Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hardware Sorting and MuseCon Classes

After much googling and skimming threads on discussion boards, I think I've found what I need to keep hardware sorted in the big green tool cabinet road case. Nice little vertical-sided plastic bins, made to go in . . . the drawers of tool cabinets!

Now I just have to measure the drawers and decide what sizes I want.
Tonight, however, I need to bring the tablecloths and other fiber-ish things inside from the yellow road case, and work on class descriptions, etc. for our leatherworking class(es) at MuseCon.

The plan is to offer more projects this year, in addition to the basic small key fob. In order of increasing difficulty they are:
  • A larger key fob, which like the basic key fob is cut out using a die I got to make something almost but not quite totally unlike a key fob.
  • A paperback book cover.
  • A belt pouch.

The basic key fob will still be free and won't absolutely require pre-registration. I think there will be a charge for the larger key fob, but it won't require pre-registration either. Again this year I'll have conchos for sale that can be added to either key fob. Or the pouch, come to think of it.

The book cover and belt pouch will require pre-registration, because I'm making the kits up myself, so I'll need to know how many of which color (black or shades of brown(s), my choice on the browns). 

The prototype of the belt pouch needs to have a piece of hardware added, and we need to actually make one of the large key fobs, and then get pictures of both. 

I also need to decide exactly how much I'll charging for the various projects, write up class description(s), and send all the information and pictures off to Xap. So she doesn't come after me with sharp pointy objects, because the plan is to have class registration open by the MuseCon party at Capricon, next Saturday night.

I should also finalize a basic hand-sewing kit to offer to people who plan on doing the book cover or pouch (or just want one). I should have enough tools to lend, but people may want their own.

After that I need to finalize the pattern for the belt pouch - the gusset in the pattern for the prototype came out too long. There is no real pattern for the book cover, just dimensions for the body and flaps. I probably should write up instructions for the pouch and book cover, too; since it's very likely people will have to finish on their own.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Odds & Ends Missed Earlier

My brain wasn't fully operational last night, so some bits I missed or that weren't necessarily clear:

Load Bars:
When we got to Berland's House of Tools, we were looking at things that are designed to hold up plastic to divide rooms for painting/dust control, but the box says can be used as load bars. The sales guy said no way to using them as load bars, and pointed us to the real load bars, that Ron had missed on his earlier trip.  Thanks sales guy! The real ones were more expensive, but obviously a case of getting what you pay for - we happily trusted one to restrain the big yellow case.

Pictures of Setup:
Yeah, no pictures. Again. Xap said something about getting pictures, but I thought she meant to use to refer to for future events, but setups very rarely get duplicated, so I've never kept notes on setup.

I'll try to remember to get a picture of the straps I made for hanging pouches on the gridwall, since I need to shorten a bunch of them up.

New Merchandise:
Although I didn't get around to working on any of the little squarish soft pouches last week, I brought several with us, that we worked on Saturday once we were set up - both to keep busy, and it attracts attention. Ron finished the one he was working on before I did, but only because he kept getting me to do bits and pieces of his.

Big Yellow Road Case:
It definitely got attention during load-in and load-out! It's kinda surprising how  much it holds. Still figuring out how best to pack it. We found one hard pouch kinda squished, but we found it Friday night, so we hit it with a hair dryer, re-shaped, and it was fixed. 

The yellow case is a bit taller than our tables, but not enough that you really notice unless they're next to each other, and even so it wasn't a big deal.

Even though loading and unloading required some lifting of the yellow road case, Ron says his back is much less sore than usual after an event. Today he's shopping for ramps (actually ramp ends to put on 2-by lumber), which will help even further.

The yellow case now lives on the side porch, locked shut and tied with a good cable and lock to one of the 4x4 uprights. Which reminds me, we were thinking about getting locks for the gates now that the dogs have yard access during the days. I want to prevent something along the lines of neighborhood small fry wanting to play with the dogs and accidentally letting them loose.

Big Green Road Case:
As Xap noted, it's big. Taller than the yellow road case, although I'm not sure how much. The ones I was originally looking at were probably about the same height as the yellow road case, and not as wide as the one we got. But Ron correctly computed that those would have been marginal or unable to hold all the belts. So we went with the one with the maximum capacity.

We've been taking a small table to put the cash box, receipt book, etc. on, which usually we have a smidge shorter than the (merchandise) tables. The top of the big green road case will be taking over that duty. And if we don't want something out where it can be seen/grabbed (like the cash box), we can put it behind gridwall or in the top drawer - which is the one of everything drawer, so will be empty during events. 

The top does have a lip, to help restrain another tool chest that can be put on top. We'll probably get a piece of plywood, or Ron suggested a cutting board, to level it out. We'll see - plywood is cheaper than cutting board material, but doesn't look as nice. On the other hand, I'll probably be throwing a tablecloth over the back and sides, and hence also the top.

The big green case is another reason Ron's looking at ramp parts - its handle is nowhere near as sturdy as the one on the yellow road case. 

Consensus is that finding belts in the road case will be much easier than in the bins. No more heaving bins around! And not so many layers in the drawers. In fact in one drawer we have the rolled belts packed up on edge instead of lain flat and layered. I think it will also be easier to add new belts to stock rationally, as opposed to just chucking them in whatever bin had space. It also looks like there's going to be plenty of room to bring belts up to the optimum stock counts.

I also think we can probably to move the hardware display into one of the drawers, instead of the yellow bin, where it wasn't really making me happy to pack - it was just the wrong size to fit politely. And in the same bin as the hardware just makes sense.

