Manitoulin Adventures: Part Four

After the mess of the first few days, things started looking up. We took another stab at the Cup and Saucer trail and this time the weather was gorgeous. Even better, my good friend came with us and though we got lost a few times on the trail it was so interesting and gorgeous none of us minded all that much.

Oh, by the way – if you’re scared of snakes, scroll quickly past this post. You have been warned.

Second Attempt

I wrapped my friend’s scarf around my head (one thing about Manitoulin, it’s impossible to find a hat for a less-than-feminine-haired person) and took so many photographs of trees you’d think I’m writing a book about dryads (uh… I am). The dog was in his element as we made our way through the beautiful trail and took a few wrong turns, including one that showed us tiny raccoon prints in the mud. At this part of the trail my girlfriend dived into the bushes to catch a snake, because that’s her thing.

A Snake

Of course she caught it. She’s badass. That’s a little garter snake, so cute.

I didn’t make it to the end of the trail, only my girlfriend did. Why? Well… I can barely keep myself upright on flat ground sometimes, and the last part of the trail involved a very steep climb. We sat at the bottom for a while then my girlfriend kept going while we headed back to the car.

Luckily she took my camera with her. This is what it looks like from the top of the Cup and Saucer trail.

Cup and Saucer

After this we went to a craft store run by a M’Chigeeng woman who makes the most wonderful things. I wanted a pair of moccasins but instead I bought a Pendleton blanket with stripes of glorious colour since I’d seen one similar in Providence Bay that was double the price and nowhere near as pretty. It is over my lap as I write this and I love it.

I also bought some tiny moccasins for my nephew who, as it turned out, was born that week.

A shorter, easier trail the next day brought us to Misery Bay, so named because the settlers there hated the amount of mosquitoes and bugs. Fortunately there weren’t many on our trip, and we spent some time on the sand bar looking out into lake Huron. Manitoulin is a beautiful island with many stunning views.

The rest of the vacation was peaceful and enjoyable for the most part. We ate good food (I tried musk-ox! It was awful, let’s stick to its yarn please), had good company, and even the weather brightened up towards the end of the week.

Honestly, I was starting to miss our bed and our quiet.

On the last day we went to Gore Bay and had breakfast in a place that didn’t have any sausages left and there was a whole bunch of yarn based stalls at the local farmer’s market. This is where I found my local yarn, to my utter delight.

I don’t like sharing too much of a sock/yarn when it’s a gift for someone, so here’s a preview. You can see how crisp and crunchy the yarn is. Apparently it’s fluffs up upon washing but I’ve got a thing for a good crunch in my wool so I wouldn’t mind either way.


It’s dyed with indigo and goldenrod which fascinates me. There were many other types of natural dyed wool, including a willow leaf one that I bought. If only she had woad with her!

The dyer is Freshisle Fibres and I suggest you check out the site. There are some lovely yarns there even if the site is a tad retro. The yarn is good and that’s what matters, right?

After stashing away my new yarn acquisition it was time to leave. Oh, Manitoulin. Though I enjoyed visiting, I can’t say I’ll be in a rush to get back there any time soon, not even for the pretty yarn. It’s a strange place and we discovered quite soon that it was better for people who like fishing than anyone else!

Still, no regrets on the trip. I found a lot of happiness there and it was great to have a rest.

Now, back to reality. That part’s less exciting.

Manitoulin Aventures: Part Three

First up: shout-out to Tamara and Devon, since I know you’re reading this now. *waves*

Now back to Manitoulin.

After the disaster in getting our cabin, I still had high hopes for the rest of our Manitoulin trip. After all the scenery was gorgeous and I wasn’t sat in a call-centre getting yelled at by angry people, so it was a one-up on my usual situation.

The first full day… didn’t go swimmingly. We were all tired and a tad grouchy, and nowhere was open. Nowhere. I stayed home while the family went to get gas and many hours later I was completely baffled, though on the plus side I did get most of my book read. When they returned it transpired that they had travelled in circles around the island looking for a gas station until they finally managed to get some. Worse, the GPS was glitching on the island roads and took them in literal circles away from the cabin.

