Friday, October 9, 2015

Conception Convention Report

The Conception gaming convention at the College of DuPage was slooooow. IIRC we had 5 sales all weekend. On the plus side, one of those was significant, and the customer ordered another custom item. On the down side, duuullll. But we covered costs with the gross (haven't run the numbers to see if we were actually profitable). 

Need to do 3rd quarter sales taxes this weekend.

Just packed up a belt and pair of skirt hikes to go out to Texas. A day or two ago it was a belt pouch to one place, and a pair of skirt hikes to another. When packing up on Sunday I decided to consolidate skirt hikes to one batch, to keep in the house. They can move to and from events with the tails, which also live in the house.

Next event is Windycon, mid-November. Really need to make some stuff. Tomorrow we're off to a reptile show, and then we have to settle in the new snake we're picking up there (see the personal blog, which I'll go write the relevant entry for next), then clean the big snake cages and feed the colubrids. But I do have Monday off.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Conception Convention and Other Natter

This weekend is the Conception gaming convention, at the College of DuPage. I'm not sure how many vendors are going to be there - one e-mail I saw mentioned us and one game vendor. 

I've gotten pretty much nothing made since ACen, except doll clothes, which I wasn't planning on taking. I do have a batch of tails that need swivels, that I got after Count-I-Con. So I probably should work on that tonight...didn't happen.  But we did get the trailer hooked up and pulled out.

Tonight we also need to vacuum-pack rats (didn't happen). Because snakes. Did I mention that we're now up to ten plus the long-term border?  See my Google+ feed and/or personal blog. We had an . . . accident on Saturday, adding two more pythons - another ball python and a centralian carpet python. And Robin is rearranging and cleaning his room with a view to getting a blue-tongued skink. Because it turns out he likes things with legs better than snakes. 

Conception could be interesting, as it will be just Ron and I (unless Robin tags along for gaming on Saturday). Xap is going to Archon, a filk convention, IIRC. I'm thinking that we may limit how much gridwall we bring in, and maybe not put out some of the accessory things. OTOH, if we do our normal booth with gridwall setup, that will tell us how much extra 6' gridwall we have, which can then be put into the storage locker, instead of going to every event, especially since it gets stacked on top of the 7' gridwall in the trailer.  Exactly what we do for setup may end up depending on how we feel tomorrow. 

Our next event after Conception is Windycon. Which could be interesting in different ways than Conception, because they do tables, not booths, and we've been setting up based on 10' x 20' booth spaces recently. We'll figure it out.

And I really, really need to get working on leather things again.  

If nothing else, we're into another run on skirt hikes, and I'm out of small skirt hikes in the house/for Etsy. I was just going to go ahead and list some more knowing that I can make a couple in a few minutes, but first I need to check the supply of rings, so I don't list more than I can actually make.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Count-I-Con Report

Um.  Oops. Count-I-Con was two weeks ago and here I am only finally checking in. My excuse is that on Tuesday after Count-I-Con I got sick. Not horribly, mostly stuffy and tired. And then last Monday I chipped a tooth which led to two crowns and that was a distraction, and snakes are distractions, and here we are. More about all of that on my personal blog. 

Count-I-Con: Not a raging success. I think gross sales about covered what we paid for two booths (10' x 20'). We sold *no* belts, and only *one* belt pouch. *No* skirt hikes, which after the spring rush and continued favoriting of them on Etsy I thought they would go well - enough so that I grabbed the Etsy stash of them from home. The things that didn't sell makes my head all hurty. Also sold a doll kosode (put the doll clothes out since I'd packed them into the Thing at ACen), and a set of chainmail owl earrings and pendant. 

What we did sell, which was not actually surprising, were tails and bottles. I'm thinking that next year we just get a single booth space (10' x 10'), and bring tails, bottles, jewelry (lives in the house), and maybe the Etsy inventory. That's a small enough assortment it could all fit in the new truck (see below), and leave the trailer at home.

At least half the vendors were comic book dealers, which is not surprising, as it was advertising itself as a comic-con. This was the first comic-con type thing we've done, so we weren't sure how we'd do. A lot of attendees were one-day, stroll-through, not like SF/anime cons where most people are there for the weekend. There was a stage, and 1 or maybe 2 panel rooms, but the main thing was the vendor hall/artist's alley.

The new cut-down gridwall for backdrops worked well. Robin made us some more wooden front-stops on Friday (setup-only Friday afternoon, open Saturday and Sunday noon-six), because I'd forgotten about them until we were setting up. The new ones are 1x6, instead of 1x3, because we had that lumber in the house. Still need to be painted.

Also forgot about making something to support shield pouches, which flop around because of balancing on their bottom points. Got lumber for that project last weekend, along with black spray paint for those and the new front-stops.

And last week we got a new truck. A Chevy Silverado pickup, crew-cab, 4-wheel drive (the Explorer is not, because we screwed up, and that was a problem over the winter), automatic transmission. The Silverado is a "Work Truck" model, which means vinyl seats, no carpet, blah blah blah. But it does have cruise control, a stereo, and A/C, so we're good. We went to Madison in it after my crowns on Thursday, and its very comfy. It also gets better gas mileage than the smaller Explorer. Ron's still getting used to maneuvering it (mostly in regard to parking), I haven't driven it yet.

We traded in the Durango, which we were somewhat surprised to have lasted this long, and felt $250 was a fair trade-in price for. I'm driving the Explorer, and Robin gets the Kia, including taking over payments and the difference in insurance between it and the Durango. Win all around. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Slump Continues

Wow, its been a really long time since I posted - over whole month ago.

Summer slump has continued in force. We got three more snakes, one of which is Xap's. Lots more reptilian rumination over on my personal blog. MuseCon happened, was busy. Cut out some more doll clothes at and since MuseCon, and then some more over the weekend (after buying even more fabric) since they're amenable to working on in the heat. Misplaced a small cutting mat and both rulers I use for fabric, but was able to use a larger cutting mat and one of the safety rulers I usually use for leather instead. Got a new scale for snakes and packages. Got a new small mat and scale, and then the missing ones re-appeared. As they do.

This year for MuseCon we again shifted Max, The Grinch, and one of the Things into the storage locker, and packed all our stuff into the other Thing. This year we were smart and also put the contents of that Thing into the locker, instead of the house. Sunday we took the beverage cooler, bus tubs, and other stuff that was used for MuseCon back into the locker, and retrieved Otter Necessities stuff for Count-I-Con.

Count-I-Con is this weekend. Saturday afternoon (after doing errands and some non-necessary fabric shopping in the morning) I cut, marked, and punched the ends of amphora bottle hangers and cut and marked another batch of skirt hikes, all of which Ron then punched the holes in. Due to a mis-estimation, I ended up making about 66 amphora hangers, for 48 amphora. And Ron didn't point out that we still had some leftovers from the last batch, so I didn't even need 48. Oh well, they keep. The total for skirt hikes was 21 (12 large, 9 small). Sunday afternoon Ron assembled all those skirt hikes and bottle hangers. 

The bottle hangers are for home/Etsy, but I'll probably throw them in a bin to take to Count-I-Con - I they're likely to sell well there, along with amphora and tails. Skirt hike sales via Etsy have tapered off a bit, but I expect another surge next spring when the Ren Fair season kicks off again, and maybe with the Michigan fair and/or the fall/winter fairs in the SW.

