Monday, June 24, 2013

A Mostly-Personal Post

I started to do this post over on my personal blog, but got fed up with trying to get Picasa/Google web albums and WordPress to play nicely, gave up, and am posting here, because this is a picture-heavy post. 

 Saturday morning we went to the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair at the Lake County Fairgrounds. It was a nice show, but not very large. OTOH, Xap says it was smaller than last year. The weather was warm and sticky so Ron and I didn't peruse the outdoor things - a farmer's market and the fiber animals. We met Xap, Wash, and Lizzie there.

I kinda failed not to spend too much, but Ron encouraged me. I got a (knit) shawl kit in 5 graduated colors of a teal-ish blue-ish yarn, and a loom plus accessories.
Fortunately, its a very small loom, a Hokett mini tapestry loom kit, from the Weaver's Loft.
 We have above a picture of the loom, two wooden needles, a little-bitty tapestry fork, and a slightly larger tapestry fork, all neatly displayed on the bag for the kit. The kit consists of the loom, one needle, tiny fork, and the bag, 1-sheet instruction for the loom,  a booklet of basic tapestry weaving information, plus a baggie of yarn odds and ends. The loom didn't come warped, I did that at lunch.

To give you and idea of size, the website lists the loom as being 8" x 7", and the tiny fork as 1" x 2". I figured the tiny fork would be too small for my hand, so I got the bigger tapestry fork/pickup stick, and a second needle to do a second color with. I'd originally picked a loom that was a nice orangey color, like the tiny fork and one needle, but the bars weren't parallel. Le sigh.

Here's everything being tucked into the bag:

They also had little shuttles, but we have lumber at home, and a certain young man who'd like to earn some money, so I'll get him to make me a couple narrow shuttles and another needle or two. And find out if Wash wants any, since he also got one of the loom kits. 

There wasn't a lot of yarn in the baggie I got with it, so I also picked up a bundle of mini-skeins from another vendor, mostly in blues:
There's 10 skeins, each 40 yards. Starting at about 1:00 we have two blue with brown, one blue with red, two purple, one lavendar, one grey, one dark brown, and two pale blue:
I warped the loom and started weaving with the odds and ends that came with the kit at the show. We were going from the show to Xap's for the Cheshire Moon house concert in the evening, so I needed more yarn for when I finished weaving the stuff I got with it, right?

Lest you think I was crazy, by the time I left Xap's after the concert, I'd pretty much filled the loom. Today at lunch I wove in all the ends of good yarn, pulled out some shiny plastic muppet-fur yarn and other bits, and finished the first piece off. Had a little trouble keeping the selvedges even, but got bag into the groove:

Now, the problem is that one part of my brain looked at the bundle of mini-skeins, and said:
"That's 400 yards total. That's enough for a pair of socks. Or mittens."
"I bought it to weave with."
"Definitely mittens. Pretty multicolored mittens."
"Mittens. Robin rearranged bins yesterday, go pull out that nice leftover weaving yarn."
"Fine, just FINE. Grumble grumble grumble." (gives up, proceeds to dig in bins).
"Mittens." (Smugly). 

So, here's what I'll be weaving with next, Harrisville Shetland and Highland (one is fingering-ish one is worsted-ish), left from overshot projects on the floor loom:

The (over-exposed) white ball is 2-ply wool warp yarn, off the stupid-big cone of it I got. I don't like cotton carpet warp for tapestry weaving, its too damn slippery. The wool warp should hold onto the weft yarns better.

The Cheshire Moon concert Saturday night was a lot of fun. I think it was about 20 people, in Xap's yard. Plus a bunch of mosquitoes. Fortunately, Xap had laid in a supply of bug spray.

Hey, here's a bit that's more Otter Necessities-related!

Yesterday I spent most of the day working on the MuseCon program book. 

Ron sliced and diced the spreadsheet of programming information, and turned it into XML files, which I then brought into InDesign, using either amazing or fantastic magic to get it to auto-format...


It came in indented, with extra cruft.

Fix an error, re-try, poke, re-try, poke some more, re-try.

I finally realized that (expletive) InDesign was (expletive) processing indenting in the XML that it should be ignoring. Color me vexed. Cue Ron ranting, then invoking the power of regular expressions to edit the XML to get rid of problem bits that shouldn't have been problem bits if (expletive) Adobe would (expletive) handle file formatting as any rational (expletive) programmer would (expletive) expect. 

Did I mention that this was really annoying?

Eventually I got the text imported, and I think it did save time, and many mouse-clickies,  in the long run. I think the blinkies section is pretty much done, and Open Programming (drop in stuff, mobile stuff, etc.) is mostly done, barring some minor edits and adding icons. 