Other Odds and Ends:
Regarding the "eating cheap food for the next two weeks" comment, we'd planned to set aside the proceeds from Maidens to get the leather I got a while back made up into two new kilts for Ron, and we're still going to try for that, even with buying the green road case. AltKilt (altkilt.com - plug plug) will be at Capricon next weekend, and we've arranged to hand off the leather at Cap so we don't have to ship it.

A couple/few years ago I started the process of shifting belt hardware - dees, buckles, and wide fancy rings with engraved stainless hardware from Tandy - over to hardware from another supplier, which has nicer engraving, and is highlighted with black. After re-packing belts yesterday (and seeing what we have left, which I'm grokking better than reading the inventory list), I've decided I'm tired of the gradual switchover, we're close enough to the end that its time to chop the old stuff off the remaining belts with it and replace with the nicer hardware.

The 1" dees I can use to make more small belt frogs we need more of anyway. Not sure what to do with the big rings and 1" buckles, I may just pitch them in a bin and mark them as clearance sale.

Need to figure out what the next events are. Val Day is, AFAIK against Cap again this year. I think Reenactor Fest is next weekend, but we didn't quite fit in the first time we did it (IIRC RF's second year around here) - not quite historically accurate enough, besides being very probably too late to get in. Got a flyer for an event in Bloomington later this spring (April?), and talked to one of our friends from Ravenslake (Lake/McHenry counties-ish) about what they've got coming up. We've got to make the gridwall and road cases earn their keep!

Road Cases Redux:
I have to repeat myself, sorry. The big yellow case alone really sped up getting in and out. I think the gridwall also helps, and I'm looking forward to using the green case.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

It Followed Us Home, Part II

We got home about 12:30, warned Robin we were on the way, so he got the trailer unloaded, and we got it back to U-Haul before 1:30 this afternoon, so we didn't get charged for a third day (should have picked it up a bit later - say 3-ish). 

Then we went to Menard's for a pair of locks for the big yellow case, and a good hefty cable and padlock to lock it to the side porch. 

We gotta stop going to Menard's.

You see, we'd been talking on and off over the weekend about a road case for belts, to make it easier to keep them sorted and accessible than the several bins we've been using.

As we went past the aisle where the big yellow bin came from, I turned down to look at something else.

Then Ron joined me. We looked. And discussed. Fetched a tape measure. Discussed options some more.Waffle waffle waffle. Discuss discuss discuss.

Then I went out to the truck to move our luggage to the floor of the back seat and to the front seat, fold down the back seats, and move the truck to the loading zone.

On the way I called Robin, and told him we'd done it again, and would need his help. He asked if it was bigger than the yellow case. I (sheepishly) admitted it probably was. "Ye gods" was his response.

Ron and Robin managed to unload it, get it in the house, and get it assembled, and here it is, the new road case for belts and hardware! (with Robin making a goofy face)

Click to embiggen.

Yes, I know, it looks like a rolling tool chest. But really, it's a road case!

It locks, so the drawers won't come open in transit. The biggest drawers have double slides, and are *quiet*. It came with pre-cut thin foam liners for the bottoms of the drawers.

I'd been looking at Menard's middle of the road tool chests, as the bottom end ones were too flimsy and the drawers rattled. Ron didn't object, but we ended up moving up both in quality and in size from the chest I was looking at originally. We may be eating a lot of cheap food for the next two weeks, but we think it'll be worth it.

This afternoon we sorted belts and packed the road case. And then we packed the contents of the hardware bins that go to events into it, too. Right now the hardware is in zippy bags, but I'm going to measure the drawers and get dividers.

After this (admittedly poor) picture was taken Ron and Robin got the sticker on the lower right drawer off, and we added labels to the drawers.

We'd already been trailer-committed by getting the yellow case, so getting this one just means we definitely need to work out ramp(s) to get it into and out of trailers, as well as the house. 

And now, I think it's time to retire to the tub.

Festival of Maidens Final Run-Up & Report

You know how last week I said I was going to stop making predictions about what I was going to work on evenings, and then on Thursday I said I really really needed to make belts?

Yeah, didn't happen.

But it was a conscious decision. I decided to take all of Friday off (instead of just the afternoon), so I worked on pouches on Thursday night.


In the morning we dropped the truck off for the oil change, ran errands, and picked up the truck. Once home I finished the last small bits on a couple pouches, then we lugged leather downstairs, cut belts, then finished them.

After lunch we picked up the trailer. We stopped at Ace to get a padlock, then home to pack this, that, and the other thing.

Once Robin got home he and Ron loaded the trailer, and by the time Xap arrived we were ready to go.

I'd gotten e-mail that we could set up between 7 and 9 Friday night, so we did the drive non-stop, unloaded, and flailed around setting up. We got the gridwall, big bin, and tables into position, and a bunch of merchandise out of the bin before realizing that we were tired and hungry (note lack of mention of dinner yet), and decided to be done until morning.

Dinner, then to bed.  ZZZZ.


Got up, ate the complimentary continental breakfast, and got downstairs to set up. The space was supposed to open at 8 for setup, and the event actually start at 9, but as I suspected people were there and we could work on setup 7:30-ish. We didn't need the extra time, but it was comfortable.

The curtains I made last weekend to hang behind the belts were good, they definitely reduced visual cultter, and Xap heard several comments that people could see the belts.

The new shelves were good, as were the leather hangers I made Friday afternoon (which is what I forgot above) - they're short bits 1.5-2" wide, with holes for hanging by S-hooks from the gridwall. I need to shorten up some of them, and I'll probably also get more shelves.

