Friday, September 28, 2012

On Herding Cats and Vendors

A friend of mine is wrangling a vendors for a convention for the first time, and he's asked for our input on a few things, knowing that we've run the Dealer's Room for DucKon in the past, and are denizens of such a room. Here's some things to keep in mind if you're ever in that situation, especially if you've never been behind the tables:

Leave space behind the tables for vendors to work, as well as for the customers. 8' wide or more aisles for customers is not excessive, especially if there will be ladies in large skirts or anybody in bulky-ish costumes.

If there is a door in the room that must remain accessible as a fire exit, you'll make keeping it clear somewhat easier by not putting any of your vendors in front of it. You'll still have to check regularly to make sure it hasn't been blocked, but it won't be quite as bad.

Remember that you're writing the rules/guidelines for the 10% of the vendors who will try to push said rules, not so much the 90%, who learned how to play nice with others in kindegarten.

Even the kindegarten graduates will nudge the boundaries.

Every region has one or a few vendors that make the room wranglers' jobs difficult. It will make your life easier if you can talk to people who have done the job before and warn you who to watch out for and why. Problem vendors can be very charming to customers, and even to you while making your life difficult.

If you put tape on the floor to delineate the limits for one vendor, you have to do it for all the spaces in the room.

Patrol the room regularly. There may be issues that come up that aren't serious enough to send vendors away from their tables to talk to you about, but will come up if you check in as you're going around the room.

Keep an eye out for creeping displays when making rounds, and chase them back within bounds firmly. Vendors can sense waffling the way predators sense fear.

No matter what you do, someone will complain.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More Busy Days

Stringy Bits

The knitting needles had been sent via FedEx, signature service required. However, I was able to divert them to be held at a FedEx/Kinko's that's only slightly off my normal route home from work, and I picked them up Tuesday evening. They look fine, but I haven't had a chance to pull any out of their (minimal) packaging to see how they feel.

I need to write or print up some labels listing the needle size, length, and prices. The sizes are marked on the needles, but it would be nice to have them labelled.

The lace-weight yarn was also delivered Tuesday. Given the cost its a surprisingly small package. But sooooo soft, and pretty. I tried taking a picture, but I just realized that it was out of focus.

Sword Case

Finished the sword case Tuesday night, which was down to attaching the new handle. Handed it off to a friend last night, who delivered it to his co-worker today. I got mail a little while ago, he's very happy with it. Yay!

Here's a picture of the case, the old fabric sleeve, and the new sleeve I made:

If you click to embiggen I think you can make out where I reinforced the new sleeve with a second layer of fabric at the tip and the "shoulders" where the sword hilts would be. I was worried about the white (actually off-white) thread, once I was done re-stitching. Likewise, I didn't quite get the right/dark enough shade of brown on the new handle, and Ron pointed out that its kinda big. But based on the owner's reaction its fine.

Change of Wednesday Plans

Yesterday morning I had a dental cleaning, and the plan was to go to work afterwards. But after my appointment I had a meltdown instead (not from the cleaning itself, but from finding out I likely have several more crowns in my future added to having a phobia about dental work). Fortunately, I realized said meltdown was imminent and went home, melting down safely in the driveway, on Elrond's shoulder, to Pippin (he doesn't appreciate being held), and finally on Ron when he got home.

After I recovered Ron took me out to lunch, with a margarita to aid and abet said recovery. Then we went to Berland's House of Tools to look at jobsite boxes. Our conclusion was that the ones Berland's carries are too good - they're tougher and hence more expensive than we need (or the yellow one we already have).

Next stop was Home Despot, to look at another jobsite box, in our price range, and with an interior shelf and bins. The bins are for small parts, not really useful for us. Also, the locking mechanism, which can be a problem based on on-line reviews, did not impress Ron, nor did the plastic plugs in the bottom.


Back home again, we started working on putting swivel snaps on tails. Ron riveted strips of heavy garment/upholstery leather onto the loops in the swivels, then I sewed them onto the tails. Some I was able to sew them in so the leather and most of the stitching was hidden, others I wasn't able to hide the leather.

Good thing I ended up staying home yesterday, sewing the tails took pretty much the whole afternoon. One of the raccoon tails had been split down most of the length, so after attaching the swivel I kept on going and sewed it back into a roughly tubular shape. It looks much better now.

Then I tortured Ron by getting him to type information into Numbers (the Mac-native spreadsheet I use for books) for the tails while I figured costs, prices, and put tags on the tails.

Naughty Dog Digression

All the time we were working with the tails we had to fend off a too-helpful Pippin. The tails smell so interesting!! I think I interrupted an attempt to steal one of the tails from Ron. He was at least going to taste it.

