Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nattering About Thinking

I turned off vacation mode on the Etsy and ArtFire stores last night. Etsy rather annoyed me, in that you can't see or do anything with your listings while the store is in vacation mode. What the flippity-flip-flip?!? So I had to turn vacation mode off, then go through and delete the hanging pouches that we sold at ACen. The stupid, it burns us, Precious.

The company I ordered the test tubes from is in Louisiana, but the order is actually coming from Seattle. Grumble. 

I've been looking at my book of "American Military Belts and Related Equipments" for bandolier ideas. Unsuccessfully, as there's only one bandolier in it. OTOH, I've learned that most cartridge belts were fabric instead of leather because early cartridges were copper, and leather cartridge belts had more issues with dampness, which led to formation of verdigris on the cartridges, which caused Problems, with a capital P, such as jamming.  

However, test tubes do not, under typical conditions, form verdigris, so that isn't an issue. Unless we stumble across a cache of copper ones. 

Thinking of getting a custom embossing roll made, so that we can emboss some gears on it and call it steampunk

I think my hands and wrists have pretty much recovered, and getting that antsy feeling to start working on things again. Maybe I'll start put together the pistol cartridge belt that I've got cut out, so that when the test tubes arrive I can see if we'll need to lengthen the flap or make any other changes to hold the smaller test tubes. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bottles and Test Tubes

Last night I ordered test tubes - a batch of colored ones, with a plastic stand (10 each of 5 colors), a batch of clear ones, and another batch of shorter clear ones, which should fit into the small Civil War-era cartridge belt pouch. Also got another batch of colored test tubes for Robin. Also black rubber stoppers for the test tubes.

Then this morning I ordered some more clear ones in both sizes. The clear plastic test tubes are available in two different types of plastic, and last night I'd ordered the less clear ones. It was too late to edit my order, so I ordered the more clear ones this morning. They're relatively inexpensive, and the supplier has a "no questions" return policy, if I decide to pay return shipping. 

I've had an idea for filling the (clear) test tubes, but I have to get materials and do some experimentation. Last night over dinner we were discussing pouch-ish things to hold and show off test tubes, need to do some more shopping for that, too. Also going to make a bandolier or two, right now I'm waffling about making the loops out of leather or cotton web, and if leather sewing them down or riveting. Lots of copper rivets is definitely a steampunk look, and simpler than sewing (even by machine), so may go with that. 

The nice thing about steampunk is that it's brown-leather friendly. On the other hand, Robin has plans for a dieselpunk outfit, which means black leather. I love you too, son. 

This morning I also ordered bottles. I got pretty cobalt blue cylindrical ones with a plastic screw cap, and clear ones with corks in three shapes: square, cylindrical, and spherical. I didn't get quite as many of the squares as the others, as I don't like the shape quite as well. The pictures of the clear bottles are to scale with one another, the blue bottle is actually smaller.

 Need to make a decision about Ragnarok Rampage (SCA event). It's moved a little farther away (used to be at Plowman's Park, with a good location for the merchants), and it wasn't a super-great event last year. OTOH, the house has demanded a sacrifice to The Plumbing Gods, which will be putting a significant dent in the ACen proceeds. Growf. 

Which reminds me, I need to go through the list of pouches sold, pull sold ones off of Etsy and ArtFire, and turn those back on (put them on "vacation mode" shortly before ACen). And get holders made for the two triangular bottles from the dining room, and get those put up for sale. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

ACen Aftermath

Picking up on the end of the last post, which is ideas and plans for next year:

Two booths. This year's gross covered this year and two booths for next year, and with better/more preparation we think we'll definitely have enough sales to make two booths worth the cost. 

As said, more tails. Tuesday morning I ordered a dozen more tails, which should be the first batch in a planned slow buildup to what would have seemed like Stupid Amounts a month ago. I only have a half-dozen swivels, and probably won't order a batch until next week, but since we're leaving for WisCon tomorrow, that's ok. 

Horn bows. A few years ago Ron made, and we sold, some bows using gemsbok horns as the limbs, with grips he carved extending into the horns. They look really neat, but have some issues related to actual archery use, so the last four horns have been languishing. But I think a bow or two made up for display/costume use has a high probability of moving at ACen. I just have to figure out an elegant way to keep the horns on the center grip when un-strung (the previous ones relied on string tension to keep them together, which was not a problem, but ACen rules require bows to be un-strung or to use obviously-yarn "strings").  