Business was decent, a slowish but steady trickle all day. 

Not many belts, but another guy with lots was there, and I'm used to my belt sales sagging when we're both at an event. But that's not a complaint, he's a cool guy. There was another guy with pouches, but I think ours were more popular. We were back to back with a lady with jewelry and some purses she makes, but her stuff was very different, and she had more jewelry than leather. She was also very personable and friendly, and we chatted a lot.

The iPouches didn't sell, but one of the other new pouches (medium, landscape-format rectangular, about 4" x 6", hard front) did. As well as a little square soft pouch about a half-hour after I finished it.

Packing up was quick, even not having any experience packing the big yellow case. 

Food-ish Natter

The event was at the Illini Union, which also has hotel rooms, so that's where we stayed. It also has a food court, which the Union's website indicated was open until midnight Fridays, and had a bunch of places to choose from.

WTF? 9pm on a Friday night and most of the food court was closed?!? Especially the pizza place (Sbarro)?!? With a bunch of students right over there in the bowling alley? We were seriously confused. But Chik-Fil-A was open (only other thing was a coffee shop), so we were fed. I don't grok the cult following of Chik-Fil-A: as it was hot and fresh and my blood sugar was in the dumps it tasted really good, but once I was human again I decided it was an otherwise utterly unremarkable chicken sandwich.

Saturday lunch: half the food court was still closed. How bizzarre! 

Given the first two tries at using the food court, we elected to order delivery for dinner Saturday. Found a thoroughly adequate Chinese place.

Yellow Road Case Analysis

Putting four full caster wheels on the bin may have been not quite the wisest idea we ever had. It easily crabs, which can be good for cornering, but if you're on a side slope it'll quite happily slide off downhill while going forward. 

One of the tablecloths was big enough (IIRC it was sold as a bedspread), so the case worked well as a table, even better when Ron chocked the wheels with the hardware bins.

Coming in we'd piled the gridwall on top, which made it hard to get to the handles to pull. Going out we piled the belt, fiber, and hardware bins on top, which worked better. Until a few feet from where the trailer was parked, when the 1 of every belt bin made a bold leap for freedom - the crack is terminal, but not catastrophic.


We got up, found a Bob Evans, then came home. Where I realized I didn't have my iPad at the restaurant. Fortunately, the restaurant has it, and Xap has friends in Champaign who will pick it up and bring it to Capricon. Barring that, I frequently work with people at the State Water Survey I'd have been comfortable asking to retrieve it and either ship it or bring it next time they're coming this way.

Tired. And was very hungry. But a dinner from Tre Amici fixed that.

Now, time to finish this post, and post about the rest of today in another post!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Load Bars and Related Natter

While Robin was at karate last night we looked for load bars (aka cargo bars) at Menard's and Home Depot. Ron had already stopped earlier in the week to see what Berland's House of Tools had.

Nothing at Menard's, found some at Home Depot, but Ron likes the ones at Berland's better, so tomorrow we'll go get them.

The Master Hitch website indicates that they carry them, but the website is pretty much useless - no specifications and no price; and they were closed by the time we were out running around.

ULine has for-real load bars (as used in semis, etc., as opposed to the ones sold for use in pickup beds), but besides being significantly more expensive (although probably worth the price), they're also too long.

If we knew there were sufficiently strong tie-down points in the rental trailer, we could just use good ratchet straps to keep the road case from rolling around. But we don't know until we pick it up.

Really, what we need to do is buy a smaller trailer more suited to the amount of stuff we actually haul, and build a shed for storing things that are currently living in the big trailer. But the stair pit wall and back porch are more pressing, and then there's college tuition for Robin.

Anyhow, must make belts tonight. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No More Predictions

I'm going to quit trying to predict what I'm going to attack next on the to-do list. 

By the time I got home last night Ron and Robin had packed the new shelves into the road case. 

Meanwhile, I was feeling tired and crabby, so while they worked on dinner I stomped off to the computer and started working on updating the price list instead. After updating the version that's set up for the phones, I decided to make a new version to print out, which was achieved by cutting, pasting, and otherwise re-formatting text. If I tried to describe exactly what I did it would probably sound terribly complex, but it was much simpler than re-typing. Both versions are actually in one InDesign document, since I export as PDF for the phones anyway, so I just choose which set of pages to export.

About the time I was finishing that (after dinner, so my blood sugar wasn't so low and therefore I was much less grumpy), Ron asked if there was a way that I could have auto-magically generated the second copy of the descriptions/prices, so that I wouldn't have to update things in two places in the future. I admitted that there was, but I'd been too lazy to figure out how to do it.

Damn it, now I'm wondering just how hard that would be.

No, no, no. Not before Maidens. I have belts to make and odds and ends to pack and pouches to finish.

I'm writing off doing anything with the purses and the grainy-looking iPouch this week. And I probably should abandon the idea of working on more little soft pouches, too; but that one's being harder to let go of.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Working on the List

Last night I got inventory resolved; and I added the new pouches, even the ones not quite completed, and tagged them. Adding the new pouches necessitated crunching the numbers on each one based on what leather, etc. each one is made out of. Spreadsheets to the rescue!  

Unfortunately, I had to add another item to the to-do list: updating the price lists, as the process of Ron and Xap doing inventory revealed that there's some gaps in the lists. 

