Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Weekend Accomplishments

I got things done this weekend! Yay! 

Friday I declared myself insufficiently motivated to leave the house, so I stayed home and plugged away on the books. I got all the purchases/receipts I had in the main stack-o-paperwork sorted and into the books, including scanning several that are on the thermal paper that fades. Realized I'm missing the receipt for Thing2, and probably a couple/few other things, but I have ideas on where to look. 

Friday afternoon/evening I cut out black leather belt satchels and sporrans. I now have just shy of 20 soft leather satchels/pouches cut out.

Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday were spent on things like watching the first three episodes of "Wallender", grocery shopping, other shopping that one might or might not define as Christmas shopping, playing music, and lazy slug-liness. 

Monday and Tuesday - yes, I worked on Otter stuff on Christmas day - Ron waxed a half-dozen pouch fronts, I cut out 7 backs and flaps to make those hard pouch fronts and another one hanging pouches. Then we got the flaps marked and punched for lacing up. 

The steps in putting together a hanging pouch with a hard front are, roughly:
  • Cut out all the bits and pieces
  • Do all the fiddly bits on the flap and lace around the flap
  • Sew flap and belt loops onto back
  • Glue fronts onto backs and do fiddly bits
  • Peel front off of back and do other fiddly bits
  • Lace front onto back
Hmm. It must have been Monday that I cut a couple/few bellies and other odd bits of leather down into piles of:
  • Belt loops
  • Straps for sporran-hanging dees
  • Rolled-edge bindings
Meanwhile, Ron and Robin made Chex Mix and Muddy Buddies. Yum. 

The nice thing is making all those pieces reduced the surplus population of leather in the dining room. I actually found a chunk of FLOOR!

In addition to all that, yesterday we went to say Les Miserables and with much assistance from Robin I made a turkey dinner with all the stereotypically Thanksgiving-ish trimmings, with the substitution of steamed pudding for pumpkin pies. 

Not surprisingly, in 20-20 hindsight, I was a zombie by bedtime last night. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pouches Pouches Pouches!

Yesterday morning we went to The Leather Factory for . . . wait for it . . . leather. Whodathunkit? I'd gotten a flyer that listed, among others, vegetable tanned leather, about the right weight for hard pouch fronts, which we need.

They didn't have any, but the manager said he'd sell me some other leather, a bit heavier than what was on sale but the weight I prefer, for the same price. I took two sides (half-cows).

Then the people unpacking a new shipment dumped two boxes of new stuff into the "scrap" bin. A bunch of it followed me home. All heavy garment/upholstery weight.

I cut out pouches today. A whole bunch of pouches.

I started out with fronts for hard pouches, 14 of them. Three of them were thoroughly wet down and are now casing, prior to molding. We'll probably do that after dinner. That pretty much used up one of the two sides we got yesterday.

Then I started in on the soft leather.

Out of a nice dark burgundy with what looks like shiny water spots I got a satchel, a belt satchel, a sporran, and a small tabbed pouch. I was a bit surprised to get that much out of that leather, and still have some left. I think they'll look best trimmed in black.

I cut one belt satchel out of an off-white/pale flesh color, but I have a bunch of that left. I think I'll trim those in chestnut (red brown), which looked nice on some other light-colored leather I made small tabbed pouches out of.

A sporran, belt satchel, and small tabbed pouch out of a pretty dark teal. Not sure what color to trim that in, probably black.

And out of a bit thicker medium brown, a sporran and a small tabbed soft pouch. I think I'll trim them in havana (dark brown).

Then I moved on to some bright blue I got about a year ago. Out of that I got a satchel, a belt satchel, a sporran, and parts for two small tabbed pouches. The bigger pouches are all blue, and I'll probably trim them with black. The small tabbed pouches will be blue and black. One is blue except for the gusset, the other just has a blue front. That one is done now and goes out in the mail tomorrow, it was ordered at Boar's Head.

I still need to cut out some black belt satchels and another sporran or few, but I decided that I'd done enough already. Or maybe I'll do some more after dinner.

Ron's been honing the big blade for the splitter. I've been having some trouble splitting things (thickness-wise) lately, and assumed it was because the blade was dull. Ron says it wasn't too bad, so it may also have needed adjustment, which will essentially happen when he puts it back in.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Logistics Considerations

I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but a while back we unearthed some old nylon tie-down straps that used to be used to try to keep rolls of leather in concrete form tubes under control, prior
to building the carts that now do a much better job. Some of the straps had good ratcheting tie-downs, and some had crummy cam locks. Meanwhile, the adjustable-length bungee straps we got to use in the trailer were proving to be less than stellar performers. Ron was also looking for a way to keep tables and gridwall from sliding off of Thing 1 when moving in and out of buildings for setup and teardown.

