Monday, August 14, 2017

Busy Busy Busy!

Oh my goodness! *Another* Post?!?  Yes, yes indeedy. It was a busy weekend (and the last two posts were written toward the beginning of last week). 

As mentioned, Saturday morning I cleaned up the drafting table and took down the light tent/PVC light frame to bring Max in. With Robin’s help, we made room in the front entry, extracted the glass bins, I got in the way by trying to get them out to the porch, and Robin brought Max in and got it into position. And while he was moving the glass bins to the trailer, he also dug into one of the Things and brought me in two smallish bins of pouches! 

After that I sorted belts that were in the house, and then gritted my teeth and pulled all the belts out of Max to work on. Then I started the process of listing them on Etsy. I started with the easy ones, where I already had listed that type, and just had to check the listing and adjust quantities. Then I moved on to new ones, which went something like this:
  • Take some pictures (less than a dozen, for the most part)
  • Edit pictures 
  • List the belts from that batch of pictures on Etsy, mostly by cloning and editing existing listings
  • Put that group of belts away in Max


Max had the “One of Everything” set, so that meant a *lot* of belt styles to list, but often only one of any type. Which is tedious, but it gets the listings created. Each different color of leather (1 black, 3 browns) gets its own listing for each style of belt. Which apparently I could handle with “Variations”. Headdesk, headdesk. So I’ll be going back and doing some consolidation, and probably re-taking some pictures. Anyway, I I did not make it through all the belts - I had some buckled ones and all the braided ones left to go. On continued reflection, I'll finish listing the belts I have in the house (using variations!), then go back and revise and consolidate the listings I've already done. 

Saturday I wasn’t using the light tent, because I wasn’t up to putting it back up and schlepping stuff to the dining room. 

Sunday I put the table, frame, and light table back up, re-clearing the drafting table (which things moved to in order to bring Max in), and cleaned up a few other things. And then I sorted the remaining belts onto the drafting table, which did empty the recycle bin that normally gets used as a laundry basket, but got appropriated for Otter stuff about a week before MuseCon. I did not, however, get as far as working on more pictures and listings of belts. I did get housekeeping done and worked on doll clothes. And found three more finished sets of kosode, and put some fabric I bought before MuseCon not-quite-away, but approaching it. 

Friday night as I was going to bed I was thinking about craft fairs, and how to set up, and realized that hanging doll clothes up on gridwall would make them more visible and interesting than laying on a table. So I’d need hangers. I had an idea how to make some, if buying pre-made wasn’t going to work out - but I resisted googling for doll clothes hangers and staying up even later. Saturday I did look for doll clothes hangers, and didn’t particularly like what I found - either plastic and cheap-looking, or more than I wanted to pay (since I have over three dozen pieces/sets for sale). Plus, kosode are square-shouldered, so slope-shouldered hangers are sub-optimal. Plan B! Cup hooks and dowels. 

I debated long dowels to cut to length myself vs. pre-cut, and square vs. round. The problem with round dowels is holding them for drilling pilot holes for screws - Ron commented that you just make a V-groove jig to hold them, to which I replied that making the jig was more than I was up to messing with. So I ended up ordering 12” long 1/2” square stock. I’ll cut them down to 6-8” long. Talking to Ron on Sunday (when we had the jig discussion), I said I needed a little-bitty router table to round off the edges. Ron suggested a rounding plane. He also asked me how much they were going to cost to make, so that I’d know how much to charge if customers want to buy them, and suggested clear wipe-on varnish. Dammit dammit dammit. 

We have, IIRC, wipe-on polyurethane, and I ordered a rounding plane. Only 1/16” radius, but I think the style will work better than the ones that will do 1/8”. And if I want more taken off, I’ll stop at Rockler on the way home one day and get one of the 1/8” radius ones - taking two passes to get there is probably better anyway, and the rounding planes aren’t expensive. So I’ll be making a bunch of doll hangers that are a little nicer/more finished than I was originally planning. Now I just have to figure out the best way to hang them up to dry after finishing without touching each other. 