Going back in time a bit, while I was melting down, Pippin managed to get a heavy Corningware casserole off of the counter without breaking it, or hurting himself. No idea how he accomplished it.


Finished up the last two large frogs today at lunch (one only had a bit to go, the other had to have the last bit of lacing removed and re-done for I don't want to talk about it reasons). IIRC I've got three or four small black frogs left to lace up, but I've already got some made, so I'm not going to stress about getting them done.

Schedule Update

As you may note, the gaming convention next weekend is now off the list. The person in charge called last night. He apologized for the lack of response, it sounds like the person who was supposed to be coordinating the vendors severely dropped the ball. I cosulted Ron, then thanked him for the call but declined the offer of vendor space, explaining that we've scheduled other things since we didn't hear from his con.

I felt a little bit bad, but not much. If they'd responded before I scheduled ourselves into the anime con this weekend I probably would have gone for it, but I think it would wipe us out - maybe not in terms of stock, but in terms of retaining sanity. And sleep.

Still no vendors listed for Boar's Head, but I sent off our registration information almost a week ago, so I'm pretty sure we're in. We're not listed on the Military History Fest website yet, but they cashed my check, so again I'm pretty sure we're good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Addenda to Yesterday's Post

Now that the Xanax has worn off, let's touch on some of the things I missed last night. Still tired, mind, but at least I can keep more than one thought in my head at a time.

Along with book cover and pouch kits, I also remembered to pack the hand-sewing tools and rivets for sale, as well as the first two volumes of "The Art of Making Leather Cases" that I have for sale. "The Art of Hand-Sewing Leather" is currently in hiding, need to find that.

Saturday was somewhat windy, so I put the binder of patterns on the table, but decided not to mess with the un-spun alpaca fiber.

I need to make more pouches, so I was able to put out tools and kits without packing the tables too much, but it's going to get challenging when I add the yarn and knitting needles. OTOH, the new literature rack should help on that.

We sold about as many belts as we did not-drawstring pouches, which was reassuring - belt sales have languished the last few events. I think it was just a fluke.

I'm down to two small drawstring bags. I think a bunch were bought by the other vendor at CodCon, but that still means I could use to make more.

Ron decided to bring honey, and we sold several jars. Not sure if he's planning on bringing it to the con this weekend (probably should check the vendor contract re: food).

We've filled the belt road case, as we have more belt styles than fit in the "one of everything" drawer, and are low on london tan belts. One option is a second set of drawers that's designed to bolt on top, some of which have a pull-out shelf so we could put our iPad (which has mostly replaced the paper receipt book), pens, etc.

Yeah, about adding tails, tools, kits, more frog, sword hangers, knitting needles, and yarn. The words "need another road case soon" were uttered. Yes, there is room in the trailer. No, we're trying not to do that yet, it's not a minor purchase (or purchases, if we get a top case for the big green bin). No, we don't have any bins left, they've been glommed up by other things or in a couple cases thrown out (it takes a lot to wear out a Rubbermaid Roughneck bin, but we have done it). Plus the road cases are so much easier to deal with than bins.

I managed to get everything packed into less volume than it went to the event in, through the act of packing things in things, and gaining space by selling things. Packing things in things is the act of taking smaller merchandise, like tools, and little pouches, and putting them in larger pouches. Voila! Less space used! And it helps keep the larger pouches from getting squished. Putting things in things is something I've done for years, but I think I'm going to start pushing the boundaries...

Excited about getting the yarn and knitting needles. I want to pet the yarn. I want to see what the needles are like. Hopefully they have nice lace-friendly points and the circulars have smooth joins. Oh, the fun of buying things based on little-bitty pictures on-line.

Also, the marvel of clicking on the "pay now" button 4 days ago, and having the things arrive all the way from China today. Come to think of it, even just the marvel of small business like me ordering from a supplier in China.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekend Plus Monday Recap

First off, apologies if I'm not quite coherent. The dentist prescribed me Xanax to make getting the shaping for a crown done less stressful. Good shit. It works. Better living through chemistry!

Friday Night

Got groceries, stopped at CVS, ordered dinner, and packed up mostly-successfuly. "Mostly", because we forgot toilet paper and I had to go back out.

Packing included digging out cloaks, which we haven't used for a while, as well as garb for Xaplet. She had a longish skirt, and I found a one-size-fits-most chemise (which is a bit snug on me), and the last caftan I made for Robin.

I also packaged up some of the book cover and belt pouch kits from MuseCon for sale.


Plowman's Park, in Big Rock, isn't too far away, so we didn't have to get up too early. In fact, we got there at least a half-hour before we meant to. We set up in about the same place as Ragnorak Rampage, and again just left the truck and trailer parked behind our spot.