I have to admit that getting the horns out of the house wouldn't make me sorry, either. I'm eyeballing the Rubbermaid bin they're in for tails, for yet another reason. Guilty guilty guilty. 

Potion bottles, as in small bottles or vials in leather clips/cases/holders, for LARP and steampunk-ish costumes. We had several requests at ACen, and I think a couple at CodCon.  Tuesday Robin and I did some web searching, and came up with pretty cobalt-blue nice plastic bottles, plastic test tubes, and some nice small glass bottles. Robin is planning a dieselpunk costume (especially now that he got his hat, which looks kinda WWII German officer-ish), and wants a batch of test tubes, too. 

Robin and I came up with carrier ideas for the test tubes, and Ron has ideas for holding bottles. Previously we'd made bottles completely wrapped in leather, and had plans for fancier ones, so Tuesday I looked at the glassware stash in the workroom. I found a pair of small bottles that contained bath salts, one green and one blue, that we'll start with. They've been emptied out, washed, sat for a while with Simple Green in them, and now probably contain baking soda, in an attempt to deodorize them. Robin is also setting aside a couple few pear-shaped Orangina bottles, (that ad is . . . odd) and I expect I'll be ordering test tubes and more bottles soon.

Not steampunk goggles. Although we've had many requests at ACen and other events, they're not something that we have any interest in making.

More gridwall. On Friday Ron declared that if we're doing ACen again he wants more gridwall. If he can get it into the trailer, I'm not going to argue. On Thursday I noticed somebody had a very narrow gridwall panel, and subsequent exercise of my Google-Fu disclosed the availability of 1' x 5' panels (the panels we currently have are 2' x 6'). Debating if some of the narrow stuff may be useful. 

We also discussed better possible methods of displaying pouches on gridwall. I'll probably get some gridwall hardware/hooks so we can experiment. 

Bags. Several ACen customers asked for bags, and we get asked at least once a day at other events, so I'm debating if I want to get a small stash of bags. We could re-use grocery bags, but . . . meh. Should have had Ron check what sizes/counts of bags GFS has yesterday when he and Robin were shopping for the MuseCon party at WisCon. 

Printer, POS software, etc. There were a couple times on Friday that we used Ron's iPad in addition to mine to record sales, but overall we don't think we'll need a second printer, especially as we can e-mail electronic receipts from Ron's.  Ron ran into some bugs running his perl scripts to extract sales data, mostly related to things like apostrophes in the imported inventory records. He's also saved off pre- and post- ACen records so that not only can we check what we sold, we can see how that compared to what we started out with.

Power. Even if we get more sales next year, I don't think we'll need to pay for power. The only thing I had to plug in was the wireless hot spot; the printer got low but we have a spare battery for that, and my iPad didn't need to be plugged in (until we got home and I started playing games/reading), so the UPS was fine and I expect to be so next year. 

Different physical record-keeping space. We didn't use the small table we usually have, so I was using one of the drawers of The Grinch as a shelf for my keyboard, the top for my iPad and various odds and ends, and had the cash and coinage in various other drawers (at least three different arrangements). All made me twist and reach funny to greater and lesser extents. But with two booths we'll have space for the small table and ourselves.

So there we are. Lots of plans for next year. And I'm still feeling short of sleep. I'm not making a decision until after WisCon and I look at next year's dates, but I'm not sure both WisCon (even though we don't have dealer space there) and ACen are a good idea in the future.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ACen Report

Short form:
We survived. Still recovering. Pretty sure we'll be getting 2 booths for next year.

The main setup started Thursday at noon. You know when I said that I had deduced that the truck and trailer should go to a marshaling yard to be dispatched in an orderly manner to the actual Exhibit Hall? Wrong. Traffic control within the hall, was, as far as we saw, non-existant. But that was after the hilarity of first finding the yard, then figuring out where to actually go. 

Due to that hilarity, Xap beat us to the hall, picked up our badges, and found our space. We are a bit perturbed that she was not asked for ID to confirm she was who she claimed to be. 

