Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Club House!

Here's the newest project that I'm working on. I'm starting a clubhouse that has a few different styles of shops in it, and members of the club would be able to drop by and use the equipment. For a few more details on the workings, you can visit its website here: Maker Cave. It, like the project as a whole, is just at the beginning stages and will be continually changing over the next several months.

The first walk through yielded only these shots that looked less-than-disheveled. By the weekend, there should be more pictures after we clean out the building to make it a bit more professional. There's also the likelihood that Dara will be coming up with a sketch of the place, along with dimensions, and maybe even what the inside might look like.

Ever since one of the local maker community hubs shut down in March, a lot of friends have been asking me if I would be interested or willing to set up something that would fill the void. Though a few interesting events, my wife and I are going to be living in a house with a wonderfully large workshop in the back. It was originally used for storage and a garage, but I believe we can turn this into a multi-material work space and design shop.

During the process of coming up for a name for this venture, we were calling it the "Man Cave." Part of it was going to have a very intricate TV/Music/Gaming system, a bar, computers and just a place to sit down and relax. You know, a place where a guy can just sit down, chill out and work on projects.

The idea then morphed into actually having work space in it. Bring in tools to use and people to hang out with while working on various projects. I have a lot of friends in the area who have tools, time and money to work on projects, but are limited by the fact that they live in apartments where their landlords wouldn't take kindly to power tools being used. When I discussed this idea with a few of them, they immediately jumped on it and were willing to help and put equipment to be used in it.

Over the next few months I am going to be investing some better wiring in the shop, and setting it up for bigger tools. I've had a few people say they're willing to donate tools or funding to the shop, and I'm hoping to make it more appealing for them.

A few things I'm looking to do with this are community based. This is going to be a club. Not the same thing as a country club, or a gym, but more of a collective of makers who have invested in something and want to see it flourish. There's not enough space for a vast number of people, but I'm hoping that with monthly dues and some invested capital, this would be a fun space for people to work in.

We're aiming to have weekly meet-ups called Cave Parties. Part grill-out, part build party, all fun. Music, grilling, and generally hanging out. These nights members of the club can show up with potluck style food/drink, enjoy the location and work on a few projects. I'll put more detailed information on the website, but in general the workspace will be available for people of a variety of incomes.

Aside from the Cave Parties, the people who seek to use it more often will be able to come by in the evenings and over the weekends. Basically, when I'm around to keep an eye on the shop and help anyone who may need it.

I'll be adding more information later, but for now this is the introduction. I hope that people will come and join me in the Maker Cave with yours truly, the resident Cave Man.

Part 3: Tooling Leather For The House Of Dragon

           Alright, this part TOOK way, way longer than I expected. I realized doing this project how spoiled I've gotten not having to hand-tool leather on a regular basis. All the leather pieces were cut from the pattern in part two, then wetted and had a dragon pattern hand-cut into them with a mallet and chisel. That's a lot of beating things with a metal stick. A lot of people think that this is an instant process instead of a couple of hours per piece.
             The best part of this process though, was it gave me a chance to use one of my favorite old school pattern drafting tools: my light box. To use a light box, take your original photo, outline the major lines with an ink pen, trace and copy onto hard oak tag, and press the final pattern into the leather with a punch. The carve A LOT. A swivel knife is popular for this point, then the 3D pattern is beaten into the thick leather with a rubber mallet and stamps. Sadly, since it's all the same color it's hard to see the detail before dying. Tomorrow...looking at the finished product dyed before it's burnished and sealed with beeswax. I was going to do a leather tutorial on this, but without access to a light box...I really don't see this being something most people can do.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spring 2014: Menswear

           Menswear is running further and further ahead the style curve these days compared to everyone else. The Milan and Paris Fashion Shows have already been released a year ahead of the general public. They are some of the most risky trends I've seen in a while as they are not very masculine. Flowery prints and knit wear are everywhere.
             I am not sure how much of what is walking the runways will be adopted by the actual public as a whole. I have a hard time picturing my husband trading in his beloved blue jeans for flower print sprayed on trousers, but it reminds me of the old shows back before 2005 which were designed the shock and delight the public instead of raw practicality. The thing it speaks most clearly to me is HOPE. Of an unwritten future. I like that. So to next year's menswear: A little more risk. A recovering economy. And hope.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Beach Entertainment: Free Book Online

       Happy Monday everyone! It's back to school in a few weeks and we're having fun getting in some last minute summer reading before the break is over. Nash and I both love to read. If you're looking for another book to throw on your kindle or iPhone for a relaxing summer trip to the beach or mountains, may we recommend the free book Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson?
         He's our new favorite author. Since we don't get the time to read like we used to, the books we do read and enjoy have become very precious to us. Best of all, we get to tell you all about him and let you try him out for FREE online. His Mistborn Trilogy is where we first read him and we both couldn't put the books down for a month. It's always nice to find a new beloved author to read.
         Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Brilliant Product Design/Marketing: Tile