To that end, I found that I could buy just the ratchet mechanism from the supplier where I was ordering more e-track to put in the trailer, and got some. Friday night Ron replaced the cam locks on the old straps with the good ratchets, and we tried them out at Boar's Head.

Not a fail, but not a resounding success, either. The bit of strap connecting the ratchet and a hook turns out to be too short to use easily for tying things to Thing 1 and Thing 2. And the straps are
waaaayyyy long for use it tying up the gridwall. Some of the straps are also lighter weight/thinner than others, and had an annoying tendency to fold in the ratchet.

I looked at suppliers Sunday morning, and the plan is to buy a 50-yard roll of nylon strap that should be on the thicker and stiffer side, and maybe a couple more ratchets. Once we get them we'll re-build with the better strapping, making long tie-down sets for tying things to the Things, and shorter sets for tying the gridwall, chairs, and other stuff in place in the trailer.

In our copious spare time.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Space Planning Natter

Heard back from Military History Fest. They could give me an end cap of three 8' tables in a U, which is about a 9' x 9' space.

Erg. Hmm.

First thought: I could probably better work with a straight run of three tables.

Next thought: Wait, what, three 8' tables (which I assume to be 30 inches, which equals 2-1/2 feet wide) in a U in a 9' by 9' space? My engineer brain ground off a couple gear teeth.

Recovered, decided that pondering exactly how that was to be achieved was not helpful.

Further thought: Could I get a fourth table, so that I'm back-to-back with myself, essentially?

customer aisle
table table
vendor chair space
table table
customer aisle

Turns out it is possible. So that's what we're going with, and now I'm working on 16' x 9' layouts. Which is proving a bit challenging, but better than anything tried with three-table spaces.

First thought was a walk-through booth-type setup, but its looking more like it will only be open on one side. But I've got a month and a half to figure it out, and even if I do come up with a plan we all like on paper, it may go out the door when the rubber hits the road. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2013 Schedule Thoughts

I've been exercising my Google-Fu looking for possible events to go to in 2013.

For SCA events I'm early, except for the bigger ones like Boar's Head, Maidens, and Val Day. But for conventions this isn't too early to be planning.

Probably won't do Tree-Girt-Sea's annual 12th Night event again. New site, but still in the City of Chicago, which can be a challenge with the trailer, especially parking. Plus its the week before Maidens. Two weeks after Maidens is Military History Fest, and then the weekend after that is Capricon, where Xap and Ron are running the cafe, I'm cafe staff, and MuseCon is sponsoring the cafe. Kind of a death march month.

At the end of February is the Ayreton Carnivale, just down the road in Des Plaines. Not sure when it became a dance event, IIRC we didn't go this year, though. In any case, its close enough that we'll likely go.

CodCon has only a skeleton website, but it appears it will be 19-21 April. CodCon is a gaming convention, and last year we did pretty well, thanks to a healthy anime/cosplay contingent. Definitely want to do it again, so today I e-mailed the College of DuPage SF club's advisor asking to get information when its available.

May 4th is the Midrealm spring coronation, somewhere in the Ayreton, and then on the 11th is the Northshield Crown Tourney, in Stoughton, WI. At the end of May is WisCon. I don't think we'd do well at WisCon, and then there's the whole question of taking the Things, Grinch, etc. up to the second floor on the elevators. But I suspect we'll go and throw a MuseCon party again.

Border Skirmish is June 7-9th, but we did poorly at it this year, I think mostly because of location location location. Hopefully it'll be laid out differently this year, which would probably get me to try again - it wasn't a bad event in the past. Then at the end of June (29th) is Ragnarok Rampage, now subtitled Baroness Wars. Looks like Ayreton will be co-sponsoring with Carraig Ban, which hopefully will increase Ayreton attendance (which seemed lacking this year).

MuseCon, 2-4 August, a convention celebrating CREATIVITY! (shameless plug!) eats July, of course. That's what happens when the family wears a bunch of hats in running it. And that's about Pennsic time, which means the local-ish SCA calendars go fairly blank, too.

Scattered around all the likely events are a bunch of anime and general SF-ish cons in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and I think even a couple in Iowa that I found. We probably won't do most of them, but I think we should look into some of them. The problem is that even if the vendor space rates are reasonable, they're all far enough away that they'd require hotel stays, which eat into the profits.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Space Planning

I haven't gotten any of our summer 10' x 20' layouts drawn up yet, had trouble remembering where things were.

On the other hand, I did take a crack at a layout for Military History Fest, and ran into some possible issues. I requested three 8' tables. That's all the space information that was available. I understand that - when we were running the DucKon dealer's room, not all the spaces were neat X' by Y' boxes. However, we had pretty strict (self-imposed) guidelines on how much behind-the-table space to allow.