We dusted ourselves off and went to Providence Bay which has a boardwalk. It’s a beautiful place. There are all sorts of rare, interesting plants in the dunes and there’s a great little shop that does delicious ice-cream. The dog loved it.

Providence 2

The sky was clear, the wind was low, and I began to realise what kind of an island Manitoulin is: quiet. It is a bunch of small towns mooshed together between myriad lakes that make everything awkward to get to. Because of its oddity, there’s a strange kind of beauty and peace I’ve never experienced before.


But I knew it would be a nightmare to live there. I’m from a small town on an island myself and even Portland was more bustling and tourist-orientated than this place. Some places on Portland are even open on a Sunday!

After the ice-cream was thoroughly demolished we went back to the cabin. Our evenings there mostly involved eating All The Meat, drinking a beer or five, and occasionally playing a game or watching a movie. Honestly, those were my favourite parts of the trip – beyond one of two highlights. It was great to spend time with everyone.

It was also a lot of fun getting to see so much plant life and wildlife so close. I saw so many dragonflies they became a running theme in my trip.


This wasn’t even zoomed in, the dude let me get this close. Another day, a dragonfly let me touch it before it flew away. I’m thinking of making the dragonfly shawl in honour of the strange little beasties.

From the Ravelry project page for Dragonfly Wings by Boo Knits, photo hers.
From the Ravelry project page for Dragonfly Wings by Boo Knits, photo hers.

The next disaster happened when we went to walk the Cup and Saucer trail, which might actually be the most anglicised version of a First Nations landmark I’ve ever heard – its original name meant ‘barbed hunting spear’ or similar, but unfortunately my Google abilities are failing me and I can’t find the translation.

I was nervous about the walk as I am not steady on my feet at the best of times but I figured I’d give it a go. We drove there, walked five minutes up the beautiful trail, then thunder rumbled and the rain began to pour.


With a sigh and soggy sandals, we turned and went back to the car. My girlfriend kept going but then realised she’d left her phone in the car so ran back to us before we drove away, and we gave up on another day to go hide in our cabin instead.

It hadn’t even drizzled back where our cabin was.

I did what any person would do: I sat on the dock and got embarrassingly, hilariously drunk with my girlfriend’s mum and my friend. For the dignity of everyone involved I will end the post here today and resist posting the photos; they’ll be useful as blackmail material in the future!

Manitoulin Adventures: Part Two

After arriving on the island we drove for nearly an hour around the many lakes to get to our destination, a gorgeous cabin by the lake that came with a row-boat for us to use and was roomy enough for all six of us (and the dog).

Yet as we pulled up to the office our hearts sank at the confusion on the owner’s face, and we soon found out she had double-booked and the others had already moved into the cabin. That left us bereft without anywhere to sleep and little chance of finding a place at such short notice, so we were angry. It was not good.

The lady plied us with beer while she tried to find us accommodation but what she came up with was a trailer park. Um, no. There’s nothing wrong with that but we did not plan for it and we travelled all day with starry eyes at the thought of a cabin by the lake, and that’s what we were going to get.

Fortunately my girlfriend is superwoman and she got us a cabin on the other side of Kagawong Lake that had unexpectedly been freed up and had enough space for us all. They even didn’t mind dogs!

It was half the price of the cabin we wanted and it was… a little old and grimy, but it was fine. It kept us warm and safe when we half-thought we’d be sleeping in our cars, so I loved it right away, even though the floor was so slanted you felt drunk walking across it.


Yes, it was a strange building. Yes, the door slammed every time you forgot to gently press it. Yes, there were bugs in our toiletries. But did I care about that? No. We were surrounded by beauty on a quiet island and even though we were all exhausted with tensions high, I had a lot of hope the week would get better after that.

Sometimes my optimism gets the better of me but why would it not when this was the view from our porch?