              I recently saw this commercial and thought...this is an amazing product design/advertising. The first round of funding has already raised over $2 million dollars six months before shipping. It's a small simple RFID reader that allows you to find objects on the go. While the technology has been around for 20+ years, it has also largely been banned or pulled from  stores as being too invasive. This is the first time I've seen tracking presented as a positive instead of a negative for the consumer. A simple story: never lose your keys again.
               As Nash and most of my friends will attest, this is something I struggle with on a regular basis which has led to elaborate filing and storage systems to combat my absent-mindedness.  Now, for $25 there's a answer to my key problem. We're finally beginning to see the adoption of many early 1990s technology for the consumer market with the iPhone turning people into mobile information hubs. The things we feared are becoming the tools we use every day. So many times, you see product adoption fail in the market place, not because of the product itself, but a failure to tell a story the customer wants to hear.
           If you're not telling someone what they want to hear, can you really blame them for walking away instead of buying in? And how often do we fail to frame our attempts to connect with others in terms of not hearing their stories on what they need? Or want?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Adding A New Voice To the Blog

Hello everyone! It's Nash, Dara's husband. She's recently told me that I should start writing some posts on here, and so I shall! You'll be hearing from me more often now, especially in the next few days. In the future I'll likely be posing anywhere from updates on our Instructables page, stories I've written, projects we've been working on and anything that catches my fancy.

As of the past few weeks, I've been blogging on our main page. You can read the past few posts here. Sometimes there might be repeat posts between here and there, but I will try and keep that to a minimum.

One other thing is that sometimes you might catch me ending my posts with something amusing. Or at least something I might find interesting and wish to share. In this instance, it will involve my love of Deadpool and something amusing that went on with this year's San Diego Comic Con. We also hope to start making more costumes, of which you'll likely see future posts in that field.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Japanese Patternbooks: Or How To Pick A Patternmaker

           Today's post is a little tongue-in-cheek, but hopefully it will be helpful for those designers looking to grow to the next level. I've often thought that a designer looking for a patternmaker should bring a few sheets of origami and a Japanese origami folding book to the interview to figure out if the pattern-maker is any good. Pattern-making is the spacial ability to make a physical recipe to make your design real on a large scale. You also hear this referred to as DMF (Design for Manufacturing) or several other things that mean the same thing (BOM, tech pack, etc.). If you're just making notes for yourself or a one-time piece who cares what format you use.
           Designers often think in words (especially the verbal descriptions their customers give them), production rarely uses any words at all taking raw material and making it into a final product. You don't use words to chop onions or cook a steak. You use tools. Conversely, a bowl of salt is not very good for having a customer tell you they want fries with that.  Like recipe books, pattern-makers translate between the front and back of the house making the process seamless and straight forward to give you a steak (aka-final product). This is normally accomplished by visual diagrams, short sentences, and clear instructions. If you take more than 1 page to communicate your idea, you've probably screwed up and lost your audience. Worse, the handout you put together will never make it to the factory floor as it's too expensive to photocopy for the workers. Go brilliant, stupid you. The gold standard for good directions and internal industry standard for the likelihood your patterns will be successful on the textile factory floor is Japanese pattern/sewing books.
               Most Japanese instructional books can be understood and followed without a person reading the language which is impressive considering how hard most of us struggle to be understood in our own language. Pattern-makers will often talk about the Pattern Magic Series (1,2, and 3) or now the current trend is the Drape Drape Series (1,2, and 3). I'm sure it will be something else 5-10 years from now.  As a designer, even if you never learn how to sew, it behooves you to get a few of these books and at least flip through them.You can also pick up some Japanese cookbooks as the format is similar if you prefer to eat your way to knowledge instead of sew.

