Friday, December 30, 2011

"Christmas Dinner......"

Don and I had invited a few friends over for Christmas dinner. The table set and ready for our guests. The center piece had been delivered on Friday, sent by Jim and George, who were coming all the way from Sumner, Iowa.

A close up of the beautiful center piece.

Sheila and Penny brought "Crackers" which, when "cracked or popped open", contained our crowns, jokes, and a small "surprise". Seated from left to right are: George, Sheila, me, Penny, Jamie, and Jim. Poor Don, being the photographer, isn't in too many photos. :(

After dinner we adjourned to the sun room where we opened a few gifts. Here is Penny modeling her new cowl that I knitted for her.

And once again modeling for Don wearing her new mohair/silk scarf that I wove for her. :)

Sheila got a pair of hand dyed, hand cranked (on my CSM) socks.

And Sheila also received a mohair/silk handwoven scarf. In reality, they both received all the gifts as they "share" accessories all the time, having the same foot size, and a scarf is a scarf, right? ;) Penny received the cowl because she leans to being on the cold side during cooler weather......Sheila, not so much. :)

Penny also tried on a stocking cap that I had knitted with her in mind, so that went home with her, too. ;)

After gifts, we went back to the dining table for dessert. Penny and Sheila had brought a "Yule Log". The cake decorator was certainly creative, don't you agree? To think each little figure was made from frosting and the mushrooms of meringue. Needless to say (although I will) it was enjoyed by all. :)

Our one lone photo of Don, taken almost at the end of the evening. His expression says it for all of us......we all had a wonderful time! An excellent ending to Christmas 2011!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Christmas 2011 Continued......"

One of my Christmas presents was this 20 Color Gamp Kit from Lunatic Fringe Yarns. ( I've used their 10/2 mercerized cotton for some of the kitchen towels I've woven and like their yarn very much. On their website, they have several photos of what can be woven using this gamp kit. If you check them out, the one I plan on weaving 1st is the plain weave. The kit will have to wait though, as I am warping my floor loom now so that I can begin using the Pendleton selvages that I bought a few weeks back. Photos of those to come.....

The Duluth Trading Co. ( came through for me as well. This 3 legged stool, The Walk Stool, with its telescoping legs and compact size when folded, will be attached to my bike for those times when we go riding and make stops. Don usually rides his tadpole trike recumbent, so he has a built in seat, and now I, too, will have a "special" seat for those "off the bike" times. ;)

My much wished for reed stand was also under the tree! It is in the fiber room and already doing it's duty. ;)

Yep, another great Duluth Trading Co. new "lined" cardigan sweater. I do not like to wear heavy coats during the winter, so usually "layer" a couple of shirts and wear a fleece coat over everything else, and since I rarely am out and about for long periods of time, that works fine. This lined cardigan sweater works fine all by itself. :) Added around my neck is a 60" cowl that I knitted "for myself", something quite rare in itself. ;) The pattern is a free one from Knit Pics, called the Nottingham Cowl (, in case anyone is interested. I've worn it several times already and like it very loose scarf ends to catch the wind, so it stays in place and I stay warm. ;)

We went back to Duluth Trading Co. on Tuesday and I bought myself a couple of new caps to wear with this sweater. Don said last night when we went out to dinner at Brocach Irish Pub, that I looked positively Irish, wearing sweater, cowl, and new cap. ;)

And last, although certainly not least, is my new robe from....yep, you guessed it....Duluth Trading Co.! It is fleece lined and wonderfully warm. Yep, I'm a very happy man. ;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Opening Presents......."

Don received these mini bottles of taste sensations in his stocking. He also received a few of their larger cousins from various places around the world, too.

Our "window shopping" at Duluth Trading Co. in Mt. Horeb, produced a plethora of possibilities. This was one.......

And this was another.....

And this bag is one of the main reasons we'd gone to Duluth Trading Co. Don was interested in a larger bag than what he'd been using when we were "out and about", and didn't want to resort to carrying his big backpack. His criteria was it needed to be something mid-sized, serve multi-functions, and include numerous pockets. After seeing this one, he decided it would also hold his iPad, as it has a padded interior pocket large enough for that, too. Perfect fit!

Another wish he expressed was for a Dashiki. His mother had sewn one for him years ago which he really liked, but it had long ago disappeared. It was time for a new one.....

And finally, a sweater (no, I did not knit it) that was also a "look alike" from his past. Our computer displays continuous photos from both of our past and present (I guess if a photo is taken, it already shows the past, eh?). I'd seen a photo of Don in a sweater VERY similar to this and felt it was time for him to have another. Thank you Cabela's for your online ordering service. ;)

Some of my Christmas presents tomorrow.....and YES, there are fiber related things!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Christmas Morning 2011"

A view of our Christmas tree from Don's chair, taken Christmas morning.

We started, as I "assume" many people do, with opening our presents found in our stockings. Here I am with the stocking my wife made for me back in 1978. She'd made them the year our first child, Patrick, was born, keeping the pattern, and making one for Sean (1981) and Claire (1985) when they were born, too.

Don has had his stocking for many years, too. A friend made it for him in 1983.

Can you stand this look? Evidently, Copper thought she was being forgotten and was quite sad about it, giving Don this pathetic look.

But yes, she, too, has her own stocking.

And it was filled with lots of doggie treats.....many of which she was able to taste again and again. ;)

My little cabin ornament........

And this years annual Wisconsin Capitol ornament. Don has been giving me the Capitol ornaments since I moved here in 2005, so I now have 6. ;)

Don also got 2 ornaments this year.....a bagpipe and another piano. I've been getting him a piano each year and thankfully (surprisingly?), there haven't been any repeats of the same one. ;)

Christmas morning 2011 continued tomorrow......

