Friday, December 23, 2011

Best Laid Plans, Etc.

Got none of the things I meant to try to do last night done. In my defense, it's because we went to Williams-Sonoma where we got pie weights and cheesecloth for the brewing of mead, tagine seasoning for use in the tagine for dinner tonight, and I resisted an egg-waffle pan. Temporarily. 

(egg waffles, I am given to understand, are a Hong Kong street food.  They look yummy.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some More Progress

Monday at lunch I finished up the miniature Lace Mania pouch.

That's one of the small rotary latches on it. The pocket watch it's intended to hold is 2-1/4" wide and 3-1/4" tall, which should give you and idea of the size - small and disgustingly cute.

It went off in the post today. The customer was very pleased with it based on this picture, and although I was worried about it being wide enough, experiments with my iPod and iPhone indicate that it will be ok. Ron thinks I should make some more, and I'm thinking the same.

The chestnut-red leather thing its leaning on is the cartridge pouch that Ron finished up. All that's left is for me to cut the shoulder strap for it. I'll try to get a picture of it soon. Still not sure what I'm cutting out for Ron next.

Last night I was poking at my shipping label/receipt template. I've been using an InDesign document, but I recently figured out how to make a fill-in-able PDF, so I've converted it to that form, we'll see if it works the way I want next time I have an order going out FedEx. USPS generates a page that prints as-is, FedEx generates just the label image that I paste into my label/receipt. I actually prefer the FedEx method, because the lower half of the USPS-generated page is unnecessary instructions, so I end up printing the receipt on another piece of paper.

On the missing tool front, I ordered replacements for the stitch wheel, edger, head knife, and I went ahead and did get a stitch groover. I also succumbed to ooh-shiny-itis and got a skiving knife (skiving is shaving down the thickness of leather). I can skive with a head knife, and I have a skiving knife that needs sharpening, but as I said: ooh-shiny.

The new tools arrived Tuesday, and today I took the skiving knife back - the edge of the blade was not the straight line it was supposed to be. I'm not blaming the people at the local store, it's a quality control thing farther up the line. And they had no problem exchanging it for me.

The missing tools haven't shown back up yet, I expect they're waiting until I actually use the new tools. 

Monday I got in leather that I'd ordered. Two were for making molded pouch fronts, they're pretty much what I expected, maybe a bit nicer. The other, a black, is meh. I won't bother returning it, but I won't be buying it again, either, unless it turns into a swan when I start working with it. It's a little stiff, which is ok, but it also feels like it's going to be hard to cut. And the finish is glossier than I prefer. 

Robin has been working on cleaning up and rearranging parts of the basement; so hopefully this weekend he and Ron can build me a cart for merchandise boxes, get the rest of them in, and I can do inventory. 

My goal tonight is to list the small purses on Etsy, maybe a couple more pouches, maybe start getting belts up on ArtFire. 

I've also been thinking about the design for a small pouch for a class for MuseCon. When I make pouches I mark the stitching holes on the body only, then punch through the glued-together body and gusset together. It would be simpler for a class to have pattern pieces marked with the stitch hole locations and let the students punch each piece separately, rather than having to glue together and deal with the resulting pieces that don't lay flat politely. My first attempt at a pattern made that way wasn't wildly successful, but I've got a couple ideas on what to change. 

I'd like to poke at pattern creation/modification again tonight, but besides work on Etsy and possibly ArtFire I have some more bookwork to do, recording the latest sales and purchases. Boring, but I've been keeping up with it better than some years, which makes me much saner come tax time, which is careening closer by the minute.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Belts on Etsy! Etsy Coupon Code! And General Natter!

First off, I've finally gotten belts posted on Etsy! (is that "thunk"-ing noise the sound of you fainting? I thought so...).  Not all the styles, and I haven't gotten any up on ArtFire, but it's a start. So far I have two styles of 1.5" wide "mundane" belts, wide belts with rings, and narrow belts with rings.

To celebrate, I've created a coupon code: BELTCELEBRATION, which is good for 10% off everything, including pouches, frogs, etc. Good through at least the 26th. 

I wanted to do a coupon to mimic what I do at events, which is if you buy two items you get $5 off, but Etsy coupons can only be for free shipping, or X% off.  Grumble.

