Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Weekend Accomplishments

I got things done this weekend! Yay! 

Friday I declared myself insufficiently motivated to leave the house, so I stayed home and plugged away on the books. I got all the purchases/receipts I had in the main stack-o-paperwork sorted and into the books, including scanning several that are on the thermal paper that fades. Realized I'm missing the receipt for Thing2, and probably a couple/few other things, but I have ideas on where to look. 

Friday afternoon/evening I cut out black leather belt satchels and sporrans. I now have just shy of 20 soft leather satchels/pouches cut out.

Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday were spent on things like watching the first three episodes of "Wallender", grocery shopping, other shopping that one might or might not define as Christmas shopping, playing music, and lazy slug-liness. 

Monday and Tuesday - yes, I worked on Otter stuff on Christmas day - Ron waxed a half-dozen pouch fronts, I cut out 7 backs and flaps to make those hard pouch fronts and another one hanging pouches. Then we got the flaps marked and punched for lacing up. 

The steps in putting together a hanging pouch with a hard front are, roughly:
  • Cut out all the bits and pieces
  • Do all the fiddly bits on the flap and lace around the flap
  • Sew flap and belt loops onto back
  • Glue fronts onto backs and do fiddly bits
  • Peel front off of back and do other fiddly bits
  • Lace front onto back
Hmm. It must have been Monday that I cut a couple/few bellies and other odd bits of leather down into piles of:
  • Belt loops
  • Straps for sporran-hanging dees
  • Rolled-edge bindings
Meanwhile, Ron and Robin made Chex Mix and Muddy Buddies. Yum. 

The nice thing is making all those pieces reduced the surplus population of leather in the dining room. I actually found a chunk of FLOOR!

In addition to all that, yesterday we went to say Les Miserables and with much assistance from Robin I made a turkey dinner with all the stereotypically Thanksgiving-ish trimmings, with the substitution of steamed pudding for pumpkin pies. 

Not surprisingly, in 20-20 hindsight, I was a zombie by bedtime last night. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pouches Pouches Pouches!

Yesterday morning we went to The Leather Factory for . . . wait for it . . . leather. Whodathunkit? I'd gotten a flyer that listed, among others, vegetable tanned leather, about the right weight for hard pouch fronts, which we need.

They didn't have any, but the manager said he'd sell me some other leather, a bit heavier than what was on sale but the weight I prefer, for the same price. I took two sides (half-cows).

Then the people unpacking a new shipment dumped two boxes of new stuff into the "scrap" bin. A bunch of it followed me home. All heavy garment/upholstery weight.

I cut out pouches today. A whole bunch of pouches.

I started out with fronts for hard pouches, 14 of them. Three of them were thoroughly wet down and are now casing, prior to molding. We'll probably do that after dinner. That pretty much used up one of the two sides we got yesterday.

Then I started in on the soft leather.

Out of a nice dark burgundy with what looks like shiny water spots I got a satchel, a belt satchel, a sporran, and a small tabbed pouch. I was a bit surprised to get that much out of that leather, and still have some left. I think they'll look best trimmed in black.

I cut one belt satchel out of an off-white/pale flesh color, but I have a bunch of that left. I think I'll trim those in chestnut (red brown), which looked nice on some other light-colored leather I made small tabbed pouches out of.

A sporran, belt satchel, and small tabbed pouch out of a pretty dark teal. Not sure what color to trim that in, probably black.

And out of a bit thicker medium brown, a sporran and a small tabbed soft pouch. I think I'll trim them in havana (dark brown).

Then I moved on to some bright blue I got about a year ago. Out of that I got a satchel, a belt satchel, a sporran, and parts for two small tabbed pouches. The bigger pouches are all blue, and I'll probably trim them with black. The small tabbed pouches will be blue and black. One is blue except for the gusset, the other just has a blue front. That one is done now and goes out in the mail tomorrow, it was ordered at Boar's Head.

I still need to cut out some black belt satchels and another sporran or few, but I decided that I'd done enough already. Or maybe I'll do some more after dinner.

Ron's been honing the big blade for the splitter. I've been having some trouble splitting things (thickness-wise) lately, and assumed it was because the blade was dull. Ron says it wasn't too bad, so it may also have needed adjustment, which will essentially happen when he puts it back in.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Logistics Considerations

I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but a while back we unearthed some old nylon tie-down straps that used to be used to try to keep rolls of leather in concrete form tubes under control, prior
to building the carts that now do a much better job. Some of the straps had good ratcheting tie-downs, and some had crummy cam locks. Meanwhile, the adjustable-length bungee straps we got to use in the trailer were proving to be less than stellar performers. Ron was also looking for a way to keep tables and gridwall from sliding off of Thing 1 when moving in and out of buildings for setup and teardown.

To that end, I found that I could buy just the ratchet mechanism from the supplier where I was ordering more e-track to put in the trailer, and got some. Friday night Ron replaced the cam locks on the old straps with the good ratchets, and we tried them out at Boar's Head.

Not a fail, but not a resounding success, either. The bit of strap connecting the ratchet and a hook turns out to be too short to use easily for tying things to Thing 1 and Thing 2. And the straps are
waaaayyyy long for use it tying up the gridwall. Some of the straps are also lighter weight/thinner than others, and had an annoying tendency to fold in the ratchet.

I looked at suppliers Sunday morning, and the plan is to buy a 50-yard roll of nylon strap that should be on the thicker and stiffer side, and maybe a couple more ratchets. Once we get them we'll re-build with the better strapping, making long tie-down sets for tying things to the Things, and shorter sets for tying the gridwall, chairs, and other stuff in place in the trailer.

In our copious spare time.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Space Planning Natter

Heard back from Military History Fest. They could give me an end cap of three 8' tables in a U, which is about a 9' x 9' space.

Erg. Hmm.

First thought: I could probably better work with a straight run of three tables.

Next thought: Wait, what, three 8' tables (which I assume to be 30 inches, which equals 2-1/2 feet wide) in a U in a 9' by 9' space? My engineer brain ground off a couple gear teeth.

Recovered, decided that pondering exactly how that was to be achieved was not helpful.

Further thought: Could I get a fourth table, so that I'm back-to-back with myself, essentially?

customer aisle
table table
vendor chair space
table table
customer aisle

Turns out it is possible. So that's what we're going with, and now I'm working on 16' x 9' layouts. Which is proving a bit challenging, but better than anything tried with three-table spaces.

First thought was a walk-through booth-type setup, but its looking more like it will only be open on one side. But I've got a month and a half to figure it out, and even if I do come up with a plan we all like on paper, it may go out the door when the rubber hits the road. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2013 Schedule Thoughts

I've been exercising my Google-Fu looking for possible events to go to in 2013.

For SCA events I'm early, except for the bigger ones like Boar's Head, Maidens, and Val Day. But for conventions this isn't too early to be planning.

Probably won't do Tree-Girt-Sea's annual 12th Night event again. New site, but still in the City of Chicago, which can be a challenge with the trailer, especially parking. Plus its the week before Maidens. Two weeks after Maidens is Military History Fest, and then the weekend after that is Capricon, where Xap and Ron are running the cafe, I'm cafe staff, and MuseCon is sponsoring the cafe. Kind of a death march month.

At the end of February is the Ayreton Carnivale, just down the road in Des Plaines. Not sure when it became a dance event, IIRC we didn't go this year, though. In any case, its close enough that we'll likely go.

CodCon has only a skeleton website, but it appears it will be 19-21 April. CodCon is a gaming convention, and last year we did pretty well, thanks to a healthy anime/cosplay contingent. Definitely want to do it again, so today I e-mailed the College of DuPage SF club's advisor asking to get information when its available.

May 4th is the Midrealm spring coronation, somewhere in the Ayreton, and then on the 11th is the Northshield Crown Tourney, in Stoughton, WI. At the end of May is WisCon. I don't think we'd do well at WisCon, and then there's the whole question of taking the Things, Grinch, etc. up to the second floor on the elevators. But I suspect we'll go and throw a MuseCon party again.

Border Skirmish is June 7-9th, but we did poorly at it this year, I think mostly because of location location location. Hopefully it'll be laid out differently this year, which would probably get me to try again - it wasn't a bad event in the past. Then at the end of June (29th) is Ragnarok Rampage, now subtitled Baroness Wars. Looks like Ayreton will be co-sponsoring with Carraig Ban, which hopefully will increase Ayreton attendance (which seemed lacking this year).

MuseCon, 2-4 August, a convention celebrating CREATIVITY! (shameless plug!) eats July, of course. That's what happens when the family wears a bunch of hats in running it. And that's about Pennsic time, which means the local-ish SCA calendars go fairly blank, too.

Scattered around all the likely events are a bunch of anime and general SF-ish cons in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and I think even a couple in Iowa that I found. We probably won't do most of them, but I think we should look into some of them. The problem is that even if the vendor space rates are reasonable, they're all far enough away that they'd require hotel stays, which eat into the profits.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Space Planning

I haven't gotten any of our summer 10' x 20' layouts drawn up yet, had trouble remembering where things were.

