Friday, December 4, 2009

Drat, Boar's Head Cancellation

I think both Ron and I have the flu. So last night we called the merchant coordinator for Boar's Head and cancelled. I didn't wait until tonight, because she'd sent e-mail a week or so ago with various useful information, and mentioned she had a waiting list. So I'll give somebody else a chance - I've been the beneficiary of waiting-list-dom a couple times, so I'd rather do unto others. And it's highly unlikely I'll suddenly wake up bright and perky tomorrow morning.

Oh heck, who am I kidding. I *never* wake up bright and perky. What a revolting state of being for first thing in the morning. Shudder.

Anyhoo, I'm also neck-deep in design geekery, as detailed over here:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sudden Website Progress!

Yay! The new re-built from the ground-up website went live tonight!

Ron had gotten it to the point where I needed to do final proofreading and data-entry months ago, and then other stuff interrupted, and there it sat.

And sat.

And sat.

I stayed home from work today, cold (I thought . . . now I'm starting to wonder if it's the F-word) and recovering from an outpatient surgical procedure. Not exactly motivational conditions, you'd think, but apparently it was.

I sat down and slogged through all the pages, spending more or less time checking and updating. Also deciding that the color scheme needed a major change. There's probably a bunch of stuff I missed, I'll start looking at it again in a week or so for fiddly stuff.

And there's new stuff to add, once we get pictures. It never really ends...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Art Show Semi-Success

We didn't do spectacularly well at the Windycon Art Show, but it wasn't really that bad. Although I had hopes, I didn't rationally expect to sell the Sam Browne belt - it had a somewhat narrow range of sizes it would fit, after all.

But, I did have hopes for the wrist-rockets in particular, as well as the map case and the pouches. Unfortunately, the only thing to sell was the small shell carrier with empty brass. But even though it went for the opening bid price, it was still profitable enough to cover all the entry fees (a whole whopping $4.50).

And I forgot business cards (headdesk headdesk headdesk), but I did give contact information to two different people who may order, one of whom sounds like I'll hear from shortly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Progress, and Frustration

One, just one, of the things we made for the Steampunk Project, has disappeared. If you go back to the March 4th "Steampunk Prototype Pictures" post, the bottom one shows two sets of shell holders. The one for the big red .50 caliber BMG shells has vanished.

We've been hunting it for almost a week now. Since I have the day off, I (re-) checked some of the bins in the dining room, which Robin cleaned for me a while back. No go. Robin and I are out of ideas where to look. I was starting to wonder if we'd been planning to make it but hadn't actually gotten around to it, so I went back through the Steampunk Project pictures here, and found the one referred to above. So it really does exist.

Ron has suggested a couple more places to check more thoroughly, once Robin finishes his homework.

The Mark II Wrist-Rockets are still on hold while I work on the map case. There may be progress on them today. And maybe I'll remake the 50 loops, dammit. I've figured out prices for everything, just need to fill out the Art Show forms.

The fun lengthwise seam on the map case cap is done, and all the holes are in on the body, off to sew...

Saturday, November 7, 2009


First, the repaired off-center pouch from a couple weeks ago. Yay me!

And this is all the parts, except for two end caps, for the map case, which is what I've spent a good chunk of the afternoon/evening working on. All the stitching holes have been punched for attaching the various pieces, and on the cap piece. Still have lots and lots to do down the two sides of the body section - that's tomorrow's job, after other parts are stitched on.

Making new stuff is hard during the week, for some reason - I can work on doing almost anything for pouches during the week, because I've done it all so many times. Stitching, punching holes that are already marked, no problem. But by the time I get home from work my brain is kinda mushy and its harder to get rolling on major work on new things.

That's why although I had all the parts figured out, I hadn't actually done much on the map case this week. The only major decisions made today were on lining (not totally, just put a lip on one edge), and Ron suggested a snazzy way to attach the shoulder straps.

Finished the Sam Brown belt, officially and completely, this morning. Ron identified a couple more errors I made with proportions and dimensions, but if I don't say what they are, I don't think anybody is going to notice (insert evil laughter here).

We've figured out a better way to do multi-sizing for wrist rockets than multiple rows of snaps, so I may try to get those started tomorrow, too. (see comments above re: what I can do on weeknights vs. weekends) I have Wednesday off for Veteran's day, which means I can get set up tomorrow for weeknights and Wednesday busy-ness.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On to the Map Case

I've ruminated on the map case design for a couple days, and tonight I started something like work - laying out the pattern for the one non-rectangular or circular piece I decided I needed. Tomorrow I can continue cutting leather (so far I have shoulder straps and a the main body partially cut. Still debating if I'm going to line the whole thing or not.

Since we started doing the lampworking, we've been competing for the Black & Decker Workmate 225 I got to hold up my leatherworking anvil, but turns out to work quite well as a small workbench. The local Ace Hardware didn't have one in stock, so we ordered one, and it arrived today. So once I'm done here I'll clean off this plastic folding table, which is good for supporting things like dinner and laptops, and spreading tools and parts all over, but isn't as stiff and stable as I'd like for cutting-out-type work.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Belt Done, Bar the Shouting

The Sam Browne belt is done, except for buckle holes and one stud. Although it entailed a lot of hand-sewing, it went surprisingly fast once I really got rolling. Ron had to cut out little fiddly bits, as I don't have proficiency in exacto knife. If I can't cut it out with my head knife, forget it. By Saturday night I had the various bits edged and glued onto the belt.

Sunday morning I discovered that the rubber cement I'd used wasn't going to hold much longer after punching the stitching holes. Holes which Ron had to do, as I wasn't strong enough. Once Ron finished I got one side of each of the four pieces on the belt stitched down (at that point the other sides popping loose would be only a very minor inconvenience), and worked on the shoulder-strap pieces.

While the shoulder-strap parts were drying after gluing, I went back to sewing the belt. By the time I finished that, the glue was dry enough on the other bits (less stress, didn't need overnight dry-time), and so I kept on working, and finished the last bit ofter dinner.

I did realize one potential problem Saturday night - we designed the belt loops on the pouches we did a few months ago to be relatively snug on the belt. But I forgot to allow for the dee rings on the edges of the belt. I think the dees will fold over enough to get pouches past them, I'll have to try it and see tonight. But even if not, oops.

I'm much more optimistic now about being able to get the map case made. And now I'm going to go e-mail the WindyCon Art Show to ask for space (I was holding off to make sure I did get the belt done).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sam Browne Belt

The belt proceeds slowly. It would be somewhat complicated to explain just what little process has been made, suffice it to say, it really doesn't look significant.

OTOH, it's a mental thing - now that I've made the decisions said small prograss has entailed and gotten this far, I'm more likely to accelerate.

After a discussion in which Ron and I reversed our usual roles, I ordered a store display hanging half-form (flat back), for about 1/12 the price of a dressmaker's form. I may have to twiddle the belt a bit for display, but I'll have no purchase-price second-guessing of myself, and it should be easier to store, until we get a Tardis and/or the McMansion next door.

Now, to re-remember exactly how some of the parts are supposed to go together...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Steampunk Project Poll-ish Thing

I rooted around the dining room last night and found all the pieces I'd cut for the Sam Browne belt and map case. I didn't do further work because I didn't trust myself to do precise cutting (sinus headache), and didn't think of edging straps. But I did get two more pouches finished.

