Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More New Ideas

I had another idea for a new thing to do on/with/to pouches, and Ron tells me it isn't hare-brained. It will, however, lead to the purchase of more stuff, from at least three different suppliers. For that reason, it will probably wait a little while, but probably less than a month.

It will also mean another variation(s) to try to keep in stock. Which: AAARGH! But also: more choices lead to more sales. Fortunately, storage of the new stuff should only be a minor issue, it should work into empty spaces in existing storage solutions.

Which reminds me, when working on the single small pocket last night, Ron discovered that one of the shallow plastic tackle boxes I keep punches in suffered fatal damage over the weekend. I know one if its small cousins had also been holed, but I had a spare. I suspect both were damaged when the big bins shifted on the way to the event Saturday.

The question becomes: stop at Cabela's and see if I can get another box of the same style/size; or shift to a different solution, with the sub-option of double-checking what's lurking in the basement in the way of tool boxen. The tackle boxes the punches are currently in live in a fairly dead space in the dining room, which a bigger tackle/tool box would not do. Given that I'm kind of trying to continue cleaning up the dining room, moving things out of a dead space into another part of the room is not an attractive option. Perhaps I'll measure said dead space and see if there are any better storage solutions available that would still fit.

Ron continued work on the single (test) pocket last night. He was hoping to get as far as sewing, but that decided that the gusset I'd cut was too stiff to try sewing without gluing first, and that he wanted to give the glue plenty of time to dry. He also noted and came up with a solution to a machine-sewing problem that's not an issue with hand-sewing (lumpy bits which would cause significant issues when trying to machine-sew something are often only minor annoyances when hand-sewing, and then only because the thread likes to wrap around and hold onto said lumpy bits).

I'm not being patient about my Fire Mountain Gems order. Reading their shipping information it should ship today, from Oregon, FedEx ground/home delivery. That probably means delivery early next week. Fire Mountain doesn't have a way to look at past/outstanding orders, so unless they send me a tracking number package arrival is going to be a surprise.

Still chugging away on the vertical-stack pockets. I can't remember if I nattered about it before or not, I'm only working on them in the evenings, as I decided they've gotten too bulky to schlep back and forth to the office to work on at lunchtime. If machine-sewing does not turn out to be a viable solution, I'm not sure I'm going to be making many more, they're a lot of work. Especially since in the evenings I also have time-sinks such as making dinner and doing dishes.

Oh, to be truly and filth-ily rich, so I could have staff to do the cooking whenever I didn't want to, and to do the pesky cleaning-type housekeeping. Which would require a much bigger house. Ooh, that would be tragic. Or staff that didn't live in, which would also be ok, as it would only leave us with after-hours emergency messes. And while I'm at it, I'd like a pony. No, a draft horse. Whatever. And stable staff, too. That's it! I have to win mega-billions in the lottery! Or be blessed by the Money Fairy! Whichever, they're equally (im)plausible.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Steampunk-Ish Pouch Progress

Our Sunday trip to Cabela's was not just to look for winch mounting plates. We were also picking up parts for the more steampunk-ish modification to the vertically-stacked pockets. I'm still keeping details of that secret, I'm just a creep that way, grin.

Sunday afternoon, after Safari on the iPad crashed and I lost a big chunk of blog post, I stomped out into the dining room and cut out the top part of the vertical pocket stack - just the small pocket and the belt loops. It was supposed to be a test for the steampunk-ish modification as well as machine-sewing. However, we realized that part of the modification wasn't going to work out as well as we'd thought, and also that I need to make a modification to the pocket flap. Happily, we figured that out while it was still in pieces, so making changes are easy (and less annoying to boot).

After we made the big sewing machine accessible and usable, and Ron gave it a good going-over last night, I re-claimed my chair and cut out the modified pocket flap, punched it for lacing, and got the lacing done before going up to bed. That means that things are pretty much ready for Ron to start final assembly.

Going back to the basic vertically-stacked pockets, on Sunday afternoon I finished the first pass of sewing , and then tacked together the rest of the parts - the pocket fronts to the gussets, and the flaps. I think it's going to come out pretty well, now that you can really see how it's going to turn out (click to embiggen):


The fabric pockets these are based on have a strap toward the bottom that goes around the leg, to keep them from flopping around (kind of like on an old west gunfighter's rig). I had semi-forgotten about that until Friday night when Xap asked me if I was going to add one. We dithered a bit, since the backing leather makes mine less floppy, and then we had Robin put them on. The consensus was that the strap would be unnecessary, which is a bonus for kilt-wearers. After trying the pockets on, Robin was asking how hard they are to assemble, as he's only done a paperback book cover. Not hard, I said, especially if machine-sewing them works out. We then digressed on to discussing the more steampunk-ish modifications to the pockets in general, and what Robin might like in particular.

I was waiting for a friend to get back to me on sizing for some jewelry findings, but this morning decided I wanted bigger bits and pieces. This morning I had a little, um, accident at Fire Mountain Gems. I am told, however, that it was the kind of accident that it's easy to have when ordering from Fire Mountain. Yes, this is relevant to this natter.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Found: Floor!

There's a floor out in the dining room!