I know I said in my last post that I’d be talking about the yarn I bought but I just… can’t. I can’t post the pictures yet because they happened at the end of the trip and I need this to be in order.

Suffice to say that I spent a lot of hours on the first morning sitting on the chair looking out on the dock, knitting the blanket for my nearly-born nephew and life was good.

Unfortunately, Manitoulin was not set to be a purely relaxing vacation.

Knitter Nerd Podcast: Episode One – Manitoulin Yarn

Yep, that’s right fellow knitting nerds. I’ve decided to do a podcast.

The first episode is very short and I only tell one quick story about Manitoulin and my yarn adventures, but that’s okay. There will be more on Manitoulin later in the week, but it’s important I share what lovely yarn I bought there.

Coming up on Thursday will be a follow-up post with photographs and more discussion of the yarn, so stay tuned.

Or something.

Download file here (right click).

Show Notes! 

The dyer I reference is Freshisle Fibres, and  you can find their stuff here.

I highly recommend checking out her fibres. They are lovely and the naturally dyed ones are glorious.

That’s it, that’s all the notes. This is not the longest podcast ever.

Manitoulin Adventures: Part One

Though I’ve lived in Ontario for over a year now (and over two years in total if you count the last time), I haven’t seen that much of it. Honestly, I’ve stuck pretty close to Lake Ontario and I’m ashamed of that fact. This province is huge and there’s a lot to explore. Given the chance, I jumped at the thought of a week on Manitoulin island which is further north than I’ve been in Ontario and it looked like a promising place to go.

That all went a little tits up once we got there but in the meantime, let’s talk about the journey.

My friend and her husband drove since I don’t, and my girlfriend and her parents (and the dog) went in another car. It was difficult to get all of our stuff into the two small cars, especially since we were insistent on bringing a couple of board games, yarn, a floaty thing for the water – you know, the essentials. Somehow we managed it and off we trotted down some of the most beautiful roads I’ve seen.

Ontario is beautiful. It was the kind of beauty I took in with my eyes, not my camera – the only pictures I took on that journey are in my last post, minus the photos of the strange concave cloud that looked creepy from far away but like a human vulva when we were underneath it.

No, I’m not sharing the picture of the vulva cloud, even if it was hilarious.

Once we reached Tobermory we waited around in the sunshine for our ferry onto the island. It’s called ‘Chi-Chimaun’ which means ‘big canoe’ in Ojibwe. They had amazing food and a local guy from the M’Chigeeng First Nation who did a little talk on his culture that was awesome.


The ship was one that opens at the front to let you drive in which I’ve always found kind of hilarious. They don’t look as though they should float, yet it did just fine on getting us onto the island.

It was my dog’s first time on the ship and Van was fascinated by the movement. He kept staring at random things as though they were the weirdest thing ever, but he adjusted quickly and made sure to step in every puddle he could find. It was a sheer pleasure having the dog in tow as he’s a good boy and makes everything more fun.


At this point in the story I was convinced it would be the most relaxing week ever. We were going to a beautiful place where no doubt I would have plenty of time to sit on the lake whilst knitting, surrounded by good people and bottles of beer. Though eventually that is what I got, there was a shaky bit at the start. I’ll write about that later.

The Road to Manitoulin

As we speak (or as I type) we are on our way to Manitoulin Island. It’s the world’s largest freshwater island and on that island, there are lakes. On one of this inner-island lakes is a cabin waiting for us to descend upon it with two cars full to the brim. Six people and a dog will coexist in the peaceful surroundings for an entire week.

I couldn’t be more excited.

Choosing what knitting to bring was, as ever, difficult. I wanted to fill a whole bag with all the yarn and roll around in it but apparently the done thing is to bring some clothes too. Who knew.

My sister is popping out her second sprog any day now so I brought the blanket I’m knitting for him.


It is more grey than that picture suggests.

I also brought along a skein of sock yarn and my Frida Kahlo thing that I posted about earlier this week (I would link but I’m posting this from my rather lo-tech Blackberry).