Anyhoo, I decided that I need to make the Sam Brown belt first - the whole thing is going to fall apart (literally), without it. BTW, here's a picture of Gen. Pershing wearing a Sam Browne belt, so you know what I'm talking about:
It's the kind of belt worn over a military-ish tunic, with a shoulder strap.

Now, the dees for the shoulder strap are going to be permanently attached to the belt (I've figured out how to make them sliding, but I have concerns that method is sub-optimal and will lead to slop - so I'm not doing it for this iteration). Also, given the way the belt portion fastens, one size will not fit all.

Question the first: Robin-size or Ron-size? (Robin is over 200 lbs and in the neighborhood of 6' tall at this point, so he's a not-beanpole adult)

IIRC I have a good half-dozen accessories to hang off of the belt. The whole ensemble could rack up to a pretty chunk of change, and I have absolutely no objection to selling bits on their own.

Question the second: Present as one ensemble, or offer the pieces separately?

Either way, the only way to display this acceptably (in my mind) is on a model. This is, then, the perfect excuse to buy a dressmaker's form. And a military-ish shirt that fits the dummy neatly, so it all looks good. Yeah, I are feelthy merchant scum. Guilty guilty guilty. The various pouches, etc., would be put on the belt. This does make it hard to affix the usual Art Show bid sheets to the actual items. Plus tape, even good low-tack masking tape *WILL* leave marks on leather.

Question the third and last: If I provide clear photographs of each item to be affixed to the actual bid sheets (and a couple clipboards to hang said bid sheets with pictures adjacent to the dummy), is it reasonable to say to an Art Show staff "Please do not use tape anywhere on the leather"?

Hmm. Also need to go find Mary's guidelines on Art Show price-points...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Return of the Steampunk Project

Some of you may remember that, ages and ages ago, we were working on the Steampunk Project. We were rolling right along, and I had plans to enter the DucKon art show, as well as the WindyCon art show - WindyCon doing a steampunk theme this year.

Then DucKon needed someone to do the program book, and that started eating all my vast amounts (Hah!) of spare time. DucKon happened, other things happened, I've resigned from DucKon, summer happened, and still the Steampunk Project has languished.

Rooting around the dining room last week, I noticed a largish rectangle of dark brown harness leather. I set it aside, but didn't think about it much. Yesterday the brain idly noted that said piece of leather was for a map case I'd been planning for the Steampunk Project. Last night we were discussing shows and the usefulness of showpieces with a friend, and I commented that I really don't have a showpiece at the moment, I could use to make one.

This morning The Steampunk Project kept coming back to me. We've got a bunch of pouches done, as well as wrist-rockets and at least one set of shell-loops for a belt. The only thing I really have left to do for a complete ensemble is the Sam Browne belt and the map case-because I think that's going to be really cool, not that it's all that necessary.

Windycon is the 13th-15th, so I've got a good two weeks. Ron doesn't think I'm barking mad to try to get the belt and map case made by then. That means less time to work on all the pouches I have in the works for Boar's Head, but that's another 2-3 weeks after Windy, so I could/should still be able to get a reasonable amount done.

So the upshot is that tonight I'll re-start work on the map case, etc., and I need to go see what the requirements are for the WindyCon art show...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Bookkeeping & Other Natter

All purchases entered in. I even made sure the year-end total page was referencing all the right bits.

I've started on the repair of the badly off-centered latch pouch. Provided I can find my hand-sewing needles, which for some inexplicable reason were *not* in the box with all the other hand-sewing tools. But even if I don't find them, I ordered some more on Friday. Clever me.

However, Ron has determined that my smaller hand-sewing awl was being a pain to use not due to being dull, but because of a design-ish flaw. Too bad I didn't have him sharpen it earlier in the week, because then I'd have known to look at what I could get as a replacement when I ordered things Friday. Oops. But all is not lost, I have enough control with the larger awl to do the job.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Thursday night-Friday morning was rather short on sleep, plus the weather was making my sinuses miserable, so I stayed home yesterday. My grandly ambitious plan was to work on the books and pouches.

Yeah, right. I did get the books mostly caught up. I haven't done them for the last mumble events, instead of doing them after each one. Baaaaad idea. I slogged through the receipts from all the events, although I haven't gotten purchases in.

Today is about a total loss, between karate, meetings, and some evening plans. I brought some pouches to work on, but forgot some semi-important things. Oh well, I can still do flaps.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Last Night's Accomplishments . . . And AARGH!

Here's a picture of what I accomplished yesterday. One of the little black pouches I had pretty much done by the time I got home yesterday (after about 3 days of very slow progress), with only one side left to be laced up.

I finished the other two while Robin did homework, and while watching a movie. Ron finally got home, and embarked a round of customer disservice frustration with AT&T, so I started the fourth pouch, the larger black one. And with only half of one side to go, I realized what you might notice about the latch.

It's not a funny camera angle. The (expletive) latch is severely off-center. Carp. I wish I'd noticed before starting to lace the sides up, it would have made the fix easier to carry out. I checked the other half-dozen pouches I put this kind of latch on the other night, fortunately it's the only one I messed up (the others were the little ones, which are harder to mess up).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coronation/Midrealm 40th Anniversary Report

I was checking the tags on some recent posts, and realized I'd forgotten to mention how we did at the fall Coronation/Midrealm 40th Anniversary event back in the first week of October.

It went pretty well. The merchant coordinator was running late, but we still got set up in a timely fashion. We even had power to run the charge machine, woo-hoo! Quarters were tight, as expected, but we made it work - We did things in a U-ish shape, with a table on one side, belt rack on the other, and ourselves across the bottom of the U.

We'd have had better sales, but there was another merchant seriously undercutting us on belts. I suspect his customers will eventually become mine, but I can't blame people for wanting to save money in the short run. There was a third person with belts, but he does bright dyed colors that we don't, and AFAIK our prices and his are pretty comparable.

I also got what I considered a big compliment - one of the other merchants (our non-competitor in the belt market) was sorry we didn't have the bracers out, he wanted to show them to some people. And he's very big on authenticity, *and* all his stuff is very nicely done. Woot! I expect he likes our bracers because even though they may be iffy on authenticity, they're understated. Even the fancy red and white pair is not tacky, I think. Hope. Err, oops, there is that one pair on that page with all the spots. That pair is long gone, and won't be repeated unless money talks.

Which reminds me, I should make a couple smaller pairs of bracers in plain black. That rolled edge binding looks sooo nice, if I do say so myself!

More Tool Hunting

I ventured into the basement last night in search of big C-clamps. I found three more, and it wasn't even a thorough search. That puts us up to 12 accounted for. At least three more to go, and Ron also thinks we have a total of 20.

Then I had to search for the aluminium bars we use for setting the rivets for certain latches. Looked it spot A, then B, C, and D. Returned to A, and there they were. Insert appropriate expletives here.

I need to check to see if I have latches stashed somewhere, the supply in the hardware bins is looking thin. I have a memory of ordering more, but I may have already burned through them.

So just how did all this misplacement occur, you ask? I took some time off, during which the living room and dining room were cleaned up with Robin taking care of the tools & supplies, and one of the dog got sick on/in the bag of commonly-used tools. At this point the only significant items actually missing (that I can think of . . . ) are the damn C-clamps. The rest of the stuff is just spread around locations A-E, and are being re-consolidated as I actually need it.