On the other hand, I did take a crack at a layout for Military History Fest, and ran into some possible issues. I requested three 8' tables. That's all the space information that was available. I understand that - when we were running the DucKon dealer's room, not all the spaces were neat X' by Y' boxes. However, we had pretty strict (self-imposed) guidelines on how much behind-the-table space to allow.

Looking at pictures from last year's MHF, some of the back-to-back runs of tables look awfully close. Like I could pass by the other person's chair, but not much more space. Erg. Other vendors look to be set up in 3-table squares, but some look rather tight. Erg again.

I've just sent e-mail asking about what kind of spaces I might expect to encounter for setup, with a question if there's any booth-type space options possible. I sent along a PDF of the Boar's Head layout (which is less fuzzy than the JPEG), explaining that I need to be able to open the drawers on The Grinch and those quarter-circles are my belt racks.

Hopefully I struck the right note of "I don't want to be a pain, but I'd like a space I can set up in).

Space for Maidens is also a question, in a different room than last year.

I hope 2013 doesn't turn out to be too "interesting" . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

Boar's Head Report, Round Two

Ok, let's try this again, now that my brain is (hopefully) somewhat more functional.


First up, I'm going to re-post the drawing of Saturday's layout.

The one in yesterday's post was posted from my iPad, from the photo gallery on my iPad, and I noticed it was a little fuzzy. This one was sent to my Picasa web albums, and posted to here from Picasa, and I'm hoping it will be clearer if you click to embiggen.  Assume north is to the front, although it could have actually been any direction. As you probably have deduced, the larger/bolder grid squares are 1'.

If you can't click to embiggen, here's a link to the image at my Picasa web album:

We were up against a building wall to the south. We had neighbors to the east and west. The black lines around Thing 1 are the gridwall. It looks like there was a lot of dead space south of Thing 1 and the run southern display of belts, but it didn't feel like that much. 

As I said, there was some flail involved in setup. Part of it was feeling intimidated because we had lots of stuff to fit into the space, and the last few events we've been able to spread out for one reason or another, and Saturday we couldn't. 

Finally, we typically set up with tables and such across the front, or in a shallow U pointing out, and we sit behind. The open plan was a change, and I think we all had to wrap our heads around it. I don't think this being Thing 2's first outing really made a difference to setup, as it's the same footprint (just a little taller than) one of the 4' tables we've been using.

Why did I draw the setup out? In part because it worked out pretty well, and I actually wanted to remember this one for future reference. Secondly, Ron and I were discussing if we could have substituted in a 6' table for the 4' one in the center front (east west location approximate, but it was pretty much across from The Grinch). Ron, Xap, and I all agree that the answer to that question is "No, that extra foot taken out of the two openings would restrict traffic flow too much".

A small digression on naming: The big green tool chest that we use for a belt and hardware road case is now The Grinch. Thank you to Xap for the name.
It would also give us 6" less space for us between the table and The Grinch. Not shown here is the chair kind of tucked partway in the space between The Grinch and the gridwall, and the small table we had set up in the space between The Grinch and the front table.  

Sometime today I want to draw out how we had things set up at the last outdoor event, which was also a 10' x 20' space. 

Sales, etc.

Sales were good. We think we got a lot of new-member sales, and newbies almost always want a pouch to keep things on, which means a belt to wear the pouch on. 

We sold twice as many tails at Boar's Head as we did at Maneki Neko Con (the anime convention). A little mind-boggly at first thought. Hmm . . . number crunchy . . . we had roughly 2.5 times the sales at Boar's Head as at Maneki Neko, so apparently tails are roughly equally popular between SCA and anime fans. In any case, I need to order more tails, In two events we're down to half of what we started with.

There were times, especially in the morning, when all three of us were keeping busy with customers. And there was a stretch in the afternoon that was pretty quiet, which was good because it allowed Ron to go get a short nap. Having the driver awake for the ride home is always a Good Thing. 

During the day Ron finished the last two quivers. After lunch we put the shoulder straps on two leather satchels, and I finished up the three partially-completed pouches I'd brought.

Didn't sell any quivers, but I expect they'll go better at events with archery going on. Also didn't sell any drawstring bags. I'd made some more small ones, which explains it - new stuff likes to hang out for at least one event.

Only sold one of the disinterred musical instruments, a tin whistle. Need to remember when people ask prices that we're open to negotiation on them. 

Did not sell any jingle bells or the fabric satchels with definitely-Christmas teddy bears or kinda-winter-seasonal frolicking penguins, drat. 

Teardown and Sunday

More flail. We were all definitely tired by that point. Intimidated by having to pack up a bunch of new stuff: a bin of instruments, new pouches, and four new quivers. And I at least was actually overwhelmed by the addition of more packing space in Thing 2. 

Ron and Xap packed up the gridwall and everything on Thing 2, and Ron packed up the stringy bits (which mostly go into the ammo cans in the bottom of Thing 2 and instruments while I flailed around with pouches. I didn't do as thorough a job of nesting things in things as I normally do, and I know at the end I was throwing things into Thing 2 fairly higgeldy-piggeldy.

On the other hand, the bin that had held the new pouches, the bin that had held instruments, and another bin of pouches we'd brought inside to photograph and had been forgotten for a couple-few events all went home empty (-ish, one did get used to hold garb and the bags the garb came in), and odds and ends of the fourth bin also were packed into Things 1 and 2. So packing didn't go too badly. 

And Sunday I went through the last bin, which is stuff that comes in the house between events, and evicted a bunch of junk that had accumulated. So we came out ahead.

We were pretty much zombies yesterday, although I did get the bins sorted and Saturday's sales into the books.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Boar's Head Report

Stayed home Friday, because, well, I'd goofed off pretty much all week.

I spent the morning working on the books, catching up recording sales from the September events. Don't ask about purchases.

After lunch I ran Robin to Games Plus, then came home and worked on updating inventory to reflect all the new stuff we'd made (or had fairly far along).

Ron came home early afternoon, so he could hitch up the trailer and pull it out while there was still daylight. Then he helped with inventory, mostly in the way of providing moral support.

Got tools and other stuff together, and also got a pounding sinus headache, blech.

Xap came over in the evening, and tried out the new cot overnight.

Up at 4:30 am, on the road before 6, arrived before 8, when the site opened to merchants.

Setup was fairly flailing. For some reason we had issues deciding how to set up, but finally got it. We weren't as fast as normal, but not too bad. Part of the problem was that we have a *lot* of stuff, and added musical instruments back in - Ron decided we should try selling off the odds and ends we had left.

Sales were good. It seemed like we sold a lot more belts than pouches, and a large number of the sales were credit card. To demonstrate that impressions can be misleading, we sold something like 7 belts and 11 pouches, and about a third of the sales were credit card. But belt sales were definitely up from some of the events the last year.

It was a good day, definitely worth the trip.

Lunch was delicious. We all got meat pies. Yum yum. For dessert we got lemon bars, torte bars, and gooey caramel brownies - one of each, split each in thirds, which was still a reasonable helping of each.

Teardown was more flail. We'd all woken up about 2:30 am, and I was the only one to go back to sleep afterwards, which I think is most of the explanation. Also added was the derangement of the normal "pack everything in as tight as possible" by the presence of Thing 2. But we got it done, and out in a timely manner.

Dinner at Cracker Barrel, home, and to bed.

Sorted through bins that came in this morning, recorded sales, and then bought a CAD program for my iPad. Here's a drawing that I did on it of yesterday's layout:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

State of Not-Much-Age

I've been doing lots of stuff the last couple-few weeks, just not Otter Necessities stuff. Mostly sewing.

I do have two and a third hard pouches to get done this week (one is about 2/3 done), a soft pouch that needs a chain-mail chain to hold a dummy-round peg, and straps to put on a couple leather satchels I made weeks ago. And catch up the books, at least sales/inventory. (Do not ask about getting purchases into the books).  Ron has two quivers to assemble, or at least one.

All the above are on the to-do list for Boar's Head on Saturday. Ron will be happy if he gets the large black quiver done, as that gives one of each size, right-handed in black. He can easily finish putting the medium-sized pretty spotty brown bison one together at the event.

Priority-wise, in the evenings I need to work on catching up the books in regard to sales/inventory, and packing up tools and other odds and ends that have wandered off around the house since the last event, and do the chain-mail, which requires a box of tools I don't otherwise want/need to take on Saturday. Lacing pouches I can do at the event, if I don't finish them during my lunch hours. Shoulder straps for the satchels can also be done on Saturday after setup.

Boar's Head will be the first outing for Thing 2. Due to playing with my shiny new serger and other not-Otter projects it won't go to Boar's Head full. Oops. Maybe it will come home echoingly empty, and with space left in Thing 1, and the cash box all happy and stuffed instead. I'll keep my fingers crossed. I can't remember if it was a Boar's Head or a Val Day that was our best single-day event.