Setup went pretty well, with four of us - me, Ron, Xap, and Younger Xaplet. Xaplet hasn't helped before, but jobs like unpacking the "one of each" belt drawer are pretty simple.

Once we got set up, we started the job of tagging the "one of each" set of belts with the new plastic tags. It went pretty well, and they don't look too bad. I wrote out the tags, Ron and Xap put them on and told me what I needed tags for (after the easy ones).

Interrupted, happily, by sales. Sales were decent, which restored my confidence. I'd apparently gotten rattled by our terrible horrible sales at Northshield Coronation. I think there were about the same number of people on Saturday as there were at Ragnorak Rampage (the last event at Plowman's Park, back around June), but sales were better.

The weather was pretty chilly. Ron, Xap, and Xaplet broke out cloaks. I was warm enough everywhere but my arms - I was wearing two T-shirts, a skirt, and tights under my Afghani Nomad Dress. The bodice of the dress is two layers of calico plus a layer of duck. The sleeves are only one layer of calico, though (as is the skirt, but I had enough other layers down there), so my arms got cold in the morning. It warmed up in the afternoon, which was nice.

After doing tags, I worked on the repair commission that the handle for was giving me fits making last week - it's for a ceremonial Masonic sword, and needed to be completely re-stitched. It's not a scabbard - this is a case for the sword in its decorated scabbard. I got most of the re-stitching done Saturday. The only bad part was getting covered in dry-rotted, oiled thread spooge. At least we were outside so I could just brush it off myself onto the ground.

I think we packed up about 5-ish, with a stop at Cracker Barrel for dinner, as we so often do after an event. Pumpkin custard with gingersnap crumble topping and cinnamon mousse sounded good for dessert, but we ended up too full. And a badger followed me home.


I finished re-sewing the sword case yesterday, and got fabric to make a new fabric liner bag, but decided to stop there, as I was still pretty tired. I worked on lacing frogs instead, since lacing is doesn't require that I have many functioning brain cells.

Since Ron was also short of functioning brain cells, we got frozen chicken enchilada bake for dinner. It was a smart choice.

Last night I took a first dose of Xanax, and slept like a log.


I decided to stay home today - when I first got up I was still kind of loopy, and I'd have to be home by 3:00 so I could take another Xanax an hour before my appointment.

I put chain mail on a pouch that I didn't get done last week, and finished up a chain mail strip I started Sunday night but decided wasn't going to work for that particular pouch.

Then I made the fabric sleeve for the sword case. I looked at where the old one (which was beyond saving) was worn and reinforced the new one at those points. The new fabric sleeve isn't as long as the old in one section, but the old one is inexplicably long there, so I think mine will be fine.

I did some bookkeeping - I got inventory updated to include the new stuff we finished last week, including the frogs I'm still working on. I'm adding a lot of frogs.

After that I gave the sword case another coat of oil, and cut and dyed the bits to hold the handle on. Attempt #2 on the handle, BTW is a success. I can't really complain about the first one failing, this is the first time we've ever tried to make a handle along these lines.

Left the dentist at 5, picked up Robin, then went to Palatine in for soup/squishy food for me, since half my lower jaw was still pretty numb. Still a bit off from the Xanax, so the only thing I'll do tonight, once I finish this entry, is lace frogs. Mostly I'm sleepy, and can only hold one thought in my head at a time.

I should have gotten "before" pictures of the sword case. I'll try to remember to get pictures tomorrow night after we put the handle on and declare it done.


The new display rack for patterns, etc. arrived today. It's fairly big, but it'll hold more than I could fit in the space of its footprint, so it should be a net gain.

Should have the alpaca yarn and the knitting needles tomorrow. Yes, the knitting needles that I ordered from China on Friday afternoon. Even though it was Saturday at China at that point, they went out same-day.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Shopping

Today was another shopping day.

First up, and most boring, I ordered a literature display rack for patterns. Depending on how much space I give to the patterns I can also use it for my kits and the hand-sewing books I have left over from MuseCon for sale.

Next was yarn: Suri Elegance from The Alpaca Yarn Company. I got Midnight Blue, Ble Blood Red, Silver, Pearl Harbor (a blue-grey), Copper, and from the multi-colored choices, Raku (blues and purples). Expected to ship out today.

Struck out a couple more times in finding a wholesale supplier for knitting needles, so off I stomped to the Tandy/Leather Factory store.

At Tandy I got Stupid Amounts of mystery-braid snake bracelet kits, a couple hoops to display tails, and hand-sewing tools and (relatively) small spools of thread.