Anyhow, the end result of last night's work was two more pouches molded, a small soft pouch cut out of scrap from the stock for hard pouch fronts, and latches set on 11 soft pouches. Plus a bit of lacing done. This morning I looked at the significant piles of soft pouches waiting to be laced, and remarked that I probably should get some them actually *done* before doing further work on that pile of cut-out-only ones over there . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Missing Tools

And while I'm on the missing-tool subject, where the heck have the big C-clamps gone?!? We have 15, if not 20 of the things, so why is it that Robin could only find 9 on Saturday?

(Most of the hard pouch molds get 5 clamps, I know we've had 3 molds in use at once, and I want to say we've done 4 at once before).

I've looked around the living room and dining room, but since those have both been cleaned up in the recent past, I don't think the clamps are there. I suppose this means I have to brave the basement. I expect they're somewhere on the workshop side.

I'd really like to be able to mold more than one larger pouch and an iPouch (only takes 4 clamps) at a time. I've got leather casing for a third iPouch, but since I haven't even finished the prototype yet, and I'm not sure they'll actually *sell*, I don't want to go overboard making them. (although they're small enough they're damn near scrap-consumers). What I want to make is shields and the medium hard squares. I'm *out* of those. I have one shield molded and drying, and another piece of leather casing to mold tonight, but they're a consistently good seller, so I want more.

I don't think I've mentioned it before, molding is definitely the throttle-point in making hard pouches. I only have one mold of each style, and it takes about 48 hours of time on the mold for a pouch to be fully dry - if I take them off while still too damp, they'll shrink. And the leather needs to case for a good 6-12 hours before molding. "Casing" the leather before molding is wetting it down, then letting it sit in a zippy bag or Rubbermaid container that seals up tight, so the moisture level can even out throughout the leather, and the fibers soften up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

The particular synapses (finally) started firing again Saturday morning. I'm back at work at Otter Necessities!

I cut out about a dozen pouches, mostly soft ones, and have the majority to the point where they need the latches installed and to be laced together. Yes, that does sound like most of the work is yet to be done, but not really. In some ways there's more work involved in doing all the marking and punching of holes than in the final assembly. Lacing is something I do almost on auto-pilot, getting things to that point requires more thought.

Now that I've started doing further work on the pouches laid out with silver Sharpie, I realize that I should have done said silver marking on the back side of the leather. The solvents used in black and silver Sharpies are the same, so the black doesn't so much cover the silver as dilute it. Not a big, fat hairy deal, more a live and learn.

Working on pouches Saturday and Sunday was complicated by the fact that I had misplaced a bin of tools. A lot of tools, in a small bin. Saturday we searched high and low without success. Fortunately, I have another set of dividers, so I wasn't brought to a complete standstill. Yesterday I poked into a couple more places I thought it might be hiding. On the way upstairs to bed last night, I found the bin. On the stairs. Where it's been sitting for several weeks. In plain sight. We're all idiots.

This also means that I can continue with the two iPouches in the works, which are to be hand-stitched together - *all* the important hand-stitching setup tools were in the not-missing bin.

On a lesser idiocy front, a number of the pouches I cut out were from scrap, which Robin consolidated with some not-scrap when cleaning. But did I remember that I can run the pieces for the smallest soft pouch through the splitter, to make them thinner/softer? Nooooo, at least not until it was too late (all fiddly bits cut out and most holes punched - at which point they *might* go through the splitter ok, but they also might not, I'm not brave enough to find out if various holes, slots, and cutouts would tear out). Oops. This is what happens when you take extended time off.

Ron has made a set of beads that we think are good enough for sale, once they've been annealed (just need a kiln...). Half are doughnut-shaped, ivory with light-blue speckles. The other half are cylinders, light blue with ivory speckles. IIRC there's one more of one style than the other, so you can alternate them. Pictures forthcoming, hopefully.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tomorrow's Challenges

I thought that I'd mentioned that we did get space for the SCA event tomorrow. I took the "tentative" label off, but looking at older posts, I guess I didn't. Yes, we got space. One space. One 8' x 8' space. This ought to be . . . interesting.

I did finally get the belts inventoried and re-packed into a larger number of smaller bins. Bins which are not quite full, since I didn't re-pack everything. This means that I don't know if we can get everything in the truck. But since we are *only* taking belts and pouches (see previous paragraph), and maybe belt hardware, we may be able to do some on-the-fly repacking tonight. Not that driving both cars to the south side of Chicago would be a big fat hairy deal, but let's avoid it if we can.

Earlier this week Ron asked if we were taking Sprout tomorrow. "No room." was the essence of my reply.

"I thought we'd probably be taking both vehicles?"

"No space in our space!" Plus, the dogs will appreciate him staying home.

I can't say I'm super-enthused about tomorrow. I don't know why. Nor have I done any leatherworking in quite a while, except for a small fit of cutting out black leather a few days ago. I think it's because I work better under pressure, and even though the inventory of some pouch styles is sad, on the whole we've good. So I don't feel the pressure. Maybe once this event is over and I'm looking at Boar's Head approaching.

OOOh fire... oh, and glass

Well yesterday we picked up a starter glass bead kit and these are my first attempts, in order starting at the top left working across each row. Had to call my sister for advice on getting some of the more stubborn beads off the mandrel. Maybe I can play some more with fire and glass tonight, after we get the truck ready for the event tomorrow.

Maybe if I get good enough we might start selling beads.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yay for Silver Sharpies!

The first batch of pens I found at Hobby Lobby yielded a silver paint marker. It probably would have worked, but in the next aisle I found Sharpies in light colors and silver, and another brand of silver gel pens, all less expensive than the paint markers.

The very-fine-point peach Sharpie didn't show up on black. The gel pens show up, but are smear-prone. But the fine-point silver Sharpie 2-pack, those are the winners. As long as I remember not to bear down and smoosh the tip they're fine enough, don't smear, and not outrageously priced. I'll have to go back with black to cover the silver in some areas, but that's a fair tradeoff for being able to *SEE* my lines. I may check around for ultra-fine-point Sharpies in silver, but I won't be upset if I don't find any.

I am *such* an idiot

For the last mumble years I've been struggling, more or less, with soft black leather with a pebbled (textured) finish - it's murder to make markings on that show up. This morning I was having a particularly hard time, and kvetching about it. Sprout pointed out that Dick Blick has paint markers in colors like white and silver.

The absolute brilliance of this suggestion took a couple minutes to sink in, but now the leather is set aside until we take Sprout to karate and go to Hobby Lobby to see what they have.

BTW, we did get space for the Midrealm Coronation/40th Anniversary celebration next Saturday. Only one spot, so it'll be belts, and basic pouches.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Schedule Update

So, the only two things on the schedule are tentative. Here's why:

I've been seeing stuff about the Midrealm 40th year celebration and fall Coronation for a while, but either didn't process, or deliberately ignored it. Finally today I looked up the details, and found out that merchants will not be in Ida Noyes Hall (Grey Gargoyles' usual site) - Ida Noyes Hall is beautiful from a visual perspective, but I hate it for merchanting. We've had a bad string of luck there - street level parking requiring steps to get into the building because the ground-level parking was closed, bad room choices within the building, a tiny elevator that broke too often for my sanity. When we had a couple 24" by 48" tables and only one small cartload of bins, it was do-able. Not so any more. So I gave up. Midrealm 40th is in another building, with good access, it sounds like, and could be a very well-attended event, especially by non-locals. Unfortunately, it's also filled. But we're second on the wait-list.

It doesn't look like the Boar's Head merchant space is filled yet, sending off my paperwork tonight. It's a haul, but generally worth it.