Monday, December 26, 2011

"Mohair/ Silk Blend Scarves....."

Now that gifts have been given, I can post about their making. Not thinking of my Facebook friend list, I had posted a photo of the finished scarves on my Facebook status, where they'd been seen by their recipients, but fortunately, they had no idea for whom they were intended. ;)

Friends Penny and Sheila had given me a generous gift certificate to one of my favorite online fiber sources, Halcyon Yarn, in Bath, Maine. What better to do with that gift certificate than to buy something "special" and weave them a gift in return, eh? ;) I'd benefit from trying something I'd not normally have been able to try and have a great learning experience, with something concrete in hand to show for it, too.

I chose 2 "Douceur et Soie et Amis" yarns, red and blue, each a blend of 70% mohair, 30% silk. As I had mentioned previously, I wanted a new learning experience, and I got one. :) I learned that using a "sticky" yarn, which means a yarn that likes to grab itself and stick together, makes one "re-think" how dressing the loom (winding/threading the warp) needs to be handled.

Fortunately, measuring the warp on the warping rack presented no problems.

Attaching the warp threads to the loom also caused no problems, but see the "halo" emanating from each of the warp threads? That innocent little halo will prove to be troublesome, which I will write about when I go from Penny's blue scarf to Sheila's red scarf, only because of a photo which illustrates where the problem arose.

Threading the heddles in a 1, 2, 3, 4 shaft sequence. I will be weaving the scarves in "Plain Weave", or also known as "Tabby". Shafts 1 & 3 will be raised together, as will 2 & 4, giving me a "Plain Weave".

The beginning of Penny's plain weave scarf. I "Hem Stitched" the beginning of the scarf, too, which will lock the warp and weft together so they will not unravel when the scarf is removed from the loom. I will also hem stitch the other end when I am finished weaving prior to taking it off the loom.

This photo shows just how open the weave is. I had to gently beat the weft, leaving a very small space between each weft thread, otherwise it would have packed too tightly.

Penny's finished mohair/silk blend scarf.......

Measuring out Sheila's red yarn. Notice the "cross" between the 2 upper right pegs on the warping board. This cross needs to be preserved to make threading the heddles easier, so each section of the cross is tied before removing the warp from the rack.

The 2 measured sections of warp attached to the loom, chained and ready to undo so I can wind them onto the back beam.

Here began my problems with "sticky" warp. My "lease sticks", seen here connected with a small metal ring, are always inserted in the warp to keep the "cross", which I wrote about. Since I had bought this table loom, I've used these metal rings to keep the lease sticks together to preserve the cross. With the new mohair/silk yarn, the cross was where the yarn began sticking to itself. It grabbed the halo so tightly that I was not able to wind the warp onto the back beam without undoing the stuck areas. This is where my learning something new began. :) After struggling with this problem for awhile, and physically removing tangled halo bits, I had to re-think my set up. And what a simple solution it was to fix my problem. I unhooked the small metal rings from the lease sticks to allow more room between the sticks, which in turn, allowed the warp threads more breathing room and they did not stick! Talk about a simple fix, eh? ;)

From then on it was clear sailing and I had no problems whatsoever with sticking.

Another photo showing the openness of the plain weave.

Sheila's finished scarf.

The scarf feels so light and airy, but when folded or bunched up, it feels much more substantial. I "believe" that even though it has such an open weave, it will still have the ability to be quite warm if needed.

The finished scarves......

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"A Christmas Party....."

Don and I were invited to a little Christmas potluck at friends, Rory and Linda's, last Saturday night. Linda had written a "Recall song" for Rory while out west visiting her family, and Saturday night was its debut. For those of you who do not follow politics, Wisconsin is in the midst of getting signatures to recall our governor.

More entertainment followed. This is "Doug the Jug". With my being somewhat new to Madison, I'd not heard of him, but Don has seen him perform numerous times.

More singing followed. Many well known Christmas tunes have been re-written with words of solidarity for singing down in the Capitol rotunda, and Rory and Linda have participated in several of the sing-a-longs. They had some of the song booklets which were used for a more intimate sing-a-long that night. Yours truly is not a singer but did enjoy watching and listening. Rory's longtime friend, Shirley, accompanied the group on the piano.

Only a few of us did not sing......yes, I know, every party needs a pooper, so that why we were invited. ;)

Following the sing-a-long, Rory accompanied Neil on her guitar while he piped Christmas tunes. I'd never heard Christmas songs played on bagpipes before, so that was a nice surprise. :)

We enjoyed ourselves very much. The group was nice, friendly, fun, and interesting. Rory sent Don this link to a You Tube video of Monday's Sing-a-long at the Capitol in which she and Linda showed up near the end (beginning around 1:47).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"A J Bombers"

Don and I tried out a new eatery last week, A J Bombers. The flagship restaurant is in Milwaukee, but they've recently opened one up in Madison, too. Considered a "Burger Joint", it was definitely good. We both enjoyed our burgers. And yes, they have a spectacular Bloody Mary, too, served with something unusual......1/2 of a small burger as part of the garnish! We're told that the appetizer, next to my BM, is their specialty......deep fried dill pickles. It didn't sound good to me, but I have to admit, they were pretty tasty.

Another "gimmick", if you will, is they serve peanuts in the shell, and yes, peanut shells are to be tossed to the floor. What is unusual about their peanuts, is how they are served, or brought to the booth. Most of the booths are under a ceiling track, which holds a "bomb" located behind the bar. The bartender fills the "bomb" with peanuts and shoves the bomb along the track. When it "hits" the booth, it drops peanuts down through a tube, which land in a stainless steel bowl......peanuts served! :) Cute gimmick and somewhat noisy, but definitely memorable.