Friday, July 19, 2013

15% Failure Rule: McKnight Principle

"As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

"Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

"Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it's essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow."
     ~ William McKnight, 3M Chairman

                       There are certain stories a person in marketing is encouraged never to share as it is seen as "ruining the myth" or "destroying the brand." But often the stories to success are littered with oceans of failure. Maybe that's possible for others, but us....we make a lot of mistakes. Most successful businesses that are creative try not for perfect, but for a certain level of working built in failure. 3M is famous for it's 15% free time rules. Google for 20%.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Website Overhaul

Hey guys, I am pleased to let you all know that Nash has finished the first of several upgrade overhauls to the website for our customers to better use the site. I must admit we have a horrible tendency to abuse  this as it doesn't really pay the bills so it tends to get bumped to the bottom of the honey-do-list. You getting any summer cleaning done? Please note, our e-mail is still sorting itself out. If you sent us an e-mail Monday or Tuesday we probably did not get it due to a server glitch. Please resend.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 25th: The Care and Feeding of Home Sewing Machines

Hey guys, this month our Etsy meet-up will be on cleaning and fixing your home sewing machines. You can sign up here on Skillshare

Phoenix Fall Collection: Tech Sketches Done

              Wow, it's been a rough couple of months since the end of April due to a combination of personal and business crap. It seems to be a repeating theme in the manufacturing business that May and June are our hardest months all year.   Guess the honeymoon is over, now the marriage begins.
               It's led to me designing a personal collection which is simple, wearable, and based on real life. All the pieces can be worn multiple ways and styles. All washable, all easy care fabrics made in either North Carolina or Virginia. I've been trying to stay in just NC, but the wonderful wool textile mills of Virginia have tempted me across the border because I love warm light-weight fall coats. There's this amazing wool mill I found tucked away with a crisp father/son duo who carries lovely worsted wools in the old tradition what slides through your fingers like warm butter on a hot July. Major score for the season from the fabric markets. Have I mentioned how much I love fabric markets? I'd honestly post pictures from this year's 2 big ones if I didn't think it would bore people to DEATH. Buttons, trim, and yardage are I think only sexy to other people who also sew.

Now, I think we need to see some CLOTHES to make this real. Yum, yum, yum. Hope you enjoy. And may life's hardships inspire your inner self.

Monday, July 15, 2013

2nd Fitting For Sparticus Costume

               Alright, last week it was all about the napkin design stage. This week we're back again, but this time with the mock-up, muslin, or fitting depending on which part of the industry you work on. Before I worked in the trades, this was a mostly absent concept, I mean math is perfect....why throw away $50-100 in fabric and hours of time double-checking fit before moving on to the real stuff? It's taken a couple years, but I've come around to the whole measure twice, cut once mentality.
           The end product just looks SOOOO much better. People have a lot of symmetry to them, but there are often small differences between the left and right sides simply because we tend to use one hand or foot more than the other so one side will have more muscles than the other. The average I've found is around 1/2 inch from dominant to non-dominant hand, but it varies and is a subtle difference worth taking the time to notice. Even if it does add an extra day or two of work in the process. Some things are worth it. It was especially important on this costume where the front is completely asymmetrical. Nothing in the Sparticus show is the same from left to right. A maddening....interesting....time consuming. Still, this is the kind of stuff I live for.

Next Friday, let's see some leather.

Friday, July 12, 2013

This is SPARTA!

           Alright, fun project this month is a custom leather cosplay inspired by Spartacus the TV series. Yes, I know this is 300, but I always loved this scene. There's something about routing for the underdog which is a guilty pleasure. For those of you who didn't take 4 years of Latin in high school, Spartacus is the leader of a major slave revolt in the Roman Empire around 73-71 BC also called the Third Servile War, the Gladiator War, or the War of Sparticus. It was also the only war Rome fought that directly threatened the Roman Empire.
           While Spartacus lost, it is noted that the revolt enacted to push through the first legislation to treat slaves as people and not property. So yeah, let's hear it for human rights.
           History lesson over, now let's get to work on the design part. Since this is all custom work (mostly hand carving), you can expect to spent 40-120 hrs. crafting a bespoke work of art like this. Thankfully for the client and you, most of this work is behind the scenes so you just get to peek in for fun every couple of days. Hopefully this will be a nice break for everyone. I did promise some cool projects for a change of pace.
              So, first...if you've watched any of Nash's How-To-Instructables, you know the first part is pretty dry: collect reference photos, take measurements, and do a first fitting or mock-up. This is also known in the business as the coffee stage since it's mostly math, paper/fabric, and concept oriented. A fast way to iron out the major kinks before you invest in leather. Because leather is expensive and you only get to do it once so mistakes are VERY very costly. Nash also likes to call this the napkin stage.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Whoot! Nash's Design Won First Prize in the Father's Day Contest!

             Hey everyone, we've been so flattered with how much you all like Nash's design and tutorial for the ice blanket. We've hit a little over 9,000 hits in a week and a half! Also, in a surprise win Nash won 1st Place in the Instructables Father's Day Contest.