While Ron was working on hangers and hikes, I attacked the 18 tails I had to sew swivels onto. Monday or so I remarked to Ron that it was too late to order tails for Count-I-Con, we'd have to do with what we had. Wednesday night/Thursday morning a little voice inside my head started poking me - didn't I order some, including ones over-dyed red, from New Place?  Was that before or after ACen?  I don't remember putting out red tails or selling any at ACen.  Thursday morning I looked at the e-mail receipt - I ordered after ACen (and my last blog post). So we have a reasonable supply of tails.  And I ordered Stupid Amounts of swivels earlier this year, so we're good there. 

I didn't quite mean to sew swivels on all the tails Sunday, but I wanted to get a good bunch done, and then do a couple/few each evening. So I got a dozen done. Ron was still working, so I did a couple more. And at that point, only 4 left to do was not worth leaving. So I finished them all. I think that's the most I've done in one day. And with lots of beagle help - every time I popped the lid on one of the bins I was taking from/putting in, I had Tommy and Gimli's attention. They were reasonably good - Tommy only tried to take one from me, and backed off when I scolded. But I don't and won't trust them farther than I can drop-kick a heffalump.

Setup for Count-I-Con, which is a comic-con type event, is Friday and Saturday morning, with open hours noon to six pm. Saturday and Sunday. The con's being held at the Lake County Fairgrounds, in Grayslake, so we can sleep at home. Yay. And we don't have to board the dogs. Double-yay. 

The dining/work room is still a disaster. I'm not even pretending that I'll get around to straightening it up again until the summer heat breaks (which it seems to have done, at least temporarily, but I'm not foolish enough to think that cooler weather is really here yet). 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Slump

In the last month-plus we've accomplished very little in the way of leatherworking. Nor have we cut down or done anything else with any of the new gridwall.

I have committed us to Windycon, and a gaming convention in the fall. Need to update the list of upcoming events. Plus I need to look at the information for next year's Geneva Steam Festival. 

The MuseCon book is done and has been sent to the printer, and Ron has posted PDFs of it and the schedule grid on the MuseCon website.  The grid is included in the book, but some people like to have it separately, and with double-sided printing it takes only a single sheet of letter-sized paper.

Skirt hikes are selling steadily on Etsy. I think it was two pairs over the weekend, and another two orders for three pairs today. 

In other news, we have new pets. I have Scatha the Worm, a Thayeri Kingsnake:  She's tiny, at about 14" long and 14 grams on Saturday. That's my little finger in the picture.

 Ron has Smaug, a ball python, about 18" long and 121 grams on Saturday:

AAARGH!  The kids from two doors down are over watering the neighbor's garden, and letting their dog enjoy the fenced yard. This is driving Tommy nuts, because I won't let him stay out and bark loudly and incessently. Pippin and Gimli can be polite, but Tommy is obnoxious. 

Time to retreat to the (air-conditioned bedroom, and shut the dogs in with me. Maybe Tommy will settle down...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Updated Things

Since I last posted, I got lots of goodies:
4 dozen amphora bottles - clear, red, purple, and lime (bright/light) green
Nickel-colored hardware for making modular belts.
Snaps. Lots of them (bottles use 2 snaps each).
Lots of leather - black and dark brown for modular belts, about a half-cow each, two half-cows of black latigo for belts, and A half-cow of thin black latigo for bottle wraps/hangers, belt loops, soft pouches, binding, and anything else I can think of.
A 2TB hard drive that talks to my iWhatsits. Not strictly Otter Necessities, but cool.
Started shopping for replacement power source at events.

One of the UPSes we use for powering things at events is pretty weak, despite not being very old. I think the problem is that UPS units are not designed to be charged, drained down, repeat a couple times, then sit not plugged in. The usual use for a UPS is to sit plugged in, passing power through to whatever is plugged into it, with only rare power-loss/drainage events. Plus, the way we're using them, the UPS takes AC current from mains power, charges its battery, gets DC from the battery, converts it back to AC to deliver to its outlets, and then the wall-warts for the devices then convert it to DC for the devices' consumption. This is Not Efficient, even looking just at the step of converting DC from UPS battery to AC at UPS's outlets. 

I think the solution is going to be some flavor of battery that the iWhatsits, the WiFi hotspot, and Xap's phone/tablet can plug into via USB. With two batteries, the printer has plenty of power for a day, and the batteries re-charge quickly. I'm not sure if it's going to be compact (phone- or tablet-sized) external battery booster packs, a larger battery/bank of batteries with built-by-somebody-else interface, or a battery with a simple home-built interface. Part of the problem is the cost and weight curves. Small battery booster packs are very light, but pricey and slow to recharge, and we'd need multiple. Bigger batteries are heavy. Purchased interface (box, connections, monitor) is nice, but more expensive than DIY. 

I was hoping to make hangers for all the amphora bottles, and assemble the parts for wraps for the non-amphora "naked" bottles we have over the weekend, but we didn't get that far. Saturday was re-scheduled with taking the dogs to the vet (Tommy has a UTI, Gimli needed a vaccination booster, Pippin enjoyed a gratuitous ride), going to the grocery store, and goofing off. Sunday was slightly more productive, with a trip to Batteries Plus, on-line shopping for various power options, and doing a bunch of cooking. But it wasn't exactly Otter-ish productive. Oh well. 

Speaking of the trip to Batteries Plus, after about 5 minutes of reading about battery packs for amateur-ish astronomers, I knew more about battery charging and care than the Batteries Plus employee we talked to - ie: a higher-capacity charger can damage a battery, particularly sealed ones; and you get better battery life by not discharging a battery below x point. I suppose he *might* have been feigning ignorance because abusing a battery means they sell you a new one sooner, but I think he really was clueless. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Modular Belt Prototypes

At TeslaCon I saw a vendor selling modular belts - sections of belts with various steampunky bits attached, and/or pouches permanently mounted on belts. The sections have a ring at one end and a buckled loop at the other.

After thinking about it a while, I decided to do my own version, and ordered hardware. My plan was to have swivels at each end of a section, which can either connect to the dee on the back of a pouch (which I started adding to them a while back for use as sporrans), or to a small ring.  I was originally planning to have some done for ACen, but that didn't work out.

Today we finally got around to working on the project. We made prototypes from inexpensive leather, which will likely be taken apart in the long run to serve as patterns. The sections are 1-1/2" wide (standard man's dress belt width). 

On the top are the buckle and billet sections. The other vendor sells them separately, but I can't think of any situation where you'd want one and not the other. They also make the billet very long, we made the prototype 5 holes long. 

Under that are short and long plain sections, connected to a ring. Ron also pointed out that you can attach the swivels to each other directly. 

The buckle/billet section is 16-1/2" long (center hole), plus or minus 2". The short section is 7-3/4" long, the long section is 10-3/4" long. Adding a ring adds 1".

On Tuesday I'll be ordering some dark brown leather to make the actual parts that will be for sale. I'm starting out with brown with brass hardware. The parts are assembled with Chicago screws, so they're reasonably easy to shorten, and I'll get brass Chicago screws to assemble them (prototypes have black screws). I'll also have some leather strips available, to make semi-custom sections. I'm starting out with plain sections, we'll see about making sections with loops, gears, etc. later on. 