Looking at pictures from last year's MHF, some of the back-to-back runs of tables look awfully close. Like I could pass by the other person's chair, but not much more space. Erg. Other vendors look to be set up in 3-table squares, but some look rather tight. Erg again.

I've just sent e-mail asking about what kind of spaces I might expect to encounter for setup, with a question if there's any booth-type space options possible. I sent along a PDF of the Boar's Head layout (which is less fuzzy than the JPEG), explaining that I need to be able to open the drawers on The Grinch and those quarter-circles are my belt racks.

Hopefully I struck the right note of "I don't want to be a pain, but I'd like a space I can set up in).

Space for Maidens is also a question, in a different room than last year.

I hope 2013 doesn't turn out to be too "interesting" . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

Boar's Head Report, Round Two

Ok, let's try this again, now that my brain is (hopefully) somewhat more functional.


First up, I'm going to re-post the drawing of Saturday's layout.

The one in yesterday's post was posted from my iPad, from the photo gallery on my iPad, and I noticed it was a little fuzzy. This one was sent to my Picasa web albums, and posted to here from Picasa, and I'm hoping it will be clearer if you click to embiggen.  Assume north is to the front, although it could have actually been any direction. As you probably have deduced, the larger/bolder grid squares are 1'.

If you can't click to embiggen, here's a link to the image at my Picasa web album:

We were up against a building wall to the south. We had neighbors to the east and west. The black lines around Thing 1 are the gridwall. It looks like there was a lot of dead space south of Thing 1 and the run southern display of belts, but it didn't feel like that much. 

As I said, there was some flail involved in setup. Part of it was feeling intimidated because we had lots of stuff to fit into the space, and the last few events we've been able to spread out for one reason or another, and Saturday we couldn't. 

Finally, we typically set up with tables and such across the front, or in a shallow U pointing out, and we sit behind. The open plan was a change, and I think we all had to wrap our heads around it. I don't think this being Thing 2's first outing really made a difference to setup, as it's the same footprint (just a little taller than) one of the 4' tables we've been using.

Why did I draw the setup out? In part because it worked out pretty well, and I actually wanted to remember this one for future reference. Secondly, Ron and I were discussing if we could have substituted in a 6' table for the 4' one in the center front (east west location approximate, but it was pretty much across from The Grinch). Ron, Xap, and I all agree that the answer to that question is "No, that extra foot taken out of the two openings would restrict traffic flow too much".

A small digression on naming: The big green tool chest that we use for a belt and hardware road case is now The Grinch. Thank you to Xap for the name.
It would also give us 6" less space for us between the table and The Grinch. Not shown here is the chair kind of tucked partway in the space between The Grinch and the gridwall, and the small table we had set up in the space between The Grinch and the front table.  

Sometime today I want to draw out how we had things set up at the last outdoor event, which was also a 10' x 20' space. 

Sales, etc.

Sales were good. We think we got a lot of new-member sales, and newbies almost always want a pouch to keep things on, which means a belt to wear the pouch on. 

We sold twice as many tails at Boar's Head as we did at Maneki Neko Con (the anime convention). A little mind-boggly at first thought. Hmm . . . number crunchy . . . we had roughly 2.5 times the sales at Boar's Head as at Maneki Neko, so apparently tails are roughly equally popular between SCA and anime fans. In any case, I need to order more tails, In two events we're down to half of what we started with.

There were times, especially in the morning, when all three of us were keeping busy with customers. And there was a stretch in the afternoon that was pretty quiet, which was good because it allowed Ron to go get a short nap. Having the driver awake for the ride home is always a Good Thing. 

During the day Ron finished the last two quivers. After lunch we put the shoulder straps on two leather satchels, and I finished up the three partially-completed pouches I'd brought.

Didn't sell any quivers, but I expect they'll go better at events with archery going on. Also didn't sell any drawstring bags. I'd made some more small ones, which explains it - new stuff likes to hang out for at least one event.

Only sold one of the disinterred musical instruments, a tin whistle. Need to remember when people ask prices that we're open to negotiation on them. 

Did not sell any jingle bells or the fabric satchels with definitely-Christmas teddy bears or kinda-winter-seasonal frolicking penguins, drat. 

Teardown and Sunday

More flail. We were all definitely tired by that point. Intimidated by having to pack up a bunch of new stuff: a bin of instruments, new pouches, and four new quivers. And I at least was actually overwhelmed by the addition of more packing space in Thing 2. 

