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.