After lunch a friend pointed me toward a company in China selling knitting needles and things Stupid Cheap. She mentioned a large minimum order, but it turned out to be only US$30. That's a lot of stuff at the prices the company charges, but not in pain-to-the-wallet department. I chose a FedEx option that should have it to me next week.

Last night I made attempt #2 on making a leather handle. Much better this time around. Plan is to spend tomorrow sewing that, and then re-sewing the case it goes on between customers tomorrow.

Assuming we have customers. Highs in the mid-50s and only a 40% of not-rain by this morning's WeatherBug forecast is not encouraging. Must dig out the wool cloaks tonight. In my copious spare time . . . HAH!

I packed up a bin of stuff to go in the trailer this morning. Tonight I need to pack up tools, things to work on, garb, get food, stop at CVS for my dairy pills as I'm really really close to out, pack up more odds and ends, and order or stop for dinner at some point. And probably something else I'm forgetting.

Also sent off our registration paperwork for Boar's Head today. Busy busy busy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

State of Things Update


Last night the rest of the tails arrived! This batch was from the supplier I've bought antler bits from previously, off in Idaho. The tails are individually packaged (cellophane-ish soft plastic tubes - more crinkly than plastic wrap, but about as thick) and labelled, so you know exactly which is which. The company here in Illinois stuffed everything into one envelope.

I resisted taking any of the big tails out of their packaging, because as Ron pointed out, getting them back in could prove difficult to impossible. But through the plastic they feel nice and thick and fluffy. The dogs were uninterested, I think because the packaging helped cut down on fascinating smells.

I got tails from, IIRC, tanuki (racoon dog, aka Pom Poko), silver fox, cross fox, I think a red fox, kit fox, and raccoon, and a half-dozen ermine tails for pouches. The ermine were in a zippy bag so I did open those. Very very soft.

Now we need to start sewing swivel snaps onto the tails. It shouldn't take long to do any one tail, we just have a dozen of them to do.

Handle Frustration

Finally made progress on the handle I said I was going to work on Monday night. Mixed success. I checked a reference last night and I think the problem is not in my general approach, but in the details. I'll try again tonight with a modified design, as I want to get the handle and case it goes on sewn this weekend.

Belts and other Strap-Like Objects

Maybe while I poke at the handle some more tonight Ron can assemble belts. And if the handle doesn't take too long, I can cut and mark pieces for sword hangers. And short straps with dees to adapt belt pouches for sporran use, which Ron can do without me if necessary.

Yarn? Kntitting Needles? Other Stringy Bits?

I think I will be ordering yarn tomorrow. Hopefully knitting needles, although I'm still waiting for an answer from one company on if I qualify for a wholesale account. I called yesterday since it had been a week since I'd spoken with someone, have not received a return call or e-mail. Not optimistic.

Ron's Mom has a new website for her knitting patterns, Go forth and buy things. I need to double-check skill ratings on patterns and see which of her newer patterns I want to get - I could use a few more smaller/simpler ones, I think.

Schedule and Other Odds and Ends

Not-Responda-Con is still not talking. Maneki Neko Con's FB group continues to be busy. Fox Hunt class schedule is up. IIRC there's classes in making a chemise, hood, inkle weaving, and other fun stuff. Weather looks like it'll be chilly, so we could be cold and get sunburned, woo hoo!

Note to self: find cloaks.

I remembered the other day that earlier this year I bought fabric to make a cover/tablecloth for the big yellow road case. Really need to find some round tuits and do so. Maybe Not-Responda-Con weekend.

Tomorrow evening we need to procure sustenance for Saturday. Not that the lunch menu for Fox Hunt sounds bad, but the last event was just a reminder, not a previously un-learned lesson, not to rely getting lunch at an event. Given the expected weather, I'll discuss with Ron if we want to bring the little propane grill and grillables to warm our tummies.

The exception to that being Boar's Head, which is usually at sites, where we're not allowed to bring in outside food. But IIRC the lunches there have been decent enough that I don't grumble. Apropos of Boar's Head, I need to mail off my merchant registration form.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Working Working Working

We accomplished things this weekend! Lots of things! Not quite as many as we put on the to-do list, but we knew it was optimistic to start with. Let me try to sum up:

Living Room Maintenance

Started out Saturday morning with a bit of cleanup and organization in the dining room. Not as thorough a job as it could use, but I found significant square footage of floor. Meanwhile, Robin cleaned up the front entry, and found even more floor out there. Wow!

I swapped a couple bins around, so now it's easier to get the lid on and off the dog food container, which was being difficult due to weight on the dog food container.

I was hoping to get a big bundle of copper-colored heavy garment leather onto a shelf, but that would have required more time and effort than I wanted to spend on the job. I did get several rolls of leather into the carts, which helped free up floor space.