Finally found a use for the older style buckles and "fancy" dees I used to use on belts, which I've been meaning to amputate and replace with newer hardware - they've been pulled off and used on kilts. Yay! No more old hardware!

Which reminds me, I need to root around in the hardware drawers on the big green road case (it needs a name, ala Thing 1 and Thing 2. Thing Green? Green Thing?) on Saturday and see what the hardware supplies look like. I try to keep the hardware inventory up to date, but even when I'm being diligent the on-paper and actual counts of dees and buckles tend to drift apart, and lately "diligent" has not been an accurate adjective.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not Much to Natter About

Confirmed for Festival of Maidens.

Found another source for thread for the big sewing machine, and discovered that the lightest weight thread I have for it may work in my consumer-level machines. Called Durkopp-Adler and got an answer to a question I had about using that weight thread for bobbins for the big machine (usually you want to match top and bobbin threads, but there are exceptions).

After ordering thread from the new-to-me supplier I found a couple other things on their website I should have ordered. Primary is "thread sock", expandable net fabric that keeps thread on cones under control. $2/yard, $9 for 10 yards. I just need to double-check that it will fit the big 1-lb cones.  Other is inexpensive baby cones of regular sewing thread for my standard machines.

Found a source for "Jean Rivets", and ordered a bunch for a non-Otter project which ate my weekend, and which I blathered on about on Google Plus and my personal blog at great length already.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Things Accomplished, With Pictures, Plus Natter


As you may notice, Military History Fest and Boar's Head are now confirmed.

I've added Festival of Maidens, which I've requested space for but haven't heard back about, and Ayreton Carnivale, which I don't think is far enough organized to even request space for yet, other than having a date.

The Weekend

The weekend was fairly busy with not-Otter things, as detailed on the personal blog. Saturday was a complete write-off. My goal for Sunday morning was to get the bindings on the tops of the quivers so that Ron could assemble them.

The plan was to roll aluminum wire into the binding to help hold the top edges in shape. Why aluminum? I had some 12-gauge that I'd bought for attaching chainmail to pouches, but decided was too heavy for that.

After getting the binding sewn onto the pouches by machine, I decided I wasn't going to be able to do the second pass of stitching (after rolling the binding over the edge) done by machine - I'd cut the bindings a bit heavier than usual, so it was going to be too big a lump. So I was going to have to do the second pass by hand.

Got the smallest quiver done, and we decided that the wire wasn't really doing much. So we pulled it out. By the end of the day I'd finished the stitching on all the quivers. I also cut the strips for Ron to lace them up with (1/2" wide strips).

I also finished stitching the rolled binding in place on the beer gut I'm refurbishing.


Yesterday was my big day for getting things done this week.

After voting, I went to work reducing piles of parts to finished satchels and soft pouches. (Click pictures to embiggen)

I made 2 satchels, 3 belt satchels, and two little tabbed pouches.

On the one hand, I felt like I rolled through them pretty quickly. On the other hand, it took pretty much all day - I think I finished about 3:30 in the afternoon (with Pippin keeping me company for the last hour or so).

The satchels still need shoulder straps, but that's fairly easy now that I've got all the fussy bits and sewing done.

Simplifying Fussy Bits

We've been making satchels for umpty years now, and the hardest bit has always been sewing on the leather piece with the buckle on the front.

The piece isn't very big, hence challenging to keep in place, and sewing it down involves sewing backwards until you get enough clearance to turn the piece around and sew forwards (because of the shape of the machine foot), and the lever to put the machine in reverse has to be held in place (sometimes with the aid of Mr. Bungee).

Yesterday I finally had the brilliant idea of not just riveting the piece together to hold the buckle, but putting a hole in the front piece of the satchel and riveting the whole thing together.

Yay! No more worries about the piece slipping around, worries about masking tape (yes, even the painter's tape) leaving marks on the leather, or picking bits of tape out of the stitching! I haz a happy! Still have the fun of working in reverse, but this is an improvement.

Then it took me 5 of the leather pieces to get the buckles on 2 satchels - I didn't think of including the satchel front in the riveting operation until I had riveted two the old way. But I ruthlessly cut them off, as I decided lack of frustration was worth tossing out a pieces cut from scrap. Then I messed up the rivet on one. Managed to get the rivet popped off without damaging the satchel (I sacrificed the piece that holds the buckle), and got it replaced. Yay!

That's Not Right!

As I was sewing belt loops on the pouches I heard an odd thunky noise. It didn't repeat so I figured it was the dees on the back of one of the belt satchels whacking into the table support or something as it dangled (I like to daisy-chain things when I can, saves time, and thread).

A little later I heard a thunky noise that was definitely Not Right, from the machine.

Oh carp. That . . . looks like a piece of the needle we broke a couple weeks ago. In a very not-good place.

You see where that rod (actually the allen wrench for the needle) coming from the left is pointing? That's where the chunk of needle was. That space is where the feed dog moves back and forth. I took off the needle and both halves of the pressure foot, and tried to extract it, and it disappeared. Oh carp.

Opened the hatches on both sides of the feed dogs. The one to the right is easy, that's where the bobbin is (you can see the bobbin casing in the picture). The one on the left . . . not so much. The way the machine sits in the table you have to rock the whole machine back (on hinges) with one hand while taking the cover off with the other. Have I mentioned that this machine is Really Heavy? Yeah, not fun. But I had to get that chunk of needle out.

Unfortunately, the bit of needle hadn't fallen safely down into the oil-drip-containment well below the machine. But it did reappear in the not-good place with a bit of poking, and I was able to use a pair of straight pins as a pair of tweezers and extract it.

Here's a picture of the machine reassembled so you can see the two halves of the (walking) pressure foot, needle, etc.:
If I ever have to replace this machine or decide to buy an industrial free-arm model, I'm buying another Durkopp-Adler. This one has handled a lot of abuse.

After that my main excitement was deciding to wind more than one bobbin at a time because I have enough spares to do that, dammit. The bobbins are bigger than most home sewing machines, but the thread is a lot thicker, so stopping to wind a bobbin is more frequent, and hence more annoying. Stopping just to put a new pre-wound bobbin in is much less of a disruption. Should have done that years ago, too.

Also determined that I need to get more black and brown thread in the weight I sue sooner rather than later. I'm not actually to the running-out point yet, but it's getting close enough to be a possibility.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Swedish Leather Book

Not a lot going on Otter Necessities-wise this week.

I finished up the last of the pouches I had ready to lace up yesterday. Quivers in pieces with lots of holes punched. Beer gut re-build stalled for no apparent reason.

I did mark the guide-lines for lacing on a batch of soft pouch parts last night. And an order of nothing very interesting in the way of hardware arrived yesterday. Tonight I really need to do a couple tweaks to the techie-themed MuseCon poster.

So far the highlight of the week has been receiving my Swedish book having something to do with leather, which I ordered a week or so ago from an ABE seller in Arizona or New Mexico.

The title, as helpfully stated on the title page, translates as "There's Nothing Like Leather".  The book is from 1944, which astute readers may note is at the end of WWII. There's a couple pictures of what appears to be a field radio backpack case, but nothing else that might deal with the war. I'm assuming that's because claimed neutrality and sorta-kinda succeeded in keeping out of the war.

Here's the link for the helpful Wikipedia overview, which I resorted to myself:

Getting back to the book: No, I don't speak or read Swedish, although my paternal grandfather's side of the family are Finn/Swedes (if we're Finns or Swedes depends on which of sibling you asked).

I do, however, have a have some rusty knowledge of German, left over from two years of it in high school, and translating captions from a book about blacksmithing a few years ago.

Fortunately, as I learned from the always-helpful Wikipedia, Swedish is a North Germanic Language, so it's not completely different from the West Germanic German (English, meanwhile, is also a West Germanic language). The Wikipedia article on Swedish language says "Swedish being a Germanic language, the syntax shows similarities to both English and German. Like English, Swedish has a subject–verb–object basic word order, but like German, it utilizes verb-second word order in main clauses" and then goes off into minutia about different types of clauses and phrases, the definitions of which I let leak out of my ears just as soon as I got out of the English classes where my grade depended on them. And I also can't diagram a sentence to save my life, thankyouverymuch.

So, what I'm getting around to is that hopefully with the help of the Swedish-to-English dictionary I ordered and should find waiting for me at home, and an iWhatsit app to access an on-line Swedish-English dictionary, I should be able to make heads and tails of what this book is about.

The ABE description included the subtitle, from which I had thought the book would be about saddlemaking. Looking at the pictures, however, I suspect that it's more likely a history of this company:

At lunch today, with heavy use of said app, I plowed my way through the subtitle ("A book for all friends of the noble art of saddlemaking" or maybe "leatherworking", the exact word there wasn't available), and most of the dedication, which is to the founder of the company, from his sons.

