Monday, April 28, 2014

As Expected, the Weekend Was . . .

Yes, this busy-weekend thing is getting predictable.

I previewed the weekend on Thursday by stabbing my left index finger with my lacing fid (a tool for opening up holes/slots, not for stabbing holes in your finger). 

I had some use-it-or-lose-it comp time to deal with, so I took Friday off. I started sewing swivels onto tails, and got 5 out of 10 done before stabbing my right index finger. I forget if I did that with the point or the eye of the needle. I decided to be done sewing for the day after that tail was done. I also decided not to do any hand-sewing on Saturday, to let my fingers heal. I did a little on Sunday, but decided that my right index finger, which also has some other light damage, was still insufficiently healed to make sewing a good idea. 

On Wednesday or Thursday I made a to-do list, with which things I thought Ron could do (yes, his hand is still bothering him) noted. That's been much more effective than occasionally mentioning things we need to do. It also made me think about which things I usually do, but Ron is just as capable as I am of doing. 

Saturday morning we went to Leather Factory for a punch for putting a row of 4 small round holes in something. I wanted it to use with the purple suede lace (which arrived Friday), as the suede lace is a lot thicker than the smooth lace I usually use. A couple other hole punches followed us home, as well as . . . more leather. Oops.

Saturday Ron worked on figuring out what to do with small bottles. Here's the finished prototype, using one of Robin's (emptied) model cement bottles, which is the same size as the cobalt blue ones I'd bought.

It looks better in person, and not in a fairly tight close-up - it's a small bottle, 2 oz. The straps are 1/2" wide. The bottom is molded. The trick was final assembly, since the neck on these bottles is too short to sew a collar around like the other bottles, and you can't really set a rivet against the bottle. The solution is a flat washer/collar, and use of snaps.

It came out so well that I ordered more bottles, more cobalt blue, amber (beer bottle brown, really), and clear. Stupid amounts of bottles, but it wasn't that much more expensive to get a dozen than a half-dozen of each color (plus an extra cobalt, since I only ordered 5 initially, and I was in a multiples-of-six mindset). I don't expect to get them all done by ACen, but we can get some done.

Which means that we need more leather to mold the bottom cups. So I ordered that last night. And today I ordered more swivels for tails (down to 2, after I sew the second half of the batch in progress), and dees to go on the backs of pouches so they can be used as sporrans (down to 2 or 3 pairs). Plus a half-inch end punch for making bottle parts and on other narrow straps (Ron faked the bottle prototype with a 3/4" punch). 

Yesterday and Saturday we worked on a batch of 8 more hard pouches, and 5 soft-ish pouches. Now they're all ready to lace/sew up. I screwed up, and fixed, two of them. One soft-ish pouch I punched the holes on the front way too far down, so now it has a shield-shaped piece of leather on the front hiding the wrong holes and also putting the latch in the right place. And somehow I got the latch on the flap for one of the hard pouches off-center. That one couldn't be completely fixed, but I think I have it compensated for well enough. 

One of the hard pouches is nominally Pouch #1000. The "real" pouch #1000 is probably already done and packed in Max, but this one will get the official title. In honor of that, I'm doing something special to/with it that I've been thinking of for a while. Pictures when we finish.

We didn't actually cross many things off the to-do list as completely done, but we made progress on a bunch - tails, getting all the pouches I've cut out ready to lace, the little bottles, and poking at inventory and working on price increase-related things. I'm satisfied.

Today we've been looking at/for more Otter Necessities shirts and vests and things, so we can all be logo-ized by ACen. 

I laced up one of the fuscia (which I've been calling Barbie-purple) pouches last night, using the purple lace on the flap:

It was declared a success.

There were purple fuzzies from the suede lace everywhere. And the suede lace is a lot more bulky, as mentioned above. It definitely needed the larger holes. I used smooth black lace on the bottom and up the sides, I wouldn't want to use the suede for those. The suede lace wasn't too bad to work with, other than the fuzzies and making my fingers purple. But the cheap leather I backed the thin fuscia leather up with is really stiff, so the pouch was a pain to do because of that. 