Tonight I should probably start the main formatting work on the main Programming section.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


There's not a lot going on the leatherworking front. We got a little burned out ramping up for ACen.

Working on the MuseCon program book is progressing in fits and starts. Saturday morning I gave myself a crash course in XML, via O'Reilly's "XML in a Nutshell" and "XML Pocket Reference", in order to try to figure out how to use XML to get data from Excel into InDesign. Mostly successful, but I won't be able to do everything I was hoping with it. I also left a cranky review at regarding the pretty much useless example code you can download for "XML and InDesign". 

Robin has done substantial work cleaning up the workshop side of the basement. Much stuff was hauled out to the curb this week, and the space is actually usable again. He also did most (all?) of the work building a bench for the lathe. Which we got have a bed extension on order for, so Ron doesn't have to shorten wand blanks.  

Robin has turned several wooden pegs to hold pouches shut for me, and we've agreed on a price, based on me purchasing the wood. In further news, he has a commission to build a small table, and another from me to build a footstool. Work is progressing on those. He may have to re-cut one of the pieces for the footstool, after Ron diagnosed an issue with the router table (user error), but I've OK'd the use of whatever lumber we've got in the basement that will work, so it won't be held up for another trip to Owl. It'll be covered by leather, anyway.  
When we were at Owl Sunday morning getting lumber for the table and footstool, Ron got more turning blanks, pen- and wand-lengths. Then we went to Woodcraft, and he gave in and got the hardware and tools needed to make pens. Don't ask about the small bandsaw, I don't want to talk about it. I got a piece of osage orange, and a piece of canarywood, and a book on turning miniature birdhouse ornaments. Robin was particularly taken with a couple Halloween-themed ornaments.

Ron's made two pens so far, the first is from cocobolo. He sees all the flaws, I can identify them, but don't think they're too bad. Ron had co-workers asking how much he'd charge when they saw it yesterday:

Last night he made one for me, from purpleheart. Its my understanding it will get more purple with exposure to light. I think it may already starting to, um, purple up since this picture was taken last night:

Saturday afternoon I tried turning my first bottle stopper. The method Robin and I used to try to chuck it failed, with only minor excitement. Modifying the method worked better, and I let Ron finish it. 

Sunday night (or was it Monday?) Robin tried making a bottle stopper (out of ash left over from cutting the furniture legs). It isn't quite finished yet (last I saw he was done sanding, and was considering paint), AFAIK, but is recognizably a pumpkin wearing a top hat. Showoff. 

Yesterday I tried again. I'm not sure if failure was due to materials, user error/inexperience, bad luck, or some combination. I don't know what the wood is, other than bird's-eye-something from a grab bag of stopper blanks. From the list of woods in the Wikipedia article on bird's eye figure, and looking at pictures of each type of wood, My WAG is black walnut, or a dark piece of maple:

Ron has declared this failure non-terminal. We'll cut the dowel off flush, then re-drill for the metal mandrel that should be delivered by the time I get home (I figured if Robin could do a stopper without it, I could. Lots of work painting small delicate miniatures may have meant that he was better at turning with a light touch than I was). 

Don't know who's going to get to the lathe first tonight.  :) 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Woodworking and Lathes and Shopping

As I mentioned last time, last weekend we got lumber for a horn bow grip and for Robin to make pegs and things with, and that we have a Shopsmith and a dremel lathe.

A Shopsmith is an interesting beast, where one motor connects to and runs multiple power tools (one at a time). It does an OK job on everything, but not outstanding.

Buying lumber re-woke Ron's interest in woodturning, so last weekend we went to Rockler, a local woodworking store. We saw a couple smallish lathes, one of which was a discontinued floor model on sale.

Saturday morning we were back at Owl Hardwood Lumber, so Robin could figure out how much to charge for a small table similar to one he built in shop class in high school. That led to purchase of more exotic hardwood turning stock, in the form of "magic wand" blanks, for Ron to make.

Which led to a trip to Berland's House of Grownup Toys Tools to look at lathes. At that point I figured we'd be buying next weekend which would be (1) after payday, and (2) 15% off Jet tool Father's Day sale. 

Then we went back to Rockler. Where the floor model lathe was still on sale, for less than the sale price would be next weekend at a smaller (shorter length) lathe we were looking at at Berland's. We took it as a sign, and it followed us home.

We didn't get the stand for the lathe, so we had to go out and get a 2x12 to mount the lathe to and then set on a Workmate. Turns out that's a good setup for Ron (and Robin), as its taller than the stock lathe stand - so we may not bother with a lathe stand.

Today we went up to the Woodcraft store in Libertyville, where some inexpensive chunks of wood to practice on followed us home, as well as a package of bottle stopper blanks. Because that way I can sell people fancy stoppers for their potion bottles.