                I think we get a free t-shirt and some books, but hey...bragging rights is bragging rights. Sometimes we forget to stop for a moment and look at what we've accomplished. In other news, next week I have some more custom projects to post (we've been getting a slew of them lately) that I've been working on which may or may not interest you our readers. One is a cool new design for a bar remodeling.....oh you will just have to wait to see it next week. :-)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wonderful Shop Music: Lindsey Stirling

              Nash and I generally agree to disagree when it comes to music. We both tend to listen to music the other finds boring (me) or offensive (Nash). Imagine my utter delight when the other morning carpooling to work I was greeted not with another raunchy Irish pub song, but this....Lindsey Stirling. So nice. In case you are not familiar with this dub-step violinist, I encourage you to check out her youtube channel. A feast for the eyes and ears. And hopefully a few laughs. Yum, find another musical artist we can agree upon is awesome besides Lindsey and the Game of Thrones theme song. Warm travels and happy ears.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Black T-shirt Convertible Design (8-Shirts-In-One)

                     This week I'm splitting my time between custom work and short-run immediates. For those of you not in the business, short-run immediates is small runs production runs of 25-400 pieces for immediate sale (hence the name). While I'm busy sewing, I wanted to let you guys see a new t-shirt design I've been working on for a while which is designed to be flattering to women showing off your shoulders and making your cleavage bigger while hiding a major problem area of most women everywhere which is having a cute round tummy instead of flat abs of steel.
                       The hemline floats so you can raise or lower it depending on how daring you're feeling. Shorten it to a cut-off or let it all the way out for a cute t-shirt dress. A day-to-night look. Lighten your wardrobe and keep up with your date no matter what surprises they throw on you. I wanted to design something that would let me keep up with my husband on a weekend getaway, while not having to pack the kitchen sink. The overall result is a piece that looks deceptively simple, is wrinkle-free, and machine washable. Watcha think?
Comes in sizes XS-S-M-L-XL-XXL (I can also cut a custom size to order)
$18.00 in Our Etsy Shop here.

Hurry and pick one up as I don't expect them to last long.

How to Make Wooden Postcards

This week, we're continuing to post Instructables tutorials from the Etsy Night of Craft. Next up is how to do custom wooden postcards. This is a great family or group activity.

Nash has gotten roughly 5,000 hits in the past week for his guide.  It's nice to see how well-liked his writing style is. He's working on upgrading the company website which should be another nice perk for our customers.

Thank goodness that someone likes to do it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Adding Art-o-Mat: Phoenix Collection

           I've been meaning to post this for a month, but here's a few behind the scenes look at our new Phoenix Collection for Fall 2013. These are custom orange fire bracelets inspired by the idea of turning death into life. Because we will all fall, the question is if we choose to stay down or get back up. Me? I think there's a wealth of possibility waiting to learn and improve from failure (our own or others). Each one is individually designed and sewn. A lovely piece of art. And hopefully a message worth being inspired by.
           You can find pieces at in local art vending machines across with country with Art-o-mat for $5.00 each. Taking my love of leather and sewing to the next level. May it inspire you to try something new or step outside your comfort zone.
            The past month with Techshop RD's closing on short notice (3 days) and just general fall-out, Nash and I have had a number of occasions to look at each other and be grateful to have each other in the fox hole with us. I'm not going to pretend it's all been easy, but hey a little sharpening of the soul and craft is never a bad thing. Happy July 4th weekend.

PS- Will try and post more of our store and designer collaborations this month. If you're interested in having us produce for your store or private label work, short us an e-mail at:

Friday, July 5, 2013

Black Leather Gauntlets in Etsy Shop

Nash finally had some time this past week to make a few pairs of black leather gauntlets that were so popular at AZ. We actually sold out last month which was a lot of fun. It's nice to see a particular design is well accepted. The smaller size is $18.00 while the larger size is $20.00. Hopefully I will get to see more awesome fights and theater cosplay as a result. Very fun and durable pieces.

Happy July 4th weekend everyone!
May your dreams and fireworks have fun!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Freeze Blanket Available In Etsy Shop for $125 (Limited Time Offer)

Hey everyone, due to popular demand we're test posting a few custom Freeze blankets in the Etsy shop here. Hopefully this will help a number of people beat the summer heat, save money on electric bills, and maybe a few relationships. The ice packs do fit in a mini-fridge freezer so you can use this throw blanket if you so desire.

100% Cotton. Machine Washable.


White, Khaki, Red, Blue, Green, Gray, and Black. We can also do custom designs upon request.

Free Monogramming available.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nash's Ice Blanket

This week's happiness is brought to you by Nash's smiling face. Last week, I made him an ice blanket. He's spent the weekend smiling and laughing to himself. Apparently, I didn't understand the Viking mentality that staying a cool 50 degrees all summer at night is just awesome. Well, one happy man. Hopefully you've managed to make someone around you happy this week. Happy trails and avoid the summer heat.