Hopefully the more I try the easier it will get.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quivers and More

I forgot to get any pictures of the deerskins, as mentioned in my last post. Sorry 'bout that.

Saturday morning Ron and I were discussing role-playing gaming and dice, and Ron mentioned wanting a new dice bag, which led to the comment that we could use more of the smallest size drawstring bags, which we sell a couple-three of each event.

That led to a trip to Tandy/Leather Factory to root through the scrap bin. We also got two 3D stamps, but overall we were very restrained.

MuseCon Publicattions design work consumed Saturday afternoon - I made a tech-themed poster and version of the flyer. The poster uses pictures taken at past MuseCons, which meant plowing through a lot of images to find good ones to use.

Ron and Robin had brought one of our 4' long tables in to use for gaming, and Sunday morning I took it over to cut quivers out (more surface area than the Workmate workbenches in the dining room, and more comfortable than working on the floor), since they weren't using it.

I'd intended to cut out 2 medium quivers, one black and one of the new tan bison. I started with the black, and realized after cutting that I'd cut out a small size quiver body. I decided to go ahead and also cut out a medium-size black one. Then I switched to the bison. If you look at the picture of the bison in the previous entry, that's the area I cut the quiver out of.

I considered what was left of the black side I'd started with, and cut out a large black quiver (giving us a set of each of the three sizes in black). That left me with enough to cut belt loops and bottom pieces out of, and some pieces I should be able to get hard pouch backs out of.

After that I marked holes. Lots and lots of holes. The quivers are assembled with half-inch wide strips, and I marked both ends of the lacing slots, around three sides of each quiver body, plus slots on the bottoms and belt loops.

While Ron went to work punching all those holes, I cut pouches out of the leather I got Saturday. I cut out 8 or 9 small drawstring bags, a medium-sized one for Ron, and two soft tabbed pouches (see the last post for a picture of several of those).

I brought tools out to the living room Sunday, and worked there, and Ron did his hole-punching in the living room. We were good and put everything but the anvil away when we were done. It's nice being in the same room as Ron and Robin and being able to kind-of watch TV while working, but it's also nice not having all the tools and everything cluttering up the living room.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bison Leather Pic & Not Much Else

I didn't forget about posting a picture of the bison leather, it just took me a while. Apologies for the quality if you click to embiggen, it looked better on my phone.

This is one end, and despite the fuzziness I think you can see the grain. You can also see the shininess - most leather I buy wouldn't have such bright highlights.

Between things related to Robin's birthday and various forms of housekeeping (more natter on my personal blog if you're interested) almost nothing got done with leather this weekend, other than a bit of work on lacing a couple pouches.

Did get some new leather. Xap called Saturday to ask if we used deerskin, as she was somewhere that had some very pretty pieces. She got two skins, one a really pretty teal or turquoise (I'm never sure where the line is between the two, if one exsists), and a dark green. They should make very pretty soft pouches along the lines of belt satchels and the small soft pouches like these.

In fact, the dark green isn't too far off the green one in that picture, and I'd been wishing I could get some more, because I think a belt satchel in that color combination would be really sharp.

I'll try to remember to get a picture of at least the teal deer tonight.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We Got Bison Leather!

My tan bison side arrived Monday. Based on the on-line photos I was expecting something in a golden brown neighborhood for "tan", and what I got was more of a medium brown, but that's much better than the dark brown "mocha" side I originally received.

Ron claimed a sample of the bison to test to see if it will absorb water right so he can tool/carve it. Early indications are positive.

Most modern leather for tooling has almost no visible grain. However, looking at the book I got about Arts & Crafts era leather goods, and some old books I've gotten in the last couple weeks, that hasn't always been the case. Those show purses and whatnot made on fairly pebbly-textured leather.

To throw another curve into the whole thing, the bison isn't so much pebbly, as striated. Tooling it could be interesting. Some of the books talk about choosing a design that harmonizes with the grain, and it makes sense when you're looking at a piece of leather that isn't uniform.

I'm also going to have to be more cognizant of the grain when cutting things out. Even on smooth sides one is supposed to pay attention to grain direction for stength and stretch issues, but for things like a pouch flap it can be a less significant issue than other factors. On pebble-grained sides the grain isn't visually directional. On this bison side the grain definitely has direction.

Hmm. Given that the bison will absorb water and can be tooled, that implies it could also be wet-molded. I wonder if that would work with the grain pattern on it. Also, the surface is more glossy than I was expecting (not super-glossy, more not-matte).

I'll try to remember to get a picture tonight so what I've been saying will, hopefully, make more sense.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I Made Things!

Picked up customs forms at the Post Office Friday night, and Saturday morning I handed the beer gut over to the mercies of USPS.

Then we went home and had a cleaning fit. Ron and Robin folded and shifted the floor room, creating more space in the living room. Be still my heart!

On the downside, the cleaning fit also shifted a bunch of stuff out to the dining room. I've put some of it away, still have some to go.

During the cleaning fit I found a bin of pouches. IIRC we brought them in to take pictures of to put them up for sale on Etsy and/or ArtFire, then forgot about them. So they haven't made it to the last few events. Oops. After lunch we took them out to the trailer, I packed them into the bins for Thing 2, then Ron packed ammo boxes and bins into Thing 2. Ammo boxes have been judged a good fit.

Saturday afternoon/evening I worked on hard pouches. We decided to put dees on the back of the larger ones so they can be used as sporrans. I'm going to need more simple/cheap dees soonish. In the process, I tested the limits of the big sewing machine, snapping a needle in the process.

Change of plans, from sewing to rivets. I'm going to need more long double-cap rivets. Four belt pouches ready to lace up by bedtime Saturday.

Yesterday I worked on soft belt pouches, with a break for a MuseCon meeting at the Rolling Meadows public library, which was in turn somewhat interrupted by a tornado watch. Add 5 soft pouches ready to lace, and dye edges on (with permanent marker).

This week I need to work on flyers, etc. for MuseCon. I think the plan is that Ron will do mindless lacing (ie: he gets me to do starts and splices), while I work on design-type stuff.

Got my replacement color chart for linen thread. Did not, however, get the replacement tan bison side yet. Perhaps today.

I need to put more pouches up for sale on Etsy, I think I'll have Ron get pictures and list new ones as I finish them, instead of a repeat of the bin of forgotten pouches issue.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beer Guts: 1 Down, 1 To Go

Yay! We finished the replacement beer gut last night! Yay!

We didn't have any CA accelerant in the house, so I didn't get any lacing done on replacement beer gut Wednesday night, after gluing the knot in place on the antler peg. But I did get the dee holders stitched down on the old one I'm refurbishing.

Yesterday was . . . exciting. The call of nature woke me up around 4 am, and I hadn't really fallen back asleep when Ron's morning went to hell in a very painful handbasket. Ambulance summoned, trip to ER, CT scan, diagnosis: kidney stone.

I could have made it to work by mid- to late-morning, but by the time we got home, did all the usual getting-ready-in-the-morning things, started dinner in the crock pot, and went to the pharmacy for pain meds for Ron, my stomach said it had had enough, I was staying home, dammit.

So I started lacing up the replacement beer gut.

And restarted . . . and restarted . . . repeat another couple times, IIRC.

I lost count if it was the 4th or 6th start that succeeded. Somewhere in there. Fortunately, once the more-tricky-than-I-realized start with the braid for a peg was done, the actual lacing is pretty much autopilot, so I laced and read and tried to stay awake.

Robin's one class yesterday was mid-afternoon, and Ron was feeling much better by then (ie: stone gone), so Ron and I went to The Container Store after dropping Robin off, and got bins for Thing 2. Did other errands, picked up Robin, and back home.

I declared it time to make the shoulder strap even though I wasn't done with the lacing, since Ron has things to do tonight. Got that done, then I finished the lacing. And there was much rejoicing! Yay!

Started to sew the top edge binding on the beer gut being refurbished, realized that I didn't have to, it wasn't too early to go to bed. Or at least start getting ready.

So I did. Still a bit tired today, but still happy the beer gut is done. It took me much longer to do than it should have. I'll pack it up tonight and see if I can download the customs forms. If not I'll get and fill them out tomorrow at the Post Office, then off it goes down under!

The beer gut being refurbished isn't nagging at me, as it doesn't have any kind of deadline. It'll be done when I finish.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Now the Working Bit

Continuing where we left off yesterday, I finally got back to working on things over the weekend.

I knew I'd be spacy on Monday, so Saturday and Sunday I mostly worked on the replacement beer gut bag to go to New Zealand. It seemed to go slow, in part because although they go together, in some general ways, like the hard belt pouches, there's enough difference that I have to stop and think about where things should go, how big they should be, etc.

While I was working on the new beer gut, I also did a bit of work on the old one that I had ripped apart and am refurbishing. At one point I was using the older one as a template for the newer one, as the older one had shrunk enough that it would nest inside the newer one.