Ron got dinner started while I was on the way home, so once it was in the oven I went out and started doing further cleanup so the big sewing machine is usable. And Ron helped me find places to put things away, instead of just rearranging the mess.

If I keep this up the room is going to be neat again. Be still my heart. I might even be able to set things up so I can work out there while Ron is using the sewing machine, but I'm not holding my breath on that one - there's a lot of stuff out there, and there's only so much condensing we can do (before we reach critical mass and things collapse into a black hole. Which would be bad.)

At the moment Ron is out giving the sewing machine a thorough cleaning and oiling. In a little bit I'll go out and cut and punch lacing holes in a small steampunk pocket flap.

Midlands A&S Fair Report & Afterwards

I got a bunch typed out yesterday, then Safari on the iPad crashed, and I hadn't saved, so everything I had written was gone. So I pouted and didn't start over.

The Midlands Arts & Sciences Fair was decent, for the attendance. Unfortunately, that seems to have been fairly small. It was 2 hours west of Palatine, so I suspect that some of the greater-Chicago-area people didn't go (a suspicion reinforced by a couple comments on the Ayreton list). We didn't expect it to be a huge event, but were hoping it would be a little bigger than it was. Oh well, it's hard to predict going in.

Lunch was not a disappointment, however. $5 for orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon, dates, hummus, pita, Moroccan semolina bread, seasoned/spiced olives, beef tagine with apricots or chicken tagine, some kind of drink (I think lemonade), and orange cake.

Even though I skipped the olives (I just don't like olives), they looked like they'd be good. The hummus needed salt, but wasn't bad. The pita was decent commercial, and only suffered in that Friday night we had multiple kinds of fresh hot Indian/Pakistani flatbreads with dinner. The meat in the beef tagine was a tad chewy, but Ron said the chicken wasn't. Whoever made the tagines should be congratulated, they managed to spice them enough so that they weren't bland, but they weren't so spicy as to risk turning people off. That's a tough balance to get. The servings of the semolina bread and orange cake were huge, and they were both good. The cake wasn't too sweet, either. All in all, one of the better SCA lunches we've had. I need to go check and see if there are recipes on the group's website - drat, no.

Loading the trailer Friday night was a bit rocky - Ron had backed the trailer too close to the gate, so there wasn't really a flat landing pad between the two sets of ramps; and Robin was working with more enthusiasm than discretion (considering the trailer ramps don't have side/guide rails to prevent road cases from rolling off sideways). Unloading/loading at the event site went well. Even though lifting is still required, Ron much prefers the two road cases to umpty bins. We still had three bins (garb, fiber/stringy bits, and assorted last-minute-ish stuff), but they just got wheeled in and out on top of the green tool case.

We did have some shifting of the load on the way to the site, we think in part because of some of the hills involved in the drive. On the way home Ron packed and put the load bars in differently, and the result was much less shifting of the big cases. We'll only be taking 2 of the 6' tables in the future, 3 don't really fit. But we can take 2 of the 4' tables instead of just one.

The big green case is a definite improvement for belt storage - it is very easy to find the right kind of belt when one is needed. Ron did change how one drawer was packed, but that's minor. The case worked fine as a tabletop for receipt books, etc. Ron fought a bit with Numbers at first, but it looks like having him do the record-keeping on the iPad is going to work out.

Wireless coverage was a problem. Ron had only intemittent weak coverage, I never noticed I had any at all (ATT). Fortunately, Xap had coverage, and the Intuit app is available for her Android phone. They did try to set it up so merchants could use the local WiFi network, but we had login/connection issues. Our neighbors had a Virgin Mobile WiFi hotspot widget, but the building WiFi was interfering. Their plan is pay-as-you-go, we may investigate something like that as a backup - they say it's also nice at conventions when the hotel networks get busy. On the third hand, we haven't had any problems with cell/3G coverage at hotels.

Unloading the trailer yesterday morning went much better than loading Friday, even without Xap's help (which we had Friday). We had space between the two sets of ramps to get the big cases parked and do things in stages, instead of having to off of one and straight up the other. We told Robin we needed him to pay attention to steering and not just be strong like ox and smart like tractor, so he did. And next time there will be a winch to make it easier yet.

Yesterday morning, after dropping off the trailer, we looked for winch mounting plates at Cabela's - they have a bunch that can be ordered, but nothing in stock and no pictures. In the afternoon I checked the winch manufacturer's website (, and 4 pages of mounting plates for all the different models of ATVs, with pictures. We found one that looked good for adaptation to a fixed stand, and Ron ordered it. The company is Connecticut, so hopefully we'll have it before the weekend, so Ron and Robin can work on building a stand.

That isn't quite the end of our accomplishments for the weekend, but I think I've nattered on (and on and on) quite enough. So I'll leave you with a panoramic view (taken with and stitched together on Ron's phone!) of our setup Saturday. Click to embiggen. The yellow road case is against the wall, between the two displays of belts. The big green case is behind the gridwall that's behind/between the two tables full of pouches.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sewing, by Hand and by Machine

I think I may be a hand-stitching snob.