Yesterday Robin got the cutting table in the basement cleared off, and will be working on rearranging/cleaning up various things in the basement as a result for the next few days. I have a faint hope that once he's done I'll be able to move one of the leather carts from the dining room down to the basement, to hold the (large) rolls of leather that are likely to be cut into belts or otherwise broken down on the cutting table.

Thinking about the repercussion(s) of listing belts on-line, that means I probably should bring the bins of belts in the house from the trailer. And if I'm going to bring the belts in, (or rather, have Robin bring them in), I might as well have all the merchandise bins in the house.

So Friday night, when we were out getting shelving for the basement project, we also got some lumber and wheels to make a cart to stack the merchandise bins on.  That way I can evict them from the dining room to the kitchen (or the front entry, if we ever get that doorway cleaned up) when I need/want space in the dining room to work. Cart construction is awaiting Robin to finish the rearranging, as it includes the woodworking shop-ish space in the basement.

I didn't get as much work on making new pouches done this weekend as I would have liked to, since Saturday was pretty much a loss. However, Ron did get a Civil War-era cartridge pouch done (I just need to make the shoulder strap). I asked him what I should cut out for him to work on next, but he hasn't answered yet.  :)

Yesterday I worked on a miniature lace mania pouch - I got an inquiry via Etsy for a pouch to hold a pocket watch, and that's what the customer decided on. It's disgustingly cute, pictures to follow once I finish it up (probably at lunch today). Ron and I are thinking it's not going to be a one-off. We use good rivets that aren't likely to scratch things inside a pouch, but since I know this one is for a watch, I decided I'd rather do the job right and line it. 

I think that it's probably time to do inventory again, very likely in the next week or so. It's not a big fat hairy deal, but it is a nuisance. I do reasonably well at keeping track of things, especially since I started numbering and tagging pouches as they're made, but errors still creep in and the inventory on paper can drift from the real thing, especially with hardware and belts. (Yes, I know, it's probably a requirement for tax purposes, but I'm talking about a for-my-sanity inventory check here). 

I'm also perturbed about missing tools. I'm not sure where my 5- and 6-stitches/inch stitch markers are, a stitching groover, and or two of my good head knives. Or maybe just one. I checked (and cleaned up) around one end of the couch where I thought they might have fallen, but there they aren't. I may just bite the bullet and order new stitch markers and maybe a head knife from Weaver - and then once I do I'll find the ones that are hiding. Having duplicates of the stitch markers is ok, especially since I plan to teach at MuseCon again. Not so much another head knife, but my sanity is probably worth getting one. I've got another acceptable groover, and don't think I'll need a third, so I'll take my chances it's with the other tools.

A similar circumstance is why I have duplicates of some end/slot punches, and a different style knife, so I know whereof I speak on the reappearing. Although they'll wait until I wouldn't feel right in returning the head knife, sigh...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Even More Flailing

Last week ended up being completely made of flail, as Ron was checked into the hospital Wednesday evening, and was there until Saturday evening.  I did end up with an order from the phone message that Ron took, and got that shipped out.  But my evenings were spent at the hospital.

Saturday morning I did get a little work done - I found the parts to a Civil War-era cartridge pouch that we'd started on, found the pattern and instructions, confirmed that I had all the necessary parts and hardware, and packed it up with the necessary supplies for Ron to work on  sewing it together.  
Except I didn't get to the hospital, after dropping Robin off at Cookie Lab, after karate, until almost 2:00, and we figured it wasn't worth bringing it in, as he was hoping to get released soon.

I should have brought it in, the doctor probably would have shown up much sooner if Ron had started sewing!  :D

Saturday morning I also looked at what pouches I have in various stages of completion, and worked on three of the smallest soft pouches I had cut out. . . and set the latches an inch too low on the fronts. Which is not a disaster, it just means I have to cut three back/flaps with flaps an extra inch long, and new fronts to replace the ones I messed up. But it was annoying.

Sunday we were both pooped, so nothing happened. Monday night was more recovery. Tonight I have the final for my Graphic Arts class, but I can take it on-line from home, so I might possibly be able to accomplish something. Except that we've started keeping the dogs in the kitchen during the day, with access to outside via the new-ish dog door, so I have to make sure I do dishes every night. And I'm thinking by the time I do dishes and take my final I'll be ready for bed again.  Sigh...