Robin and Ron are taking turns with the lathe. Robin's about to go try making something "real" now - a couple pegs for pouches, out of a pen blank. Once he gets a lesson on honing tools.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Test Tube Hijinks and Other Natter

Test Tube Hijinks

Our initial order of test tubes arrived Friday night. A big box. A rather big box. Big enough that when I summoned Robin to help unpack it (and get his portion of the order), he failed to ID it as the test tube order.

Here's what was in the box that we ordered - 50 assorted color test tubes, rack, 25 clear test tubes in the same size, 25 smaller clear tubes, stoppers, and a couple other odds & ends. Not shown is Robin's batch of 25 assorted color test tubes:

This . . . not so much. 

The pick sheet called for 5 bags of 5 tubes in assorted colors. What we have here is 5 rather large bags. Comparing them to the batch of 50 colored test tubes, and keeping in mind the numbers available for order, we estimate that each bag contains 250 test tubes. So instead of 25 we got 1250. Oops.

I called the company, they should be sending me a return shipping label. I was mildly surprised that they said to take the 25 tubes we wanted out of one of the bags, but OK.


Saturday morning Robin and I checked the gemsbock horns, and decided that both sets could be made into bows. One set isn't doesn't have nice smooth curves and needs some trimming on the bases, but these will be display-only bows, so the wonky curves shouldn't be a problem. We also have a piece of wood, I'm guessing cherry, that Ron had started shaping for a grip. 

We went to Owl Hardwood Lumber in Des Plaines and got a piece of walnut for the second grip. We also picked up some basswood for blocks for test tube holders, and a somewhat snaggly piece of aromatic cedar to put in with yarn. It was about the size I wanted, and I don't care how it looks or knots, I just want it for the smell, so I'll take the ugly piece.

While we were there Robin was seduced by pen blanks (ie: cutoffs) in various exotic hardwoods. He got a hadful to make monoliths out of - terrain for miniatures games. Not sure if he's going to try to sell them, or keep them all for himself.

He's also going to make some fancy pegs for me, to hold pouches shut with. The piece of walnut we got needs to be cut down in width, and it sounds like Ron may also shorten it, so that'll be some more wood for him to play with, once he warms up on pine or basswood.  Not sure if he's going to use the dremel lathe, or the full (-ish) sized lathe on the Shopsmith.

More Robin Endeavors 

On the way home from Owl we stopped at Games Plus (and Mosaic Yarn Studio, oops), and I suggested to Robin that we should get him some business cards made and put them up on the bulletin board at Games Plus to try to get him more business painting miniatures for hire. One of the Games Plus owners encouraged him, and said they often have people looking for mercenary painters.

Robin and Ron have been meaning to get pictures of some of Robin's better miniatures, so I pushed a little, and they did that Saturday afternoon, while I was a lazy slug. 

Sunday, while Ron and Robin patched the hole in the wall that resulted from the sacrifice to the plumbing gods, I started a business card for Robin. Here's a low-ish resolution JPEG, saved for him to use as a signature in the Games Plus DakkaDakka forum. 
We got several pages of the cards printed at FedEx, Robin cut them today, and has/is taking them to put up at Games Plus. Ron's edited the image used, so I need to update the card, will probably also make a back side, and in the long run we'll get them printed as business cards. But now he's got some to get started with.

Sunday afternoon/evening Ron helped him go through Saturday's photos, created a gallery, I proofread the captions, and we added an "Other Services" section to the Otter Necessities website menu bar. We put a link to his gallery under it, as well as a link to my bare-bones page-layout service page. Here's a direct link to Robin's gallery.  Yes, this is a shameless plug. Finding a regular job is not going well for him, and he's gotten to be a pretty good painter. The dwarf on the card, for instance, is only about an inch tall. "Li'l Death" is only a half-inch tall. 

Urg, Blech, Sinuses

Sunday afternoon I intended to start on a pouch we got an order for at ACen.  Unfortunately, I ran out of my (OTC) antihistimines a while back, and hadn't bothered getting more, because I hadn't seemed to be missing them. Except that in the last day something has, apparently, started blooming or outgassing or something. I stopped at a CVS on the way to work, almost panicked because the pharmacy didn't open until 8:30, and the (expletive) drug dealers using the good stuff to make whatever mean you have to get the good stuff, even OTC, from the pharmacy after swearing and signing that you just want the drugs to deal with your allergies, dammit. Yes, I am a little cranky. But I did find some Claritin, yay. 

On the other hand, I'm not sure how well its working. I may stop again this evening and get something else to try tomorrow (the Claritin is 24-hour). I suspect I won't be starting the pouch tonight, either, between the usual Monday effect and the sinus ick I feel trying to start.