And black dye over purple dye on my fingers made it look like they were bruised. Soap and water fixed that, though.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Progress than Expected

After dinner last night, Ron went upstairs to work on business cards, and I sat down at the big sewing machine to sew the backs onto some satchels and pouches.

I started with the two satchels, then moved on to the belt satchels. I did all six of those, and Ron was still going, so I kept going on the little tabbed pouches. And got through all those, too. 

By the time I finished, I was getting tired, so I decided not to start putting bindings on the flaps.

I forgot a step-and-a-bit yesterday. After putting the binding on the flaps, then we install the flap part of the closures, and put the shoulder strap on the satchels. So these 18 things are getting closer to being finished.

In addition, I finished lacing up a softish pouch, and have another mostly done.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Guess How the Weekend Was . . .

What was the weekend like?  Busy, of course.

Event Schedule

You may notice that Anime Midwest is back on the schedule in the sidebar. I checked my e-mail Saturday morning and discovered that e-mail saying "We have more space this year, and your space has now been approved". I'm not sure if that means they expanded their dealer space, or if by being not-accepted previously we'd actually been wait-listed. 

I checked with Ron and Xap, and since nothing had changed since our decision to try to get into Anime Midwest, I accepted. Which meant spending a significant chunk of change that I was originally earmarked for a new press, so we really need to do well at ACen so we can pay ourselves back and get the press. 

I probably should remove Geek.Kon from the sidebar. I haven't heard back from them, and there are a number of other vendors listed on the website, so the inference is that we weren't accepted. I would have appreciated e-mail saying that, but non-answer=no was kind of implied somewhere that I don't have handy to quote. 

Making All the Things

Last week Wednesday (home with an upset tummy) I did finish sewing up the last of the bottles in the afternoon. In the morning I actually worked on the computer, installing a new set of fonts I bought a while back, updating my list of fonts, and doing some MuseCon publications. 

The leather I ordered for belt loops arrived last week, and Saturday morning, while Ron was off schlepping things, I reduced it to little pieces. I forgot to get a "before" picture, but it was in two pieces, totalling about 12 square feet - so two pieces about 2' by 3'.  It was reduced down to this:

Across the top we have wrong-size belt loops (27 pairs plus an extra), belt loops (42 pairs), large sporran straps (17), and a double-height stack of small sporran straps (40).
In the middle is a pile of not-scrap - pieces that I saved for molding the sockets for small bottles, and a couple pieces that will be cut down into reinforcements for soft pouch bottoms. And I stole one piece for a soft-ish pouch front. The bottom is the actual scrap. Pretty efficient I'd say.

Why do I have two types of belt loops?  Because I screwed up. Belt loops are supposed to be 1-1/8" x 5-1/2", but in the process of cutting strips, I cut some only 1" wide. 1" is too narrow for lacing onto a pouch, but fortunately I can use them for pouches where they're riveted/machine-sewn on. And I've already used about half of them. 

The sporran straps hold a pair of small dees on the back of a pouch, on either side of the belt loops, so you can use the pouch as a sporran. They're kind of tied in with the belt loops with rivets, too. I've gone through a bunch of the small ones already, and had some large ones, which I use fewer of anyway, which is why there's such a difference in how many I made.

I'd done all that so I'd have belt loops and the straps for belt satchels and little soft tabbed pouches, which I was planning to start work on. But I diverted into cutting out more pouch parts - I cut out backs for the hard pouch fronts we had molded, and a few more soft-ish pouches, mostly from red and blue. I know I just cut a bunch of red and black soft-ish pouches out last week, but this time I was cutting backs for hard pouches out of the red, and one for a soft-ish pouch style I need more of overall and didn't cut from red last week.

I did get to sewing. I worked on the 6 belt satchels and 10 little tabbed pouches I'd cut out a week or so ago, plus 2 leather satchels I've had for quite a while. The process for all those is:

  • Mark locations for latches, belt loops, etc.
  • Put on front parts of closures
  • Sew on belt loops (with rivets and sporran loops as appropriate)
  • Hem pockets
  • Pin fronts and gussets together (I say "pin", but I actually use binder clips)
  • Sew fronts and gussets together (trim as necessary afterwards)
  • Hem front/gusset sets
  • Sew dee holders on satchels 
  • Pin gussets to backs
  • Sew gussets to backs
  • Sew binding to flaps (two passes of sewing, for nice rolled binding).