I've known for a while that when it comes to clothing and knitting that I'm a fiber snob - too much man-made fiber in my clothing is icky to wear, and too much in knitting yarn feels squeaky, or something - it's hard to describe.

But this morning I realized I may be a hand-stitching snob. It happened when we were discussing the vertically-stacked pockets, the next variation on them to make, and I mentioned that I don't think I'm going to get them done for the event Saturday. In reply, Ron pointed out that a lot of the sewing involved in the pockets could be done on the big sewing machine, and would go a lot faster.

I twitched, and hemmed, and hawed, and agreed. My only real comment against machine sewing was that hand-stitching looks nicer. Ron countered that we can shorten up the stitch length on the sewing machine (which will help the appearance). I agreed, and said that if we leave long tails so we can get all the ends to the back sides, and melt them off (so they don't fray), it would also help.

Therefore, I'll cut out another set of pockets for Ron to try machine-sewing. Which also means I need to clean up the big sewing machine (which is currently buried), and the area directly in front of it. We may also need to get Marmaduke and/or X1 to come and help Robin move it over away from the metal workbench, we haven't tried using the sewing machine since bringing the workbench up from the basement a while back. Not that those are bad thing to need to do, as we also need to make satchels and belt satchels, both of which are machine-sewn.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pictures! We got Pictures!

Here it is, the picture post I've been threatening. Click pictures to embiggen.

First up, an illustration of why I bought a gross each of small- and medium-size binder clips. This is a round laced purse, where the gusset has been glued in. For every binder clip visible, there's another one on the other side. I also glued up a rectangular purse, which used at least as many binder clips.

Next, Lon learns that dropping all your pictures in at once and trying to rearrange and insert text in between is not a good idea. That way lies madness. OTOH, I learned how to get pictures from Gmail directly to Picasa Web Albums without downloading them to a computer first, and the same method can be used to get them from my phone to Picasa Web Albums. 

On to little red bins in the big green tool chest. These are the buckle and dee drawers. You can see in each where I've turned a 1" x 2" bin to show where a 2" bin would fit.

Last night I worked on the vertically-stacked pockets. They're ready to have the edges of the flaps laced, and to have everything sewn together. To make the sewing a little easier I've tacked the belt loops and gussets down. In the second picture the pocket fronts are just sitting on the gussets to give you the general idea.


A Sad and Tragic Creature:

The cute little ATV winch, on the temporary test frame, and a roller fairlead, since not everybody knows what such a beastie is. This is the good one we found in the Cabela's Bargain Cave marked down about 75%.

And that's all I've got for today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Backtracking for Moving Heavy Objects

Silly me, yesterday morning I left out chunks of what Ron had been working on.

Saturday morning we got lumber to make ramps to go from the side porch to the ground. Saturday afternoon, while Robin was doing election judge training, we went to Lowe's for the nice aluminum ramp tops they carry, and then to Cabela's to return the less-nice steel ones I'd picked up last week.

We had time to kill, so we went for a wander around Cabela's, including the "Bargain Cave". The most interesting thing we found in the Bargain Cave was a roller fairlead for an ATV winch, marked down from $50 to $13. At some point after buying the road cases I'd suggested using a come-along or winch to get them up and down the ramps to the ground, and I wasn't entirely joking. We decided to buy the fairlead because it was a great deal, and we probably would implement the winch idea at some point (especially if/when Robin ever moves out).

As we strolled toward the checkouts, Ron wondered if Cabela's carries ATV winches. I pointed out where they'd probably be (based on looking for the ramp ends), so we wandered over to take a look, and Ron found one - on sale. 2000 lb capacity, for <$100. It followed us home. It came with a fairlead, so Ron was going to leave the one we found in the Bargain Cave, but I over-ruled.

The winch is so tiny! So tiny and cute! The winch on my Jeep had a capacity of 8900 pounds, a much longer stash of heavier cable, and wasn't a low-profile model. Compared to that one, this one is cute and tiny, comparatively. Why, you may ask, did we not just re-purpose the winch from the Jeep? Because we bequeathed it to a friend when the Jeep went to the junkyard.

To continue: Saturday evening Ron and Robin knocked together a test platform out of scrap lumber and hooked the winch up to the battery out of Ron's motorcycle to test it. Worked fine. Then Ron started pondering how to power it. The winch is set up to run off of an ATV battery, so there's the possibly-dead batteries from the rototiller or my mostly-moribund motorcycle (anybody want a 1984 V65 Sabre with an untrustworthy ignition switch?). But to use it getting road cases up and down the ramp to the porch, it would be most convenient to get it to run from AC power, which is available a couple feet from the door.

Ron consulted several of our friends. One suggested a computer power supply, only problem there is that we've disposed of all our dead computers. After a bit of thinking, Ron went to the basement to fetch the large batter-charger/jump-starter that we don't use much any more, at about the same time that another friend of ours was sending e-mail suggesting exactly that. (I'd forgotten about it, as we also have a smaller/lighter/smarter charger that fits under the hood of a vehicle) Hooked up the charge/starter and the winch ran happily.