Frogs and Sword Hangers

I think it was after CodCon that I bought some hardware to make larger belt frogs - 4" inner diameter rings and 3-1/2" dees. (Some people want to carry large-diameter things - like padded boffer swords). Friday night I looked at my existing frog patterns and adapted them the bigger hardware, and then on Sunday cut out a half-dozen. I also cut out some brown frogs to use the smaller rings I've had for a while. Here's a picture of the smaller rings:

IIRC the "loops" are 1-1/8". I've made frogs using the flat brass rings and loops before, and have had the other style ring and loop for, literally, years, without figuring out what to do with them. Finally I realized that the easy solution is to put them on the same frog back as the flat rings. Duh.

For a while now I've been wanting to make sword hangers to go with the frogs - something to hold a sword so it doesn't just hang straight up and down in the frog. Yesterday I finally declared that we'd gathered sufficient Round Tuits, summoned Robin to act as a fitting dummy, and we came up with a design. As usual, figuring out how to make the first one is the hard part, making some more will be simple.


The first batch of tails arrived Saturday, along with two coyote faces to put on pouches. The dogs were very very interested. They were good, though, and only smelled - no tasting. But we still don't trust them, furry bits will be kept in Rubbermaid or the big yellow road case.

In this batch I got a silver fox tail, which is almost black with a white tip; a coyote tail, which is kinda tannish, as coyotes are; and two raccoon tails. The fox tail looks like it could use a little grooming to smooth the fur out a bit.

One coyote face is ready to go, the other has one of the ears folded funny, but Ron thinks we can carefully re-shape it (due to cartilage in the ears they're much stiffer, even tanned, than the rest of the skin).


No progress on the soft pouches I cut out last weekend, but Ron waxed a whole bunch of hard pouches we'd molded, and a beer gut that was ordered to replace the one I made a few months ago (and which was stolen).

While Ron was working on waking the new hard pouches/bags, with Robin's help I disassembled the old beer gut bag I decided to re-build a while back. We cut all the stitching and lacing, taking it completely to pieces. Then Ron re-waxed the front and back to take care of some scratches and dings.

The old flap was looking faded and meh, so I'm going to replace it. I'm also going to put on new shoulder straps - the originals were sewn directly to the body, the new ones will be attached to dees; and the dees will be attached to the body with the dee holder piece I use elsewhere and that I have a die to cut (which I didn't have when I made the beer gut).

Originally the flap buckled shut, which worked, but the tab piece and the piece holding the buckle didn't look good for various reasons. Not sure if the new flap will fasten with an antler peg, held on some way to hide the old stitching holes, or if it will buckle again, with new parts sewn so as to hide the old.

Yeah, this is pretty much a complete re-build of the beer gut - I'm only using the original molded front piece, and the back. But it's enough work to mold the front that I think a re-build is worth the effort.

Sporran Hangers

Ron made sporran hangers: loops that go on a belt with swivel snaps to hold a sporran hanging below a belt. Turns out I was supposed to order more swivel snaps but hadn't, so we only made a few sets. Oops.

I also want to make some short straps with dees on each end, so someone can use one of our belt loops without dees on the back as a sporran. And going forward I'm going to start putting dees on a couple/few more of our larger pouch styles. It's inexpensive and fairly simple to do, and I think it will increase sales to people looking for sporrans.

Belts and Dogs

Cut a bunch of belt strips yesterday that we need to get hardware on.

Elrond has learned that when I'm cutting big pieces of leather on the floor I don't want him walking on the leather. Not that he understands claw scuffs, but he mostly stays off the leather.

For Pippin, however, the process of cutting a straight edge on a half-cow and cutting strips for belts is new. He was pretty good overall, but two or three times he flopped down and snuggled up to me . . . on the leather. At least that doesn't scuff it up.

My faithful little black-and-white shadow apparently likes to nap on the linoleum, just outside the doorway to the dining room, instead of on the carpet in the dining room, even though just inside the doorway is usually free for dogs.

Odds and Ends

Ron made a bunch more beeswax pucks. He also emptied out the presto pot we melt paraffin in by ladelling the melted wax into several disposable aluminum loaf pans; and cleaned out what's best described as a hairball (several years accumulation of dust and pet hair), and cleaned more grunge off of the solidified wax loaves.

FYI: Do not mold beeswax in aluminum, it'll turn the beeswax green. Learned that the hard way a couple years ago. Fortunately re-melting and I think some scraping off of discolored wax solved that oops.