I have around a dozen and a half belts that need to have their old rings removed and replaced. Most of them are because of corrosion, and I can just cut the old rings off as close to the old rivets as possible, as shortening the belts by a couple-few inches is minor. But there are several braided belts, which I want to upgrade to fancier rings. Those need to have the old rivets removed, as there’s not enough un-braided leather to allow amputation of the old rings and rivets. I was going to work on the plain belts yesterday, but I couldn’t find the screw fasteners we’ve switched to from rivets. I may, as Robin terms it, invoke “Summon Missing Object” by stopping at the Leather Factory and buying some more. 

Aaand, while typing the above about the hangers I realized that the hooks I ordered have a white vinyl coating and a stop/shoulder, with a screw length that’s longer than 1/2”. Which is fine for me, I just wouldn’t put them all the way in. Not so much if selling them. So I (hopefully) cancelled those hooks and ordered different ones, with screws just under 1/2” and an antique brass finish (nicer). At worst I have to return the first hooks, which shouldn’t be a big deal, as they were ordered through Amazon (Prime and Smile finally sucked me in). The second hooks are a whole cent and a half more expensive (per hook), ooh ooh.


Tonight I raided the scrap bin for black leather strips to make more skirt hikes. I got enough cut for 20 or 22 pairs, and then remembered a green belt cut-off, so I attacked that, and got two more pairs worth out of it. So far I’ve only made skirt hikes from black leather, although I am willing to make brown ones if requested, I just don’t want to keep track of multiple browns. But for the green I’ll make an exception. While I was in the dining room cutting strips to width Gimli kept coming in and pestering me. He doesn’t really grok this leatherworking-in-the-dining-room thing (yet). When I moved out to the living room to cut strips to length he was happier. Probably because he can snuggle. :)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Changes, I Announce Them

Yes, two posts in one morning! They started out as one, but are both long even split up (so if you didn’t see the MuseCon report I posted a little bit ago, now you know it exists). 

There have been changes since the beginning of 2017 which haven’t been mentioned here.

Ron and Toshiba amicably separated back on February 1. Instead of another job in software/hardware QA, Ron made a significant career change and got his CDL (big truck driver’s license), and is now working for Roehl Transportation, driving flatbed 14-ish days on the road, 3-ish home. Robin is working on getting his CDL, and is probably going to follow Ron to Roehl. This past weekend was MuseCon, and Ron got home 7-ish Friday night, and went back on duty Tuesday morning. And we determined that a weekend convention is not a good way to spend his time off, even though we bailed fairly early Sunday. 

So, anything Otter’s going to do going forward is going to have to be something I can handle by myself, or me and Xap. Plus, I have more responsibilities around the house.  

So on the way home on Sunday I started thinking and plotting, and while waiting for Ron to catch up for breakfast, at information on the local high school craft shows. What I assume are the prime spaces at Fremd’s are sold out, but not all spaces. Still spaces at Palatine HS (PHS, where Robin went). I haven’t been to Fremd’s, but it seems pretty big, and they charge more than PHS, which probably means they get enough traffic to allow that. Both are one-day shows, which means setup and teardown in one day, but doesn’t completely wipe out a whole weekend and/or take (as many) vacation days for preparation/recovery.

I’ve registered for a booth at the Fremd show, and am planning to get one at PHS shortly. The plan is to take doll clothes, books, purses, satchels, leather book covers, and buckled belts. Also potion bottles if I think there’s room. As for display, either one 6’ or two 4’ tables, and one or two triangles of gridwall. All stuff that will fit into Mongo (I can drive a vehicle pulling a trailer, but I don’t like to, and am not up to moving the Things, Max, and the Grinch in and out of the trailer, even if there wasn’t all that gridwall to also work around). Also that I can handle without help, although both HS craft shows make student muscles available. 