But I have good intentions, dammit!  Maybe tomorrow...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday and Tuesday Not as Planned

For various reasons, Monday evening and Tuesday were pretty much a complete loss.  

On the other hand, during Monday night's or Tuesday's flailing about, I got an Etsy order for a little square soft belt pouch, and last night while I was at my current Graphic Arts class (Variable Data Technologies, aka Junk Mail Production), Ron took a message from someone who phoned with questions about a possible order.

Also, the zip ties and zip tie gun arrived yesterday, as expected. 

This morning, no longer being at the end of my rope, I dug the little black belt pouch for the Etsy order out of the bins, and located a couple possible items for the phone customer. While doing so I pulled out the garb, and found the receipt books. 

I pulled the things off of Etsy and ArtFire that sold at Boar's Head, and figured out how to do a US Postal Service shipping label with postage. I'd tried once before, but their helper application is Windows-only. Although this morning I figured out it's an unnecessary app, you just open the file the web site generates in Adobe Acrobat and print from there.  Yay me!  

I did have a space cadet moment and set it up to mail from the office (even with home as the return address), instead of just sticking it in our mailbox at home - with is plenty big enough for the box in question.  Duuuh.  Oh well, it didn't change the postage, just caused an unnecessary carrying-about of an 8-ounce box this morning.  Oooh, the tragedy.  

So, I still need to wash some garb and put other stuff away, and do books, but the more pressing post-event business is taken care of. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Festival of Maidens Probable

I called about Maidens, and sent in my information.  It was a teeny bit frustrating, as they don't break the merchant space up into spaces, they ask how much space you'd like.  Err, um.  I finally said I was happy with the 10' x 20' space at Boar's Head, but I can also work with just about any space and/or configuration I end up with - straight line, corner, along a wall, in the middle of the room, whatever; and that I usually ask for two spaces when merchant space is broken up into space units.

I wasn't told that the merchant space was full (not surprisingly - SCA merchants spaces tend to fill up much later than SF con dealer spaces in my experience), but I'm also not assuming at this point that I'm guaranteed space,  in part because I hadn't seen a response to my e-mail as of this morning.

But, I went ahead and made a hotel reservation anyway - the event as at the U of I Union, which has hotel rooms in it, and that's where I made my reservation - why drive to and from another hotel when we can just stay there?  If something happens that we don't get merchant space (which I figure is unlikely), I can cancel.

Interestingly, the information for merchants says that they're looking for an emphasis on handmade items.  No problem, the only things that don't count are the little bit belt-related hardware (which all goes on one one-foot-square-ish display board), and the alpaca fleece/roving and knitting patterns we get from Ron's parents. Pedants might also include the machine-sewn satchels and belt satchels, but that still wouldn't be a big deal to not put them out, although I expect the dividing line is more along the lines of "handmade" vs. factory-mass-produced.

Of course, for some of the things, satchels, belt satchels, and soft pouches in particular, I do engage in small-scale assembly-line-ish or mass production - cut out a bunch at once, then do various steps on all (or a bunch of them) at a time.

Maybe tonight I can get the bookkeeping done from Boar's Head. I lacked sufficient brainpower yesterday. Which reminds me, I need to pull two pouches that sold Saturday off of Etsy and ArtFire. I also need to unpack garb and get things into the laundry pile and/or put away, as well as putting back away the stack of garb we were rooting through Friday night finding something for Xap to wear.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Yes. Ages. I Know, I Know!

Yes, it's been ages. No, still no belts on Etsy or ArtFire.

That said, there's been progress elsewhere in Otter Necessities -land.

Yesterday was Boar's Head (SCA, north of Milwaukee). Friday morning I realized we haven't re-built the frame for the folding scaffolding, which is what we've been hanging belts on. And we need a (better) way to display belts.

Gridwall.  We've debated it before. Robert Ham has a warehouse south of Chicago, but that's a haul.  I googled. Well what do you know, a store fixture supplier in Des Plaines!  I called and ordered 4 panels, then since both Ron and I were home (see my personal blog for more natter about that), off we went.