The ride so far is super pretty. Ontario is largely unexplored for me; I’ve spent ninety-nine percent of my time tucked up within ten miles of the lake. That is shameful. I am amending it with friends and family as we speak.


Ooh Shiny: Mathematical Knit Scarves

Whilst browsing my lovely interesting-people-filled Twitter feed this morning I noticed that there’s a Kickstarter I can get behind. Take a look at the video to see what it’s all about:

From here
From here

Fascinating, no?

I love seeing the way people combine their passions. It’s why I started this blog back in the day: I wanted to mix my love of geekery and knitting. Seeing someone combine their interest in mathematics and knitting to create something so beautiful makes me happy on the inside.

These are a bit out of my funds right now but please, go check out the Kickstarter campaign and make sure this gets funded! We need more unique ideas in our world.

Why Frida Kahlo Inspires Me

When I truly discovered Frida Kahlo I was at a dark point in my life. I was sick and it was the latest in a long line of chronic, painful illnesses and I was tired of struggling through it. Though I was fortunate compared to many in that I could still (mostly) function with the things wrong with me most of the time, I longed for a life where I didn’t know any pain. I grew jealous of those who never got seriously ill and I began to get bitter.

I’m sure anyone who has been through chronic illnesses will understand that feeling. It’s not one I’m proud of but when your body is betraying you it’s difficult to keep on smiling.

Though I already knew of Frida Kahlo in an abstract sense I didn’t know much about her. She was that Mexican woman with the awesome sense of style and a huge amount of pride. She was that painter with the eyebrow and the facial hair. She was that woman who painted her pain onto the canvas and transformed it into beauty.

Okay, no, I didn’t know that last part until I was sick. I started reading about her and exploring her art and I discovered just how inspirational she was. She had gone through so much pain and suffering in her life and yet she consistently turned it into timeless art that still inspires people today. She did not shy away from herself or her pain; she painted both with equal honesty.

"Block Kahlo Rivera 1932" by Carl Van Vechten - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c03971.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−Restoration by trialsanderrors: Frida Kahlo de Rivera, Diego Rivera and Malú Block by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“Block Kahlo Rivera 1932″ by Carl Van Vechten. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

I realised something from understanding Frida Kahlo’s art: pain could be beauty. It did not have to be hollow and meaningless. Though I had no choice whether or not to go through the pain, I had the choice of what to make of it.

Did I want to sit around and mope like so many before me, or did I want to channel all of what I had seen into something better? Frida Kahlo made the answer clear.

Lately I’ve been going through some relatively mild medical nonsense. It’s nothing huge but it’s persistent and therefore tiring, so I’m revisiting the people who have inspired me through my life to keep going when it’s easier to lie down and stop. Frida Kahlo is a huge part of that and when I picked up a few random skeins of mohair/silk yarn a week ago I thought it appropriate that I’d somehow managed to pick a colourway called ‘Kahlo’ without noticing.

Debbie Bliss Angel Prints in 'Kahlo'
Debbie Bliss Angel Prints in ‘Kahlo’. It’s actually a lot softer-coloured than this photo suggests.

This is not a yarn I would normally pick up. I don’t like pink that much and the mohair/silk yarns scare me. Yet I had a migraine and wasn’t thinking straight (or seeing clearly, literally since half my vision was flickering at the time) when I picked it up, and it worked out just right.

Gawd, I love this yarn.
Gawd, I love this yarn.

For the last week I’ve been knitting this yarn into a random tube that may or may not end up being a little stop. I don’t like the way the colours fall in the pictures of other people’s projects, so I’m doing short rows to mix it up a bit. It has the added bonus of looking sort of like one of Frida Kahlo’s skirts, though far more muted. I have many things I should be knitting right now but instead I pick up this yarn and I remember how much she inspires me to be a more positive person.

Do you have anyone you look up to in that way?

King of the Nupps

It took me quite a while to realise that the ‘nupps’ people wrote about on Ravelry were the same as the ‘noops’ one of the my friends talked about occasionally, and even longer to figure out why they are so intimidating. Upon figuring out what they were I made a few attempts to do them but always gave up in frustration. That is… until I started my Damask shawl.