I did most of the sewing yesterday. I got everything up through pinning the front/gussets to the backs. At which point I was asking myself what idiot decided it was a good idea to work on 18 things at once.

Oh, right, that was me.  That was late afternoon, at which point I decided to be done with anything that required brains, and just worked on lacing pouches together.

But now that I'm well on my way on those, they'll be easier to finish off in smaller bits of time. 

Meanwhile, Ron cleaned out the beehives, and started printing our new business card coasters. Robin dyed hard pouch fronts and a couple soft-ish pouch fronts, and then Ron waxed the hard pouch fronts. 
At some point Friday or Saturday I got the three Barbie-purple pouches ready to lace. I was going to start lacing one of them last night, but they really wanted purple lace. I couldn't find any smooth lace at a price I was willing to pay, but I did find some suede lace that's supposed to be sturdy, in "royal purple". I ordered a roll of that and royal blue to try. 

Enough Things!

Last night I decided that I need to stop cutting out pouches, unless/until I get caught up before ACen. The only exception is small drawstring bags, which I've been planning to make (and go fast), and if I decide to cut out a back for one hard pouch front that got molded last night (because it was already cut) - I have a red back cut out, it depends if I want two red and black, or decide to do some other color. 

No, More New Things!

Except that yesterday while I was working on satchels, etc., I thought that for anime cons, what would be a good idea to make would be the kind of briefcase-ish bag that seems to be, at least in anime, the default for Japanese students of high school-ish age. 

Fortunately, a while back our Etsy shop was favorited by a seller on Etsy who has patterns for just that sort of thing, and you can use his patterns to make things for sale. So I got a briefcase pattern, and another pattern for a belt bag that I'd looked at before and that Ron liked, too. I don't expect to have any for ACen, but now Anime Midwest is a possibility.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yet Another Busy Weekend Report

Another busy weekend. But this report isn't late - I was driving all over the lower Rock River floodplain on Monday and Tuesday. More natter about that on my personal blog. 

Saturday Ron marked and put stitching holes in the neck collars on potion bottles, and I worked on sewing them up. Once I got started it went fairly quickly. I got over half of them done before we left for the MuseCon meeting and a friend's party after that.

At the party I did work on lacing pouches while chatting. And Ron decided to make a holster for a teacup and saucer for (Steampunk) Tea Duelling . . . you'll have to Google it yourself - it is G-rated, just odd.

Sunday we went to Crate & Barrel and Ron looked and looked (and looked) at teacups and saucers. Finding nice rounded teacups (as opposed to squared-off mugs) was a complete pain in the backside. This plain one was a nice shape, affordable, and too big. These were pretty, and a nice shape, but way too expensive. We finally got a couple of these, with matching saucers. More than we were hoping to spend, but they're a nice size and look nice. 

Ron's still trying to decide the best way to make the holster. Probably molded. Its going to be a pricey set, as I've decided it needs to be lined, and got some nice leather that can be molded to line it with. But steampunk fans seem to be willing to pay for good stuff. 

Sunday I worked on some more bottles, and in the afternoon worked on the red and red & black pouches I'd cut out last Monday. There were a lot of them. Nine, to be precise. But I got all of them ready to lace. And then I convinced myself that I didn't really need to take all nine with me to Moline. Which was good, because we worked late, then went to dinner, and weren't in a hurry to get back to our motel, and by then I was ready to be a vegetable, so I didn't get any lacing done at all Monday night. But I did some yesterday morning, and finished one pouch and did belt loops and other bits on a couple more last night. 

The same day last week I was looking for, and ordered, leather for belt loops, I got the new Weaver Leather catalog, which includes leather that's a bit heavier than I usually use for belt loops (but still reasonable), for about half the price of the leather I'd ordered (from another supplier). D'oh! The belt loop leather arrived yesterday, will probably cut that down today, since I'm home with an upset tummy. 