Ron and Robin need to build something to hold the winch in place on the porch, but still remain portable (no, I don't want a winch permanently mounted to the middle of the porch, thanks). They're still debating exactly how to do that. Not sure if it will end up using both fairleads, or just one - if one, we'll use the one we got in the Bargain Cave, it's nicer than the one that came with the winch. We'll also probably need to get a tow strap, or see if we still have the one that lived in the Jeep - not sure if there's quite enough cable to go the length of the porch and down the ramp. But that's minor.

On Sunday Ron and Robin built the ramps for the porch - 2xmumbles (10s, I think), with 1x4s on each side to act as rails and add extra stiffness. Robin can walk up one, but there's some bounce. Ron expects he'll have to add a stiffener or brace down to the porch steps, but they'll be fine for the event this weekend.

I do need to find/cut wide leather straps to hoist the end of the big green toolbox, kind of like movers' lift straps, and to control it going up/down ramps. The handle on it is only sturdy enough for moving/steering it on the flat, not going up or down ramps, and certainly not lifting it over a door sill.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stick a Fork in it, I'm Done

Purses are ready for final assembly - stitch the dee holders in place, lace together, and put the shoulder straps on. Which is not an insignificant amount of work, but the stitching and lacing are fairly simple/brainless.

I told Robin that I was comfortably certain the cutting dies weren't in the dining room, and after looking in the tool drawers (which I hadn't technically looked in, but I've been in most of them for this and that thing over the weekend), he looked in the basement. In only a couple minutes he'd located them. I should either have him bring them up and put them on the shelves I expect to find them on, or else have them put them on the stand for the big press.

Worked on making belt loops for pouches - cutting out little rectangles. When I was cleaning/looking for the dies, I realized I had a significant amount of leather set aside for them. I was working on that after getting the purses to where I wanted, while waiting for Robin and Marmaduke to finish the miniature game they were playing on the cutting table.

Once they finished, and cleared most of their gaming paraphanalia, I cut strips for braided belts. I cut mostly wide ones, but I cut a few experimental narrow braided belts. Wide belts get a 5-strand braid, I'm going to see how a narrower belt looks with a 3-strand braid. Actually, I have a pretty good idea how it will look, the question is if they'll sell. I cut 2 or 3 in black, and a couple dark brown. I didn't need to cut wide braided belts of the other two browns, so didn't cut any narrow ones either. After cutting down the pieces of black and dark brown to no-longer-usable-for belts width, I brought them upstairs.

I needed the black for the new steampunkish project, which is a pair of vertically-stacked pockets. I got them fairly far along, but a few minutes ago I realized that I'd reached the point that I'm too tired to do any more safely. I still need to make the stitching holes for the belt loops and install the studs for the belt loops, and figure out where the latches go on the pocket fronts and install the latches. After those tasks all that will be left is lacing the pocket flaps and then stitching everything together. Survey of Robin and Marmaduke agreed with using rotary latches for the pockets, small version on the smaller upper pocket and larger version of the latch on the larger lower pocket. So that's what I'm doing.

However, a few minutes ago I realized I was too tired to continue safely. Er, um, I see I'm repeating myself. In part because this post isn't being written in the order you're reading it. Anyhow, I might be able to finish the things on the pockets listed above safely, but there's also a good chance I'd screw something up and make a mess. I'd rather not take that chance.

I did the stitching holes on these differently than I did Robin's, in part because I wasn't going to be able to glue to the leather I'd dyed black (at least not with rubber cement). The change was slightly more work in some ways, but it simplified things significantly in others. The test will be in stitching them together.

The chili is calling me. I think it's time to get myself some dinner, then probably go sit in the tub. Nighty-night...

Cutting Dies AWOL

The dining room is neater than when I started out this morning, but the cutting dies I've been looking for are still AWOL. This includes the die needed to cut the holder for the dees that the shoulder strap of a purse attach to.  

Fortunately, I found 4 black dee holders, so the purses are not stalled, and the die needed to cut parts for the steampunkish thing was not among the missing.

At this point I think I can safely declare the dies "Not in the Dining Room" and turn the search over to the person(s) who cleaned up the basement. 

Looking for the dies must have been A Project, as I drew blood in the process (not serious). Also, I have a blister on my right ring finger as a result of working the purses.  That is all.

Working Away

Saturday was made of even more flail than usual, although in the morning the little bins for the big green tool bin arrived, and we got the hardware re-packed into them. I seem to have made a mis-calculation, and ordered 1" wide bins as space-fillers, when I could have gotten 2" ones. But they're not too expensive, so I'll probably not worry about returning/exchanging the 1" ones, and just get 2" ones.

Yesterday, since I was going to be dyeing things black anyway, I finished cutting a chunk of leather up into softish pouch parts, and then went out and dyed a whole bunch of things. 

I worked on the black purses, and then got a pouch ready to lace up during the MuseCon meeting. I could have finished it at the meeting, as well as hemming the top of the pocket for the rectangular purse, but I decided the pouch needs a slight modification that would be easier if I didn't finish lacing up the sides.

After the meeting I worked on the purses some more, up to getting the gussets glued in, so they've been drying overnight. Then I moved on to another pouch.