Not on the schedule:
  • Fall Crown Tourney is in Peoria mid-October. 3 hours is pushing it for day-tripping.
  • All Souls, by Vanished Woods, is quite local, and even though its the weekend before WindyCon, would be doable given how close it is and only one day. But I bailed on it last year or the year before - merchants were in the basement with only a teeny-tiny elevator (I suppose it meets ADA requirements, if the weelchair-bound aren't claustrophobic!)

  • 12th Night, by Tree-Girt-Sea, January 16th. Irish-American Heritage Center, Chicago. IIRC the merchants are usually on the second floor, but the elevators are said to be trustworthy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fox Hunt Aftermath

Let's see, where was I . . .

Oh yes, Fox Hunt Recap, interrupted by eye infection. Back on meds for that.

On the way home, I had an attack of "What did we sell?" This happens when you sell a little bit of a lot of things - no big holes appear in the tables, nothing really impresses you as selling well that day, and the end result can be a (pleasant) surprise when you total up the numbers for the day.

I haven't done the books for Fox Hunt yet, but it appears that it was a little bit of many things - more pouches and belts that anything else (of course) but also a pair of bracers, a couple belt frogs, some alpaca, and several bits of hardware (more than usual, that one I did notice).

A bunch of people took Sharon's business cards, I expect a couple lace-knitting pattern sales to result in the next week or two - not from us, I always tell customers to buy directly from Sharon if they're going to be buying in the future.

Bins have been procured for repacking belts. Currently we have belts in three bins - the "One of Everything" bin, a bin of black, and a bin of brown. The problem is that we have so many styles, and three shades of brown, that finding things in the largish bins has become a royal pain. Sprout declared this at the dog show, and we decided the best solution would be to break the belts up into shallower bins (other merchandise can go on top), re-packing to be done at Fox Hunt, when we'd be into the belts anyway.

Well, that didn't quite happen. Sprout stayed home, we didn't take the big trailer, and I didn't feel like trying to get extra bins there and back in the truck. But Sunday afternoon we picked up a half-dozen of the shallower bins (I really should buy stock in Rubbermaid...), and we'll probably do the repacking this weekend, along with inventorying belts.

My inventory of pouches, etc. stays pretty accurate; last time I think there was only loss/gain of one or two pouches after mumble years when I compared what I really had to paper. But belts need that paper vs. reality check more often - at least once a year. And that means completely unloading all the belt bins, and physically checking hardware, sizes, and counting. Repacking all the belts is the sensible time to do so. Not to mention that I'm not sure when I last did so . . .

Hardware (rings, dees, and buckles used mostly on belts) also needs frequent inventory, but that stuff lives in the house, so its easier to do. But I probably should do another pass through that, since I should have some momentum built up from doing the belts.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fox Hunt Recap

Fox Hunt was a success for us. The day started out very slowly, but it picked up in the afternoon, and we did better than I'd hoped (and better than Ron had expected). Add to it only about an hour drive away, and definitely a good day.

Except I think the damn eye infection is back, off to call the doctor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Riveting Price Ruminations

This morning was The Sprout's first day of school for the year, so I waited around to make sure the bus really did show up (it did). And since that meant that I was running late anyway, I detoured over to The Leather Factory store for a stop-gap supply of copper rivets.

Yesterday I ordered three pounds of #9 rivets and burrs from Weaver Leather, at (rounding to whole dollars), $9/pound. At the Leather Factory I paid $10 for 50 1/2"-long #9 rivets with burrs. Cue sticker-shock. According to the postal scale at work, those 50 rivets & burrs weigh 5.5 ounces. Which works out to 145 rivets per pound, which number I used in the calcs below.

We could also use some more #12 copper rivets, which Weaver doesn't carry. So I was exercising my google-fu to find suppliers. I found who I think I bought them from last time, but they sell the burrs ($15 - I think for a half-pound) and rivets ($17/lb) separately, so let's go with what was an average price of a couple other places that sell rivets + burrs per pound.

So, from Weaver, for #9
  • $9/lb
  • $0.56/oz
  • 6 cents each.
from Leather Factory
  • $29/lb
  • $1.81/oz.,
  • 20 cents each
other suppliers/Weaver for #14
  • $20/lb
  • $1.25/oz.,
  • 14 cents each

Yeah, you might notice that I'm wantonly mixing the sizes there. The thing is, from most suppliers, the difference in price vs. size is small to non-existent. Not sure why Weaver has such good prices on #9s, I'm guessing that Weaver moves enough #9 copper rivets that they can buy them cheap.

Anyhoo, the most important thing for me to remember is DON'T BUY COPPER RIVETS FROM LEATHER FACTORY! And I get wholesale pricing at LF, which is generally substantially cheaper than their retail price.

BTW, #9 have a 0.161" diameter shaft, #12 are 0.137", #14 are about 0.1"

Monday, August 24, 2009

German Shepherd Dog Show

The show was not a rousing success. Not a failure, either, but not a rousing success. But lunch turned out to be free *and* good (homemade or good store-bought), the people were nice, the temperature was decent and there was a nice breeze through open windows at times (we were inside), it was close to home (Hanover Park), we only brought and set up a limited selection, and it wasn't a long day.

And, of course, there were dogs all over the place. It was primarily an obedience/training show, so they weren't all super-fussy groomed, and they all seemed friendly, too. I don't like that down at the back end stance that GSDs are supposed to have, but these dogs didn't seem to do it like some conformation-show dogs.

When Sprout was maybe 5-6 we went to a Siberian Husky show. We were standing by a ring watching obedience, he got tired of standing, and sat down on the floor. The nice little red-and-white bitch in the ring fixated on him, then did a right-angle turn and made a beeline for him. Oops...guess she needed a little more work. :)

Sprout didn't disrupt any of the obedience trials this time around, although I heard people saying a lot of dogs were doing poorly on the off-leash obedience stuff - not doing the jumps on the retrieves at the right time, running off to see someone on the sidelines, and one pup that was described as doing the transition from sitting in front of her handler to heel bass-ackwards, but very cute (I think that was one I watched - if so I agree on the cute!).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back to Work

Busy busy this afternoon - since I was cutting straps for leashes and collars for the dog show tomorrow, I also cut out belts. We didn't quite get them put together, but we've got another week for that.

I feel like we flailed around a lot and didn't actually accomplish as much as we could have today. But we did get leashes and collars done, and after dinner we packed the truck. And I found another side of black latigo, so I straightened out the edge and we'll throw that in to take with.

I was afraid I wasn't going to have enough hardware, but I found a stash of the buckles I use for 1" collars, and I had more swivels for leashes than I remembered. The big problem turned out to be rivets. We are dreadfully short on #9 copper rivets. Had I realized it early enough I could have run over to The Leather Factory store, but that didn't happen. Oh well, I can always sew things together.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Slump, Continued

Looks like I need to get to work, we've got the GSD Training Club show on Sunday, and we still haven't put together the leashes and collars for it. Guess that's Saturday's project. Sprout isn't generally enthused about going to events, but this one he is - but I know he just wants to flirt with the other puppies. :)

And, since we won't be distracted by DucKon any more (resigned from the ConCom last night), I see no reason not to do Fox Hunt next Saturday. Erm. I think we have enough merchandise.

Home today, recuperating from a late night last night and not enough sleep the last mumble days. Zzzzzz...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Looky looky! New Bloggy!