The shelves I'd ordered for the gridwall arrived yesterday, somewhat to my surprise. Not that I expected it to take long for them to get from DesPlaines to Palatine, but I never got e-mail notice that they'd shipped. So now the wider shelves can be taken out of the road case and the new ones put in, as well as the completed new pouches. 

Maybe since we'll be poking around in the road case anyway I'll go ahead and pack easels, etc. We'll see.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bunch Accomplished, More to Go

I got a bunch done this weekend (although it doesn't necessarily sound like it if you read my personal blog).

Saturday I cut out backs for seven hard pouches, cut two purses, got four of the hard pouches mostly ready to assemble, did work on two more, treated the purse parts and several pouch backs with "Aussie Leather Conditioner", and dyed edges on other things brown. And did some necessary around-the-house things like grocery shopping.

Yesterday we worked on things that needed Ron's assistance. We finished getting six of the seven hard pouches ready to assemble, mainly I needed Ron for two that are going to have antler tips holding them shut - Ron's good at setting the loops the tips go into. The seventh pouch, the iPouch with the interesting grainy pattern, is on hold unless/until I get time. I'm also ignoring the purses for the time being.

Yesterday we also made the curtains for the quarter-round hanging bars that go with the gridwall,
to help hide all the belts hanging down on behind, which creates visual confusion. I did the sewing, Ron set snaps. Robin had asked if I'd finally fix a pair of shorts I'd had for a while, and do something with the collar on one of his vests, which I said I would. Then once I had the sewing machine out, three more pairs of shorts appeared.

On the other hand, Robin had been very helpful on Saturday, and prior to the extra shorts in need of repair appearing yesterday he'd helped Ron with the somewhat smelly job of trimming and drilling holes in antler tips, so I guess I can't complain.
Still on the to-do list prior to Festival of Maidens:
  • Resolve inventory issues
  • Price, tag, add to inventory, and pack the new merchandise
  • Finish packing easels, etc.
  • Make belts
  • Finish the pile of pouches 
  • Get load bars 
  • One of us has to get the truck to the scheduled Friday AM oil change
  • Pick up the trailer (Friday afternoon)
  • Possibly work on purses
  • Probably should get some small squareish soft pouches ready to lace
  • Possibly work on the interesting grainy iPouchThis morning, before going to get and during an oil change on the Kia, I got the belt loops on two pouches laced about halfway around the flap on one of them. That's not an insignificant amount of work.

    I'm not sure what on the to-do list I'm tackling tonight. I'm thinking inventory, since I really should get that resolved before adding new pouches and belts.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Inventory Progress

Ron and Xap attacked inventory yesterday. They got through everything except one of the hardware bins, and also packed the big road case. When I got home we did the hardware bin (part of the problem was correlating my descriptions to contents). They didn't just check off pouch numbers, they even checked descriptions. 

The inventory of pouches is a mess. Not the printouts with notes - that I can figure out. The problem is that there's a bunch of stuff showing up on inventory that wasn't in the bins. I'm used to a certain amount of drift with belts and hardware, because those don't get individually tagged, but since I started tagging pouches that's kept record-keeping has been pretty straightforward.

One of the things that was showing up in inventory but wasn't in the bins was a black lace mania pouch - which was an on-line sale shortly before Christmas. When I record sales items should be removed from the inventory spreadsheets and added to my sales record spreadsheets. What I'm thinking (hoping) happened is that either I did a copy instead of a cut out of the inventory sheet, or that somehow the inventory file got rolled back. In the simplest situation the "missing" pouches show up in both places, and the solution is cheerfully deleting them from inventory, as should have already been done.

The road case still isn't full, even though all the merchandise except belts, hardware, and fiber are packed in it. Robin says there's still a bin full of easels and other display paraphernalia, but now that we have the gridwall I don't think we'll need as many easels. Maybe I'll go through that stuff tonight and decide what to bring to Maidens and what to leave home.

This morning I ordered more of the shelves we like for the gridwall. Ron was hoping to get out early today, but given the weather forecast, getting to the place in DesPlaines was likely to be iffy, so we opted for delivery.

I also looked at load bars on-line, to keep the road case from crashing around at stops/starts/turns, since the wheels we got don't lock. Real honest-to-Ghu load bars (for use in semi trucks and shipping containers) from ULine are too long, so I found some pickup-truck sized ones a couple places, and e-mailed links to Ron to evaluate.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Oh joy, Google has updated the back-end interface on Blogger. Yesterday was the first time I'd seen a chance to try the new interface, today . . . here we are. And where, pray tell, are my post tags?


Tuesday night we started inventory, as by the time I got home (after taking some of the bins back to The Container Store, then stopping at the grocery store), Robin had brought the merchandise bins into the house from the trailer. We only did belts, though, and re-packed into the same bins. Ron had slipped on the icy front steps, so he was a spectator. Robin and I were somewhat impeded by the enthusiastic assistance of the mostly-grown puppy we're dog-sitting for a few days.

Most of my counts were pretty good. Turned out we aren't out of a couple things, they'd been buried under other colors/styles. When I re-packed I tried to pack in stacks, not layers, to prevent that happening again. If I'd been really good I'd have re-sorted and re-packed all three bins of belt backstock to consolidate things, but I wasn't that ambitious. Inventorying belts was somewhat 

Finished Ron's pocket multi-tool pouch on Tuesday, and this morning the belt loop tore. Growf. Not sure if it's because I made the loop out of a piece that was too soft, or if I made it too tight. Not sure if I'm going to just replace the belt loop, or just start over. At this point I've metaphorically thrown it into the naughty corner.