Today the plan is to get the pouches ready for final assembly steps - sewing the dee holders onto the gussets, and lacing up. I also want to go downstairs, cut strips for braided belts and any other black belts we need out of a partial side we have.  

After that, the remains of that side come upstairs to be used on the current steampunk-ish project. Yeah, I'm doing it in black (sigh). Black sells. I'm hoping to also get that ready for final assembly today, which means I should quit yakking and get to work...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Puttering Around Yesterday

Stayed home not-entirely-well yesterday, tired and with a sinus headache. Not exactly ill, but not happy and healthy, either. I could have put up with being tired or with the headache, but both together stole my give-a-damn.
Eventually I did start puttering around.

I got inventory updated with the pouches finished recently, but never got as far as going out to put them in the big yellow road case. Then I moved out to the workroom, rooted around, and updated a list of cut out pouches/parts that I'd found on the iPad. As part of updating that I made some decisions on what colors some pouches would be.

I didn't feel up to serious work on purses or the new steampunk-ish thing at first, so I cut some small soft pouch parts out of larger pieces of scrap. I did get as far as cutting out the largest piece of the new steampunk-ish thing, but then I stalled out.

I have a (mental) pile of things that need to be dyed black, including the piece I'd just cut out in the previous paragraph, but I wasn't sure I wanted to be messing with the black dye, which has a definite petrochemical pong, when I already had a headache. I also wasn't up to deciding if I wanted to dye in the basement or outside, or would it be better to dye another day this weekend, or . . . 

"Go upstairs and take a nice hot bath" was the ultimate decision. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shopping and Other Odds and Ends

Shopping this morning.
I ordered hardware, mostly for belts. After looking at how much I was getting there, I decided I don't actually need any of the leather I was sorta-kinda thinking about.  I could have made the hardware order a bit smaller, but I decided that its time to just cut some of the old-style hardware off of belts and replace it with the newer (and prettier) stuff. 

Then I ordered books. I was going to order a couple by the person who designed a line of CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting) and Civil War era patterns I like, but I distracted myself by finding a book on making bridles and related tack, by the author of a book on making harness that I like. I also ordered a book on coming up with western-style floral tooling patterns "for the Artistically Impaired", mostly for Ron. Who isn't exactly artistically impaired, but isn't necessarily confident on coming up with his own designs for tooling.

Finally, I ordered the umpty-dozen little red plastic bins I'd decided on for sorting hardware in the big green tool chest. I should put my drawer layouts into Illustrator or CAD or something, so I have them down the road.

Yesterday I stopped at Cabela's for end pieces for wooden ramps to go between the ground and the side porch. I'll be taking them back today, as they're only 8" wide. The ones at Lowe's, which is less convenient to get to, are 10" wide, and $5 cheaper. I was willing to consider the price difference a convenience tax, but we want the extra width.

Although I didn't get as far as cutting out leather for the new steampunk-ish thing we came up with on Monday, I did get the pattern about 95% figured out. 

The tendons that extend my index and middle fingers on my right hand were quite unhappy all day yesterday, I did too much over the weekend. They're feeling better today, not sure if it's because I tried to sleep with my hand in good positions (not flat, not curled up too tight, wrist not cocked), OTC anti-inflammatory, or both. I think I'll skip doing any lacing today to try to encourage my hand to be happy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Capricon Weekend

Even though Otter Necessities wasn't in the Capricon Dealers' Room, it was a busy long weekend.

Thursday night and Friday morning I worked on 5 soft pouches that I'd cut out previously (ages previously), getting them marked, lacing holes punched, and latches installed. Two had separate flaps, which made them more challenging to get ready, but by the time Robin and I left Friday morning I had all five with me and ready to lace, along with a little squarish pouch I'd already started work on.

Friday I hung out in the Cafe, did some Cafe-related work, and worked on pouches. Due to a SNAFU with dinner I didn't leave the hotel until 8:30 or so, without dinner. We were out of eggs to add to Eowyn's dinner, so I stopped at Wendy's and got a bunch of plain grilled chicken sandwiches and burgers. The dogs were quite content to share with me for dinner.

Saturday morning, instead of digging in the big yellow road case for a stitched paperback cover as an example of one of the class projects for the sewing class at MuseCon, I cut one out and got it ready to sew together, as well as a keychain (I couldn't find the example keychain I made last year - not terribly surprising). I also grabbed all the tools that would make up the sewing kit that students can order, and one of the jewelry display cases we'd gotten from Ron's sister to keep people from hurting themselves on the awl.

More hanging out in the Cafe, plus at the MuseCon sales table. Sewed up the book cover and the keychain, then back to lacing. Helped set up the MuseCon party, and eventually went home, stopping for more sandwiches for the dogs (had pizza during party setup myself). During setup for the party Ron called from the Cafe and asked how much one of the pouches I'd finished was. It went home with a friend of ours. :)

Over the weekend I finished off the little squarish soft pouch, 3 of the 5 larger soft pouches, a book cover, the keychain (not that it was a big deal), and did work on the last two larger soft pouches. Sunday (and yesterday) I did no lacing, I was pooped.

Yesterday was kind of a rest day.