Since LJ's picture storage/uploading makes me crazy, and this blog is for Otter Necessities, I've started Yet Another Blog for general picture-posting. And here it is,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Aliiive!

Yes, Otter Necessities is still alive. Really.

Last night I cut out and got most of the lacing holes punched on a semi-custom pouch. That doesn't sound like much progress, I know, but to do so meant getting the tools out of the dining room, finding the tools in the bags, cleaning up honey that had dripped on things (I'm assuming it was honey - contact cement isn't generally water-soluable...), yadda yadda yadda.

Speaking of which, I need to get my knives over to my friedly neighborhood modelmaker and knife-sharpener, or soak the waterstones and get Ron to do sharpening.

I've also updated out the "Upcoming Events" section. The GSD show is tentative only in that I haven't gotten confirmation back yet (deadline for applications is 1 August, so I'm not expecting confirmation until after that)

Apropos of the of the GSD show, this morning I had grand visions of huge sales, and had mapped out what I'd need to order to supply myself for said sales. Then I started scribbling down prices, and looked at the budget, and did some more thinking and adding and subtracting, and throttled back. More thinking and scribbling. Throttle back some more. The show isn't until the 23rd, so I still have time to order more supplies.

Also ordered supplies for comb honey - the super is out on one of the hives, hopefully the girls have filled it, or are working away. Maybe this weekend we can defrost the freezer. Yes, that is a related point - it is sensible to freeze comb honey for a couple days, just in case wax moths have been in the hive and laid eggs. Freezing will kill them, so you don't have the little varmints hatching out and squicking out you, or worse yet, the customer. And you can never be 100% certain you don't have *any* wax moths lurking about, so it would be nice to have a little less frost and more usable space in the freezer.

One of the ideas for the GSD show, besides our usual leather leashes, was to get a roll of poly rope and the appropriate hardware and make rope leashes. It wouldn't be a big investment, but I'm wondering if they'd sell. The poly rope is braided, and should be softer than new leather. About the same price, though. And colorful - although we'd only be getting one roll. I liked tan with speckles of verious not-too-bright colors, Ron liked a nice bold black and red stripe (bands of red and black, not stripes down the length). Input?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Digression

Yeah, DucKon, particularly me doing Publications, kinda killed The Steampunk Project for a while. Must get back to work.

But first, a digression, since I can't get !@#$%^& to cooperate. Pictures of The Tree of Damocles:

The first one is a close-up of the power line and the half-tree. You can see why we're concerned, I think.

The second shot shows better how much of the tree is down - at least 30 ft., Ron suggested closer to 40 - the hives, the post for the dog cable (that silver cable running through the center of the shot), and the pine tree are about the center of our 60 ft wide yard, and the tree is within a couple feet of the fence.

The post for the dog cable is behind the hives, the tree ended up between that and the pine. It's not as tight a fit as it may look, there's some forshortening going on here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Color Opinions?

Progress progresses on the new website. Over the weekend I started putting in text, all but one of the hard and soft pouches is done, now. And Ron's been working on colors. Opinions?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More updates to website

Well actually to the new in development website. There are a lot of pictures on the new site now not much in the way of text but hey it's coming along. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pictures! We got pictures!

Friday (which Ron had off, lucky duck), Ron got the basic outline of the website laid out. He took a bunch of pictures Saturday afternoon and Sunday, while I rooted through merchandise bins and tried to be helpful, and then named the files once he brought them into Lightroom, cut things out of the background, and did whatever image-processing voodoo.

Last night we started getting the images onto the draft pages. I forgot to suggest that he go ahead and update the draft web site that's semi-available for perusal. Maybe tonight. I also need to talk to him about the belts page, I've had an idea. Not a particularly original one, granted, but it might work.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Website Preview

The beginnings of the new website are now available here. Most of the merchandise links in the menu are inactive, but the rest should be good. I think we've got the general organization worked out, the pages just have to be built.

This weekend: Photo orgy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Now that's odd

The LJ syndication feed of this blog has a bug, such that I can't reply to comments left via LJ. LJ refuses to believe I'm logged in to my LJ account, and won't let me log in concurrent with posting the response. (and thanks for the menu suggestion, mbcrui)

Very very strange.

Website Progress

Ron seems to be re-taking control of the website. When we first put it up, mumble years ago, he created it. A few years ago, I took over, converted things to use CSS, and re-did a bunch of stuff. Now he's the one poking at it with Dreamweaver. (actually, all iterations have been cooperative, it's who's messing with the code that I'm talking about)

We looked at getting away from frames for the side menu, but the tradeoff is having to add chunks of code to every page to include the menu. Given the increases in computer speeds, internet connections, etc., it looks like we're going to keep the frame(s). He's done a lot of invisible stuff, like rearranging where image files are stored, and increasing consistency of file names, which Dreamweaver's auto-updating makes painless. Tinkered with colors and font effects, and still considering a bigger color change. Corrected bugs in the code and typos that propogated themselves due to my inattention and re-using files. We've even deleted a couple things that (1) never seemed to generate on-line interest , and (2) are very likely to be going away in terms of live sales (for various reasons) too.

Which pretty much leaves us at the point where the next step is to start with gutting and major re-construction. The organization of the site, since we don't have on-line ordering, and are unlikely to implemet it, is more complex and/or sprawling than it needs to be. And some of the pictures really suck, Ron says. So, time to use the for-real photographic lights and light tent we got a couple-few months ago, get new pictures, let Ron do the Photoshop voodoo necessary for what we want, and re-build significant sections of the site.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Northshield Coronation

I don't think I mentioned previously, but I had some trepidation about yesterday's event, Northshield's spring Coronation. The merchant coordinator had said that we were downstairs, but she remembered a ground-level entrance. There was also some question if we'd have to be out by 4:30, or by 6.

The time question was a good answer, we had to be out by 6. On the other hand, "ground-level" entrance was . . . a bit of a misnomer. Down a couple ramps that I suspect do not quite meet ADA requirements, and then up two steps into the building. Although we had plenty of space, I decided we'd go with minimal merchandise - just belts, pouches, and frogs (which get packed into pouches). Lunch was served at the bar at one end of the room, which was probably a good thing, bringing more people down there.

It wasn't a bad event, really, but with geetting up before 5 am, and a 2.5-hour drive on each end made for a long day. Culver's pot roast dinner is probably good any time, but it's really really good when you're tired and hungry. We got home between 8 and 8:30.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Otter Migration

Although otters are not normally migratory beasties, has migrated to Any existing links should continue to work, although Dreamhost says it may take a couple/few days for the new DNS records to propagate out, but it was working from here within 15 minutes.

We've been on Zarquon for mumble years, but Ron was running into some small problems with Adobe Lightroom and some of the other Creative Suite apps, and elbow room. At least moving web hosts isn't as painful as moving house.

Personal stuff is/am/are/was/were/be/being/been moving to At this point all that pops up is a link to my silly Journal of Geek Studies page, I think Ron's still working on that. He's staying home tomorrow, so I expect that, and quite possibly the Otter Necessities pages, to go through some changes this weekend.

Sometimes I'm good, sometimes I'm an idiot . . .