Although I was, indeed, spacy on Monday (Xanax makes dental work much less stressful), I was together enough to do lacing and hand-sewing, so between appointments and other running about I confined myself to working on said lacing/sewing. By Monday evening I had the binding for the opening and the dee holders sewn onto the new beer gut, and was starting to sew the binding onto the opening on the old one. Unti I messed up and had to pull it back off, grumble.

Last night I did a 4-strand round braid section to hold the antler peg onto the new beer gut, and put a turk's head knot around the top of the peg. Then I found out that we don't have any CA (super glue) with a decent applicator. I debated starting to lace the beer gut up before gluing the knot in place, but decided that would be tempting fate, so I put it in a (hopefully) safe place, and will stop for a tube of CA tonight.

Hopefully tonight and tomorrow I can get the new beer gut laced up, make the shoulder strap and put it on Friday, and then Saturday morning I can pack it up, take it to the Post Office and do the international shipping/customs forms dance. I really want to get it done and sent of Saturday morning. Maybe tomorrow night I'll put Ron to work on making the shoulder strap while I lace.

Taking a break from the beer guts, I cut a disc and a ring out of lightweight calf to do a very simple mirror. Unfortunately, they were too small, and we also decided the back piece needs to be thicker, in order to help protect the mirror. But I'd cut the pieces out of almost-scrap, and gotten used to the circle-cutter in the process, so it wasn't a great loss.

Also cut out a couple-few hard pouch backs. Such excitement.

I wanted to cut out a couple quivers, but (1) shopping and the beer guts took more time than expected, and (2) One of the quivers was going to be out of the tan bison that transmogrified into dark brown in transit. So no go.

A week or three ago I got a new grownup picture book, "Artistic Leather of the Arts & Crafts Era", which I'll do more of a review on later. It's given me a couple new ideas. One was the mirrors, the other is a music/document/scroll case or roll.

Googling for pictures of other old music rolls, I found a new, to me, neat way to hold a case closed, involving a more or less ornate metal bar. In a happy coincidence, Modelmaker stopped by last night. Collaboration may happen.

This morning I had the beginnings of an idea for a variation on a hanging pocket using hard pouch fronts. Still not quite clear on the details, must consider some more and discuss with Ron.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Back to Work, and Shopping

I finally got back to working on things this weekend. Yay! We also did some shopping. I think the shopping and related aftermath will about do for this post.

Supplies Shopping

We started the shopping Friday evening, with a trip to Hobby Lobby for smallish mirrors - not tiny ones, but the size you might stick in a purse, once they had a nice leather cover over them. We did pick up some little-bitty mirrors, too, to use for decorations. And while we were there, we got a 10-pound slab of paraffin wax, to use on pouches. Should be set for another mumble years for wax now.

Saturday morning we made a trip to the Tandy/Leather Factory store (including Robin, and also Cookie, who we'd dog-napped on the way). I'd been thinking of getting some colored kid skins, to use as underlays for cutouts, and we wanted to look at some of the new conchos and 3D stamps we'd seen in a flyer.

Turns out they don't have the kid any more. For mirrors I can just dye calf, since the leather doesn't have to flex (alcohol-based dyes dry leather out horribly, water-based not as bad, but still some, and oil-based dyes are challenging to use, so the colored kid was really nice). I can use garment leather for other applications, where thinness isn't quite as necessary.

The exception to being able to dye calf is white. Well, I could use their acrylic "cova colors", but it's white paint, and I might as well just use white plastic as that stuff. They did have a nice pearl white sheep, but I decided we were spending enough without it, and just got green, blue, and red dye.

The dye was the cheap part of the trip. We came home with a boatload of conchos, especially three types of steampunk ones, with moving gears/propellors. I found a few nice buckles in the clearance bin, where Ron also found some stamping tool sets he didn't have. And then I let him loose on the new 3D stamps.

Dick Blick was another stop, after dropping Cookie off at home and Robin at karate. I got a small circle-cutter/beam compass; and we both decided upon looking at a larger ellipse/circle mat-cutter that we did have one already.

Storage Shopping

Saturday night we went to Cabela's. While Ron looked at things that go "bang", I went looking for unused milspec ammo cans. I was distracted by Mom Instinct alerting me to a kidlet who appeared to be wandering on her own, and when she got far enough away from where I first noticed her (why yes, I was following her) I summoned an employee to take charge.

Back to the firearms department, where I finally asked for the ammo cans. Some genius in management decided that they shouldn't be out on the sales floor, so an employee went into the back and got some for me.

The ammo cans are to use in Things 2, for storing yarn and other stringy bits. If we get more of the bins like we use in Thing 1, the ammo cans will fit in the unused space the bins leave. And metal ammo cans, unlike plastic dry boxes, are straight-sided. Plastic boxes typically taper, and that taper means more annoying wasted space.

Next up was finding something for tails, as the ammo cans aren't long/tall enough. Back up front to the fishing section (did I mention that firearms are in back, and I got 2/3-3/4 of the way back to the front following the free-range kid?), which was a washout. Back almost all the way to the back of the store to archery. There we found a nice arrow storage case. Unfortunately, it was cracked. But there were more hiding in back, and appeared in short order.

Utilizing New Storage

Sunday I attacked the bins that had been sitting in the front entryway for a week (on the cold air return, so they needed to move). First, I made muslin liners for the ammo cans, so I wouldn't have to worry about OD paint coming off onto light-colored contents.

The laceweight yarn went in two of the ammo cans, and the un-spun alpaca the other two. I was able to tuck all the knitting needles and the stitch markers in, too. I do need to get some cedar blocks - not that I'm worried about Tiny Creatures, but the ammo cans have a kinda funky smell.

I can see getting more ammo cans, since in the long run I'm looking at another type of lace-weight yarn, and also maybe sock yarn. Mmmm . . . alpaca (blend) sock yarn . . . decadent . . . Ahem. Yes.

The ten tails we have left fit into the arrow case. I did wrap a layer of fabric around them, mostly to keep stray hairy bits contained. There's no extra room, so if we're ever going to have any more than we have now, we'll need another arrow case.

Other Shopping-Related Natter

Ron and Robin have been searching for the ellipse mat-cutter, which Robin also agrees we have, but it hasn't been located yet. The small circle-cutter works fine. Cut parts to put a mirror in, which were too small.

Last week I ordered some colored linen thread, which arrived Wednesday or Thursday, but the color chart I ordered with it was not in the (small) box with the thread. I figured it was coming in an envelope, but it didn't show up Friday or Saturday. Called today, the supplier will mail me (another) one.

The pretty tan bison side I ordered didn't arrive Friday. It had turned into a nice but not-what-I-wanted dark brown bison side. Grump.

The on-line return information is not as clear as it could be, so I called today to ask exactly how the procedure works (as in, are they going to send me a return label, since it was a mistake on their end). The person I talked to asked if it would be OK if he shipped me out a tan side the same size or a little bigger than the brown one, and included a return label with in the box?

Yah, you betcha, eh! I figured I'd have to get a return label, or at least authorization number, send the brown side back, then they'd send me a tan one once they got the brown back. It's so cool when businesses trust customers.

Yeah, I think that's about enough natter for this post. So I'll go on about actually working on things later.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New & Old Merchandise Analysis

New Merchandise


A couple other people at Maneki Neko Con had fake-fur tails, but we were the only ones with real tails. Ours were in line, price-wise, with similar-sized fake ones (fake ones tended to be longer). One of the two people who bought tails from us said that he liked the swivel, the clip on his other tail (fake, IIRC) was getting stressed where it attached and was likely to break loose soon.

The tails were hung along the top of one of the gridwall sections. Some were a bit of a reach from the front of the table, which discouraged petting. Not sure if that was good or bad.

Yarn, Patterns, and Knitting Needles

The new literature rack works well for patterns. I need to get some foam core and cut props for the uppermost tier, but patterns in the lower tiers won't need them. There isn't enough room on a 24' wide table to put the yarn out in front of the rack, but there may be on a 30" wide table.

Sold a beginner pattern, skein of yarn, and needles to one customer. Didn't get a lot of people looking, but I didn't necessarily expect a lot at an anime con, either.

I probably need to get some strips of velcro for the fabric display boxes - the velcro on the front edge is the hooky parts, so it can catch yarn/fleece.

Need to get more basic patterns from Sharon.

The supplier for the Suri Elegance lace-weight yarn also has "Paca Peds" sock-weight yarn. I may have to get some. It would be so decadent, but probably a good addition. And then I'd need some more needle sizes...

I probably should also pick up another ball-winder and swift to leave with the merchandise so we can wind yarn for customers.

Frogs and Sword Hangers

Sold none, which was a bit disappointing. But, Prairie State College had a pretty strict weapon/weapon-like policy, so very few people had anything weapon like, other than a few toy ray-guns. Fortunately, either the real and campus cops didn't notice our PVC pipe display "sword", or decided it was so obviously a prop as to not worry about. I suspect the latter.