Which brings me, via the new catalog, not the upset tummy, to the upcoming price increase. Leather prices are going up. I did the price increase in 2012 figuring the cost for the leather I use for black belts at $8.00 square foot, which I thought then would give me some breathing space, and now that leather is up to $8.56. And when I was at Tandy/Leather Factory yesterday, the manager said their prices are going up - the garment/upholstery scrap has gone from $7/pound to $5.mumble/half-pound. Ouch.

I was thinking of increasing prices after ACen. The new plan, I think, is to go ahead and put the new prices on all the new stuff, and either work on re-pricing at ACen, or do it after, and if somebody notices and asks, tell them what's up - prices have to go up to cover our costs, get this before it goes to the price on that. Maybe we can even move some older inventory to new homes that way.

Yesterday we were contacted by Indy PopCon, a new pop culture convention in Indianapolis. It's their first year, hoping for 10,000 people. I think that may be optimistic (although they're on the ginormicon model, so that attendance goal may not be completely irrational). But they're only two weeks after ACen. And Ron may have to go to WisCon the intervening weekend to work the MuseCon party, because of reasons that have happened to other people. Robin has pronounced it a bad idea, at least for this year (as in, next year we could plan for it), but I have asked Ron and Xap's opinions. I suspect we'll pass.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Late Weekend Report: It was Busy

The problem with being slow about blogging is that the days start to run into each other.  

Saturday and Sunday we worked on a batch of hard pouches.  We got a couple strips cut for bandoliers, and I meant to do more, but got distracted from cutting out other pieces by figuring out what else we needed for the hard pouches and other things, and didn't get any farther on bandoliers. But at this point I've finished two, am about 3/4 of the way done with a third, and the other 4 are ready to lace up. 

Sunday morning Xap came over and we did inventory. We did all the pouches and most of the other things, but I didn't have the tenacity to sort knitting needles and count each one, or knitting notions, or to go through the conchos. Yes, I'm weak. 

Last week I stopped at an Office Whatsit and picked up some DIY self-stick business card magnets. We already had a package of perforated sheets of business cards, which I used to make labels to stick on the magnets, and labeled the ammo cans as to contents (generally - yarn, knitting needles & notions, tools, etc.). Now we don't have to open every single one to find things. 

Ron's been working on his perl script to automate getting inventory into and out of the point of sale software.  

I thought the small-but-really-annoying crack in my fingertip was getting better, but it got worse again over the weekend. Tuesday morning I picked up some butterfly suture/bandages, and they seem to be working better - smaller and less annoying than band-aids, so I'm wearing them more, and keeping the crack pulled shut, encouraging it to heal. At a doctor's appointment yesterday, a sympathetic nurse also handed me a package of steri-strips. 

Ron's thumb/wrist problems took him to the doctor yesterday (separate appointment, and doctor, than mine, which was a surgery follow-up), where it was pronounced probably arthritis. Do this and that, and see if it helps, and don't wear the thumb brace, it'll probably make things worse.

Had a sinus headache Sunday night/Monday morning, so I stayed home Monday. I . . . kind of got out of control. I was thinking we need more colored pouches (need the final post-inventory inventory list from Ron to be certain), so I started looking through our colored leather, and amassed a good-sized pile.  Some of it was definietely too soft for anything but sewn belt satchels, etc., like these:

Some was iffy, and some was definitely firm enough for "soft" laced pouches like this one:

I decided to start with the garment/upholstery weight.  I ended up with 10 "belt satchels" (the second-smallest size in the picture above), and 10 little tabbed soft pouches (the red and black ones):

The dark pieces on top are inside pockets for the small tabbed pouches, which are cut out of an ugly dark grey. And yes, that is metallic hot pink sticking out of the stack. Yes, I intentionally bought it. Because somebody will like it. There's also some slightly metallic copper, dark teal, a slightly metallic bronze, some red, and one white piece.
Then I moved on to the "iffy" leather. I decided that was probably enough sewn colored pouches, so I decided to double it up with more of the ugly grey (which was super-cheap), and some other extremely cheap stuff. I ended up with a 8  pouches like the white fake-snake one above, and a dozen little square soft pouches:

Barbie purple (which looks more pink in this picture), a nice purple, red, black, and Elrond. 
I hadn't intended cut out that many, but there was an oops with layout on the purple, and the sensible way to fix it was just cut more parts than to throw away the oops part. Then I decided to combine some of the red with black, because red and black always go good together, and when I cut out black pouches, I cut a strip the width I need, and cut however many parts I can out of it, which is more efficient than just cutting one or a few out at a time. So I ended up with extra. Then Ron got home and suggested combining black with purple. So there you have it.