Tonight I need to work on a case for carrying a Masonic ceremonial sword, which needs to be re-stitched and have a new handle installed. I'd ordered a "leather handle" from one supplier, but it's actually leather wrapped and stitched around a plastic handle. And the handle is the kind of stitching where you pull and it unzips. No, so not. So tonight I'm just going to make one from scratch. I understand the process in theory, just haven't done it.

Still no word from Not-Responda-Con. At this point I'm kinda morbidly amused by the situation - it isn't hurting me; and maybe they have all the dealers they want, but it's not a good way to run things.

Maneki Neko Con, OTOH, is talking to vendors, promoting things on Facebook, yadda yadda.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ordering Judiciously

I wanted to order ALL THE THINGS today.

However, maturity whacked me upside the head last night and reminded me that shelter, sustenance, and internet access are also important things to have.

So I ordered furry bits and hardware.

Another bit of caution that clobbered me today was the question of legality on furry bits. It would probably be really really bad to have a co-worker, one of the Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) bust me for being a poacher.

I have sadness. My Google-Fu failed me. And the DNR website do sucketh, verily, in some regards. I found the hunting and trapping regulations, and I found the rules and regulations for being a taxidermist, but nary a peep on what you have to do to legally buy furry bits.

I schlepped down the hall to the CPO's neighborhood. One of the senior officers, who is also a taxidermist, was expected in "shortly" - three and a half hours ago. Note please, I'm not complaining, he's probably out doing interesting law-enforcement things.

But I wanted to buy things, and exercised my Google-Fu some more, and found a company that deals in furry bits here in Illinois.

I threw myself on their mercy and asked my question about legality. And then called back to place an order when their on-line system and/or my browser got in a snit and refused to proceed to checkout.

Then I placed an order for some more furry bits at the place I'd originally planned to order, in Idaho, who I get antler tips from. The Idaho company has more detailed descriptions, bet the Illinois one has better prices, so I decided to split the order and see who I like best for furry bits.

I ordered tails: mostly fox, anb also ermine, raccoon, coyote, and two coyote faces. The faces are for sporrans, as are the ermine tails - although I'm also going to offer them up at SCA events.

Then I ordered hardware: swivels to put on the tails, plus rivets and rivet sets and awl hafts and blades for sale.

Decided to postpone ordering yarn and knitting needles for sale until (hopefully) next payday. We have two different lace-weight alpaca yarns, from two different suppliers to choose from. Request to one supplier of knitting needles for a wholesale account was turned down, waiting to hear from another.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Instant Schedule, Just Add E-Mail

Yesterday Xap asked me about Maneki Neko Con, a brand-shiny new anime con down in the south 'burbs, that we'd talked about before.

Although I'm pretty sure I looked at the website, it never made it onto my schedule spreadsheet of things that we are, might be, or are not doing. And the convention is the 29th.

I decided to drop the organizers e-mail to see if there was still space in the vendor's room.

There is (was?).

Ron didn't see a problem doing Fox Hunt and Maneki Neko Con on successive weekends, especially as they're both one-day cons.

So I responded last night, asking for two spots, and have just mailed off my paperwork.

In further convention news, the e-mail contact I found for Not-Responda-Con is for someone organizing certain games. However, he said he'd forward my contact information on to the right people (in my e-mail I asked if he was a general or gaming-only contact and mentioned I'd been trying to get vendor information). But I'm still not holding my breath.

If that one works out, it would mean events three weekends in a row, winding up with a weekend-long convention. Eep.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Further Event Reportage

Some more bits from Saturday that I skipped over yesterday.

Food-Finding Follies

The Northshield Coronation was held a Cardinal Stritch University, and there was mention on the event website about a cafeteria. I assumed that we would, therefore, be able to procure lunch at said cafeteria, and so I wasn't too worried when we didn't make it out to get lunch-type food Friday night.

We got up at 5:30, so a bit before 11 Ron went off to recconnoitre for the cafeteria. He came back with a report that it was closed, with no signs of activity.

At that point we lamented not packing a lunch, yea verily; and Ron proceeded to the tables where a fundraising sale was taking place and procured baked goods. Yummy yummy baked goods, but not exactly meal-type food.

Noonish or a bit later I asked somebody that seemed confident about procuring lunch at the cafeteria where it was located. Down some hallways thataway. I followed said hallway, turned left when it ended, and found myself at the Student Union, where a lunch was in progress that was fairly obviously not public. A nice lady there directed me to the actual cafeteria.

Getting to the cafeteria involved a right turn shortly before the end of the hallway, through a side hallway that did not look like a main route, down a ramp, along another hallway, around another corner or two, and finally there.

Interesting setup: pay your $5.mumble and then get, as far as I could tell, as much food as you could manage. The main events were spaghetti and omelettes - get your filling and then the omelette would be cooked while you waited. I opted for omelettes, the spaghetti was not encouraging.