I also plan to really, truly, for sure this time get more stuff up on Etsy. To that end, Robin is going to bring Max (the smaller rolling tool case) in to hold merchandise listed on Etsy. It’s going to live in the front entry, where the bins of potion bottles are currently stacked. The bins of potion bottles can go out to Max’s space in the trailer. They previously travelled inside a vehicle instead of the trailer, and have lived in the house, in order to protect the glass contents. Being stored in the non-moving trailer is not a problem. 

We looked at the space this morning, and decided that, because of the shelves behind the front door, it would be easier to put Max into position from the dining room side of the doorway between the front entry and the dining room (Max is going to sit in said doorway, which has been non-human-passable for mumble years and not easily usable by dogs anyway). This morning, while Robin’s out running errands I’ve cleared off the drafting table, covered it with a shipping blanket, and temporarily moved a couple things onto it, and taken down the table that was on the dining room side of the doorway that said things were sitting on. Which mean when I’ve also returned the drafting table to a usable state, yay! 

When Robin gets back we’ll shift the glass bins and finish making space for and access to Max, and I’ll supervise him bringing Max in. I’ve also started shoving a higgeldy-piggeldy box of belts from the dining room out to the living room for sorting and posting on Etsy this weekend. I also have the beginnings of a plan for working on doll clothes, but one thing at a time. Because I seem to be developing the cold that Ron brought home last weekend. 

When we’re in the trailer today I may pull some belt pouches out of one of the Things to post on Etsy. We’ll see how that goes. And Robin is going to put a half-dozen pieces of 6’ gridwall (which fits in Mongo’s bed) in the storage locker, which will be easier for me to access on my own than in the main mass of gridwall in the trailer. 

So, I have a plan for Otter Necessities moving forward.


Otter Necessities' MuseCon Report

I was in charge of the vendor’s room at MuseCon this year for the at-con, part of watching the room, Xap did pre-con stuff, and I took along leatherworking tools and kits, hardware, book covers, hand-bound blank journals/books, doll clothes, and the remaining stash of knitting patterns, yarn, kits, and needles. Sales were reasonable, considering the small size of MuseCon this year (200-ish, I believe). Mostly knitting patterns and yarn. Xap mentioned that she misses doing events, and so do I (looking at the PoS software, our last one was November 2015 - eep!).

Our friend Wendy suggested making lab coats for dolls, as well as wizard’s robes, both of which are pretty close to kosode. Also a way to use some fabric I got recently from Spoonflower that has a bigger pattern than I realized (because I wasn’t paying attention). Somebody else suggested actually displaying them on doll(s). Although I have finally upgraded to a pincushion shaped like a dress form, mostly because I couldn’t find the base to the PVC stand.

I also looked at and remembered why I’ve never pulled the trigger on an American Girl (AG) doll. Ouchie. Sticker shock. But I did find and procure a much less expensive ($20 vs $129) doll that can wear AG doll clothes and vice-versa. I think most of the doll kosode will fit her, and thus AG dolls, which is not a market to be despised.  I also found Maplelea dolls, which is a Canadian company, who has an awfully cute Inuit girl, Saila, who according to Google for exchange rate, is under $100 with shipping. No, no no. Do not need.

In graphic design news I did the MuseCon book differently this year. Instead of the pages being mirrored with three columns, one of which (A, below) being an icon and item number, I went to each page being identical, and only two columns.

Previous page layout, pipe symbol is page gutter:
A B C | C B A
This year’s layout:
B C | B C

I didn’t like losing the icons, but in past years I have pondered which is most appropriate for some items. More importantly, we were in a situation where we were making late late additions to programming, and the layout change simplified that - The previous layout requires a lot more shuffling of text/image boxes because of the mirroring, and numbering is problematic when adding items. So I lost the mirroring, page numbers, and icons. The up-side was that the changes, as well as others, reduced page count, which meant we were able to go with a saddle-stitch (fold & staple) binding, which is cheaper. 