I chose swivels, buckles, and rings are also available with a nickel finish, which I'll do with black, with black Chicago screws. 

Of course, the obvious way to display these is hanging. Good thing we got more gridwall and hooks . . .

Slightly Late ACen Report

ACen (Anime Central) was last weekend. I took Monday off to recover, on Tuesday I travelled to Springfield by trains for work, spent Wednesday inspecting various floodplains and levees in the southeast corner of the state with a co-worker, and returned home Thursday by trains. So the thingy bits have been a little impaired. I wrote the draft of this blog post on Friday, and then forgot to post it. 

We got pretty much nothing done in the way of prep for ACen Monday through Wednesday of last week, so Thursday morning we packed things up, updated inventory, etc. It actually went fairly calmly.

Setup opened at noon on Thursday.  I drove my car, Ron and Robin were in the truck pulling the trailer, and Xap, Wash, And R. met us there. I was on River Road when Ron called - the trailer had come un-hitched. On Northwest Highway. (In front of Des Plaines Honda, if you know the area, came to a stop a block or so east). Ron had instinctively hit the brakes instead of coasting to a stop, so the tongue ended up jammed under the truck.  They jacked up the truck and  shoved the trailer back a few inches to clear it, re-hitched and continued on. Yay for trailer chains. Yay for the police officer who kept them from being rear-ended while jacking, etc., and didn't give them a ticket.

Thankfully, that was the biggest excitement, which was much better than the plumbing disaster last year. Ron stopped at Master Hitch on the way home and had the bent tongue jack replaced for less than $50. And then went out and got a new spare tire and rim for the truck, after checking under the truck for damage and finding that the spare was flat, and the rusty rim probably never did hold air.  Which was still cheaper than the plumbing disaster.

Ron and Robin stayed long enough to set up the gridwall. Robin had to work in the evening, so he left with Ron. Setup went reasonably well.  We had a similar configuration to last year, except I moved belts back and had tails and other thing in front where belts were last year. I also put bottles on one of the front-facing tables, instead of soft pouches.

Although I've retired knitting stuff, we added jewelry, doll clothes, and books, which took a table I used for pouches last year, and bottles took more table space. As a result, I was forced to get creative with shelves and pouches.  In the end it worked out pretty well.

Friday morning we brought some larger shelves we haven't been using, and a couple other things we forgot. 

Sales were good, but not as good as last year. We sold a *lot* of bottles. Spheres and amphora were the most popular. Also tails, soft pouches, and belts, particularly wide ones. We sold more 3" belts than we have in a while.  And unlike last year, light-colored tails went first. The ways of customers are a mystery.  

Sunday morning I compressed bottles and moved some pouches to that table, and moved some shelves of small soft pouches to where tails had been, to keep things from looking too denuded. I also got rid of the upper rows of hanging bottles, and the lowest row of tails, so the hanging displays that were left still looked reasonably full. I think a smaller area with a higher density of merchandise looks better than spreading out too thin, and the rows I got rid of were enough above or below eye level that it looked ok without them. 

One ACen staffer said they thought attendance was down this year, but numbers weren't available. I think that and the mysteries of what customers want is the explanation for sales.

Robin wasn't available for packing up, due to work, but R. Came back, along with P.  Which was good because I bought another vendor's booth - 17 pieces of 6' gridwall, hooks, shelves, and some other grid accessories.  The plan originally was that yesterday we'd be cutting gridwall down to 4' and 3' tall to act as table/Things backstops, and sorting through the other stuff so I know what I've got to work with - they boxed everything up for us, and would even have boxed the gridwall. But that plan didn't work out, because of lack of motivation. 

Two plushies followed me home, a big red panda, and a yak-like thing based on an Inca moon god. Yes, I have a plushies problem at anime cons.  We also bought some art, and Ron got a couple pose able figures (Link from the Zelda games, and Sammus from the Metroid games). And we drooled at the preview figures of Darth Vader and storm troopers done as samurai, available next month.

I think that I'm going to do the doll clothes and books as Etsy only. Except I forgot to put them in a bin to come in the house, so that'll have to wait until after Lake Count-I-Con in August. Anyway, we sold one each of books and doll clothels, but not enough to justify table space. Sold one bracelet, and had lots of people looking - Ron thinks having more made/out will help.  Didn't sell as many hard pouches as soft, and no hanging ones.  I did, however, have an idea for keeping shield pouches displayed better - with the pointy bottoms they fall over easily.

Although the cutting-down gridwall plan didn't happen yesterday, I did order tails, bottles, and new bins. The two bins I've been using as in-the-house bins were translucent plastic, and just haven't held up to the rigors of schlepping UPSes, the cash box, etc. So I ordered Rubbermaid Brute replacements - The Brute line is more well-known for garbage cans, and is supposed to be even more durable than the Roughneck line, which is what we've been using for merchandise for years. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Catching Up & Cutting Down

Heard back from Midwest FurFest a couple days ago. We didn't make the first cut, so we're wait-listed. Considering that I requested four tables and I don't think I want to try to do it with fewer, I'm not expecting to get in.

Robin is mending, still a bit sore. 

Today I cut strips for a Sam Browne-ish belt for myself to wear at ACen. While I was at it, I started cutting into the side of green latigo I got recently. Here it is ready to start marking and cutting a straight edge on the spine side. There's some foreshortening from the angle I took the picture at, but the far end is narrower - that's the neck end, the closer end is the butt end. For reference, that's a 6-foot long level that I use as a straightedge.

Straight edge marked and cut. I debated between cutting it at an angle the way I did, or having roughly equal width sections cut off each end; I decided this way would maximize the width available for cutting belts. I cut freehand (along a marked line!) with the head knife laying on the cut off section. 

Three 1-1/2" strips cut off for belts. The strips are cut with the strap cutter laying on them.

I reduced the leftover wedges from creating the straight edge down to two medium horizontal soft pouches, including belt loops, dee straps, and bottom reinforcements - the left-hand pile. THe middle pile is scrap that's about to be thrown out. The right-hand pile goes into the scrap bin. 

The parts marked, round holes punched, lots of chisel holes punched (3-4 at a time), rivets set, and a few more chisel holes punched (along the bottom joints, through both the body parts and the bottom reinforcements). 

The buckle and the dee rings in the last picture are for my belt. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another Weekend Already?

Robin saw the surgeon Wednesday, and will have surgery on Friday. Which from an Otter Necessities perspective means that he will definitely not be available as muscles for ACen setup/teardown.  Checking with Marmaduke and Wash to see if they'll be available, or if I need to line up other(s). 

Also, I'm going to be barking mad by the time Robin is off of the 10 lb. weight restriction. You know what weighs more than 10 lbs?  The air compressor. The work tables. The 55-lb anvil. Workmates. The cast-iron frying pan, I think. The cast-iron dutch oven that lives on top of the freezer, which is kind of high for me to reach. Tommy. Pippin. etc. 

I haven't heard Pippin cough since Monday, although he was less than 100% for a couple/few days. Either a Cornell University or American Veterinary Medical Association web page said the CIV vaccine can shorten illness, so I'm guessing that's what happened. 

Yesterday and today Robin airbrush dyed parts for 9 pouches for me. See above re: the weight of the air compressor and work table, so yesterday morning I was schlepping things out to the porch before leaving for work (then in last night, out again today, got Ron to bring them in tonight). 