More hilarity ensued when we discovered that our 10' x 10' space . . . was not. So our layout predicated on 10' of width was not going to work. We came up with an alternate one. We later deduced that the 10' was measured from the corner of a pillar, but the base plate to the pipe and drape meant lost space. 

Once we got everything out of the trailer and the truck, Ron was dispatched home, and Xap, Wash, Marmaduke, and I worked on setup. For extra fun, most of our front opening was blocked out for a couple/few hours by the neighbors' large truck, which bothered Wash. Four people trying to work in a space of about 5' x 9' leads to a certain amount of flail. There was much flailing. Eventually the tables and belts were arranged, and we decided to wait until Friday morning to deal with the gridwall, especially the sections facing out (in consideration of things like trucks driving down the aisle). 

So we did that. 

Friday sales just about made it to what I hoped for, which was a bit past covering our booth cost. At that point we were planning on two booths next year.  We sold 9 of our 19 tails Friday.

Saturday we had, surprisingly, somewhat less sales than Saturday. For a while we were waffling toward one booth next year, but things did pick up in the afternoon. If we'd had more tails we'd have had more sales. We sold 6 tails Saturday.  That left us 4, all of which were boring brown - the pretty black, blue, and white ones, plus big floofy ones, sold first.

Sunday was less yet, which was not so much of a surprise. Down to 3 tails by the end of the day.

Total was enough to cover our booth this year and two for next year.  Average sale was $25.

Lots of people admired the hanging pouches, but many bought regular belt pouches instead. Many people looked at quivers, but we didn't sell any. We did sell the map case, and a wrist-rocket (bracer with loops to hold dummy rounds), without the dummy rounds. 

Hats. Ron got two, Xap and Wash each got one, we found one for Robin, and on Sunday I succumbed and one followed me home.  Probably more natter about that on the personal blog.

We didn't think to ask any of the neighbors where to park trucks/trailers, so Ron didn't come down with the trailer (and Robin - who I asked thinking that not-quite-so-tired help would be useful) until after closing time Sunday. Packing up in one small booth was a little slow, with hilarity when Xap was attacked by The Grinch, but not too bad. 

More Ruminations:
Although our little booth was tight, people didn't seem too reluctant to come in. Some places getting people to step in has been a losing fight.

Wash is pretty good at schmoozing the customers. And has developed a relationship with the stuffed otter. Given the number of people carrying around plush things, by the end of Sunday I felt like we need more stuffed otters, so everybody working can have one.

The receipt printer is a Good Thing. I'm very happy we got it. We didn't quite need the spare battery, but we're glad we got it. 

Not being able to get to the bathroom sink to wash my hands because of people putting on makeup, especially the one painting her forearm, was really annoying. I came very close to invoking the Mom Voice.

ACen needs to work on communications. I will be composing e-mail to them, with input from Ron and Xap, on where work is needed.

I stayed home yesterday, as my brain was pretty much mush. 

We have ideas and plans for next year, but I think this has gone on long enough. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

ACen Day 1 Report

Busy. Tired. Expect to be even busier today. Back to worrying if we'll have enough stock. More tails next year - started with 19, sold 8 in first 4 hours, IIRC down to 9. Two booths next year.

Friday, May 17, 2013

ACen Has Started- MEEP!

Wegotasale! Wegotasale! Wegotasale!

Ok, I'lll stop now...

And the printer and everything behaved just like they were supposed to!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Weekend Recap

Yesterday's post was long, rambling, and really only covered what I did yesterday (but hopefully was interesting to the relations), so here's a more abbreviated recap of the weekend.

I can't remember what we did Friday evening. I may have worked on a few of the sewn pouches.

Saturday we finished all the sewn pouches (sporrans, belt satchels, little tabbed pouches), went to a MuseCon meeting (and worked on lacing pouches), and Ron did most of the work getting all the new pouches and tails into inventory. Apparently my organization of the cost computation spreadsheets and price list is not intuitive. My defense on the spreadsheets is that they've grown over time. All the new pouches, 36 out of 40, are currently packed into a bin. (a very full bin, without a lid). 