My only accomplishment yesterday was looking over the belt inventory and determining what  belts I'd make in an ideal situation (ie: plenty of leather in each color), and what we really do need. It looks like I can pretty much achieve the realistic list without ordering leather and getting it before Maidens (ordering could be done as late as Monday, if I'm daring).

Ron had a medical test/procedure this morning, and will be home by midday today, AFAIK Xap is probably going to hang out with him much of the afternoon. Ron had me print out the pouch inventory, and asked if I had any instructions on packing the road case, in the event they decide to carry on with inventory and re-packing. I'd also asked about them going to the place in DesPlaines where we got the gridwall and accessories for more of the narrow gridwall shelves.

We shall see how the afternoon develops, if they don't get to either I'll probably throw myself at inventory tonight and order the shelves tomorrow for delivery, unless the place is open Saturday morning. If they do proceed on inventory and re-packing my goal will be any finishing up necessary, including adding the pouches I've finished recently.

So, trying not to be made of flail, but not getting much new made.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ob: SOPA/PIPA Blackout

Grumble.  Google doesn't seem to have a widget to blackout Blogger blogs for today, unlike WordPress.

So, consider this blog blacked out. If you don't know what the fuss is about, point yourself at wikipedia.org.

And if you want to contact your congresscritters, use paper mail - it shows you're willing to take some time and effort, which on-line petitions do not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monkey Wrench!

Saturday I accomplished very little, other than lacing up a couple shield pouches, but that was expected between errands and karate and a MuseCon meeting.
Sunday the plan was for Ron to build cart(s) for the merchandise bins, while I worked on pouches, and purses - I need to make both a large rectangular purse and lace mania purse in black.

Ron was debating one cart or two, I think we decided on two, so we set out for Menard's to get some more supplies. On the way we revived the idea of road cases - when we were hauling the big trailer to events regularly, we'd come up with idea of building road cases that could double as tables/display areas, with access in the "back" side of at least one to get to belts.

We're not taking the big trailer any more, but the small U-Haul trailer habit seems to be growing on us. 

So, we wandered over to the aisle with toolboxes, etc., and found a contractor's tool bin. We waffled a bit, found an employee, asked some questions, I went over a couple aisles for a measuring device, then we found wheels, nuts, bolts, and washers, weather-stripping, and the new road case followed us home:

Yes, it's already become a horizontal surface. In our defense, Robin was in the process of shifting the miniatures from his room to his desk when I took the picture, the fabric-wrapped bundle goes in the road case, and the tools are from putting the wheels on.  

It's 4' x 2' x 2', with recessed areas for the handles on each end and places on the front where it can be locked. It's got forklift lift-channels that act as feet on the bottom, that appeared to be pre-drilled for wheels - and the wheels we found are a perfect fit.  By our rough calculations it will hold about 11 of our merchandise bins. With the wheels on it's just about table height - throw a tablecloth over it and voila!

The plan is that it will live outside - it is a bin designed to do so - and be locked to the house or trailer or fence. It's got a decent lip on it, but Ron added the weather-stripping for extra insurance. No, the contents will not be climate-controlled. They aren't in bins in the trailer, either. 

We will have to look at the loading ramp we have, and see about adding wood to give it a smooth-rolling surface, and doing an event all by myself is Right Out, but solo events have never been high on my list anyway. The plan is to start packing pouches, then the "one of everything" belt bin, and then the belt backstock last - because we have to be able to get to belts easily during an event.

Yesterday afternoon we set out in search of MDF to make dividers, then changed our mind and headed to The Container Store. We came out with not what we originally went for, but some bins to help prevent things from shifting sideways, and that would stack, so that there would be fewer worries about crushing items on the bottom. Except we were mistaken in our belief that we could get the bins into the road case. If we had a precision teleporter we could do it, but not with today's technology. 

A little while later we went back and fiddled some more, and got some of the bins (which we had two sizes of) in. That left what seemed like dead space, which Ron promptly filled up with gridwall hardware (shelves, quarter-round hanging bars). I said that the hardware still left a lot of dead space, Ron countered that this way the hardware is less of a pain to transport. He's the transport/packing expert, so I defer to his judgement.

Sunday afternoon I flailed about in the workshop. Not pointlessly, but it was bits and pieces for several things. I did cut out and get ready to assemble new case for Ron's leatherman from a piece that was supposed to be a purse gusset, but ran into a problem with splitting down in thickness. Robin didn't get to bringing in the rest of the merchandise bins (puttering in his room and doing homework) and thus we didn't do inventory and re-pack on Sunday. Therefore, my plan for yesterday was to have Robin bring in bins and help me with inventory, then work on pouches and purses.

Not happening. I spent Sunday night/Monday morning sick sick sick, and most of yesterday asleep.

Ron said something about getting Robin to bring merchandise in and doing inventory tonight, but if the "rain turning to snow and freezing, icy slippery drive home" forecast holds true, I'm going to suggest a delay until, um, Thursday (tomorrow night Robin has karate unless too much homework). And I'm not sure I'm up to the bending over and moving around that inventory and packing the new road case would entail tonight. 

And sometime Real Soon Now I need make the curtains for the quarter-round bars that go on the gridwall. It isn't a hard or lengthy job, except figuring out where the pre-washed off-white canvas ended up...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Not Much To See Here

Got all the remaining 2011 transactions into the books Tuesday, I thought. Then I found a couple more things on Wednesday, which was still head-spinny and tummy upset. I have Monday off, I may attempt to get books closed, and file my sales taxes.
Tuesday afternoon/evening I stitched up an iPouch and another stitched pouch. 