Ron and Xap packed up the gridwall and everything on Thing 2, and Ron packed up the stringy bits (which mostly go into the ammo cans in the bottom of Thing 2 and instruments while I flailed around with pouches. I didn't do as thorough a job of nesting things in things as I normally do, and I know at the end I was throwing things into Thing 2 fairly higgeldy-piggeldy.

On the other hand, the bin that had held the new pouches, the bin that had held instruments, and another bin of pouches we'd brought inside to photograph and had been forgotten for a couple-few events all went home empty (-ish, one did get used to hold garb and the bags the garb came in), and odds and ends of the fourth bin also were packed into Things 1 and 2. So packing didn't go too badly. 

And Sunday I went through the last bin, which is stuff that comes in the house between events, and evicted a bunch of junk that had accumulated. So we came out ahead.

We were pretty much zombies yesterday, although I did get the bins sorted and Saturday's sales into the books.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Boar's Head Report

Stayed home Friday, because, well, I'd goofed off pretty much all week.

I spent the morning working on the books, catching up recording sales from the September events. Don't ask about purchases.

After lunch I ran Robin to Games Plus, then came home and worked on updating inventory to reflect all the new stuff we'd made (or had fairly far along).

Ron came home early afternoon, so he could hitch up the trailer and pull it out while there was still daylight. Then he helped with inventory, mostly in the way of providing moral support.

Got tools and other stuff together, and also got a pounding sinus headache, blech.

Xap came over in the evening, and tried out the new cot overnight.

Up at 4:30 am, on the road before 6, arrived before 8, when the site opened to merchants.

Setup was fairly flailing. For some reason we had issues deciding how to set up, but finally got it. We weren't as fast as normal, but not too bad. Part of the problem was that we have a *lot* of stuff, and added musical instruments back in - Ron decided we should try selling off the odds and ends we had left.

Sales were good. It seemed like we sold a lot more belts than pouches, and a large number of the sales were credit card. To demonstrate that impressions can be misleading, we sold something like 7 belts and 11 pouches, and about a third of the sales were credit card. But belt sales were definitely up from some of the events the last year.

It was a good day, definitely worth the trip.

Lunch was delicious. We all got meat pies. Yum yum. For dessert we got lemon bars, torte bars, and gooey caramel brownies - one of each, split each in thirds, which was still a reasonable helping of each.

Teardown was more flail. We'd all woken up about 2:30 am, and I was the only one to go back to sleep afterwards, which I think is most of the explanation. Also added was the derangement of the normal "pack everything in as tight as possible" by the presence of Thing 2. But we got it done, and out in a timely manner.

Dinner at Cracker Barrel, home, and to bed.

Sorted through bins that came in this morning, recorded sales, and then bought a CAD program for my iPad. Here's a drawing that I did on it of yesterday's layout:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

State of Not-Much-Age

I've been doing lots of stuff the last couple-few weeks, just not Otter Necessities stuff. Mostly sewing.

I do have two and a third hard pouches to get done this week (one is about 2/3 done), a soft pouch that needs a chain-mail chain to hold a dummy-round peg, and straps to put on a couple leather satchels I made weeks ago. And catch up the books, at least sales/inventory. (Do not ask about getting purchases into the books).  Ron has two quivers to assemble, or at least one.

All the above are on the to-do list for Boar's Head on Saturday. Ron will be happy if he gets the large black quiver done, as that gives one of each size, right-handed in black. He can easily finish putting the medium-sized pretty spotty brown bison one together at the event.

Priority-wise, in the evenings I need to work on catching up the books in regard to sales/inventory, and packing up tools and other odds and ends that have wandered off around the house since the last event, and do the chain-mail, which requires a box of tools I don't otherwise want/need to take on Saturday. Lacing pouches I can do at the event, if I don't finish them during my lunch hours. Shoulder straps for the satchels can also be done on Saturday after setup.

Boar's Head will be the first outing for Thing 2. Due to playing with my shiny new serger and other not-Otter projects it won't go to Boar's Head full. Oops. Maybe it will come home echoingly empty, and with space left in Thing 1, and the cash box all happy and stuffed instead. I'll keep my fingers crossed. I can't remember if it was a Boar's Head or a Val Day that was our best single-day event.

Finally found a use for the older style buckles and "fancy" dees I used to use on belts, which I've been meaning to amputate and replace with newer hardware - they've been pulled off and used on kilts. Yay! No more old hardware!

Which reminds me, I need to root around in the hardware drawers on the big green road case (it needs a name, ala Thing 1 and Thing 2. Thing Green? Green Thing?) on Saturday and see what the hardware supplies look like. I try to keep the hardware inventory up to date, but even when I'm being diligent the on-paper and actual counts of dees and buckles tend to drift apart, and lately "diligent" has not been an accurate adjective.