Oh, wait, it ended up being 13 small square soft pouches, for reasons that aren't really important and happened after I counted. 

Robin started lacing for me Monday. He's done belt loops before, and looking at the piles of parts, he decided I needed help. All the pouches that I've got ready now have belt loops, and two-piece soft pouches have their bottom seams done. And last night he learned how to do the side seams on soft pouches (which is the same as lacing a belt loop on, except doing the corner seams).  Last night Ron also fixed a hard pouch that I'd messed up. Fortunately, it was fixable. 

Monday I ordered latches (and rivets). Unfortunately, all the antique nickel latches I wanted were back-ordered. Drat, I wanted to put some on the colored pouches.  I'll use what I have, then default to antique brass. 

Last night and this morning I was considering the piles of cut-out pouches, the number of belt loops I have cut out, and the fact that I've already gone through the scrap pile for anything I could make belt loops out of. Leather prices have gone up, and I couldn't bring myself to cut down the leather I like for belt loops, at least not until I've gotten bigger things out of it. Did some poking around and found single shoulders, which at 5-7 square feet sound good-sized, but are not really big enough to use efficiently for most things we make (decided after buying previously). They will, however, be just fine for belt loops.

I also ordered a grab-bag lot of garment/upholstery leather, at pretty much a Stupidly Cheap price. I'm not expecting any great and wonderful, but it should be just fine for making drawstring bags (ie: dice bags). We're down to only 1 or 2 of the smallest ($5, IIRC) size of those again, and I definitely want to make more for ACen. 

Yes, I know, that's approaching rapidly, and I have a lot of things on the to-do list. Fortunately, Ron's sore thumb shouldn't be a problem when it comes to machine-sewing drawstring bags, and I can probably get him to work on the other machine-sewn pouches, too, even if he isn't up to lacing. 

In other ACen news, the vendor map is up (right-click on the image and open the PDF to zoom in and scroll, IIRC the ctrl-scroll-wheel the website recommends is a pain). The list of vendors and their locations is here. We're right next to Blonde Swan. This could be good, especially for attracting steampunk customers. This could also be a problem, we dropped a not-insignificant amount of money with Blonde Swan last year . . .

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Not Quite Not Quite as Planned

I didn't work on hanging pouches last night, I worked on soft pouches instead. 

I decided to wait on the hanging pouches until I got the last flap laced (which is much easier to do before the flap is sewn onto the back, which I was going to do at lunch today. But when I was packing my bag this morning I packed one of the hanging pouches that had the cutting fail and will have the front and back hand-sewn together. Oops. 

Not a big deal, since we have a meeting tonight, so I probably won't have time to work on the pouches much anyway. I'll do the flap tomorrow, probably get the flaps (machine) sewn onto the backs tomorrow night, and possibly get the fronts and backs glued together. I doubt we'll get as far as trimming, though. 

The black lace I ordered week before last arrived last night. That's not bad for this company, sometimes they actually have to make (cut) the lace before they can send it, I've had it take as long as a month between ordering and receiving.  

I forgot to mention yesterday that both Ron and I are on the injured list:

Mine is minor, but annoyingly painful at times: ever had a dry skin crack in a fingertip, off the corner of a fingernail?  Yeah, one of those. Middle finger on my right hand, toward my index finger. Hopefully bandaids and antibiotic ointments will get it to heal reasonably quickly, but based on past experience I suspect it's going to annoy me for a while.

Ron's managed to do something to his right thumb. I suspected using the pliers-type hole punch on the bottle parts (similar issues is why I went to using a punches), but he says no, he uses his palm/finger muscles for that more than his thumb. He got a brace yesterday morning, hopefully a couple/few days of rest will take care of whatever. My left thumb sympathizes, it gets sore in about the same places, but since I'm right-handed its easier to be careful with.