After sleeping in we went shopping for Otter Necessities. We got a small UPS to run the iPad at events so Ron can do more of the record-keeping (he's currently modified my sales spreadsheet for at-event use), and ramps for trailer use. At lunch I came up with a couple pouch/pocket ideas. I hoped to get started on one of them in the afternoon, but was interrupted by a dirty dishes, then flailing around with TurboCad, Illustrator, and laptop-desktop synchronization. Perhaps tonight.

Not that I was terribly awake anyway. Early to bed last night. Good thing I decided to do Maidens instead of Capricon - there were three other people with leather goods, although none with primarily belts and pouches. We even bought from one of them - although corsets, not leather. And several admired Robin's steampunk-ish pockets I'd made him for his birthday.

Sunday morning we dropped off the dark green, navy, and black whole hides off with Alt Kilt to have made up for Ron. And I did succeed in not touching the money I'd set aside from Maidens to pay for it.

I typed up almost all of this yesterday on the iPad as part of testing how long the UPS would power it, but ran into a problem when I tried to post - all the paragraph breaks were lost, and when I tried to edit blogger gave me a blank window. Fortunately, I was able to revert to draft and not lose the text.

Same problem today, so I published the one-ginormous-paragraph post, copied, reverted to draft, went into edit mode (and got no text yet another time), pasted and actually edited.  Grumble.

Stopping tonight for end pieces to make ramps to get from the side porch to the ground. The folding metal ramps we got yesterday are too short to work on the porch. We considered returning them and just getting two sets of metal end pieces and 2-bys to make wooden ramps, but the metal ones fold up to a nice compact size, and won't require any measures to prevent warpage.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Neigbors, and Other Musings

Turns out my post wasn't eaten! Yay for auto-save!

The other day Ron reminded me that we stopped doing SF conventions because the cost is much higher than SCA events, and the rate of sales for a whole weekend of a convention typically about equals that of a one-day SCA event. Oops, yeah. On the third hand, it's kinda fun to be in the Dealers' Room. In an odd way. Provided the neighbors are decent and sales don't suck.

Speaking of which, neighbors can be a big factor in how much fun any event is.

Being a good neighbor doesn't have to mean being super-friendly and chatty and whatnot. A pleasant demeanor and polite, even though you don't feel like having a conversation, is fine. 

Things that particularly annoy me in a neighboring merchant:

Amoebas/Space-Hogs - As a merchant with a lot of stuff, I can sympathize with this one, and I hope I don't fail to behave when faced with the challenge of getting everything out and arranged, while still leaving enough runway space between merchants (side-to-side and/or back-to-back). What really gets me on this one are the people, especially at a multi-day event, that spend the entire time pushing the boundaries. Oozing over a little more this way, then a little more that way. Oy, I could tell stories. Tape outlines on the floor help. A lot.

As a corollary, merchants that will set up Their Way, damn what the organizer was trying to achieve with traffic flow.

Chronic Late Arrival and Early Departure - Maybe if you'd be here and set up on time and didn't leave early you'd actually get some sales!  There's a pattern to sales (one-day/weekend) - some sales early (AM just after setup/Friday), reasonably slack time, but with lots of browsing, through most of the event (morning, early afternoon/Saturday), then most of the sales about 3/4 of the way through the event (mid-afternoon/Saturday afternoon and evening, when vendors open Sunday morning), then tapering off toward the tail end (late afternoon to evening/late-morning to closing time Sunday). If you miss that first round, and leave before the buying starts later, yes, your sales will suck. And you're distracting my customers!

Cranky - nobody is a bundle of happy when setting up or tearing down, I get that; but don't take it out on other merchants, and it's just plain stupid to inflict your bad day on your potential customers.

Some hints to organizers:
Ron's ran the DucKon dealers' room for several years, and I was his his second for a couple of them, so these are compiled from our experience both running the room and being vendors. (I think I have a bunch more of these somewhere...)
  • Think about traffic flow. Dead end alleys or strange intersections are bad ideas. 
  • Leave large enough aisles for the customers. 8' wide MINIMUM. Especially-minimum if there's going to be many women in hoops (Elizabethan, steampunk).
  • Leave enough space behind the tables/inside islands. We were in an island once where the backs of the vendors' chairs were up against the tables on the opposite sides. (bathroom breaks for the people on the ends were A Production) Thank Ghu we had good neighbors!
  • Low-tack masking tape is your friend.
  • Cruise the room during setup (nip setup issues in the bud!), occasionally during the day(s), and let the vendors know where to look for you other times.
  • Let your vendors know setup, opening, closing, and teardown times before they get there.
  • We are frail, shallow, human creatures. Feed us and we will love you.

Carp. Catfish. Bottom-Feeders.

I had this nice post all about neighboring merchants almost done, and my browser crashed. Feh.

Contacted organizers and sent off reservation information for the Midlands Regional Arts & Sciences Fair at the end of the month.

Still haven't cut out little square-ish soft black pouches. Perhaps tonight, but baking binge for the MuseCon party Saturday night has priority. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fooling Myself

In my follow-up post about Maidens I attributed low belt sales to the presence of another merchant.

That was probably not the true cause.