Spent much of Wednesday looking on-line for good, large images of popcorn, corn, nachos, cheese, or even just cows, in order to create some new MuseCon party flyers. 

I found some images, but not so much of the vintage-label type that I'd been using.

One was a photo of a popcorn box, still flat. After considering what would be required in cropping and cleanup (perforation and fold marks, the white paper had yellowed), I decided to just replicate it in Illustrator.  I think it came out pretty good. 

Of course, I put copies of that, and the other new flyers, on Ron's stick, but forgot to give myself copies, so I can't post them today. D'oh!

Next up was a package for a mousetrap shaped like a wedge of cheese - cheese with holes, whith a mouse-face looking out of a hole over the label.  I got started creating my own version, got kinda stuck, then Ron got home and rescued me by taking over. It's now a "MuseCon Nacho Cheese, Mouse-Approved" flyer.

The next one I attacked was a photo of several cobs of popcorn. In photoshop I played with filters and made it look more like an abstract painting. In InDesign I reduced the opacity, and over it made a flyer that says, approximately, "MuseCon - celebrating creative snacks! Now featuring popcorn!" with other blurbs saying "cheese-o-riffic nachos" and something about Mr. Slushy (and the day/time/room, of course).

The latest one was a picture of a rat and some cheese. I started messing with filters, then Ron took over as he knew how to stack Photoshop filters to make them additive on the fly, as well as stretching the background section. Once we had the picture looking like poster art, and Ron drew me a thought bubble in Illustrator, I added words. The rat is thinking that he just needs chips and then he could have nachos, and the flyer says something like "Don't worry, Ratty, we'll have plenty at the MuseCon party!". 

Ron and I both liked the rat photo as it was, but I decided to make it a little less realistic so as to hopefully not give the heebie-jeebies to people who don't like rodents.  :)

I'd like to make a couple-few more new party flyers, we've been using the initial crop for two years now, and I don't want to always use the same ones. I probably won't completely retire the initial batch, but it doesn't hurt to have more.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Little Pouches Gone!

Ok, only two of the little pouches (which is what I expected) - the harmonica pouch and the pocketwatch pouch with the red front and both red and black lace. Robin just put them in the mailbox. The Etsy listing for the black pocketwatch pouch with red lacing has been updated to reflect that it's for sale to anybody.

And now, since my head and tummy say moving around is bad, I'm going to just sit here at the computer and double-check revised business cards, bookmarks, a banner, and the ad for the Capricon program book, all of which I did for MuseCon.  Then I'll do books.  Because keeping the head and tummy happy is a good thing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Little Pouches Done

Mini pouches done and posted to Etsy!

Click thumbnails to embiggen.

Busy Weekend, with Pictures

Friday night was not-Otter stuff, as was the usual Saturday morning flailing around (you know where to find that natter by now). 

Prep Work:

After lunch Saturday I finally settled in to get some work done. 

I started with sorting out and putting away the big hardware order that came in Friday. Big as in price, but in heavy, but small, box - rotary latches, rivets, belt clips, and some other assorted bits and pieces, including these conchos for the pocketwatch pouch customer. 

Click this and the other pictures to embiggen (a word I've stolen from The Yarn Harlot). The center one is a Maltese cross in black, and the edging is a motorcycle chain. Although about half the time I see it as a four-petaled silver flower on a black background, with a silver edging, at least in the picture.

I also put some fabric I had pulled out or purchased for doll clothing into a couple bins, and did some other cleanup.

Miniature Pouches:

Then I went to work on pouches - the two pocketwatch pouches for the customer to choose from, and when I got as far as I could before needing an answer on the conchos.

Sunday morning I had the answer from the customer (he liked the antique brass fleur-de-lis, which I had pointed out would match the rotary latch). So I continued work on those, while Ron and Robin did a shelving project that I'd decided was more useful to got done than building the cart for merchandise bins. 

Here's the three little pouches, ready for assembly - the center one is for a harmonica, the others are pocketwatch pouches. For an idea of scale, the outer sides of the square are eight and twelve inches long.

The harmonica pouch will have the sides and bottom folded in and gets black lace. The pocketwatch pouches have soft gussets; the black one will be laced with red, the other one will have black lace on the red front and red lace on the flap, the customer can choose which he prefers. I'm not worried about the other finding a home, red and black is a popular combination.

The pouches are binder-clipped at the bottom to help keep the flaps shaped until they're laced up - they're all lined, and the lining was glued in with the flap curved, to help prevent wrinkles. It's a pain-in-the-tuchis step, I don't usually do if I'm lining a larger pouch/purse flap, but on these little guys it's pretty much necessary. It's especially a nuisance when (re-) punching the lacing holes while keeping things curved. Since I think I'll be keeping pocketwatch pouches in stock, I'll probably have Ron use his new router with a quarter-round bit on both sides on some scrap one-by lumber. Square-edged lumber works, but a rounded edge would help.

Yesterday I got the harmonica pouch done. As I expected, I had to go back and forth doing a few stitches on each side frequently - it's front width is narrower than the length of a lacing needle. I used pliers a lot.

This morning Ron was eyeballing the harmonica pouch for his multi-tool (can't remember if it's a Swisstool or Leatherman). It's a bit snug, and too short to fasten over it. For the multi-tool I'd probably just lengthen the flap, and Ron thinks leaving the lining out (the front is self-lined with another piece of green) would loosen it up sufficiently. So I'll probably be making another one. But not in green, probably brown.