Today we also worked on:
*   Skirt hikes - another 3 pairs of large ones to list on Etsy. I'm wondering if now that I have more than one pair listed I'll sell some more
*   Hangers for amphora bottles I started last weekend. I marked the strips, Ron punched the holes and put the snaps in. 
*   Wristbands. I cut the big pile of coiled strips into short pieces, and trimmed the ends. Those still need holes and snaps. 

At one point this afternoon a roll of lace fell on the floor. Before I got around to picking it up, Tommy decided it needed to join all the toys outside. To his credit, he did drop it when I barked. 

And, to finish up the day, we applied for vendor space at Midwest Fur Fest. They have a 48 hour window to apply, which is from noon today until noon Monday, then they fill the rooms from the applications received.  We hadn't planned to apply, but Xap found out it had opened, we discussed it, and applied. We won't be doing Boar's Head, or Con-Alt-Delete (that we cancelled due to sickness last year) this year, so timing should work. The cost isn't outrageous, and should be easy to make in sales given the size of MFF. Any way, we don't know unless we try and we can't try if we don't submit an application, so there we are. Or went. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weekend Not According To Plan, Otter Necessities Edition

A couple weeks ago Ron mentioned that we could use another set of shelves for the storage locker. Friday night on the way home from work, I was thinking about cleaning up the dining room some more, and wondered if I could send one of the sets of shelves from the dining room, along with some of the contents. 

We looked at it Saturday morning, and concluded we could. They weren't be used particularly efficiently, especially in terms of being able to get to the contents. We unloaded them, determined that the several bins and boxes could go, and then Ron and Robin had the challenge of getting them apart. Metro-style shelving that's been in position for somewhere between one and two decades can be difficult to persuade apart, but they got it, with much whacking with a heavy maul, swearing, and at least one bruise.  

I pushed the leather cart that had been living in that corner into the corner, and found/remembered the uprights for Elfa shelving that I had gotten a couple years ago, then decided were too short. They were the right length to put shelves up where the big shelving unit had been, above the leather cart. As a bonus, we had some lumber just the right length for that section of wall, which had formerly been a bookshelf in the living room. Ron was thinking wider shelves (the lumber is about 7" wide), but I decided to go with those for now.   

So I set off for the Container Store to get the top bar the uprights hang from, and shelf brackets. I was also looking for something to replace the old Elfa wire baskets that hold scrap leather, from a much older Elfa drawer unit (great as Elfa is, it wasn't up to the load). Stacking bins would work, but I ended up getting Metro parts to make a cart to set them on. The advantage of that is wheels, so it can be moved around easily. 

On the way home, the car died. It had been scheduled to go into the shop Monday, for what turned out to be a failing/failed crankshaft position center. So I had a delay waiting for Ron to come pick me up and the tow truck for the car.  We eventually got home (the truck may have made a stop by an ice cream store); Ron and Robin put up the shelves while I put the cart together, and then Ron helped me put things away. 

Whereupon I discovered a bin that should have gone to storage. For some reason, it was in an illogical place on another shelf, which is why I missed it. I also discovered an oil spill, fortunately contained by the lid of the Rubbermaid bin below the aforementioned one. Yes, an oil spill. IIRC lightweight motor oil for the splitter, from an oil can that had made a bold leap for freedom some time in the past. Simple Green and heavy duty shop paper towels for the cleanup win. Tommy stealing the roll of shop towels for the naughty. 

Saturday afternoon and Sunday we worked on various things. 

We went through one of the scrap baskets, and pulled out a bunch of straps to make embossed wrist bands. We reduced the contents of that basket enough that I was able to consolidate it with another, and then sent the empty out to the curb (where it disappeared, as well as an old wire dog crate we evicted from the basement). I still need to go through another big bag of scrap, but I'm reducing the chaos of the room.  I actually have notable amounts of OPEN FLOOR!  See the pictures at the end of the post.

Ron embossed a whole bunch of brown leather strips I'd dug out. Stupid Amounts, really, but it was time to use them for something. I also found a couple strips long enough for belts. I also cut some black leather into strips, which Ron embossed, and strips for amphora bottle hangers. 

I worked on pouches Sunday and Monday. I'd planned to take Monday off, since I'd be car-less and didn't feel like stealing the Durango from Robin. Except I did end up taking it to take Pippin to the vet. Monday afternoon/evening was then interrupted by a doctor's office and then ER trip for imaging Robin. Hernia, following up today with a surgeon (more details of dog and human medical adventures on the personal blog). 

I didn't get to bed until 2 am yesterday, kinda woke up between 5:30 and 6 while Ron was getting up, and then went back to sleep until 8. And then I was still a zombie, so I stayed home.  And in the afternoon worked on pouches some more.  By bedtime (early!) I'd gotten to this point:

The stacked rolls are embossed strips ready to be made into wristbands. The pile is 10 pouches ready to be laced up, 30 or so strips for amphora bottles, and some tools. Not shown are three more pouches that are mostly done, or the two I finished (and posted to Etsy) last night. 

Here's some pictures of the dining room to finish up:

The corner is where the shelving unit, filled that whole section of wall, used to be. You can't really see it, but the cart holding rolled leather (and other things) that's currently pushed into the corner used to sit where the loose rolls of leather and small bins are, those were further into the room. The white Metro cart/shelves holding the white mesh bins is the new cart. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book-Keeping and Taxes

I haven't achieved a lot since Geneva Steam. I did get a bunch of pouches cut out, which have been mostly sitting waiting for further work. I also followed up on some back-ordered bottles and stoppers, and got some more of each. 

Last weekend I finished getting the 2014 books caught up. Ron did all the sales throughout the year, except for on-line ones, so finishing up was recording about half the purchases and the on-line sales.  I also did the first-quarter 2015 Illinois sales taxes. Yay for switching to quarterly sales tax reporting.

Yesterday I did Otter's income tax returns. As per past years, I don't bother paying Intuit to fill in lots of zeroes for me, I do them by hand.  We passed a gross receipts threshhold that surprised me a bit, and made me check to see if I needed to do any new/different forms, but no changes resulted.

This morning I did our personal income taxes. Ouuuch. In addition to about twice as much income from Otter Necessities as in 2013, we kinda forgot that in 2014 Robin:
  • Turned 21
  • Was not a full-time student
  • Worked a fair amount
Which meant that he was no longer a dependent, so we owe some money. Not a horrible amount, but ouchy. A small increase in withholding for the rest of this year should get us back to getting a refund.  Yes, I prefer over-paying throughout the year and getting a refund. YMMV. 

A couple days ago Robin brought the lumber that used to be a bookshelf in the living room (replaced with a nicer Ikea shelf unit) back into the house. It's going to become a stand for de- and re-constructing saddles on. What I'd like is this nifty saddle stand, that pivots tilts and is adjustable in height, but I can't really justify the price (which is not as much shown, as I pay wholesale), or the space. Thus, getting Robin to build me a simple wooden one, to sit on top of one of the Workmates.

And now, off to work on more fun things, in the way of pouches. Well, more fun than taxes. I'd rather start disassembling saddles, but I don't have a stand to work on yet, and its still a little chilly. And the saddles are still in the storage locker.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Geneva Steam Convention Report

The Geneva Steam Convention went pretty well, all things considered.