Tuesday evening, since The Sprout's homework load precluded taking him to karate, I got the books caught up, after picking up a different book on Adobe InDesign on the way home. Wednesday I continued my fit of intelligence, and picked up "The Missing Manual" for Dreamweaver (the books I started with look like good references, but not so good for learning brand new and totally unfamiliar software), and last night I started watching video training on InDesign from

Ron, meanwhile, has been diving cheerfully into playing with Otter's website with Dreamweaver. This means that while he pokes at things, I scramble through assorted HTML, CSS, and Dreamweaver books trying to find the answers. On the one hand, I probably know as much or more HTML and CSS than he does, and I have a good idea what should be possible and vaguely how to do it. On the other hand, I have a long history of quickly finding exactly the right answer in software manuals for Ron, provided that I'm completely clueless on the subject. So looking for answers on a software subject I know is interesting.

On the Stoopid front, I'm beginning to question my sanity on going to the Northshield Coronation tomorrow. Site opens at 8 am. 2.5 hour travel time. The results of doing the math are Not Pretty. I'm still not sure if I'm taking Ron or The Sprout. Back to the smart side, though, I remembered not to trust Google Maps blindly, and now have a better route, which my Wisconsinite co-worker has concurred with.

Lessee, for tomorrow I have my directions, the event schedule (such as it is, the question if merchants need to be packed and out by 4:30 or 6 is still up in the air, AFAIK), tax rate, and the directions on how I plan to wrap my new sari. Oh, and I got new wiper blades for the truck this morning. I know where the receipt books, cash box, and price list are. I think all I need to do is pick up some cash tonight.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Half-Page Ad draft

Here is a .jpg (the .pdf doesn't suffer from fuzziness) of the half-page ad I came up with yesterday. Ron was busy with his computer, so I poked at Photoshop instead of InDesign. (We moved our licensed copy of Photoshop CS3 to my iFruit, since Ron's got CS4 on his machine now). Ron tweaked it for black-and-white, but i figured I'd post the color version here.

I tried to keep in mind the main messages of "The Non-Designer's Design Book", which can be summarized with the acronym CARP (yeah, I tent to flip the A and the R) for Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity, as well as advice such as that you should get rid of half the words, then get rid of some more.

As an example of the contrast item, I don't normally like serif fonts, but to get healthy contrast with the sans-serif font used for "tter Necessities", a serif font was the way to go. And whattya know, it actually looks good. Maybe those perfeshunals do know a thing or three. I invoked repetition to get rid of three different fonts for Modern, Steampunk, and Medieval, which I was guilty of using at first.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Successful Weekend

The Ayreton Carnivale on Saturday went well. I haven't totalled up all the numbers, but it was definitely worth the short and easy trip to Northbrook. We took both the truck and the Kia, so I was able to send Ron home about 4. He was getting stiff and sore, and the dogs appreciated being let out. By 5:30, when The Sprout and I were pulling out of the parking lot, the weather had turned truly disgusting. Getting home was uneventful, as was going out to dinner at Famous Dave's. Mmmm . . . meaty goodness . . .

I talked to a friend of the merchant coordinator for the Rose Tourney, and it sounds like I should be able to take the "tentative" label off of that one soon. I also talked to folks from Ravenslake who use the site regularly, and could answer my site question (single-story building, no stair/elevator issues).

Yesterday I finally did income taxes. First the Otter's, then ours. None of it was difficult, just pretty low on the fun and interesting scale.

I think I'm going to put an ad in the DucKon program book. We have Adobe InDesign (page layout software) installed as a trial version, with licensed media hopefully in the hands of FedEx by now, which I'm planning on using to do said program book, so I think I'll try using that to put the ad together.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A whole lot of . . . Nothing

It's been a quiet week, in which we've accomplished . . . not very much. I laid out the patterns for a new pouch for the Steampunk Project (based on this one - why re-engineer the wheel?), and I've downloaded some tax forms and exchanged a little e-mail with event organizers. Ron got a Gameboy DS last week, and has become one with it.

Tomorrow is the Ayreton Carnivale, an SCA event. "Ayreton" is the name for a proposed Barony over most of the NE Illinois groups, and the event is put on by the various branches as a group effort. This is the third or fourth year for it, IIRC. It has the advantage of being close, at Glenbrook North HS in Northbrook. I think last year's Carnivale was the last local-ish SCA event we did, come to think of it.

Next weekend is the SCA Kingdom of Northshield's spring coronation, which is 2.5-3 hours north. It's odd, we go north into Wisconsin fairly regularly, but don't go south or west in Illinois much at all. It may be a time/distance thing, either events are in the greater suburban area, DeKalb to Rockford-ish, all of which are within a couple hours; the next ring of events gets you get around Champaign/Urbana, Springfield, Peoria, and the Quad Cities, which gets into overnight drive times.

We used to be more willing to haul to overnight events, but there's several issues that have started limiting those:

1. Beds, electricity, and running water. Beds and electricity are comfort issues. Electricity for Ron's BiPap. We need to come up with a good portable power supply, most SCA sites don't have power.

2. Dogs. We liked doing Warriors and Warlords, but the sites for the last few years have prohibited dogs.

3. Money. Hotels and dog boarding cost it.

4. Gas prices (see also #3.)

5. Victims of our own success. Once upon a time, we could squish the three of us, camping gear, merchandise, etc. in/on one vehicle. Now we have to haul the trailer if we're camping. See #5.

I sometimes wonder if we should actually cut down on our merchandise, but I can't think of anything substantial that would be sensible to cut out. More stuff = more choices = better sales.

Hmm. For a week of not much accomplished, I found a bunch to natter on about, eh?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Event List Updated

There we go, the list of upcoming events has been updated. The "Tentative" label means that we want to do the events, but we're not confirmed. In one case because I need to pick up the phone and call the right person . . .

We're skipping DucKon this year. Our sales last year were down from the year before, and that was before the economy tanked. But I will be putting at least one dressmaker's dummy worth of Steampunk Project goodies into the Art Show.

The next event is this coming Saturday, in Northbrook. It kind of snuck up on us, and Ron just had The Sprout unload the truck yesterday. Oops.

Pouch w/ Brass Hardware

After correcting the length issue on the body of this pouch Saturday night, I spent most of yesterday rebuilding the brakes on my motorcycle and a trip to the zoo.

After all that, I spent the evening re-stitching the seam up the back of the pouch, then stitching on the bottom. At this point I discovered that the inner layer on the top was a hair too large and was trying to force the top lip out. So with some careful trimming I got the inner layer of the flap to fit, mostly.

For the hinges it was possible to use brass rivets, but for the latches I ended up using small copper rivets.

I think the next time I do a pouch with brass hardware I will base the pouch on a square or rectangle, I think that will be easier to get everything to line up.

All in all I am pleased with the final results, but I don't think this will become a standard pouch for future production. Maybe one based on a square but no guarantee.

Never did get around to waxing the pouch fronts for Liana... Better get to it before I get in trouble, maybe tonight or later this week.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Steampunk ProgresS!

Finally, some real progress. Typically for a Saturday, we did a bunch of running around, and the guys went to a 7:45 show of "Watchmen," but we did get work done on The Steampunk Project.

Ron worked on his current pouch, and discovered that I'd made an error in cutting the main body. Fortunately, in the direction of too large rather than too small, so it could be corrected instead of replaced. I finished the wallet. I'm still perturbed about the ink spot, but we will get pictures.

This morning, while the guys were working on Ron's motorcycle's front brakes, I started cutting out parts for the Sam Browne belt and another project. After surveying the disaster that is the living room and the warm-ish sunny weather outside, I decided to move cutting operations to the back porch. Eowyn supervised. Or napped. I suspect the latter.