When we got to Specialty Store Services, we looked around their showroom.  And added on to our order. We ended up with 8 gridwall panels (2' x 6'), 4 quarter-circle hanging bars, and two sizes of shelves - 3.5" deep with a front lip, and 6" deep.

In the afternoon I did the packing up of tools, etc. that I didn't get to do Thursday night because of the low-stress but horribly long ER trip Thursday night.

Got up at 4:45 am yesterday, and hauled up to West Bend. We'd rented a small U-Haul instead of taking the big trailer, which was nice. (Robin loaded it Friday night).

Xap went with us, and had many helpful suggestions on setup with gridwall. We had two 10'x10' spaces end to end, and two of the site's 8' tables. Those were in a line, pulled back from the font edge of our space, with our 4' tables making a very wide very shallow U on the ends, opening toward the front. At each end we had an L of gridwall, with two of the quarter-circle bars on each, where belts were hung. In the center of the two big tables was a T of gridwall, with the stick of the T between the two tables. The last piece of gridwall was grafted to one of Vees holding belts. We had shelving on the T and the extension to the one V. It worked out really well, I'll have to get copies of Xap's pictures.

We had about 24 linear feet of table space, plus space on the gridwall, so I put out everything: Alpaca fiber, knitting patterns, even the steampunk-ish merchandise. And we sold bits of everything. We did get some teasing about the wrist-rockets, but nobody was snarky. One set of wrist-rockets tried to grow feet, but Ron nicely chased them back. Hopefully it was a moment of extreme (pre/early-teen-) stoopid, and not a habit.

Xap also suggested curtains for the quarter-circle hanging bars, so you can see the belts better - less distraction from the tails hanging down behind. I'm going to make 4, all the same length - the ones for the top bars only need to go down a bit below the lower bars, not all the way to the floor. And if I make them all the same, we don't have to worry about grabbing the wrong length. In a happy coincidence, about a week ago I got 30 yards of unbleached pre-washed muslin.

Xap was also a very good salesperson. I don't even have my price list memorized any more, so all she had to learn was what the various things were (some of the names I use for things are not always obvious), which was mostly belts, as pouches are pretty well tagged.

The day started out horribly slow. Usually we sell a couple-few belts and maybe a pouch or two right off to people that forgot theirs, new people, etc.; and then people look but don't buy much until afternoon. Skipping that first little batch of sales made me really nervous. But it turned out to be a decent day. Not as good as some years, but that's when the economy was at a level I don't expect to see again any time soon (if at all).  We paid for the day (fees, gas, food), the gridwall, and 3 days rental on the U-Haul (being used today to help Xap move some appliances), plus some.

This morning I ordered 2000 cable ties (1K each of two lengths), and a cable tie gun. We'd gotten some of the official gridwall connectors, and a bag of a hundred cable ties for connecting gridwall. Ron quickly decided to stick to cable ties, and we also used some for hanging things up once the shelves were filled.

The 3.5" deep shelves worked better than the 6" deep.  We'll be getting more of those.

Once I'm done here I'll probably head out to Home Despot for a hundred or two S-hooks, and I'll raid the scrap bin for wide belt cutoffs to put nice ends on and holes in: thread a pouch or two on, and hang with S-hooks. Much like is done at the local SF conventions with gridwall.

Why yes, I am cheerfully stealing good ideas! I are S-M-R-T Smart!

I e-mailed the Capricon Dealer's Room coordinator yesterday, and there's still space at Cap.  But, Festival of Maidens (in Champaign) is the last weekend in January, is cheaper, and we'll probably do better there. I'll give the person in charge of merchants there a call once I'm done here, and if there's space we'll go to Maidens instead of Cap.

We're still pretty good on soft pouches, but we could use more hard pouches (did before yesterday). And we need to re-stock belts. But I can do a lot of pouches in almost two months, and re-stocking belts is only a few hours work over a couple evenings. But I'm getting too old to cut on the floor, I need the cutting table re-cleared (currently covered in beekeeping equipment). Fortunately, Robin can be bribed to do that by reminding him that if he does, he and Marmaduke can use it for miniature wargames (which is part of the reason it's already gridded with 6" squares).