Some of the things to be considered:
How little we'd gotten done since Military History Fest - Ron did some chainmail, and that was about it.
I'd been busy with the program book for the annual floodplain managers' conference. Said book went to the printer last week Thursday morning.
Rearranging and cleaning the living room the previous weekend, see the personal blog for a very long post and pictures.
First-year convention.
Opening the vendor room at 10 am Friday.
Time change Sunday morning.
Staying at Xap's, at least for me-as-introvert.
No Robin-muscles (he wanted to go, but forgot to ask for the weekend off).

Setup was Thursday until 6 pm, and from 8-10 am Friday. Wednesday the weather was decent, so Ron and Robin got the trailer into the driveway. Ron and I took half-days on Thursday, finished packing the last stuff, and set off for the Grand Geneva Resort, in Lake Geneva, WI.  It was about an hour trip, and uneventful, other than a detour down a one-lane access drive around the back-ish of the main hotel building, reminding us not to put too much trust in GPS.

Happily, they upgraded from 8'x8' spaces to 10'x10'. We got the trailer unloaded, Set up gridwall, Xap joined us at some point, and we got the Things unloaded, tables and Things in place and covered, and belts hung up. By that time we were tired and hungry and went back to Antioch (IL, about a half-hour away). In the morning we easily finished setting up, and then sat.

And sat.

And sat.

I worked on sewing swivels onto tails, 16 or 17 of them, IIRC. Not much traffic in the room other than fellow vendors and convention staff.  It was grim, We (all the vendors) were telling each other it was just Friday, Fridays are always slow, and not many people are likely to take time off for a new unknown convention, things will look up when more people arrive after work (just in time for the room to close at 6), etc.

We did see a few more people toward the end of the day.

Saturday was better. There were more con attendees, as well as other resort patrons. We kept reasonably busy. We also found a quieter place for dinner than the noisy places we went Thursday and Friday.

Sunday was slow again, but not as slow as Friday.  Packing up went reasonably well, and the driveway had melted clean, so Ron got the trailer backed all the way into the side yard, and Robin was home to help unload the truck.  

Sold mostly pouches, a bunch of amphora bottles, a few tails, belts, and odds and ends. Profits covered space. Gas, food, and shopping . . . Not so much. But it was pretty good for a first year, we'll do it again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Catching Up, February Edition

Let's see, when I last posted it was the week following Military History Fest.

The Saturday between MHF and Capricon we baked scones. A lot of scones. Scones for the Capricon Cafe. Scones scones scones scones.


Capricon weekend I stayed home with the dog-boys and worked on the floodplain managers' conference program book. As luck would have it, on the Thursday of Capricon (Cap runs Thursday-Sunday), which was also a holiday for me (Lincoln's Birthday), Linotype (.com) made me an offer I didn't refuse on a serif typeface, ITC New Veljovic. So Thursday afternoon/evening, after helping set up the Cafe, I came home and re-did my styles for the book to use the new font.

Slog slog slog slog slog. Slogging through the floodplain managers' conference book. 

Last week we got *three* orders from Etsy - two for pairs of skirt hikes, and one pouch. And on Sunday I finished and packaged up the pouch I got an order for at MHF, so it was a relatively busy week shipping-wise. 

Today was not a good day (details on my personal blog). 

After we got home from the vet's I kept busy by working on the program book and ranting at people that can't write in English. All the words are in English, but the sentences . . . not so much. I was hoping to get it ready to proofread today, but decided that it's not happening. Hopefully tomorrow. If not tomorrow then Friday, since the book goes to the printer a week from tomorrow.

A week from tomorrow we also set up for Geneva Steam. Robin forgot to request time off, so he and Pippin will be staying home.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Schedule Updates

As you may (or may not) note from the sidebar, I've updated the schedule.  This morning I dropped the balance of our vendor space payment for Geneva Steam Convention in the mail, and this afternoon I filled out the on-line application for Lake Count-I-Con.

Geneva Steam is a first-year steampunk convention, to be held in Lake Geneva. In the same time frame I was also looking at Kitsune Kon, a more established anime convention in Green Bay, but Kitsune Kon never answered the two inquiries I sent to them, and Lake Geneva is in commuting distance of Xap's, so we went with Geneva Steam.

Lake Count-I-Con is a second-year "Comics, Toy, Game, and Art" convention, at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The alternate there was Geek.Kon, a more established anime-ish and general geekery convention in Madison. Count-I-Con is more of an unknown, and has more expensive spaces, Geek.Kon is more confidently a good fit for us, and has cheaper spaces, but additional travel/lodging expenses. The thing that I think tipped it in Count-I-Con's favor is not needing to take Friday off for it, as its a 2-day event (with planned Friday night setup).

Edit:  Well, that was quick. I've now received (and paid) an invoice for space at Count-I-Con. So I'd say we're in.  

On the consideration list for the later in the year are:
Maneki Neko Con, 9-11 October, south 'burbs
Daisho Con, mid-late November, Wisconsin Dells
Midwest FurFest, usually early December, Rosemont

Windycon, in mid-November, seems like it would be a good choice on the surface, but has always been literary SF-oriented, and seems to be moving more that way. Wendy Z. runs a good costuming track for Windycon, but I don't think there's enough potential busines there. Teslacon is highly unlikely, but I should poke around and see if any new steampunk-ish events have cropped up for the later part of the year. Con-Alt-Delete is right out for reasons previously discussed (as is Anime Midwest). 

Anybody have any other convention-ish things to suggest for the last third or so of the year?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Military History Fest, the Shopping

 We didn't actually do much shopping. We looked around, but there wasn't much interesting. I didn't even find anything that grabbed me in the way of books.  

Notice that I said there much.  

Friday afternoon Ron and Xap came back from a wander, and Ron took me to see something he knew I'd be interested in.  

Two cavalry saddles. Kinda mangy, kinda decrepit. Chewed on by mice. They'd been sitting in a barn in Wisconsin.  I asked the price.

$50 for the top one, $10 for the worse one, or both for $50.  I looked at the bottom (worse) one. Oh my, the leather was completely split at the cantle, and coming off more elsewhere and may have a crack in the tree (frame). But . . . but . . . MCCLELLAN SADDLES I COULD AFFORD!  

I went back to our space, and Ron asked if I could get a McClellan (original or reproduction) tree. I googled. I found somebody selling trees for $150-ish, and the picture was a stack of saddles with the leather still on them - ie: what I was already looking at, albeit appearing to be in at least prettier condition.

Ron and Xap were off wandering the room some more (Fridays are slow). I grabbed cash out of the cash box, wantonly abandoned our booth, and bought the saddles.  

Ron met me coming back to the booth, and was unsurprised.

I'm told I was grinning like an idiot. I can't argue.

Here they are, in all their awful, mangy glory: 

I've started calling them Sad:

and Tragic:
as in "that dog is a sad and tragic creature", not so much that what has happened to them is sad/tragic.

They leave black smudges on your hands, and a pile of dust/hay/Ghu-knows-what where they were sitting (hopefully mostly detritus from the barn they were in), and the seller said they smell of tractor oil (I couldn't tell, with diesel fumes from moving the half-track in and out of the hall Friday and Sunday). Yes, I am . . . amused in a strange way by their condition. The good thing about is that I can't make the any worse.  