Saturday evening I fixed the tail that Marmaduke bought at CodCon, which had suffered an accident involving a rolling chair. I also sewed swivels onto two of the dozen new ones. Sunday, between breaks to rest my hands and do other things I nattered about in yesterday's post, I got swivels on the rest of the tails. As I mentioned yesterday, I declared that quite enough accomplished for the day. 

Left to do:

Do the additional cutting needed for the half-dozen or so belts that will be braided. And braid them. My hints that Ron and Robin do the cutting yesterday while I sewed tails failed. 

See if we need to make any more black or london tan (gold) belts. I don't think so, but I don't have the updated inventory list to check. 

Finish lacing the bodies on the last four pouches (flaps are already done, courtesy of Xap). Actually more like three and a half, as I got about half done on one earlier today. 

Make sure the UPS, wireless hot spot, and portable printer batteries are charged. 

Get food for lunches for the weekend, probably will do a PeaPod order for Thursday morning to take care of that. And food for Robin for the weekend, since he's manning the home front.

Get change.

Yes, the list is getting very short, and definitely down to last-minute stuff. Which is appropriate. I'm down to worrying (but not too much) about parking. Not sure if that's because everything else is taken care of, or its too late to worry about other things at this point.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

This post is written for various family members, so there's some repeat information.  You've been warned.

How I spent my Mother's Day

To begin with, about a month ago we decided that we would try to get into the Exhibit/Vendor's hall for Anime Central (ACen), a twenty-four-thousand+ person convention, which is next weekend. To get a sense of scale, the biggest event we've done prior to this is 1000-1200 people.  ACen is a convention for fans of Japanese animation (anime) and culture.

So, we've been working somewhat frantically to bolster inventory, especially since we've convinced ourselves we're not going to lose our shirts, and moved on to worrying that we're going to run out of inventory.

Last night I decided the dogs, Pippin in particular, could benefit from spending a night in their crates, so they don't forget how to behave.

At about 5:00 this morning Pippin insisted that he really really needed out of his crate, so Ron got up and opened the door. On his way outside he detoured to pounce on me. He weighs 40+ pounds. 

For breakfast we had waffles. Robin started the batter last night, finished it this morning (yeast-raised batter, sits on the counter all night, we have a new waffle recipe), and Ron cooked. 

After breakfast I started sewing swivels onto tails (mostly fox, one coyote). Like this one (silver fox):

Yes, real tails. Why? Because customers buy them. They clip them onto their belt loop in back, or whatever, and have a tail. Who am I to argue with people wanting to pay me money for tails?

Ron decided to take me out to lunch, as I've been working on pouches. A lot of pouches. Here's a bin of, um, 36 that we've finished in the last few weeks:

Under that layer of soft ones in top is another layer.

We started out going to Lal Qila, an Indian/Afghan restaurant, but they were too busy, so we went to Siri Thai, which is, as you might guess, a Thai restaurant.

After lunch we hit the grocery store for dinner food. We're having frozen pizza. We need to try out our new convection oven, which we're doing by putting extra toppings on a frozen pizza. I was thinking of making chicken fricassee/chicken & dumplings, but we had a big lunch, so I'll make that tomorrow.

At the grocery store we also got a Rubbermaid container to hold our portable battery-operated receipt printer, spare paper rolls, spare battery and battery charger for the printer, wireless hot spot, and power cords. I was looking at fancier (Pelican) cases, but Ron confirmed that they were overkill. I'm not paying $200 for electricity at ACen, so the printer, hot spot, and uninterruptable power source/battery power supply need to come home every night to be re-charged, so having a square-ish container for the smaller stuff makes it easier to transport, and keep track of between events.

Then we stopped at Eurofresh, another grocery store with more interesting things than Jewel. Came home, and finished the tails. Yay! tails done! That's swivels sewn on 10 today, 2 yesterday, and a repair done to the one I posted the picture of above. 

I'm down to 4 pouches to finish before setup for ACen starts at noon on Thursday.  Here's the parts for one of them:

The part on the right is the hard, molded front. The part on the left is the back/flap piece. The dees are so that it can be worn as a sporran. The edge of the flap has already been laced. Part of the latch is hiding behind the front of the flap. To finish the pouch I'll lace the front onto the back.  

But not today. I'm done for today.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Good, and Annoying

Good: I can pick up everybody's badges when I check in with the ACen Exhibits Hall staff.