Hopefully Ron will get pouches waxed this afternoon. If so, that will leave me with 4 projects in progress. Nah, I'm not ambitious, just a little crazy (and when working with large pieces of leather, it's worthwhile to do a bunch of cutting at once).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Marginal Progress

I've got the wallet almost done, really I do. I have just one little loop to sew on. I got discouraged when I found a pen mark on one flap. On the one hand, if put into everyday use as a wallet, it's going to (mentally) fade into nothingness compared to general wear and whatnot, but it sure *BUGS* me.

The Sam Browne belt is also at an almost-standstill. I printed out the patterns for the various bits last night, realized I hadn't made the dee holder long enough in one section to actually hold a dee, re-designed another part, then this morning decided that I didn't like *that* shape, either. Hopefully tonight I'll get to cutting.

OTOH, I did cut out another pouch for Ron to work on. It involves hardware purchased from Woodcraft and Rockler woodworking stores. I realized after cutting and marking that I'd made one error, but it's a minor one, in a place that will be invisible on completion, and Ron has already been alerted to the needed correction.

And I really should get the books updated to reflect sales at the Capricon and the craft show.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Steampunk Research

Shortly after Capricon I found out that "Make" magazine was doing a Steampunk-themed issue, so we picked up a copy. Yeah, it's probably a good thing we've been avoiding "Make" up until now. So many cool things to make, like we need more hobbies.

On that same front, we realized we didn't have the "Wild Wild West" movie with Will Smith, Kevin Kline, and Kenneth Branagh. So we had to pick that up for research purposes, right? I simply love Branagh as Dr. Loveless, gnawing on the funiture and walls. I know some people don't like the film, and don't think it's faithful enough to the series, but I like it.

We also got the first season of the original TV series. So much (campy) fun, and Robert Conrad in his tight pants and bolero jacket isn't hard on the eyes, either. I think The Sprout is enjoying it (the show, not Robert Conrad's outfits), too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wallet and Other Progress

Here's an in-progress shot of the wallet I'm working on. It's ready to have the pockets sewn in at this point.

My original plan was to make it out of havana-colored harness leather, like the lower pocket. Harness leather that is much thicker than you'd ever consider for a wallet. Now, just before I started working on the wallet, we'd split some dark red-brown harness leather down for a pouch. We got the small pocket split down. But we couldn't get the larger pieces to split. Ron checked the adjustment of the splitter blade, tried again, took the blade out, honed it, I made sure the feed rollers we cleaned, re-assembled and re-adjusted and . . . no good. A wide piece of that particular leather just wasn't going to go, so plan B was different leather that was already the appropriate thickness.

Scratch "appropriate thickness" and make it the thickness called for in the pattern. It's really really thin. This won't be a wallet you'd carry around in your back pocket all the time (which Ron could use, his old one is starting to fall apart), this is one a gentleman would carry around in his lapel pocket. Version two will probably be thicker. And Ron suggests making one to the original pattern size, which is significantly bigger.

All the messing about with the splitter meant that the pouch fronts didn't get waxed after all. Oh well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Done! It's Done!

Well, It is finished. All it needs is either a CS or US Plate on the front and it could be used for Civil War re-creation garb. Or any other plate for any other garb.

The edge tool was a bit tricky to use around the curves on the flap but it looks better with it I think.

And I was wrong it was closer to 3.5 hours to finish.

Black Cartridge pouch

Friday Liana cut out the parts for a black cartridge pouch. This is as far as I got after around 4 hours of hand stitching. All that is left to do is to sew up the two sides of the pouch. That should take around 2-3 more hours.

Oh, I also have to cut the ends of the shoulder strap so that the will fit into the buckles, and tip the strap that holds it closed. I knew there was something I was forgetting.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I'll take "Print Scaling" for $500, please, Alex

Turns out my wallet pattern was too small because of a print scaling issue. I printed my test-pattern from a .pdf over an on-line printing service at the hotel, and either missed, or wasn't presented with, the chance to check for print scaling. I did have one section that needed to be lengthened, as I'd suspected. I'd missed a half-inch. All fixed. There's a couple locations that I'll determine once I have the real leather in front of me, but I'm ready to cut out. Ron has kindly volunteered to take custody of the prototype.

The plan for tonight is to get either pizza or chinese delivered and cut out stuff. Ron didn't get around to cutting out a black cartridge case, I'm ready to go on the wallet, and I have two brand-new hard pouch styles on the molds that need backs. Ron can run pieces through the splitter (before or after cutting, as appropriate), and maybe even wax the hard pouches. Just the wallet and cartridge case should enough to keep us busy at the craft show tomorrow. Experience shows that customers like to see you working on things.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wallet Test-Run

I printed out my wallet pattern last night on my hotel's glacially-slow, but free, and free as good, printer. Found tape, but no scissors, so the back of my pad of paper is scored up from using my pocketknife.

Looks like it needs to be wider. I haven't double-checked bill, intended,as-drawn, and as-printed sizes yet (waiting to get home to a ruler >6" long) to see what happened. One other bit needs to be lengthened,also. But I think they should be a reasonably straightforward set of revisions. CAD is good.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another pouch

This is the pouch that Lon started, and mostly finished. It's got stiff side panels, and is made pretty much like the cartridge pouch, although its simpler, without the extra pocket or inside flap, and just has belt loops. I finished sewing the last couple inches of one side and put the strap on.

Wandering Muses

I have discovered & signed onto U of I public Wi-Fi - in Champaign for a floodplain manager's conference for the pesky day job. Chat seems to be inoperative, but at least I can check e-mail. (Schmoozing between sessions is definitely Not My Thing) And blog, obviously, although both the on-screen and hardware keyboards force hunt & peck, which is frustratingly slow for a 10-fingered (if not particularly good) typist. Also more buggy

Last night after getting to my hotel I amused myself by converting a Civil War-era wallet pattern to modern-size currency. In another "what we do before Wikipedia?" moment, it was eased by finding the old and modern currency sizes. I'll probably take advantage of my hotel's apparently free printing service (and hopefully find a pair off scissors) and do a test-run in paper. The pattern I was working from calls for fairly light leather, which makes a paper test more viable.

Apropos of my parenthetical comment above on schmoozing and speakers in past years, I expect to get a lot of doodling done today and tomorrow. Hopefully useful and/or productive.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Last night Ron was (Google) chatting with a friend of ours, Modelmaker, who mentioned that he'd gotten into the Palatine High School Spring Craft Fair that is being held on Saturday to sell his pens and goodies. I'd tried to get into the holiday one, but never got a response to my e-mail. Modelmaker said that the spring event is run by a different committee, and they'd been getting a lot of complaints about the other one. And he gave me contact information for the organizer.

I figured they were full up at this point, but no harm in calling. Well, it turns out that they did still have space in our category (not sure exactly what categories they have, we're probably one of the oddballs...). The directory is going to the printer today, could I print out the application and drop it off with the check for the fees? Oh, yeah, you betcha! So that's the plan for Saturday. Shopping hours are 9 am - 4 pm. Linky in the "upcoming events" section Ron added over there on the left.

OTOH, I got some unpleasant news last night in my credit card account statement. I've had the account to accept credit cards for a bit less than a year now, and it's not paying for itself . But worse yet, the statement said they were implementing a new fee of $99 a year to pay for the new credit card security program implemented by the big 4. Oh, plus percentage rate increases and a new 5-cent per-transaction fee. Well, bang goes credit cards.