No disposable plates, etc. The very nice cashier went back and found a couple paper plates. The cook then decided they were a melty risk, and found a couple sheets of foil.

Retraced my way back to Ron (Fortunately, we have our very own cafeteria-style tray, so I didn't have to juggle the paper plates). Omelettes consumed. Quite acceptable, and much better for one's blood sugar than a diet consisting solely of carbs.

But we were still both pretty hungry by the time we got to the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Kenosha. Yes, we will remembering to take lunch to Fox Hunt.

Sharine a Site

At the same time as the SCA event, and in fairly close proximity, was a conference of some kind. I don't read Spanish, so the signage wasn't particularly enlightening, but I think it was training for Lay Readers.

Every so often the Spanish-language groups would break and flow through the main hallways - and merchants were set up in one of said hallways. I only got a couple questions from people wearing that group's nametags, but lots of looking as people walked by.

Then there were groups of what I'm guessing were new or prospective students, getting tours. They moved through fairly fast, not much contact from them.

The first time a man in a brown cassock went by, I didn't really notice at first, as you get the occasional clerical persona in the SCA. Then I realized that as we were at "Cardinal Stritch" he might just be a real-life clerical person. Confirmed when a couple more gentlemen dressed the same came by. Also saw some nuns, and chatted for a couple minutes with a nun in disguise (at least I assume that from a reference to the convent).

The hall we were in also got regular traffic from the food service department. Several of the staffed paused to talk to us.

Also had a nice conversation with a couple who trail ride (discussed saddlebags and other suchlike things) and were either police or some kind of security officers.

In any case, it was a fair amount of non-SCA traffic for an SCA event. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

End of Summer Recovery, In Abundance!

Northshield Coronation Report

Saturday was a low-stress day. After putting rings on belts we'd braided, Ron practiced his ukulele. I worked on lacing some pouches. We discussed what new things we possibly could sell. We had an Etsy sale. We observed that we need to make more wax pucks.

Oh, yeah: we were in Milwaukee at the time. We sold 3 pucks of beeswax and one pouch. And Ron bought a really pretty torc. No clue why the day was so bad for us, other people seemed to do well. I've decided not to fuss about it, there was no obvious reason to think that we'd do poorly.

New Product Ruminations

At the moment we're down to mostly belts and pouches for sale, with a few other leather accessories like frogs, dog leashes, etc. We've got some hardware, lace knitting patterns designed by Sharon, Ron's mom; and a few hanks of alpaca for spinning.

In the past we've had more variety - musical instruments, more fiber - and the variety helps sales. We need some new things. But that requires either investment of time or money. I think money may actually be easier to come by than more time to make things. But not huge bulky things. Or things that will hurt to be stuck with. And that fit in with what we've already got.

Shoes and garb (including hats) are right out. I don't want to mess with keeping umpty sizes of a thing. And there's enough people making and selling garb. Ditto jewelry. I'll put chain-mail on pouches, but jewelry is a saturated market.

We got out of the musical instruments (recorders, penny whistles, small hand drums) at the right time and won't be picking those back up, the rise of internet shopping has made it much easier for people to find what they want.

Ron Sr. and Sharon have sold their alpacas, so no more personalized bundles of alpaca (ie: picture of the animal it came from on the packaging) for spinning.

But, we could switch to yarn. Not lots, just laceweight, to go with the Sharon's lace-knitting patterns. And maybe some knitting needles. I've been working on finding a yarn supplier and debating colors (got Sharon's input on that, and suppliers).

On more leather-related things, I'd been thinking of putting some of the kits I'd made for the MuseCon class out for sale. Definitely going to do that, there's really no reason not to. I just need to re-print the pouch pattern sheets, make up some cover sheets (probably need Ron to get pictures), and assemble parts into kits.

Related to the kits, we're thinking of hand-stitching kits - groover, stitch wheel, awl, needles, and a small spool of thread. If we start out with just a couple kits then at worst we end up with a couple more sets for teaching.

Yesterday we went through catalogs to see what we might want to sell in terms of tools and supplies.

One thing I want to do is not sell things that Tandy/Leather Factory has unless mine is either (A) better, or (B) I can do so for the same price or cheaper.

The awl blades in the Tandy stitching kits suck. Royally. So I'll be assembling my own hand-sewing kits instead of buying and re-selling Tandy kits.

I can get copper rivets and re-sell them to fighters for armor repair at a better price than the Tandy baseline, and we can use those if they turn out to be a flop. I'll probably also get a couple rivet-setting tools to go with them. I think this week I'll probably order 5 lbs of rivets and a couple of the tools.