Good: The baby cart arrived Wednesday, and required minimal assembly.

Good: The receipt printer arrived Wednesday.

Annoying: It included not the sample roll of paper I expected, but sample receipts. 

Good: Robin remembered a 9-pack of paper rolls bought for the credit card terminal that we had when we had a traditional merchant account.  They're the right width.

Minor annoyance: The rolls are too large in diameter, so we have to strip some off. 

Good: The slightly-too-large rolls were from Staples, and a new 9-pack is much, much cheaper than a single roll of OEM paper. So much so even if we don't re-roll and use the stripped off bits (which the printer seems to accept happily) we come out ahead.

Good: Getting things done. Just over half of the big batch of 27 sewn pouches are done, and I think I have enough strips cut to make binding for the rest.

Annoying: Dishes. And the house is nearing has reached disaster area status.

Good: The weather has allowed us to assign Robin the task of cooking dinner on the grill the last few nights. 

Really annoying: The banners arrived last night, and are a mess. They're supposed to look like this, with the main area cream/light tan background, and I expected a white margin/hem.  

As best we can tell, the idiots at Bing Banners assumed the background was supposed to be white, and achieved this by messing with the contrast, so the words and image are washed out. Nor did they send me the PDF proof I requested.

Good: Refund has been processed, and they don't want them back (not that return shipping would have come out of my pocket!).

Good: I decided the banner we have is just fine, I'm not going to make myself crazy trying again (somewhere else!) before ACen.

Good: Tests with the printer did not turn up any serious issues with the POS software output. A couple easy/minor tweaks/corrections have been made.

Still lots to do - finish pouches, pouches, and still some more pouches,  sew swivels on tails, split belts for braiding and braid, and get everything tagged and into inventory.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Did I mention "Busy"?

Friday night we accomplished picking up a PeaPod order, eating dinner, and dropping the truck off for Robin to get himself home from his D&D game. We also wandered around Williams-Sonoma deciding what we wanted to spend a belated Christmas gift certificate on (no decision made yet). Didn't accomplish doing the CodCon books.

I did do the CodCon books Saturday morning, updated inventory to correct the belt count we did a week or two ago, and went through and tried to clean up some stuff to simplify importing inventory into RingItUp.

I wasn't entirely successful. Also, Ron found all sorts of inconsistencies in my record-keeping. But we now have about 360 items in RingItUp, with some more to add. But most are in.

After much waffling, I ordered a battery-operated Bluetooth receipt printer, along with an extra battery and battery charger. Yes, one of the things we'd previously written off as too expensive. We decided it would be worth it in the wrong run (and the cost will be mostly covered by our toy stash).

Yesterday and today Ron and I have been working on sewn pouches, 27 of them. - sporrans, belt satchels, and little tabbed pouches. At this point all of them have their belt loops and sporran loops attached, half of the latches attached (the bits that go on the pouch fronts) and fronts (with front pockets, when applicable) sewn to gussets. After dinner Ron plans to hem the front/gusset combos.

After that the remaining steps are sewing the fronts/gussets to the backs/flaps (with pockets, in some cases), putting the binding on the flaps (a two-step process), and putting the flap pieces of the latches on. Except the little tabbed pouches, because all the holding-closed bits are already done on those.

Also today I got two lace mania pouches and two belt pouch versions of a small purse ready for assembly. And I e-mailed the ACen exhibit hall staff to ask how/where we get our badges. I suspect we'll all have to go to Registration and show ID, but I'm hoping the exhibit hall staff will have them. Ideally, I could pick up everybody's, but I'm not holding my breath. Had we registered earlier we could have had badges mailed, for a small surcharge, but IIRC the deadline for that was April 1.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Other Pouch Done & Shopping

We got the second custom pouch that was ordered at CodCon finished last night, I packed them up, and off they went to their purchasers today.

Here's the one I finished last night:

The customer asked for the single hanging tab, not my idea. I'm not enthused with it, but that's OK if the customer likes it. 

Ron waxed the front after dinner while I sewed the flap and tab onto the back, then we worked on the lacing, passing it back and forth as we sorted parts and marked belt loop locations on the big pile of soft stitched pouches. 