Last night I also got the gusset laced onto the front of the red-and-black pocketwatch pouch, and about halfway around the back/flap. I'm planning to finish that one and do all the lacing on the other one today, so I can put them and the harmonica pouch up on Etsy tonight, and hopefully ship them out tomorrow morning if my schedule and the customer's align favorably.

More Pouches!

After I got the pocketwatch pouches as far as I could Saturday, I got worked on the three shield pouches Ron had waxed the fronts of New Year's weekend, and got them ready to lace up. So I've got those and three other smaller pouches to sew and/or lace together this week. That sounds like a lot, but when I get on a roll I can finish one or two pouches a day (provided I'm not doing other work on merchandise). 

Yesterday Ron waxed the seven pouches we molded last week. I was going to go through inventory and look at what we did and didn't have for black/brown, but then I decided to just make half black. I actually dyed pouches without getting any black dye on my arms!  I'm amazed. I'm not saying I didn't get any dye on the apron I was wearing, but since it was black to start with it's hard to say if I did or not. And the nitrile gloves didn't degrade, which the vinyl ones sometimes do. So you can't tell I dyed yesterday. How odd.

Happy Accident:

One pouch we debated about dying was this iPouch front (shown after being waxed - also upside-down hanging from my anvil). The stripes are a result of an accident, the details of which I'm going to keep to myself for the moment.

We weren't sure if we wanted to dye it black to hide the stripes, or leave it and wax it and let it show. We decided to go ahead and see how it would come out, and we're glad we did.

I couldn't try to replicate it with the pouches we molded last night, but the next round I will be trying to get  the effect next time. Which should be in a day or two, I've decided we're just going to keep molding pouch fronts until we use up the double shoulder I cut up last week. The molded leather keeps, it just takes up a little more space than the flat pieces, but since molding can be the bottleneck step in making hard pouches, getting ahead is a good thing.

You Have to Spend Money to Make Money:

Saturday afternoon Robin was rooting through the box stash to find one to ship a little square soft pouch in, and coming up empty-handed. So I bit the bullet and ordered some smallish boxes.

While I was at it I added some paper to wrap around things when packing. I decided against tissue paper (although I picked up some white tissue paper in the half-off holiday section at Ace anyway), and got white butcher paper. Part of me revolts at the frivolity, but it will look nicer to have merchandise wrapped neatly inside the box instead of just dumped in. Even though I know there's no need for it, it's that whole looking-professional thing. 

I also need to get more of the self-adhesive shipping labels I've been using - half the sheet is the label, the bottom half is just plain paper, with a perforation between, so you can print the shipping label and customer receipt on one sheet. Unless you're doing a USPS label, because USPS saddles you with a half-page of instructions below the label, grumble. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some Progress, Some Static

The only work done on pouches last night was taking Tuesday's set off the molds and molding four more. My excuse is that I had a new toy to play with. More natter and pictures on my personal blog, once I'm done here.
On the other hand, I did decide on and sign up for (relatively) cheap credit card processing.

A couple people suggested Square (squareup.com).  I wanted to go with Square, I really really did. But there were just too many comments about bad customer service - the only way to contact them is via e-mail/web form, and wait for return e-mail. Some people have managed to find a phone number, but it just goes to an answering machine and it sounds like calls aren't answered.

That's ungood behavior.

I also saw some comments about needing to re-swipe cards more often, and the annoyance of the little square Square reader spinning in the audio jack, but it was the customer service question that pushed me over the edge.

So I (reluctantly) looked at Intuit's GoPayment service. (http://payments.intuit.com/products/basic-payment-solutions/mobile-credit-card-processing.jsp)

Both Square and Intuit (on the low-volume - less than $1K/month in charges) offer free readers, no monthly/annual fees, and almost identical rates. But Intuit has their customer service phone number(s) on their website, reasonably easy to find. I think I saw that they prefer GoPayment customers to use chat, but that's still reasonably-live.  Intuit won.

Intuit charges a flat 2.7% for swiped transactions (3.7% for keyed in). That's higher than than what traditional merchant accounts are paying (AFAIK), but that's the tradeoff for no other overhead fees. To compare, PayPal charges 2.2% plus 30 cents per transaction, so depending on the total of the charge the rates are reasonably comparable. 

So, for face-to-face transactions, Otter Necessities can now accept credit cards again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Making Progress

Getting back into the swing of things.
Tuesday I did fire up InDesign and worked on revised business cards, bookmarks, and an ad for the Capricon book for MuseCon. I also updated the door banner for parties that I did in Illustrator, and almost stymied Ron in the process: I had an outline font that I wanted to fill in, and It seemed like something Illustrator should be able to do. It was, it just required zooming in enough to see how the letters were constructed.

I think I needed a break after being done with the fall semester of classes before doing graphic design stuff again. I'm not sure I'm going to take any more classes, there doesn't seem to be much that Harper has that I want to learn (or that I already haven't figured out) in the Graphic Design curriculum. 

Tonight I need to take another look at the things I worked on Tuesday, and get them to the Capricon people and get them up on my MuseCon publications web page.

Yesterday I got holes made in pouches, but although I could have started putting things together, I didn't. 

My rather large hardware order is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow. I'm kind of waiting on the pocketwatch cases until it comes in, as I'm down to only one belt clip, and I want to make at least two pocketwatch cases using belt clips.

Tuesday night we molded 3 pouch fronts. Pulled the fronts off of the molds this morning to let them finish drying, and soaked more leather to mold 4 tonight. Those should be dry and ready to wax Saturday (pouch fronts are waxed on the molds, to help keep them in shape), then we can mold another round.  Yes, I'm pushing to get lots of fronts molded, it tends to be the bottleneck step, as it's a 48-72-hour process.