Ok, CC security is a big deal. I can live with the new rates and the per-transaction fee as they read as covering the new security hoo-ha, and might live with the $99 if it was a one-time startup thing, but not yearly. I called the clearance company, who says this fee is coming from the CC companies. The rep was feigning stupidity (NO, spreading out the fee over X months does not make it any less of a money drain, idiot!) and I finally allowed him to talk me into not cancelling the account yet, since they aren't charging me yet.

But doing some research this morning, I'm questioning if the fee is really coming from the CC companies. I have hopefully set my actual bank to work on the question.

Yet another new belt pouch

Well after re-making the "wrist-rocket bracer" I wanted to make a rather simple pouch. This is what I came up with.

The body is around 3 in. high 6 wide and 2 deep, all hand stitched. After getting the main body stitched on I was trying to decide the way in which the closure would work my thought was using a Y tab. Lo and behold the next day Liana suggested a Y tab with a single stud for closure. So last night she laid out and cut a closure for it.

I did the two sets of stitching to hold the Y in place thus finishing it a short bit ago.

Maybe now I'll get around to cutting out the Cartridge pouch in black this week. Fun part is I get to cut it out... normally Liana does all the cutting. In the past I have proved that I am dangerous with head knives.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bits of Progress

It turned out that I didn't make much design progress yesterday after all. OTOH, the pouch I'm working on is just about sewn up. I also drew a pouch pattern for Ron (from a sketch with dimensions, so it was fairly quick & easy), and then cut it out. He's probably finished sewing that one up by now. Which reminds me, I need to let him know I have an idea for holding it shut . . .

Ran up to The Leather Factory today, for yet more hardware, a couple tools, a kit, and a set of motorcycle patterns. A friend of ours wants a handlebar bag for his motorcycle, and it turned out LF had a kit for an appropriate bag on sale. The patterns are also motorcycle accessories. Motorcycle stuff has never been particularly interesting in general, with my deep love for black and fringe, but we'll happily make things for friends.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


When we unrolled the new havana brown leather yesterday, I thought I had a problem with making a Sam Browne belt from it. Fortunately, after a couple-few hours of mulling it over, I came up with a solution. Not a revolutionary or even novel solution, but that's ok. It even has the capacity for solving another small quandry I had for the project.

Now to work out the little details, and lay out the pattern for another pouch Ron wants to make.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I can has supplies!

The leather and hardware I ordered arrived on Wednesday and Thursday. In a great case of irony, the rivet-back studs I ordered from Weaver Leather are from Tandy/Leather Factory. I need to check my catalogs and see which is charging me more. I did place yet another order (from another supplier) on Thursday for a wider edge creaser than the one I got Wednesday, black linen hand-sewing thread, and blades for another tool. But at this point I'm good to go on more work on The Steampunk Project.

Today's task, designing all the bits for a Sam Browne belt. There's no reason I couldn't have started before I got the hardware, as I had a pretty good idea of sizes, it's been more of a Round Tuit thing. I've decided to hold off on the map case until I get the belt figured out, so I can do more with matching strap ends, etc.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cartridge Pouch

This pouch was made from (gasp!) Someone Else's pattern. How very very odd, we almost always make up our own. It's based on a Confederate piece from the Civil War. The outer flap calls out for something, the picture on the pattern shows a metal CS plate there. The original was dyed black, but as a possible part of the Steampunk Project, that went out the window.

It has both belt loops and a shoulder strap, The Otter Pup is shown modelling it here using both.

Here is what the back of the thing looks like with the shoulder strap and the belt threaded through the appropriate loops.

The original design called for a standard buckle that has no form of a keeper. I substituted a center bar buckle which forces the tails of the shoulder strap to point forward, which tends to interfere with the flap. If I make another I think I will use the standard buckle that it called for.

I think that on the next one I will make the belt loops wider that way it will be more stable if the shoulder strap isn't used.

It also has an inside pocket and inner flap. Altogether, it's a fairly hefty little pouch, so the provision for the shoulder strap makes sense.

On this one I pre-punched all the stitch holes before assembly.
I think this weekend I'll start a version in all black for sale. This time I think I will skip pre-punching the holes for the side walls, I'll just punch them as I go. Other than that, pre-punching the rest should make it easier to do the assembly.

But before that I have a wrist-rocket bracer to re-do...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Steampunk Project Prototype Pictures

As I mentioned yesterday, we made pouches and shell holders over the weekend, and now I have pictures. Aaah, yes, you can click on them to see the larger versions, and I think I've managed to get the thumbnails mostly to scale with one another.

First we have a better one of the wrist-rocket setup that we made last week. I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the shells was in crooked (surprising, given how snug the loops are). As you can see here, they really do line up nicely, and point in the same direction.

Next is the little square-ish pouch I made on Saturday. It has a soft gusset, and was supposed to have a somewhat rounded flap that matched the shape of the bottom front. I'd cut the flap long, in case I hadn't made it long enough on paper (I hadn't), which ended up being to the edge of the leather. I decided the uneven edge looked good, so I left it.

Sunday's pouch, another one with a soft gusset, is slightly larger. I'm not sure what happened to make the strap holding it shut go crooked, although I have some suspicions. That bugs me, as do some stitching problems that nobody else is probably seeing.

These are the shell holders Ron made. I can't think of much to say about them other than that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Introduction to The Steampunk Project

Design Considerations:
The color scheme for the Steampunk Project is browns, with brass hardware. Now, part if this is a bit because I get tired of black, but mostly because it just seems to be what the look needs. I'm aiming for late Victorian, definitely British influence. Kind of a mythical idealized Raj look. Yeah, I'm a Kipling fan, guilty guilty guilty.

I don't envision much, if any, lacing in the project, although I won't rule it out.

Supply Requisiton:
Friday I placed an order with one of our suppliers for hardware for the Steampunk Project (and for black leather for belts). Friday night we hit Cabela's and we picked up empty brass cartridges in a couple sizes in the Bargain Cave.

Saturday morning we ran out to The Leather Factory store and picked up a pattern for a Civil-War era belt pouch/shoulder bag. I don't see it on their web site, I suspect it's something the local store manager has decided to carry on his own (which is one of the reasons I like him). I then decided to heck with patterns and the books I've been going through all week, I'd do things my own way.

It later turned out that t
he weekend projects alone put quite a dent in our supply of havana (dark brown) harness leather, so Monday morning I was on the phone ordering more havana, and more hardware - I'd only ordered enough for part of the project, upon reflection.

Over the course of the weekend I produced two prototype pouches, and Ron produced two shell holders. Ron got pictures (in our new light tent), but AFAIK hasn't posted them yet. I decided my next project would be a map case, and Ron decided on doing the bag I referred to above.

And if that wasn't enough, Ron and The Sprout made two new pouch molds on Sunday. One is for the Steampunk Project, the other isn't.

Last night I cut out the bag Ron's currently working on. The body is russet (very light tan) harness leather, with havana sides, pockets, etc. I also finished laying out another belt pouch, I may cut that out tonight since I'm on hold on the map case until I get the leather I ordered yesterday. I ordered bright and early, and I've had shipments arrive the next day in the past, but I'm not holding my breath.

Ooooh, Shiny New Blog!

Welcome to the Otter Necessities blog. After a couple weeks of experimentation on my personal blog, I've decided that I really can generate enough vacuous babbl . . . er . . . content to support this as a freestanding blog.

Why blogger/blogspot? Memory, or simplicity thereof. It's part of the Google Corporate Conglomeration, so I don't have to remember another password. Yeah, shallow it is.