Paracord Bracelets

Sold several of the paracord bracelets we'd gotten from Modelmaker, despite a report of someone else selling paracord bracelets for $2 (vs. the $7 for ours).

Old Merchandise

Pad and Book Covers

Sold the two notepad covers we had, and there was some rejoicing by me. I made them, in hindsight, about the time of the rise of smartphones, etc. They were machine-stitched, which doesn't look as nice as hand-sewing, but I think decline of demand is more a factor of them not selling. I won't be making more, except on commission.

On a related note, book covers have also been pretty slow to move the last couple/few years. I think this is directly attributable to the rise of e-books. E-book reader/tablet covers would be a good replacement, if there was any kind of uniformity of size, which there isn't. Not sure if I'll continue to make paper book covers.

Discontinued Pouches

A while back I decided to stop making the "chamfered" hard pouches, and "hybrid soft" pouches. We sold a couple/few when I first started making them, but they've been dogs for a long time. I've had them marked as on sale for a couple events now, but they're still not selling at the not-increased "sale" price. Debating if I want to cut prices on them a little more.

Another option is to use them when event organizers ask for donations for raffle/auctions. Usually I give a belt and/or small square soft pouch. Since there isn't anything actually wrong with the discontinued pouches, I think it would be reasonable to make donations out of them.


I think I've said this a couple/few times already, but I'm going to make more quivers Real Soon Now, dammit. I have some not-too-heavy black latigo, and somewhere between here and Colorado is a half-bison in a pretty tan. I think I'll make a quiver from each. The only question is completely open-top, or strainer-tops (holes for X arrows, X depending on quiver size).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It followed me home, Mom! Can I keep it?!?

Part 3 in an Occasional Series

Here's a picture taken Sunday afternoon:


If you can't read it, the label on the front near the top edge says "THING 2"

Yes, another jobsite box road case followed us home from Menard's. We've named it Thing 2. The original big yellow road case is now Thing 1 (and has been labeled appropriately).

This time it was a little more planned, at least in as far as we decided on Sunday morning to go buy it, with proceeds from Maneki Neko Con and the SCA event the weekend before.

We got all the merchandise packed away Saturday, but barely. Ron reports that there is no space left in Thing 1. Considering all the pouches in various stages of progress in the dining room, and that I have leather earmarked for making one or more quivers, we bowed to the inevitable.

Our plan was to buy another jobsite box, but when we got to Menard's we discovered that the top case for the big green tool chest on clearance, for about $100 off. We considered, and decided the big yellow one would be more useful. Determined Menard's did have one in stock (the Menard's website claims it's special order only), found a flatbed cart, loaded the box, and got wheels and bolts, etc.

Then we stopped and looked at the green top case on sale again. Then wandered back over to the aisle they're normally in and looked at the one there. After several trips back and forth we determined that the tool chests have been re-designed, and the old ones are on clearance. Waffle waffle. The new version has the advantage of new drawer-latch mechanism and the pull-out tool shelf locks in place, but the top section is different, and it's a bit taller. Ron checked measurements, the new version will fit on older base cabinet.

Either version is heavy and makes for a fairly tall unit. I voiced concerns on weight and center of gravity issues with adding a top case. And as we've proven, the big yellow bins hold a lot. So we decided to stick with just the big yellow bin.

On the way home we determined that the bins are now Thing 1 and Thing 2. We discussed painting them red and blue, but that hasn't happened. Yet.

Robin helped Ron partially un-load the trailer, then Ron spent some time figuring out the best way to re-load incorporating Thing 2. He did come up with a plan, which is likely to be modified next event we go to.

After that we looked at the website for US Cargo Control (.com), where I'd gotten E-track and fittings, and ordered some short (2' long) sections of E-track which were on clearance at about half-off. Also got some more d-ring fittings, and new ratchet locks for some 1" load straps we had with cam locks.

The 1" straps used to hold the concrete form tubes I store leather in together in bunches, until Ron built the carts for the tubes, which work much better than strapping bundles of tubes to shelving units. I'd kept the straps, and so instead of buying and modifying more 2" load straps, we'll just replace the mechanism on the 1" straps, which are plenty strong to restrain smaller things like chairs and the handtruck, and which saves money.

Still working out how we're going to containerize storage within Thing 2. We have vaguely milk-crate-like open-top bins in Thing 1, which make it easier to pack, and help prevent crushing of things within the Thing.

I think if we get some milspec ammunition cans or plastic dry boxes, the tails and yarn can live in Thing 2, which only has two small openings where the lock points are. Rubbermaid bins would also work to keep out any critters that got into the trailer then into Thing 2, but they waste more space with handles. We need to check the inside dimensions of Thing 2, the lengths on the longer tails, and the size of the overall bundles of furry bits and yarn to see what size boxes will work best. Also need to think ahead on how many types/bundles of yarn we ultimately want to expand to, and plan accordingly.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Maneki Neko Con Report

Final Preparations

Friday night on the way home from work I stopped at The Container Store to find something to display yarn in. I ended up with two collapsible fabric boxes by Reisenthel, the people who make the cool fabric and aluminum market baskets. I also got three small collapsible mesh cubes to display knitting needles and possibly small tools in.

The storage boxes I got, btw, are off-white, not khaki. There's a metal frame in each end to hold them open. The Container store had some other fabric basket-like things, but they were too slouchy.

When I got home we made sword hangers, then packed up the tools, and at that point were about ready to go. Ron and Robin had hooked up the trailer before I got home.

Our First Anime Con

We took 53->290->294->80/94 to get to Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, because it was the most direct/fastest route. I should have checked on construction, it was an issue. But we still got there 8:30-ish, which gave us an hour and a half for setup.

The person in charge of vendors was queueing up people to use the driveway next to the loading dock to unload, but thanks to the power of the road cases, we didn't have to deal with that. I think we hurt some gopher brains, though. On the plus side, Taz, who does logistics and operations for various conventions, approved of the road cases.

Vendors were set up in the atrium of the main (only?) building. It was an interesting location. The atrium tile walkways around somewhat irregularly-shaped carpeted island areas (which I think usually contain furniture). The walkways stayed open as walkways, and vendors were on the islands.

Remember last week when I said even vendors who graduated kindergarten still push? Yeah. I'd reserved two spaces, but they'd run out of 8' tables, so we get three 6' tables. No complaints. Our island was roughly triangular in shape, and we were supposed to share it with another vendor (who never showed). We kinda expanded, setting up the gridwall out from one end of the run of tables, and the yellow bin around a corner. But we did leave a good fair half of the island for the neighbors. It was a long stretch to watch, but there were three of us.

We'd set up things to maximize gridwall use, thinking we were going to have trouble getting everything out. The gridwall was full, but I actually had to go back and spread some of the stuff on the tables out, and all the pouches were laying flat. So plenty of room.

The morning and early afternoon were depressingly slow. We sold one tail. We wondered if we'd made a mistake doing the convention. And the sun moved to come in through the windows at the top of the atrium and trying to cook us.

Eventually business picked up. We sold . . . little bits of lots of things, proving that the more we have the more we sell.

Vendors closed at 5:00. We actually got everything into the road cases and bin for stringy bits. The only exception was the tails, and that was on purpose.

We took 80->355->53 home, which was something like 5-7 minutes slower according to Google Maps, but was just generally a better route - no construction, less traffic, no crazy interchanges, yadda yadda.

Got home 8-ish? and went to bed. Ron had been up since 3:30 am, and I hadn't slept the best, either. Xap stayed with us of trying to make the hour-ish drive home.

Even when business was looking dismal we'd decided to do the convention again (if it's held again), since a first year can be really iffy. Next year there should be even more people, and people will know what to expect. I heard that a lot of the attendees had never been to any kind of convention before.

The members of the anime club, however, have been making slave labor of themselves at various cons over the last year or two, learning how to do things. They did a good job. Rooms were spread out, but I'm guessing that wasn't necessarily under their control. There were some other bugs, but nothing that can't be written off to being their first run.

Chicago Heights is a bit of a haul, and while the campus and immediate neighborhood seemed nice enough, that part of the south suburbs has got some rough neighborhoods. So not sure what we'll do if/when Maneki Neko Con goes to a multi-day thing. Cross that bridge when we get to it, most likely.

When looking for sales venues I think we've shown that we can do decently at conventions with a good cosplay contingent - most of our sales at CodCon were to the cosplayers. I don't think we're going to be doing Anime Central any time soon (the cost to get into the ACen dealer's room gives me sticker-shock), but I need to look for smaller events like CodCon and Maneki Neko Con.

Stay Tuned For...

I've gone on long enough, so stay tuned for:
  • Costume Ruminations
  • New Merchandise Analysis
  • Old Merchandise Analysis
  • Costume/Cosplay Reflections
  • . . . and . . .
  • It followed me home, Mom! Can I keep it?!?