The MuseCon theme this year was “Our Muses Make a Deal”, with the implication that the deal is with the Fae. The silly animal room signs that I’ve done the last couple years weren’t a good fit, and I couldn’t find enough affordable images of non-flittery, vanilla Fae to use. So I rolled back to my stash of images from Art Nouveau, WWI and WWII, WPA, and vintage travel posters, with the wrinkle that I didn’t have Ron to help me with graphics. The silly animals were on white backgrounds with information below, and this year’s signs used the poster images as the sign background with the information superimposed. That meant more work adjusting opacity and text colors for readability, but I enjoy it.

I didn’t make the MuseCon feedback session, but the signage got a bunch of compliments. As for the book, a couple people missed the icons, but it doesn’t sound like there were any real complaints overall. And that’s a win. I also did a first attempt at a brochure for next year, and the Chair really likes it. So that was a success, too.  

Prep for MuseCon, both from signage and Otter Necessities points of view, was complicated by having unplanned surgery to evict my gall bladder at the end of July, which pretty much killed two weeks (between feeling sick before and recovery after). Got a couple little not-quite-completely healed incision sites from that (laproscopic surgery for the win!), but otherwise recovered

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Progress, Finally!

Yesterday I did teh business taxes for last year, and started our personal return. Today I finished them, and then turned the Etsy store back on, and listed everything that's in the house. That was an easy process - find things in either "expired", "inactive", or "sold out" sections, check inventory count, and hit a couple buttons.

Ron's getting a new DSLR, so the older Canon DSLR will be parked on an older, heavy tripod in the dining room. The old DSLR's vibration damper has failed, but since it'll be on a tripod that's no problem. We just have to figure out where the tripod in question has been stashed.

I think that's about it for now, haven't been doing much else Otter-ish since I finished the program book for the floodplain manager's conference.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Well, That Explains That

Well, That Explains That

A couple-few weeks ago I was home from work due to lack of sleep (mostly urpy dog tummy reasons), and got a call from a gentleman who wanted to order a belt. In the course of the conversation I brought up our Etsy store, and realized it was still on vacation setting from when we went out of town for my Brother's wedding. In May.  Oooooops. Well, that explains the dearth of Etsy sales.

Fortunately, the belt the gentleman wanted involved fairly minimal spelunking in the trailer, which Robin accomplished with minimal swearing. And I discovered that PayPal lets you generate USPS labels from within your account, which is convenient.

I've spent most of the last couple-few weekend working on the program book for the annual floodplain managers conference, so haven't gotten Etsy back up and running - besides being on vacation setting, all listings have expired, and I need to go through and see what I have in the house to re-list, as well as listing new things, some of which need to be retrieved from the trailer.
Book goes to the printer Real Soon Now (like next couple days).

Ron built the PVC frame to hold LED strip lights around the light tent. Not as bright as we were hoping, we'll see how it works for photography. Have made space in the dining room for a table for it and moved it off the drafting table, as it also turned out less amenable to taking down for storage than we were thinking.

Still working on doll clothes. The two outfits I sent out as gifts, as mentioned in my last post, went to my Mom, and she really likes them.




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Assorted Natter

I like my baby sewing machine. Its kind of noisy, and only has one speed (not particularly fast), and probably wouldn't appreciate heavier fabric/more layers, but it works fine for the seams on doll clothes made out of calico/quilter's cotton. It seems machine manufacturers have pretty much settled on one style needle and two of plastic bobbins, so although I bought a package of needles to keep with this machine, it wasn't a necessity (have both style bobbins on hand). Being only about 5 pounds in weight I can indeed pull it out and put it away with minimal effort. I may see if I can find a small battery-operated LED light to put on it, if I get around to it. Otherwise I just use my phone's flashlight function while threading the needle.

Been working on doll clothes, but as mentioned previously, also trying to take it easy on my wrist. Have two outfits finished that I need to iron and send to their new homes (gifts, not purchased).