First up, maybe I should talk about what a nupp is. It’s a stitch that comes from Estonian knitting, a gorgeous lace-heavy style. According to Google Translate the word ‘nupp’ means button which is totally adorable and I love it. Basically a nupp is a bunch of knits and yarn overs worked into the same stitch, then on the following row you knit through all the loops in one go, leaving a little bobble-type thing on your object. There are other ways to get similar effects but nupps are smart and neat when they’re done right.

If you’re curious how to do a nupp, check out this video. I think I watched this many years ago and this isn’t how I do my nupps but I’ll come to that.

Okay, so on the video the woman uses the crochet hook for the nupp and the reason I think that I did watch this video years ago is that when I came to the first nupp on the Damask I had the thought that I should use a crochet hook. However instead of doing the whole thing on it like in the video, I did the nupp the normal way on the first row and then on the way back along the wrong side I used my crochet hook to grab the yarn and tug it through all the stitches before purling the resulting stitch. It worked out beautifully.

After the first row.

Sholl4This was my first attempt and for the first row of the Damask they all look like this. I’m not sure what I did, but I think I may not have purled them and instead carried on as if they were knit, which dragged the yarn across the front. They all look like wrong-side nupps and I was not at all pleased with them but nor was I willing to break my momentum and go back to fix them.

Once I figured out how to do them they turned out much neater and worked well for the rest of the shawl.


Much bubblier, don’t you think?

By the end of the shawl nupps became quite boring which is a sign I’ve come far since the beginning of it. As ever I’ve found that pushing myself past a thing that intimidates me makes me much stronger in the long run.

At one point I dropped the nupp mid-crochet which almost made me burst into spontaneous flames. Thankfully I managed somehow to wrangle the three-inch strand of yarn back into a nupp and it’s only slightly messier than the ones around it.

I’ve still got a way to go before my nupps are as perfect as I want them but I’m still pleased with the progress.

Have you ever tried a nupp? How did it go?

Yes, I Like This Thing. This Thing Is Good.

There are patterns that have been on my to-do list for years. I don’t know why it takes me so long to get to them; quite often I have the yarn and needles ready and have purchased the pattern but still they languish in the back of my stash for months and months.

Then a moment will come where it’s exactly the right time to start it. This is usually at the moment when I should be doing something else important, because procrastination is the greatest motivator I know.

A couple of weeks ago I was at my yarn store and realised I couldn’t knit the project I’d brought with me so cast on with the only other yarn I’d brought; my Wollmeise. Two weeks later I have my Damask shawl finished and blocked. For Canada Day I even took it out for a test run and boy, was it comfortable. Just right for a cool day that’s not cold enough for a sweater.

Damask by Kitman Figueroa is a pleasure to knit. I remember how hard it was when I tried about two and a half years ago; it hurt my head and I gave up after casting on three times and still messing up a few rows in. Yet apparently I have improved because this time the pattern was a breeze. Even the nupps were only difficult the first time, which is fun since every time I’ve tried them before has been a failure.

So without further ado I present to you… my Damask.


What do you mean, I’m a bit of a hippy? It’s almost as if it’s in my blood (thanks Dad).

I will never get over the fact the spine of the shawl doesn’t hit mine in this photo, but we were busy coercing a dog into running off some of his energy so we didn’t have time to keep trying.


Here it is with its proper wing-span. I did a looser gauge than the pattern called for because I wanted a loose and draping shawl, and I’m pleased with the result. It’s bigger than I expected. When I pinned it down to block it I didn’t have quite enough room when I thought I would have ample.

That’s the first time I blocked lace, though. I wish I’d got a before/after photo. Next time!

And believe me… there will be a next time. I am doing everything I can not to immediately cast on another shawl as we speak. No, bad Polo! It’s time to knit for your upcoming nephew. He’ll come any day now. No more shawls.