We are confirmed for Festival of Maidens. We'll see how much we can get done by then. Which reminds me, I really need to check belt inventory vs. leather and see if I need to order more leather.

Which then reminds me another step further out, I need to post some belts to ArtFire, and more to Etsy.

In the last couple months PayPal has been particularly egregious in their screw-the-seller policy. First it was a kerfluffle with the website Regretsy, about a charity drive they were doing. This week it was a story about the PayPal-ordered destruction of an antique violin in an authenticity dispute. Unfortunately, there are no strong contenders. None of my Etsy customers have used Google Checkout, nor have I for that matter. But I may start trying harder to remember it as an alternative.  Dwolla is rumored to be good, need to investigate it more.

I also want to look at credit card readers for my iPhone. I've heard rumors of service(s) that don't have monthly/annual fees, only transaction fees. If the fees aren't too horrible that would be a viable alternative for in-person events. I liked being able to accept credit cards, it was the overhead monthly and annual fees that killed it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


The person who ordered the miniature Lace Mania pouch (which shall hearafter also be known as a pocketwatch pouch) shown in the December 22nd post liked it. He's ordered another, plus a pouch for a harmonica. 
I've got the harmonica pouch cut out, lacing holes punched, all I have to do are stitching holes, then I can get on with assembly. I'm having my usual fears that I've made it too small. But I figured out that I can do a test-fit with Ron's multi-tool, except for length (which is not where I'm worried about fit anyway). Assembly should be . . . entertaining, it's in the style of the soft pouches, with lacing up the sides; but it's only going to be an inch and some wide, so I'll have to do only a couple-few stitches on one side, then a few on the other side. 

The customer asked about doing a fleur-de-lis or Maltese cross design, which would be fairly easy on a larger pouch, but on the little mini-LM's, not so much.  But today I ordered fleur-de-lis and Maltese cross conchos, so I can give him that option. 

I also ordered a bunch of other hardware-ish things today: more belt clips, rivets, both sizes of rotary latches, hardware to hold the straps on purses, and more. I expect to get a relatively small, but heavy, box.

Over Christmas weekend I made another pocketwatch pouch, black with red lace, for Wash. I screwed it up and cut the front too tall, but apparently that isn't a problem, as it hasn't come back. I also need, still, to make him a black kilt belt. I just have to get some stuff out from in front of the big sewing machine.

Didn't get much accomplished during the week last week, or Saturday (too busy playing with dolls, and Ron was busy Saturday with Legos).

Sunday Ron got pouches waxed. We couldn't find the new heat gun, and the hair dryer was taking forever (which is why we switched to using a heat gun many years ago). Happily, Ace had a basic one for just over $20. Unfortunately, Ace was closed. But Menard's was not, and they had an almost identical Wagner for about a dollar more than the Ace house-brand. He finished much faster with the heat gun - 2 iPouch fronts, 3 shield fronts, and a hard front about 6" wide and 4" tall, the first one of its kind.

The new pouch will be stitched together, no lacing on the flap, two small rotary latches. I'm intending it to go with the other "Sam Browne Project"/Steampunk-ish stuff. I'd already cut the back out and done stitching holes for the prototype, but I'll consider lacing future ones, and doing more in all-black (which I've been studiously avoiding, except for a cartridge pouch Ron did). 

Sunday felt like I was flailing around a lot. I got started laying out and cutting the second pocketwatch pouch the customer ordered - actually two, as I'm waffling which combination of red and black leather and lacing will look best, so I'm just going to do both and let him choose. I also broke down a couple gorgets (retired due to changing SCA Midrealm combat rules) into parts for three more pocketwatch pouches. I'm rather pleased with that effort. And I poked a bit at the pouches Ron had waxed fronts for.

However, the only thing I actually made progress on were sheaths for my new head knife and skiving knife - the sheath for the head knife came out of another gorget, and the one for the skiving knife out of bits from the scrap bin. And I finished them up by bedtime. Not that those are bad things to accomplish, but I could have spent less time on cutting up and thinning down leather from gorgets and more on the ordered pouches or the hard pouches. 

And Ron dropped my head knife, when he picked it up in the glued-together sheath, and tested gravity. It landed blade-down, but fortunately not on any living thing or the metal frame or step of the workmate. It did land on the new rectangular mold I mentioned earlier, and took a chunk out of it - nice sharp blade. Robin filled the chunk with Green Stuff last night and trimmed it this morning, we'll see how the patch holds, molding on it tonight.

Yesterday was better, I got the harmonica pouch cut out and almost ready to assemble, as mentioned. I also got the new smallish hard rectangular pouch ready to assemble (stitching holes for the belt loops left), as well as a two iPouches, one black and one brown (only stitching holes left).

I also took one of the double shoulders down to the cutting table that Robin cleared over break, and cut into 10 or 12 hard pouch fronts. Robin assembled the C-clamp army, and so tonight we'll mold a large and medium hard square, and one of the new horizontal rectangles.  Drat, I should have also soaked the front for another iPouch, we have enough clamps to do one of those, too. Oh well.

Why didn't I get around to doing stitching holes last night? Laziness. My cork pad and awl are in the living room, and it was too much effort to clear off the table in front of the couch to do holes. Guilty guilty guilty.

Tonight, unless I fire up InDesign and do some things for MuseCon, I should get stitching holes in pouches.