Found a few more conchos, and ordered a few of one style today. Yes, moving slowly - I don't want to over-extend.

Display Considerations

I need a better way to display the knitting patterns, right now they're all in one three-ring binder, so people don't see the variety. I did some searching and found a literature display rack that folds that Ron also thinks will work. And isn't an arm and a leg.

On the way home Saturday we were discussing how to display buckles and other hardware. The board we've been using works, it still looks good, but I think we've pretty much out-grown it already, and definitely if we add any more new hardware.

Some of the belts we finished Saturday were narrow braided ones, which are new, so I put price tags on them. It got me thinking that it would be useful to put tags on belts, so people don't have to ask, but pricing all the belts in the bin has drawbacks. So today I ordered some metal "golf towel hooks", sometimes used as shower curtain rings, and am going to get some plastic tags - I'll put prices on the belts on display, and just move the tag. And to prevent anyone playing with tags, I'll write the type of belt on the tag. And it makes it easy to match the tags with the "one of everything" set of belts if it's easier to pack belts up sans tags.

End of Summer Equals Back in Business

Oh, and yesterday I cut out a bunch of stuff. Yeah, cooler weather is here and I'm finally emerging from the usual summer slump. With a bit of a vengeance this year, it seems.

Decided that doing the Known World Academy of Rapier/Known World Costume Symposium solo was indeed madness, reinforced my e-mail from the new vendor coordinator, from which it seems some plans that seemed decided on are still up in the air. I have regretfully tendered my cancellation. Since it's not until November I don't feel too bad, definitely not a last-minute decision.

Have found a different e-mail address to try for the gaming convention of non-communication. It may be for someone organizing certain games only, but it's worth a quick e-mail.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Schedule, and Not

Oops, I see that I never pulled the "Tentative" label off of the Northshield Coronation tomorrow. I think we'll just call it too late now and leave a note to self to pull it off the list Sunday or Monday.

Thanks to the dental chaos on Wednesday (see personal blog) and a meeting last night, I continued to not get things done in the evenings this week. I have, however, been working on lacing up some soft pouches at lunchtimes. Should finish the lacing on one today, then I have to make a chain to hold a hook on it. It'll just get a fairly simple chain, so hopefully it won't take long.

Got a note on Etsy last night from a person organizing a craft show for the Salt Creek Rural Park District in November. I think this is a new thing for them. Only $20 for a 10' x 10' space, but the show is only open 9 am - 1 pm.

But cheap.

I could set up just belts and purses. And satchels. And jingle bells, since the show is mid-November. And maybe book covers.

No no no! Craft shows bad!

But we'd only need to sell a couple things...

Craft shows suck!

But cheap...





. . .

Can I tell Pens By Kris about it? He might sell pens. And paracord bracelets.

You may tell Kris.

We could set up next to K...


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Inventory Update

I bit the bullet after dinner last night and revised how I'm doing inventory for leather and hardware, going back to the beginning of 2012. I know a bunch of the numbers aren't correct, but at least now I have the outline to work from.

I don't necessarily track how many of each thing I have for leather and hardware, but I do need to know how much I paid for materials, so I can figure my costs with something approaching reasonableness, if not actual accuracy. I have a list of hardware that I offer for sale in my inventory spreadsheets, and a couple sheets of materials costs in my cost computation spreadsheets, but they weren't scaling in terms of either time or variety of items very well. Hopefully the new method, which I intend to involve less (re-)typing and more cutting and pasting will work better.

I'm really ready to be done with the hot and sticky weather. In the 70s with light breezes and negligible humidity would be very nice, thanks.

The house is a disaster (clutter). I'm beginning to wonder if I can claim a cleaning service as a business expense. Or maybe medical: to help maintain my sanity. Getting the big belt bin into the trailer sometime before Saturday morning should help. A little. Also see above re: weather.

Got feedback from two students regarding our leather sewing workshop at MuseCon. Need to work a little bit on organization/presentation, but nothing too bad.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Underwhelming Accomplishments

Saturday morning was eaten, as so often Saturday mornings are, in running errands. But in the afternoon I did get some belts split and braided.

Sunday was consumed with extracting honey (more natter about that on my personal blog).

Today I had ambitions, but the weather destroyed them. By the numbers the temperature shouldn't be bad, but the humidity is awful, so we've been hiding from it in the bedroom.

I haven't accomplished making anything, but I have gotten the books caught up to date. This was a significant accomplishment. Bad me for letting them get behind.

Actually, the books are still a smidge out of date - I haven't updated the hardware inventory. I'm debating if I want to continue it how I've been doing it, or change my method, with a strong leaning to making a change. I won't bore you by attempting to describe the details.