Friday, September 28, 2012

On Herding Cats and Vendors

A friend of mine is wrangling a vendors for a convention for the first time, and he's asked for our input on a few things, knowing that we've run the Dealer's Room for DucKon in the past, and are denizens of such a room. Here's some things to keep in mind if you're ever in that situation, especially if you've never been behind the tables:

Leave space behind the tables for vendors to work, as well as for the customers. 8' wide or more aisles for customers is not excessive, especially if there will be ladies in large skirts or anybody in bulky-ish costumes.

If there is a door in the room that must remain accessible as a fire exit, you'll make keeping it clear somewhat easier by not putting any of your vendors in front of it. You'll still have to check regularly to make sure it hasn't been blocked, but it won't be quite as bad.

Remember that you're writing the rules/guidelines for the 10% of the vendors who will try to push said rules, not so much the 90%, who learned how to play nice with others in kindegarten.

Even the kindegarten graduates will nudge the boundaries.

Every region has one or a few vendors that make the room wranglers' jobs difficult. It will make your life easier if you can talk to people who have done the job before and warn you who to watch out for and why. Problem vendors can be very charming to customers, and even to you while making your life difficult.

If you put tape on the floor to delineate the limits for one vendor, you have to do it for all the spaces in the room.

Patrol the room regularly. There may be issues that come up that aren't serious enough to send vendors away from their tables to talk to you about, but will come up if you check in as you're going around the room.

Keep an eye out for creeping displays when making rounds, and chase them back within bounds firmly. Vendors can sense waffling the way predators sense fear.

No matter what you do, someone will complain.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More Busy Days

Stringy Bits

The knitting needles had been sent via FedEx, signature service required. However, I was able to divert them to be held at a FedEx/Kinko's that's only slightly off my normal route home from work, and I picked them up Tuesday evening. They look fine, but I haven't had a chance to pull any out of their (minimal) packaging to see how they feel.

I need to write or print up some labels listing the needle size, length, and prices. The sizes are marked on the needles, but it would be nice to have them labelled.

The lace-weight yarn was also delivered Tuesday. Given the cost its a surprisingly small package. But sooooo soft, and pretty. I tried taking a picture, but I just realized that it was out of focus.

Sword Case

Finished the sword case Tuesday night, which was down to attaching the new handle. Handed it off to a friend last night, who delivered it to his co-worker today. I got mail a little while ago, he's very happy with it. Yay!

Here's a picture of the case, the old fabric sleeve, and the new sleeve I made:

If you click to embiggen I think you can make out where I reinforced the new sleeve with a second layer of fabric at the tip and the "shoulders" where the sword hilts would be. I was worried about the white (actually off-white) thread, once I was done re-stitching. Likewise, I didn't quite get the right/dark enough shade of brown on the new handle, and Ron pointed out that its kinda big. But based on the owner's reaction its fine.

Change of Wednesday Plans

Yesterday morning I had a dental cleaning, and the plan was to go to work afterwards. But after my appointment I had a meltdown instead (not from the cleaning itself, but from finding out I likely have several more crowns in my future added to having a phobia about dental work). Fortunately, I realized said meltdown was imminent and went home, melting down safely in the driveway, on Elrond's shoulder, to Pippin (he doesn't appreciate being held), and finally on Ron when he got home.

After I recovered Ron took me out to lunch, with a margarita to aid and abet said recovery. Then we went to Berland's House of Tools to look at jobsite boxes. Our conclusion was that the ones Berland's carries are too good - they're tougher and hence more expensive than we need (or the yellow one we already have).

Next stop was Home Despot, to look at another jobsite box, in our price range, and with an interior shelf and bins. The bins are for small parts, not really useful for us. Also, the locking mechanism, which can be a problem based on on-line reviews, did not impress Ron, nor did the plastic plugs in the bottom.


Back home again, we started working on putting swivel snaps on tails. Ron riveted strips of heavy garment/upholstery leather onto the loops in the swivels, then I sewed them onto the tails. Some I was able to sew them in so the leather and most of the stitching was hidden, others I wasn't able to hide the leather.

Good thing I ended up staying home yesterday, sewing the tails took pretty much the whole afternoon. One of the raccoon tails had been split down most of the length, so after attaching the swivel I kept on going and sewed it back into a roughly tubular shape. It looks much better now.

Then I tortured Ron by getting him to type information into Numbers (the Mac-native spreadsheet I use for books) for the tails while I figured costs, prices, and put tags on the tails.

Naughty Dog Digression

All the time we were working with the tails we had to fend off a too-helpful Pippin. The tails smell so interesting!! I think I interrupted an attempt to steal one of the tails from Ron. He was at least going to taste it.

Going back in time a bit, while I was melting down, Pippin managed to get a heavy Corningware casserole off of the counter without breaking it, or hurting himself. No idea how he accomplished it.


Finished up the last two large frogs today at lunch (one only had a bit to go, the other had to have the last bit of lacing removed and re-done for I don't want to talk about it reasons). IIRC I've got three or four small black frogs left to lace up, but I've already got some made, so I'm not going to stress about getting them done.

Schedule Update

As you may note, the gaming convention next weekend is now off the list. The person in charge called last night. He apologized for the lack of response, it sounds like the person who was supposed to be coordinating the vendors severely dropped the ball. I cosulted Ron, then thanked him for the call but declined the offer of vendor space, explaining that we've scheduled other things since we didn't hear from his con.

I felt a little bit bad, but not much. If they'd responded before I scheduled ourselves into the anime con this weekend I probably would have gone for it, but I think it would wipe us out - maybe not in terms of stock, but in terms of retaining sanity. And sleep.

Still no vendors listed for Boar's Head, but I sent off our registration information almost a week ago, so I'm pretty sure we're in. We're not listed on the Military History Fest website yet, but they cashed my check, so again I'm pretty sure we're good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Addenda to Yesterday's Post

Now that the Xanax has worn off, let's touch on some of the things I missed last night. Still tired, mind, but at least I can keep more than one thought in my head at a time.

Along with book cover and pouch kits, I also remembered to pack the hand-sewing tools and rivets for sale, as well as the first two volumes of "The Art of Making Leather Cases" that I have for sale. "The Art of Hand-Sewing Leather" is currently in hiding, need to find that.

Saturday was somewhat windy, so I put the binder of patterns on the table, but decided not to mess with the un-spun alpaca fiber.

I need to make more pouches, so I was able to put out tools and kits without packing the tables too much, but it's going to get challenging when I add the yarn and knitting needles. OTOH, the new literature rack should help on that.

We sold about as many belts as we did not-drawstring pouches, which was reassuring - belt sales have languished the last few events. I think it was just a fluke.

I'm down to two small drawstring bags. I think a bunch were bought by the other vendor at CodCon, but that still means I could use to make more.

Ron decided to bring honey, and we sold several jars. Not sure if he's planning on bringing it to the con this weekend (probably should check the vendor contract re: food).

We've filled the belt road case, as we have more belt styles than fit in the "one of everything" drawer, and are low on london tan belts. One option is a second set of drawers that's designed to bolt on top, some of which have a pull-out shelf so we could put our iPad (which has mostly replaced the paper receipt book), pens, etc.

Yeah, about adding tails, tools, kits, more frog, sword hangers, knitting needles, and yarn. The words "need another road case soon" were uttered. Yes, there is room in the trailer. No, we're trying not to do that yet, it's not a minor purchase (or purchases, if we get a top case for the big green bin). No, we don't have any bins left, they've been glommed up by other things or in a couple cases thrown out (it takes a lot to wear out a Rubbermaid Roughneck bin, but we have done it). Plus the road cases are so much easier to deal with than bins.

I managed to get everything packed into less volume than it went to the event in, through the act of packing things in things, and gaining space by selling things. Packing things in things is the act of taking smaller merchandise, like tools, and little pouches, and putting them in larger pouches. Voila! Less space used! And it helps keep the larger pouches from getting squished. Putting things in things is something I've done for years, but I think I'm going to start pushing the boundaries...

Excited about getting the yarn and knitting needles. I want to pet the yarn. I want to see what the needles are like. Hopefully they have nice lace-friendly points and the circulars have smooth joins. Oh, the fun of buying things based on little-bitty pictures on-line.

Also, the marvel of clicking on the "pay now" button 4 days ago, and having the things arrive all the way from China today. Come to think of it, even just the marvel of small business like me ordering from a supplier in China.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekend Plus Monday Recap

First off, apologies if I'm not quite coherent. The dentist prescribed me Xanax to make getting the shaping for a crown done less stressful. Good shit. It works. Better living through chemistry!

Friday Night

Got groceries, stopped at CVS, ordered dinner, and packed up mostly-successfuly. "Mostly", because we forgot toilet paper and I had to go back out.