Saturday morning I grabbed a couple garbage bags to bring them home in. On Ron's advice I didn't put them in the bags until we were packing up so they wouldn't be mistaken for actual garbage (they were sitting in our booth, but only a few feet from a garbage Last night I took them to the storage locker, where they can stay until I can strip the leather off the trees - outdoors.  

My SWAG is that they're about WWI vintage, which means they're probably technically "Universal Pattern" saddles and not true McClellan saddles, but it isn't uncommon to call cavalry saddles in general McClellans. 

Once I strip the leather off, I'll see how bad the trees are, and possibly take them for diagnosis by the saddler at the local tack shop.  I don't expect them to be rideable, in part because vintage trees just don't fit modern horses.  But if one or both aren't hopeless, I might consider having tree repair done by an expert.  If I'm lucky, the mouse stopped after chewing through the leather and the rawhide the tree should be wrapped in, and didn't do much damage to the tree. But even if it did, wood filler/repair should be possible, as the edge of the cantle is not structurally critical. The possible crack in Tragic's tree is a bigger potential problem.   

My plan is to re-do them with completely new leather. Which means deciding on officer or trooper styling, color, hardware (for instance, one has metal stirrups, one has only one remaining wooden stirrup), etc. Some of which will depend on if I can figure out what they started out as. AFAIK trooper and officer saddles were built on the same trees, but I'm not sure.  I already know where to get most of the hardware (reproductions, which is fine with me), which is a plus.

I really really want to look at them closer, but I also don't want decaying leather and Ghu-knows-what else in the house. I will wait for warmer dry weather. I will wait for warmer dry weather. I will I will I will. Dammit. 

In the meantime, I can figure out how to identify the age, style, etc. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Military History Fest Report, With Snow

Thursday night was the usual night-before-an-event chaos of getting things packed, additions to the inventory database, etc.Robin had to work Thursday evening, so he and Ron planned to hook up the trailer and load everything Friday morning.

Which is what they did, or at least started, while I went out and procured breakfast. Xap arrived as they were finishing up, so we loaded ourselves into various vehicles and set off. Robin had Friday off, so he helped unload and set up, procured lunch for us, then went back home. 

There was some confusion on our part at first, as I mis-remembered and thought I'd reserved seven tables, but in actuality it was six, which was a whole island, as I intended. We actually only used 3 of the six convention center tables, replacing one with the two Things (as they could be fenced off for bottle containment), created a 6' table out of a piece of gridwall laying on one of our 4' tables and tied to other gridwall on each end (spoiler/note to self: next year bring at least one of our 6' tables) at one end of the island and went with just gridwall at the other end.

I hadn't gotten the yarn, etc. put away with my personal stash of stringy bits after Boar's Head, so I took it out for one more encore. And I decided to put the dozen and a half tails I had that needed swivels out as they were, with a sign that they were $5 off the marked price, thinking people doing fur-trade era impressions might go for them.  

Friday was, as usual, slow business-wise. We were open for business from noon until seven, and most of the afternoon evening it was retirees and kids (veterans get reduced admission Friday). Mostly I worked on pouches, Ron did some chainmail, and Xap did some MuseCon programming things.  Off and on Friday afternoon we were all lightheaded and off. Our suspicion was diesel fumes from vehicles they were bringing in to the back of the hall, and/or artificial smoke from one of the encampments, although that didn't bother us previous years.

Saturday we were open 9-6. In the morning I sewed the leather onto a half-dozen new purple ball bottles, then went back to pouches, when we weren't busy taking care of customers. Second verse same as the first for Ron and Xap and what they were doing. There was lots of discussion about the impending weather in the evening. 

Saturday night I was desperately in need of quiet and introvert time, so I stayed up until almost 11, by which time the snow had started, and there was a definite coating on the yards and street. And then I woke up at 4:30 am, and finally got up about 5 am.  And there was lots more snow. Lots and lots.

The good thing about not sleeping enough, is that Saturday night I got the dishes done (which also let me soak my complaining hands - I got a bunch of pouches finished); and in the morning I had plenty of time to start bacon for breakfast and chili for dinner. I'd chopped and was started to cook onions for the chili (I thought), and then decided to use them for a breakfast casserole (eggs, chopped-up bread, cheese, onions, buttermilk, seasoning, bake until done). Then I chopped up more onions for the chili and put that together (yay for crock pots - Saturday's dinner was corned beef).  

Robin had to be at work at 8:00 yesterday, so about 6:00 I went upstairs and woke him up so he'd have time to excavate the driveway. In a case of great minds thinking alike, Ron appeared a couple minutes later for the same reason.  

In a case of good timing, they finished the driveway (and porches and clearing off cars) about 5 minutes before breakfast was ready.  

By the time we left, an hour or hour and a half after they'd cleared the cars, the cars were coated with almost an inch of snow. The drive down wasn't too bad. The roads were pretty craptastic, but there wasn't much other traffic. We even had enough time to determine that the employee parking lot at my office at the state park was plowed, so we could leave the trailer there, about 6 miles from Pheasant Run, vs. 23 from home.

A good number of vendors had packed up and left Saturday night. Attendance was really weak, I don't think anybody not attending/working the convention came Sunday. Which is not a surprise, given the weather. We were supposed to be open 10-2, by noon everybody left was packing up, and the convention chair had officially blessed us to do so.  

Hauling stuff through the snow on the ground was Not Exactly Fun, nor was loading in the blowing and drifting snow. But it got done, and we pulled out at just about 2:00.  Ron decided not to drop the trailer at my office.  

There was a lot more traffic going home than I expected. The roads were still craptastic, snow was still blowing and drifting. I followed Ron at more or less distance most of the way home. At about I-90 he ended up behind a left-turning car, and I passed. I decided if I stayed ahead I'd be too distracted trying to keep an eye on the truck in the rear-view mirror, and pulled into a shopping center, and got a loaf of bread and muffins from a Panera Bread. Then I got delayed a short bit waiting to go around a police car checking on a car in a ditch,  so I got home about 20 minutes after Ron did. 

Ron and Xap were working on the driveway, and it was kind of hard to tell where the street was to park, and we only have one Yooper Scooper and one shovel, so Ron sent me to CVS to pick up prescriptions. When I came back the driveway was done, Xap was pulling out of the other end of the street to head home, a neighbor was stuck in their driveway, another neighbor with a plow was helping, and Ron was trying to get the trailer backed into our driveway.

I just sat in the car a couple houses down and waited.  The stuck neighbor was un-stuck fairly quickly, then neighbor-with-plow did that driveway. He noticed Ron having trouble backing in, and did the end of our driveway, and part of the street. The driveway doesn't normally seem steep, but the last few feet does pitch enough that it can get interesting with the trailer in the winter. Eventually Ron got the trailer in and reasonably positioned so we could get all our vehicles parked. There was more snow than Ron wanted to deal with to get the trailer into the side yard where it normally lives, so for now its in the driveway.  

Yesterday morning there was about a foot of snow in the driveway. When we got home, there was about a foot of snow in the driveway. When Ron and Robin went out to shovel this morning there was about a foot . . . in some areas where it had drifted, and down to nothing in others. Ron paid neighbor-with-plow to do the driveway again. Neighbor-with-plow is a good thing to have, and in this case, also a very nice guy.  

