pouches are in final assembly, still working on getting all the parts made, etc. for the purses.  I was waffling about the purses on stitching vs lacing; I decided to stitch the bodies and lace around just the flap.  I do have one concern about my design, but if it turns out to be valid I think I also have a fix.

My Etsy listings have all fallen off due to length of time, so I have to either re-list and/or list some new things.

This morning I sorted through various mixed bills, statements, and paperwork, making one pile of Otter's stuff.  Later today or tomorrow I'll go through that and sort it.  This is the first part of closing the books for 2011 and doing taxes.

OTOH, I did my sales tax filings back in December. Yes, there was a small risk of internet sale(s) after I filed them, but there is a process for filing an amended return if that had happened. 

The schedule for this weekend is to work on purses, finish up signage for the Capricon Cafe and flyers for the MuseCon party, and to continue on with paperwork/bookkeeping. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More Catch-Up

Our next event is the Spring Craft Fair at Palatine High School, Saturday March 12th.  Yes, our previous craft fair attempts were failures, but the last one at the HS was, I heard, awful for all the vendors, in part because it was the same day as the Fremd craft fair, and one at, IIRC, Arlington Park.  Fremd's is a week before this time around, so we'll give it a try.  

The Palatine craft fair is $55 for one spot, without electricity or tables.  I looked at the information for Fremd's, IIRC the spots start out at about $80.  That was over my mental limit.  Maybe another time, if we do well at Palatine.

Not sure when the next SCA event will be, I don't see the one that's been held at Glenbrook North HS the last couple/few years in March-ish - around Mardi Gras, I think it was.  

We're also looking at doing fewer events, and trying to do more web sales.  Ron's back appreciates that business model, and one of these years Robin will be moving out (although the current plan is for him to live at home and go to Harper for his first couple years of college).  And since Ron cleaned up the spare bedroom to use as a photography studio, he can keep his light table and lights set up, which makes getting pictures of new merchandise a simpler thing. In theory.

I haven't had any ArtFire sales.  I had one sale of two belts on Etsy, but I haven't actually listed belts there yet (need pictures - that theory with getting pictures is still not working perfectly), it was a friend of a friend.  

Besides those two belts, this year already I've gotten (and filled) an order from a previous customer for a cover for an artist's spiral notebook; and from new customers for two belts, and a pouch.  The pouch has been boxed up and ready to go to FedEx since Tuesday night.  But the cars only got out of the driveway far enough to get the driveway plowed yesterday, and I'm stuck home with car trouble today.  I called to see what a pickup would cost, but it wouldn't be until tomorrow, so I'll drop it off tonight or tomorrow morning, and save the fee.

Yes, I like FedEx.  I've been content with their service, they have tracking, and I can do all the shipment hoo-ha and even print the label from home, and the 24-hour FedEx/Kinko's office on Roselle is on a reasonable alternate route to work. UPS is #2, tied with FedEx for reliability and tracking, but not quite as convenient.  USPS is close to home, but fails on tracking, and I think they're slower than the other two, but not particularly cheaper.  

Monday I picked up some spiffy Avery sheets - top half is a sticky label, the bottom half is plain paper, with a perforation between, so you can print your shipping label and a packing list/invoice in one go.  Got that set up Tuesday night.

Looking ahead to the craft show, I designed a new purse last night.  It's gusseted, debating if I'm going to lace around the flap or not.  I have one cut out in black, I think I'm going be be brave and cut a brown one out also, before I do the black one.  I also need to make a big rectangular purse in black, and some of the "Lace Mania" (rounded, laced) purses.  Once I find my pattern.  In cleaning and rearranging the dining room to be a usable workshop again (see the "cleaning fits" tags on the Otter Blog, I seem to have mislaid some patterns...

And now, off to do work-like things.  Besides the purses, I also owe Ron and Robin some Sam Browne belt parts. And since I'm home today, I can do something not-so-quick for dinner.

Another Hiatus

I did it again.  Another long period of silence.

Part of the problem is (or was) that Blogger wasn't playing nice with my iPhone.  I should re-check and see if that's been fixed and/or if there's an app for that which works politely.

The other part is that we haven't been doing much with Otter lately.  As in only one event all of last year. 

No, we won't be in the Dealer's Room at Capricon.  Ron is exapno's second for running the Cafe, aka Caffeination Station, so he'll be busy with that, and doing the tables by myself is not fun.  I'll probably be unofficial cafe staff.  

I have been doing design stuff.  I had one discussion about a possible document-layout job, and even put together a quote, but I suspect it exceeded the customer's budget.  I also did Publications and kept Ron (the Chair) sane for MuseCon, which was in August, and Publications for Windycon, which was in November.  I also said I'd do Windycon again this year.  We'll see how doing Pubs for an established convention not starting late goes, I took Windycon over on the late side last year.

I had joked that by rights I should end up doing Capricon's book this year, so that I'd have bailed out Duck (2009), Windy (2010), and Cap in consecutive years.  OTOH, I'm not complaining that it didn't happen.

I was asked to work on the Publications team for Chicon 7 (WorldCon 2012), but explained that my first loyalty is to MuseCon, and they're too close together to work both.  The Publications head at the time did point out that they'll be needing people for plenty of stuff earlier in the schedule, but I didn't give a definite answer,  he had to step down due to work reasons, and I don't know his replacement. 

Most recently, design-wise, I've been doing flyers for the MuseCon party at WindyCon.  They're old advertisements from Dover books, edited and re-built into flyers.  It's been fun.

In the fall term at Harper College I took Graphic Arts 101, Introduction to Graphic Arts, and this term I'm taking GRA 102, Desktop Publishing, aka GRA 101+.  I'm learning a bit about Photoshop, Illustrator, and Quark XPress, but mostly these are prerequisites.

OK, I think this is long enough now.  I'll call it done for design-natter, and put leather-natter in another post.