Packing included digging out cloaks, which we haven't used for a while, as well as garb for Xaplet. She had a longish skirt, and I found a one-size-fits-most chemise (which is a bit snug on me), and the last caftan I made for Robin.

I also packaged up some of the book cover and belt pouch kits from MuseCon for sale.


Plowman's Park, in Big Rock, isn't too far away, so we didn't have to get up too early. In fact, we got there at least a half-hour before we meant to. We set up in about the same place as Ragnorak Rampage, and again just left the truck and trailer parked behind our spot.

Setup went pretty well, with four of us - me, Ron, Xap, and Younger Xaplet. Xaplet hasn't helped before, but jobs like unpacking the "one of each" belt drawer are pretty simple.

Once we got set up, we started the job of tagging the "one of each" set of belts with the new plastic tags. It went pretty well, and they don't look too bad. I wrote out the tags, Ron and Xap put them on and told me what I needed tags for (after the easy ones).

Interrupted, happily, by sales. Sales were decent, which restored my confidence. I'd apparently gotten rattled by our terrible horrible sales at Northshield Coronation. I think there were about the same number of people on Saturday as there were at Ragnorak Rampage (the last event at Plowman's Park, back around June), but sales were better.

The weather was pretty chilly. Ron, Xap, and Xaplet broke out cloaks. I was warm enough everywhere but my arms - I was wearing two T-shirts, a skirt, and tights under my Afghani Nomad Dress. The bodice of the dress is two layers of calico plus a layer of duck. The sleeves are only one layer of calico, though (as is the skirt, but I had enough other layers down there), so my arms got cold in the morning. It warmed up in the afternoon, which was nice.

After doing tags, I worked on the repair commission that the handle for was giving me fits making last week - it's for a ceremonial Masonic sword, and needed to be completely re-stitched. It's not a scabbard - this is a case for the sword in its decorated scabbard. I got most of the re-stitching done Saturday. The only bad part was getting covered in dry-rotted, oiled thread spooge. At least we were outside so I could just brush it off myself onto the ground.

I think we packed up about 5-ish, with a stop at Cracker Barrel for dinner, as we so often do after an event. Pumpkin custard with gingersnap crumble topping and cinnamon mousse sounded good for dessert, but we ended up too full. And a badger followed me home.


I finished re-sewing the sword case yesterday, and got fabric to make a new fabric liner bag, but decided to stop there, as I was still pretty tired. I worked on lacing frogs instead, since lacing is doesn't require that I have many functioning brain cells.

Since Ron was also short of functioning brain cells, we got frozen chicken enchilada bake for dinner. It was a smart choice.

Last night I took a first dose of Xanax, and slept like a log.


I decided to stay home today - when I first got up I was still kind of loopy, and I'd have to be home by 3:00 so I could take another Xanax an hour before my appointment.

I put chain mail on a pouch that I didn't get done last week, and finished up a chain mail strip I started Sunday night but decided wasn't going to work for that particular pouch.

Then I made the fabric sleeve for the sword case. I looked at where the old one (which was beyond saving) was worn and reinforced the new one at those points. The new fabric sleeve isn't as long as the old in one section, but the old one is inexplicably long there, so I think mine will be fine.

I did some bookkeeping - I got inventory updated to include the new stuff we finished last week, including the frogs I'm still working on. I'm adding a lot of frogs.

After that I gave the sword case another coat of oil, and cut and dyed the bits to hold the handle on. Attempt #2 on the handle, BTW is a success. I can't really complain about the first one failing, this is the first time we've ever tried to make a handle along these lines.

Left the dentist at 5, picked up Robin, then went to Palatine in for soup/squishy food for me, since half my lower jaw was still pretty numb. Still a bit off from the Xanax, so the only thing I'll do tonight, once I finish this entry, is lace frogs. Mostly I'm sleepy, and can only hold one thought in my head at a time.

I should have gotten "before" pictures of the sword case. I'll try to remember to get pictures tomorrow night after we put the handle on and declare it done.


The new display rack for patterns, etc. arrived today. It's fairly big, but it'll hold more than I could fit in the space of its footprint, so it should be a net gain.

Should have the alpaca yarn and the knitting needles tomorrow. Yes, the knitting needles that I ordered from China on Friday afternoon. Even though it was Saturday at China at that point, they went out same-day.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Shopping

Today was another shopping day.

First up, and most boring, I ordered a literature display rack for patterns. Depending on how much space I give to the patterns I can also use it for my kits and the hand-sewing books I have left over from MuseCon for sale.

Next was yarn: Suri Elegance from The Alpaca Yarn Company. I got Midnight Blue, Ble Blood Red, Silver, Pearl Harbor (a blue-grey), Copper, and from the multi-colored choices, Raku (blues and purples). Expected to ship out today.

Struck out a couple more times in finding a wholesale supplier for knitting needles, so off I stomped to the Tandy/Leather Factory store.

At Tandy I got Stupid Amounts of mystery-braid snake bracelet kits, a couple hoops to display tails, and hand-sewing tools and (relatively) small spools of thread.

After lunch a friend pointed me toward a company in China selling knitting needles and things Stupid Cheap. She mentioned a large minimum order, but it turned out to be only US$30. That's a lot of stuff at the prices the company charges, but not in pain-to-the-wallet department. I chose a FedEx option that should have it to me next week.

Last night I made attempt #2 on making a leather handle. Much better this time around. Plan is to spend tomorrow sewing that, and then re-sewing the case it goes on between customers tomorrow.

Assuming we have customers. Highs in the mid-50s and only a 40% of not-rain by this morning's WeatherBug forecast is not encouraging. Must dig out the wool cloaks tonight. In my copious spare time . . . HAH!

I packed up a bin of stuff to go in the trailer this morning. Tonight I need to pack up tools, things to work on, garb, get food, stop at CVS for my dairy pills as I'm really really close to out, pack up more odds and ends, and order or stop for dinner at some point. And probably something else I'm forgetting.

Also sent off our registration paperwork for Boar's Head today. Busy busy busy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

State of Things Update


Last night the rest of the tails arrived! This batch was from the supplier I've bought antler bits from previously, off in Idaho. The tails are individually packaged (cellophane-ish soft plastic tubes - more crinkly than plastic wrap, but about as thick) and labelled, so you know exactly which is which. The company here in Illinois stuffed everything into one envelope.

I resisted taking any of the big tails out of their packaging, because as Ron pointed out, getting them back in could prove difficult to impossible. But through the plastic they feel nice and thick and fluffy. The dogs were uninterested, I think because the packaging helped cut down on fascinating smells.

I got tails from, IIRC, tanuki (racoon dog, aka Pom Poko), silver fox, cross fox, I think a red fox, kit fox, and raccoon, and a half-dozen ermine tails for pouches. The ermine were in a zippy bag so I did open those. Very very soft.

Now we need to start sewing swivel snaps onto the tails. It shouldn't take long to do any one tail, we just have a dozen of them to do.

Handle Frustration

Finally made progress on the handle I said I was going to work on Monday night. Mixed success. I checked a reference last night and I think the problem is not in my general approach, but in the details. I'll try again tonight with a modified design, as I want to get the handle and case it goes on sewn this weekend.

Belts and other Strap-Like Objects

Maybe while I poke at the handle some more tonight Ron can assemble belts. And if the handle doesn't take too long, I can cut and mark pieces for sword hangers. And short straps with dees to adapt belt pouches for sporran use, which Ron can do without me if necessary.

Yarn? Kntitting Needles? Other Stringy Bits?

I think I will be ordering yarn tomorrow. Hopefully knitting needles, although I'm still waiting for an answer from one company on if I qualify for a wholesale account. I called yesterday since it had been a week since I'd spoken with someone, have not received a return call or e-mail. Not optimistic.

Ron's Mom has a new website for her knitting patterns, Go forth and buy things. I need to double-check skill ratings on patterns and see which of her newer patterns I want to get - I could use a few more smaller/simpler ones, I think.

Schedule and Other Odds and Ends

Not-Responda-Con is still not talking. Maneki Neko Con's FB group continues to be busy. Fox Hunt class schedule is up. IIRC there's classes in making a chemise, hood, inkle weaving, and other fun stuff. Weather looks like it'll be chilly, so we could be cold and get sunburned, woo hoo!

Note to self: find cloaks.

I remembered the other day that earlier this year I bought fabric to make a cover/tablecloth for the big yellow road case. Really need to find some round tuits and do so. Maybe Not-Responda-Con weekend.

Tomorrow evening we need to procure sustenance for Saturday. Not that the lunch menu for Fox Hunt sounds bad, but the last event was just a reminder, not a previously un-learned lesson, not to rely getting lunch at an event. Given the expected weather, I'll discuss with Ron if we want to bring the little propane grill and grillables to warm our tummies.

The exception to that being Boar's Head, which is usually at sites, where we're not allowed to bring in outside food. But IIRC the lunches there have been decent enough that I don't grumble. Apropos of Boar's Head, I need to mail off my merchant registration form.