Even though yesterday was not much fun, sales were good Saturday. We sold a little bit of almost everything: belts; tails (but only ones with swivels, I had left the plain tails in the bags they come in, probably a mistake); pouches (sporrans and the little tabbed soft ones, and an order for one hard pouch); bottles and test tubes (test tubes to kids - there weren't many cheap/kid-friendly things for sale); yarn; books (the two middle-price music-themed booklets); and chainmail (a bracelet and a pendant); plus a couple leashes we made on-site. One of the belts I was worried about the price on because of the cost of the brass buckle I got from England, but the customer didn't even bat an eye at the price. As Xap pointed out, military reenacting is pretty much a rich white guy's hobby.  Everything is expensive, even more recent uniforms and other surplus. I was talking to one woman who was WWI or WWII German Red Cross - she picked it because it *was* something she could do on a budget - her outfit was a white pinafore apron and dress of blue and white pinstripes, which she could make herself, and she only had to buy a couple/few small accessories. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Progress Again

Ron didn't get pouches trimmed Thursday or Friday.

On the other hand, the MuseCon grid build that was scheduled for Saturday didn't happen, so I stayed home and worked on hard pouches, which Ron trimmed Saturday morning.  I had a stack of, IIRC, 13 of them, and now I have 8 that need to have the lacing done, 2 "hanging" ones that I know won't get done for Military History Fest so I didn't even bother with, and 3 that are on hold until I get more hardware - on Saturday I used up the dee rings I put on the backs of pouches that can be worn as sporrans. But I have all the parts made and holes punched, and catching those two pouches up to the other 8 will only take a few minutes/rivets.

Yesterday morning we made hangers for the latest batch of amphora bottles, put together the parts for ball-shaped bottles, and a few for bottles Robin had stashed. After lunch Ron made chainmail bracelets, and I figured out how much the books I've made cost, and decided how much to charge for them. I also finished the last step of putting binding and latches on the flaps three of the machine-sewn soft pouches. 

I also finished one pouch that's been mostly-done for almost a week, and started lacing up some of the hard pouches I was working on Saturday. 

This morning I ordered truly Stupid Amounts of the dee rings I ran out of on Saturday - 400 of them. They're on sale for about half the normal price, and using 2/pouch for all but the smallest couple pouch sizes makes that a not-insane purchase. 200 of the swivels I put on tails is slightly more questionable, but they were also on sale. I also ordered a few jingle bells and, a few buckles my notes said we needed. 

Then I ordered even more hardware - rivets, snaps, studs, and a bunch of latches. I don't think I ordered stupid amounts of any of those, but we were almost or completely out of antique nickel (gunmetal color) rotary and swing latches in each size of each, and small antique brass rotary latches, so it just all added up. 

Still need to get the inventory updated in the point of sale software, and tags made and onto things. Not sure what the best method of putting price tags on books will be, I don't want to stick stickers on them. Also need to figure out what size tags we're putting on chainmail - the biggish tags we're currently using and printing stickers for, which are about the size of half a business card, or smaller ones that I still have a stash of.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Weekday Stall

So, after Monday's optimistic post, things have stalled. Between various meetings, appointments, etc, getting much done during the week is problematic.  I haven't even finished the purse that I could/should have. This morning I didn't bother with it, I grabbed my knitting instead.

On the other hand, Ron placed an order with Blue Buddha Boutique, and will be fetching it this afternoon/evening, for items he can reasonably expect to have done in time for Military History Fest. And in the next couple days I expect we'll be ordering some more supplies from The Ringlord (rings) and Fire Mountain Gems (glass beads and other findings). Also, sushi for dinner last night is not something to complain about.

Hopefully Ron will be home in time to trim the edges on some of the hard pouches for me.  I don't expect to get them all done in the next week, but I think I know which ones are on the short list.  And I need to get him to make the hangers for the recent batch of amphora bottles, and assemble parts for the red (and clear) spherical bottles.  Which one of us then has to sew on to said bottles. Plus I have a whole order of tails than need swivels.  And inventory needs to be updated. 

Yeah, more things to do than time to do them in. Dratted day-job. This would be easier if we were wealthy enough to just do Otter Necessities full-time. 

My left wrist is definitely better than it was Sunday. I'm hoping that the main problem was sleeping funny, and I've been careful with it the last few nights. 

Started getting the content for the program book for the floodplain managers' conference in March.  I'm waffling about making some changes to the fonts used, to switch to one or two that I've purchased since then, or sticking with not broke/don't fix. It would probably help to double-check to see what I used last year, wouldin't it?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Working on Leather, Finally

Thursday morning I went to Champaign for work, and came home Friday night. I took Amtrak, and because of the combination of Amtrak and Metra (the regional commuter rail lines), I didn't get home until 11:30. Except I didn't get off at our "home" station, I went a stop farther to Barrington, walked a block or so to an McGonigal's, an Irish pub, and caught The Tooles' last set (The Tooles is an Irish pub band), got something to eat, and had more hard cider in less than an hour than was probably wise.

Which is why we slept in fairly late Saturday, and when Ron went to a Capricon meeting I took a nap.  I did, however, update the MuseCon flyers, but forgot one of the Special Guests I was supposed to add. That was my accomplishment for the day.

Yesterday I went through the hard pouch fronts we had molded, a dozen of them, decided what color they'd be and what color the backs would be, made a list, and started laying out backs for Ron to cut out with the Universal Mangler. And made an extra back. I got Robin to do the dyeing with the airbrush, since he's a southern yeti vampire, so he didn't get cold.  I also got all the marking and hole punching done on the backs and flaps for lacing around the flap edges and attaching the belt loops.

Today I put latches on the flaps (including the spare), and glued 13 together (the dozen plus one that I'd previously gotton to that point. Which is rather a lot of work, since 4 of the pouches have 2 latches each. 

This is a stack of 5 large hard squares:

From left to right is a couple flaps for hanging pouches, and the spare back/flap, 4 small 4"x6" hard rectangles, and 2 shields on top of two medium squares:

Then I finished the skirt hikes I started a couple/few months ago:

23 of them - 8 large to take to events, 9 large to list on Etsy (3 singles and 3 pairs), and 6 small to list on Etsy (2 singles and 2 pairs). Plus a bored Pippin. 

Here's a comparison of small and large skirt hikes:
Small are about 8" long overall, large about 8-3/4" long. Small use 1-1/4" inner diameter rings, large use 2" inner diameter rings. 

And now, some gratuitous dog pictures, taken after I took pictures of skirt hikes:
Disapproving Pippin disapproves.

Pippin photobombs Elrond, and then tells me about it (he's between barks)

Elrond is sad and tragic, because the workmate made it hard to get up on the couch.

This evening, with Ron's help, I put a bunch of tools and things that had migated out to the living room yesterday and today back away, and listed the skirt hikes on Etsy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekend Recap #2 - All the Natter

Last night's post was pretty sparse on words, so we'll make up for that today.

Ron's rapidly working through the batch of rings we got last weekend at Blue Buddha to make Elfweave bracelets. But we're expecting the rings to make owls to arrive tonight, so he'll have those to work on. 

Got pretty much nothing in the way of leatherworking done this weekend, just trimming some pouch fronts that are drying on the molds.