I've been slacking. Both at Boar's Head and Maidens I let Ron and Xap do most of the selling, worse at Maidens, and I kind of skulked around not talking to customers as much as I should. 

Besides not selling many belts at Maidens, we didn't have any sales of more than one item (of note - I don't count two mug loops or two pieces of hardware) - nobody bought a belt and a pouch, no couples bought a belt each, yadda yadda. That's . . . just wrong. The only time that should happen is a horrible, awful, no-good, bad-sales day. 

I suppose one could blame it on lots of customers being broke college students, but I don't think so.  We had things set up so brown belts and black belts weren't direct line-of-sight from eacho other, which I think was a mistake, but I don't think that was it either.

Xap is good at sales, but it was only her second time out. Ron isn't as good as I am (although I haven't had to tell him to go away so we'll get sales for years now). I know the inventory. I know my schtick. I've got it ingrained to keep cheerful, and for some strange reason my "customer service" voice is a half-octave to an octave higher than my normal voice (really throws people who haven't heard me use it before). 

I got it ingrained when I was in college, my family bought a Swiss Colony cheese store/franchise, and I went to the "University of Swiss Colony" managers session for two weeks, where I learned to walk the lease-line (front edge of your store, in a mall setting), and tell the customer to "Eat this or eat the fondue fork!" Ok, not really, but I felt like it sometimes. They taught high-pressure sales. The WSM and I couldn't stomach the used-car salesman level of pushy, but I did learn to talk to the customers and suggest and nudge and whatnot.

(BTW, if you know my dad, who can be pretty laid back, watching him do samples on the lease-line was fun!)

I need to get back on the job, and go back to being a salescritter. 

Ron and I were discussing this a couple days ago, and I said I need to let him do the sales recording and making change and whatnot . . . which means I have to decipher his handwriting . . . 

Ron pointed out that he's actually a decent 10-fingered (in Dvorak) typist any more, and I already have a bluetooth keyboard paired with the iPad, which has the iPad version of Numbers (spreadsheet) installed. The iPad already goes to events with us, so we'd just have to set up a spreadsheet for recording sales (when people don't want/need a receipt), and bring the keyboard.

The only bug there is power - the iPad probably won't last a busy day. So we'll look at the charging station/radios we've seen at hardware stores and UPSes to figure out what will power the iPad (which draws more power than a standard iPhone/iPod, so not all USB connections will do), won't weigh a ton, and hits a reasonable spot on the price curve. For the radio/charging station thingies we'll probably take the iPad and cable to Berland's House of Tools, it's probably easier to explain why we need to unpack one and try before buying there than Home Depot or Menard's.

Looking at doing the Midlands Regional Arts and Sciences Fair at the end of this month (see link in the sidebar), so that means the Monday after Capricon, which Ron's taking off for recovery and I've got off as a State of Illinois employee, we'll be out looking at power options, and getting ramp ends and lumber. And once we're confirmed I need to reserve a trailer.

Yes, we need to buy a smaller trailer. And the best way to get the fundage for that (unless we tap the tax return) is to . . . do more events! 

I'm also toying with the idea of being a dealer at WindyCon this year, since I'm not doing Publications. 

Working the Capricon Cafe, so Cap is out. Duck is out for one reason and another. MuseCon I'm waaayyyy to busy for, and I have mostly finished goods, not materials/supplies. Reenactor Fest/Military History Fest (changing names) was last week, and our stuff isn't quite right anyway. Must think/look about other conventions.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rest of the Weekend

Saturday evening we finished up making flyers for the Capricon Cafe. I never did look up the keystroke combination to get the accented E for "cafe", but I did grab it from the glyphs panel every time it was needed in the flyers. Ron figured out how to easily do clever warpy things in Illustrator, that are difficult to impossible to do in InDesign, then walked me through the process. 

Yesterday morning I did the books from Maidens (except, I now realize, adding the belts I made to inventory). Having the belts in the big green road case is nice: I was able to go check something easily. The drawers are all shallow enough nothing gets buried too deeply, and I know exactly which drawers to check.

More errands yesterday morning, but at least they were quick. One of them was to one of the office superstores, where I got paper to print "care and feeding" handouts on, and a gross each of small and medium binder clips (clamps for gluing, and pin-alternatives when making leather satchels and belt satchels). I figured I'd just buy not-quite-stupid amounts all at once, instead of a couple boxes here, a couple boxes there as they get lost/wander off.

In the afternoon  I went out to the dining room to work on things. I was going to work on the purses I'd cut out previously, but I decided to do little square-ish soft pouches instead:

A while back I set the body part of latches an inch too low on three red pouch fronts, so I cut out new (black) backs, with flaps an extra inch long. I got those partly along.

While cutting out the black long-flap pieces, I cut out some normal sized bits. I ended up with parts for a full pouch, and a spare front. Not sure what I'm doing with the spare front, I'll figure something out. I may have another piece of the same leather, which would be the simple (but boring) answer.