Still haven't built the frame to hold LED lighting around the light tent, but that's scheduled soonish. Nor have I gotten a chair for the drafting table. I have, however, procured a self-healing cutting mat for it.

I decided that a large mat would be a useful thing for cutting out doll clothing (which I have a couple small mats for already) and paper for bookbinding. I was originally looking at Olfa mats at JoAnn, but fortunately thought to check the Dick Blick website. I got a 36" x 48" non-Olfa but well-rated mat for less than a 24" x 36" Olfa mat from JoAnn (largest size they carry). Came flat, and fits perfectly on the table, given space taken up by the clamps for the drawing arm and the area the arm occupies when parked to one side. It arrived yesterday, and garbage day was today, so the several acres of cardboard packaging went out this morning, thus a win all around.

Sunday I worked on cleaning up the dining room some more, attacking the shelves by the doorway to the kitchen with the help of Robin's muscles and long arms. Several boxes of old paperwork, specialty cookware, and other odds and ends that don't need to be immediately accessible went to storage. Several other items went out to the curb. In the space cleared off we re-arranged a bit, added a bunch of rolls of leather, and most of my bookbinding equipment, plus some doll clothing stuff. The result was both more open floor space and clearing off the drafting table. Which Robin promptly used to put up the light tent to take pictures of some miniatures.

My hope is to get the two bins of potion bottles and other glassware out to the trailer, but haven't gotten sufficient Round Tuits yet. We'd been keeping them in the house because I prefer they travel not in the trailer for fragility reasons, but there's no reason they can't sit in the trailer while parked.

Have a convention program book I need to start work on, for the annual floodplain manager's convention in March. Last year the old iFruit desktop conked out (well, no longer had the intestinal fortitude to run current Adobe software) and I had to finish the book on a laptop, with the new desktop machine arriving a day or two after the book went to the printer. Headdesk, headdesk.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Little-Bitty Bits of Progress

No chair for the drafting table yet.

On my book of poetry project, I dropped the file and paper off at the printer I've worked with for Windycon and MuseCon in the last week of December, and Friday I got the news that the printing was done (I said it was not a rush job). I decided to just have them UPS them to me, and they were delivered today.

Now that I know how many copies I have (they ran a few extra for setup on their end and mine), I can order board for the covers. And Saturday I stopped at PaperSource and failed to resist various designs of decorative paper for the covers.

Last week I ordered some PVC connectors, 3-way elbows, which are essentially box corners, to make a light frame for around the light tent and snake jungle gyms. Saturday morning we picked up some LED strip lighting for the light frame project.

A week or two before Christmas I messed up my right wrist, and it has slowly been getting better, Saturday and Sunday I dug out doll clothing parts, and then found more parts when re-checking small storage bins I'd previously checked the day before, and finished a couple kosode. I've been careful not to do too much and throw the healing back, and seem to be succeeding.

I, um, also bought another sewing machine. Yes, the big industrial beast, serger, and two standard/home-scale machines were not enough. I started looking at small portable machines, thinking that something small and light and not a big deal to haul out and set up would be nice for doing the short straight seams I do by machine on doll clothes.

I ended up ordering a Janome Sew Mini, which is 1/2 or so of the size of a regular machine, and weights in at only 5 pounds (a couple/few standard machines I saw weights on while browsing were in the 25-lb range). It does several stitches, but I expect I'll only use it to straight-stitch, with maybe the occasional zig-zag to finish edges. Only one speed, but for what I want it for, I think that'll be ok. The bits I machine-sew are typically only 2 layers of lightweight cotton, occasionally 4, so I don't need lots of power. It got good reviews, and takes standard Janome bobbins and needles. Thanks to Amazon Prime, it'll be here tomorrow. I am awaiting it eagerly.

(No, I am not a big fan of Amazon for Reasons, and will probably continue to try very very hard not to buy books from Amazon. But Amazon hit the sweet spot on the price/seller-trustworthiness curve, using Amazon Smile benefits MuseCon, so there we are).