Last week I got my order of bookbinding supplies and tools: A sturdier awl for making sewing holes (circular cross-section, all our leather sewing awls have a diamond cross-section), linen tape/ribbon for sewing multi-section books onto, reinforcing material for book spines, a couple pieces of black book cloth, a swatch set for one type of book cloth (I figured it was safe to order black without having seen a swatch), and a piece of decorative paper that's red with fancy fish on it in gold and black.  That order came from Ann Arbor, MI; and I also got my sewing frame from California.

Friday night after dinner we stopped at Menard's for sand bags for the back of the newer truck, and I picked up a 3" paint roller and small tray for gluing - a brush works for small areas, but not as well for anything over, say, 2" x 2". The roller was not my idea, I got the recommendation from YouTube video and a book on bookbinding. I also got a small plastic rafter square to keep with the paper cutter. 

Saturday morning I finally got around to cutting the board to size that Ron had reduced to manageable pieces with the Universal Mangler the week before.  I got the square because we've been having trouble making square cuts. I'd assumed the problem was that the (magnetic) fence which goes parallel to the blade was too easy to knock out of square with the backstop which is (supposed to be) perpendicular to the blade, because the fence is relatively narrow. But I started out checking that the backstop is square to the blade.

Fail. Fail fail fail. It also obviously (once you look at/for it) isn't square to the grid on the bed of the cutter, which I'm kicking myself for not noticing. Fortunately, it looks like we should be able to fix the backstop, possibly after enlarging a bolt hole with Comrade Dremel. 

I'm not sure the grid is perfectly square to the blade, but it is pretty close - at least as close as I can come without a fixed and reliably square backstop. So I cut my board using the grid and my eyeballs - I'd laid out all the cutting lines fully across the board, so I could also line them up with the blade mark in the plastic piece the blade comes down into.  And I also discovered that the blade guard/clamp isn't straight, so it isn't a safe/reliable indicator of cut location. This, children, is what comes of buying an inexpensive paper cutter. 

I also cut pages for the red and brown Japanese-style book on Sunday. The results of this weekends cutting were, unsurprisingly, much better than the cutting done using the not-square backstop. Not perfect, but a decided improvement.

Saturday evening I covered the boards for the books I finished yesterday. I thought I was being clever by mitering the corners before I had the boards glued down. Fail. It was OK on the red/brown book, but I'd mis-measured somewhere for the blue book, which ended up effectively having the corners trimmed too close, so there's corners not quite covered. Growf.

OTOH, using the roller made gluing much quicker/easier. It probably results in more waste glue with what's left in the roller and the tray, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make.  

Sunday morning I did the Illinois sales tax return. As usual, I ended up ranting and swearing in the process. Most of which was over a rounding issue - rounding everything to the nearest dollar and then summing up does not necessarily give the same answer as rounding at the end. The Wisconsin on-line filing system was down all weekend, so I need to do that today or tomorrow, which should be straightforward, particularly as we only did one event in Wisconsin. 

Sunday midday/early afternoon Ron and I did errands, including a stop at Dick Blick, where I got a quart of PVA glue (the 4-ounce-ish bottle I started with is going fast, especially using the roller), Ron decided I should go ahead and get a heavy-duty bookbinding awl, and Ron got a utility/storage box for finished chainmail. After lunch we stopped at Michaels and Ron got a couple black velvet-covered bracelet display bars.  

In the afternoon/evening I sewed the books together, and finished putting a batch of sporrans and belt satchels that I took pictures of last weekend up for sale on Etsy.  And did the previous blog entry.

Last night I ordered paper for book interiors. In the morning I determined that most (if not all) of French Paper Company's products are acid-free, so I stuck with them (I've also bought paper for letterpress printing from French). They're not exactly local to us now, but is to where I grew up. Its a thing. I got Pachtone in "Natural" - cream-colored artificial parchment, slightly mottled; and Dur-O-Tone "Butcher Extra White", which is a slightly glossy white. It was surprisingly hard to pick a white and an off-white. I got a ream of each, a ream doesn't exactly last a long time when making books, and the price/sheet is a lot better for a ream than 50 sheets.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Pouch, Chainmail, and Books

Friday I finised up one of the pouches I posted a picture of while underway a week or so ago:

Ron's been making more bracelets:

These are all more of the "elfweave" pattern.

And I finished two more books with Japanese-style sewn bindings:

The red/brown has about 4-1/4" x 11" pages, and the turquoise one has about 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" pages (including the parts inside the binding). The red/brown book has orange pages at the beginning/end, the rest are off-white.

My sewing frame arrived, now I need to figure out what I want type of book I want to make with the type of sewn binding that uses it. And probably order some paper tomorrow, for the interior. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Chainmail, Books, and Leather

I finished up the hard cover book with the marbled red and brown book cloth cover, after blogging yesterday:

I even managed leave it undisturbed alllll day long yesterday, even though it probably would have been fine to take a look last night.  

The endpapers are orange, which I think goes with the orange in the cover, and the pages are the generic cream paper:

No, I didn't bother with a picture of the interior, I figure a picture of the orange is dull enough.

After that, I put the bookbinding aside and worked on leather. I flailed around some, with a pile of hard pouch fronts, and another of hard pouch backs, and lists of what I needed.  In the end I didn't worry about getting Robin to dye anything, and decided to just have Ron wax all the fronts as they were. 

Then I laid out hard pouch fronts on a half-cow, for Ron to hack apart with the Universal Mangler. He cut faster than I laid out, power tools for the win.  Four of the pouch fronts were soaked for molding, and the rest set aside.

Then I started working on a couple pouches I'd cut out a couple/few weeks ago. They have gussets that are hand-stitched, and laced flaps. By dinner time I had the belt loops on, latches on, flaps ready to lace, and the gussets glued and held together with plenty of binder clips.  I probably could have achieved more yesterday, but leather wasn't what I really wanted to be working on (books were). 

While I was working on leather, Ron worked on chainmail and then waxed pouches. Here's the bracelet he made, in the "Elfweave" pattern by Rebeca Mojica of Blue Buddha Boutique, in royal blue, purple, turquoise, and bright aluminum:
After dinner we molded pouches and then I laid out covers for two more Japanese-style books on the binder's board. Ron had experimented with the Universal Mangler on scrap, and determined it would work. It leaves a ridge on one cut edge, but Ron has to freehand cuts with it, so I'd already assumed any Universal Mangler cuts would only be rough, and require trimming. I didn't get ustairs to do the final cutting, but maybe tonight. I also got pages folded to go with the paper I got at Jo-Ann on Saturday. 

Tonight Ron finished another Elfweave bracelet, in red and hematite-colored aluminum, and brass:
Both this one and the blue/purple/silver one are for sale, in the $45-ish neighborhood.

While he was finishing up the bracelet, I packed up an Etsy order we got last night, and got the pouches I worked on yesterday ready to lace and sew:
One will be done in black, the other in dark brown. The only difference in the two at the moment is the grain pattern, so I just grabbed one to take a picture of. The flaps are laced, the bodies are hand-stitched.

I also took pictures of a bunch of soft sewn pouches, so I can list them on Etsy, as well as post them to the gallery on the website.  And I need to make a chainmail section on the gallery and get pictures uploaded there.