As a ripple effect from the issue with the red pouch fronts, I ended up with three black backs, cut out of the last of a piece of leather. Instead of trying to find similar leather to make the fronts from, I decided to make them with really obviously not-matching fronts. I'm going to make the fronts for those from the green I used on the harmonica pouch a while back, orange (yes, I have a piece of bright orange leather, don't ask), and dark purple (a couple/few years ago I ordered a piece of black leather, when I opened it up, it was purple! I decided to keep it.). All three pieces of colored leather are fairly lightweight, but I have some really really cheap clean-the-warehouse . . . stuff I can use as backing. I haven't cut those out yet.

In the end, I got one in black, and in brown that I'd cut out ages ago ready to lace together, and enough lacing done on each that I won't lose the belt loops. 

I still need to make more all-black little square-ish soft pouches. Boring. But they sell. OTOH, so do the purses. Aieee! decisions! 

However I end up prioritizing little soft pouches and the purses, when I get down to the lacing I'll probably end up alternating - black thing, not-black thing (or not all black). That helps me stay sane...

Looks like the leather sewing class at MuseCon is going to be Friday evening, starting at 9 pm. I wanted it early enough in the weekend that people could possibly work on projects outside of class, and be able to find Ron or I if they need help. 

Which reminds me, MuseCon class registration is slated to be up and running for the MuseCon party at Capricon, which is Saturday night. Yes, the grid is built, and it's pretty full. Hopefully, I can get a paper printout of the current grid to have at the party - it impresses people to put a copy of the schedule, even if it does still have a few holes, in their hands. 

Tonight I need to update the MuseCon party flyers with our room number, and possibly attack a grid brochure. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bleargh. Argh. Sickly Otter.

Stayed home with a head cold yesterday, with Robin. 

Mostly worked on design stuff - posters and flyers for the Capricon Cafe, and new banner designs for Otter Necessities.  I'll post the current designs at the end.

Today was the typical Saturday running-about. Ran out to Tandy/Leather Factory. I only meant to get a look at/for brown pre-waxed thread, but several tools and a pretty bright yellow whole upholstery hide followed us home. I think it wants to be pouches, etc. with black trim. First probably a satchel and a belt satchel, and at the same time I should cut the same things out of the bright blue hide I got a while back.

This afternoon I poked around looking for black artificial sinew. I'm generally content with waxing my linen thread (except when I'm feeling lazy), but Ron likes the artificial sinew, so we'll get him what he likes. None at Tandy/LF, but I found several suppliers on-line. I was waffling which to buy from, when I noticed that Noc Bay Trading Company, which has mostly Native American stuff, is in Escanaba, MI. My dad grew up in (and I've spent lots of time in) Gladstone, which is the next town up the bay, so I decided that made them "local" and ordered a spool. 

Less successful has been my hunt for colored smooth lace. A little while back I checked to see if my supplier, Marcellus-Oriva Leather Co. had yellow lace. No, and they didn't have the red, green, or blue I'd bought from there before, either. Today I was looking for other suppliers of colored lace and noticed that M-O's website is defunct. Oh no! Hoping they just gave up on it and didn't go out of business, but worried. I can probably find another decent source of black and brown lace, but not much luck on not-suede colors. 

Ok, back to banners. First I did a vertical banner (2' x 4'). It's my favorite of the ones I did yesterday:

Then Ron asked if I was going to do a new horizontal one. Our existing banner is still good, but apparently I'd thought of a new one to match the horizontal. So I did that (4' x 2'). Much futzing around later, I think this is decent:

Then I did a square, 2' x 2', for times we might not have room for one of the bigger ones. 

Then, for the heck of it, I did a 2' x 1' horizontal. Because one place I'm looking at on-line only charges $3.75/square foot, and coming up with designs doesn't cost me anything unless I actually buy a banner.

It occured to me today, that if places don't want to do anything smaller than 2' x 4' I can just do the square and a couple small ones on one panel, cut and hem myself. And Ron pointed out that if I put the small ones on right I can have a double-sided small banner. He is S-M-R-T smart.

And now dinner is beeping that it's done, so time to go.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

This, That, and a Couple Repeat Things

Ron's done some Googling, and gotten an idea of the cost to buy a new trailer. a 5' x 8' with drop-gate/ramp is less expensive than I was thinking - under $2K. Time to start saving pennies. 6' x 8' don't seem to exist (or were hiding) the next step seems to be 6' x 10', which is getting larger than needed. 
I did some searching, banners have come down in price since I bought the one we have, due no doubt to wide-format digital printing. (Our current banner is vinyl, with the letters, etc. cut out of vinyl and pasted on). Printed fabric is a bit more than vinyl, but still quite affordable, and I'm leaning that way. My initial investigations were on-line; now I need to check local shops, as I'd prefer to buy from local businesses.

Yesterday I pulled out the graph paper, list of available bin sizes, and my  scribbled mess listing what's in the hardware drawers in the big green road case. I think I've figured out a rational arrangement for each drawer, and what goes where. I dumped the information into a spreadsheet, so now I'm ready to order bins. One of these days.

Last night I started working on posters and flyers for the Capricon Cafe, based on various advertising and other images Ron's cleaned up. I'll probably continue on that tonight, since Cap is next weekend. I've already got the MuseCon party flyers mostly-done, all I need to do is put in the room number.