My plan for tonight is to do the CodCon books, then maybe even start poking at inventory in preparation for importing into the sales app. However, I also have a history of getting home on Friday nights and turning into a pumpkin, so we'll see what actually happens. 

Having determined that the big parking garage for the Donald E. Stephens convention center is a block or two away, this morning I was musing on the best way to make our lives easier for hauling the UPS and whatever odds and ends we'd be moving back and forth with us during ACen. The trick is that we'll probably be taking the car (fits in parking garages better than the truck), which means the handtruck is Right Out. And there's not going to be a lot of room behind the tables, either.

Various permutations on this rolling/folding crate got a lot of poor reviews for durability. 

I like folding canvas-bodied wagons like this one, but I'm not sure about practicability, and it apparently has steering issues.

If money was no object there's the option of a folding Magliner handtruck.

Then I remembered this line of "MultiCarts" that we had admired in the past at Calumet Photographic. They seem pretty sturdy and well-designed. There is a handtruck member of the family, but we decided on the smallest four-wheeled version, which can also be used as a two-wheel handtruck - there are a lot of times that four wheels are better than two. I considered getting a solid deck piece for it, but decided to skip it for now. I can also see this little cart being useful when we go to conventions, and other times when we need to schlep stuff, but don't want/need our bigger Magliner-clone convertible handtruck. 

After months and months, I finally gathered up some Round Tuits and ordered a couple more banners today, a 2'x2', and a 1'x2'. I think I should have them in plenty of time for ACen, but decided not to pay for the more pricey shipping to make sure. I got fabric that will, hopefully, be light enough to safety-pin to table cloths/table skirts, so we don't have to sacrifice gridwall space. Here's the JPEG versions:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Finished Pouch, More ACen Prep Patter

Last night I finished one of the two custom pouches I got orders for at CodCon. Here's a picture, with my iPhone for size:

This pouch is for a smartphone. A really big smartphone. Or maybe its a very small tablet. IIRC a newer member of the Samsung Galaxy family. 

The customer asked for the paired latches, and I decided not to try to do lacing between them. He's had problems with belt loop failure on other phone cases, so I made the belt loops fairly thick, and they're held on with both rivets and hand-stitching.

The sides are laced up, like the other square-cornered soft-ish pouches I make. It's also only about an inch or so thick, so doing the lacing was entertaining, especially down at the bottom (started there, worked up to the top). My knuckles aren't raw, but I was wondering. 

The other custom pouch is kind of in a holding pattern, I need Ron to wax the front before I can go much farther (I have a couple quick bits of machine-sewing I can do before that, and then I'm definitely on hold). It didn't get done last night because he was at work late, because of being sucked into meetings. Tonight he's going to be late-ish again, but hopefully it will get done. 

Ron's been working on Perl scripts to take the data from RingItUp from both our iPads, do voodoo, and give me data that will, hopefully, make doing the books simpler - more cutting and pasting and less typing. 

If I can get the custom pouch done tonight, I'm hoping to get the CodCon sales recorded tomorrow night, so we can start poking at the inventory spreadsheet to import items into RingItUp. 

The lag of several days between steps that ACen seems to have for exhibitors is frustrating me again. I don't plan on ordering booth furnishings, amenities, or even electricity from the convention center (this year...), but I wanted to be able to log in and make sure the information on-line matched the PDF documents ACen has. Except the convention center services company website said there was no booth number 620 for ACen. Fortunately, the nice lady who answered the phone at the services company took my information and got me access. 

Also, the ACen information for exhibitors seems to assume that you've done this song and dance before, and is kinda scant in several areas. Today's discovery is that when Ron arrives in Rosemont two weeks (!) from today with the truck and trailer, he does not go to the convention center, he goes to a marshalling yard some distance away. The information on the ACen website blithely states that exhibitors can pull their vehicle into the hall and park in front of their booth for setup. Fortunately, I wondered just how that was going to work, especially in terms of traffic control, and did some digging. I understand the need/want not to duplicate data and effort, but if you that means they need better pointers to where information *is*.

Leather and hardware arrived yesterday. When I looked this morning, tails were out for delivery. I let Robin know, so he could keep an eye on the box or put it out of dog-reach. I think a taped-up-for-shipping box is probably sufficient to keep Pippin out, but I'm not certain.