Friday, November 21, 2008

Cellular automata lace

Hi folks!
This is an idea I'd been vaguely intending to develop for quite a while, but didn't get around to seriously implementing until last week.
So, a cellular automaton is a rule for taking a grid of binary numbers, and generating a new grid in which the value of each entry is determined by the previous entry in the same and adjacent squares. So, if you take a 1-dimensional cellular automaton, it takes a row of 1's and 0's, and makes a new row, and each entry is determined by the entry above it and it's two neighbours. They're extremely simple, but they can produce some suprisingly complex patterns.
My idea was to use this to generate lace patterns - the 1's represent holes, the 0's plain stitches. There are some technicalities to overcome - lace knitting has left- and right-leaning holes, and while you could just pick one and apply it everywhere, I wanted something which would reflect the way digits 'travel' in CA patterns, so that you would arrive at a pattern of left and right travelling lines, meeting, annihilating, generating new lines. You can do this in a reasonably canonical ways - by looking at the three digits on the previous row you can more or less say it's heading left or it's heading right. There are some cases where a choice needs to be made though, so I just choose these. This loses some of the generality, but isn't too bad.
Having made these choices, I wrote a short program to choose a cellular automata 'rule' at random, pick some starting conditions, and apply the rule to generate a pattern. A second program then looks through the 1's this gives, and by looking at the arrangement above them translates this into a pattern of K, YO, K2tog and SKP stitches. Putting the output of this into a spreadsheet then gives you a lace pattern, and best of all, this is all entirely automatic. One such spreadsheet is here(for now- may need to move that at some point). (alternate rows are plain)

There's a couple of problems - this particular pattern involves a lot of double yarn overs. I'm told you can manage this by working K1 P1 on the alternate row, but I suspect it may be neater to write a quick program to look through the pattern and eliminate these - I think that wouldn't obscure the pattern and might need to a nicer finished piece, as well as easier knitting. So I need to try those out and see which solution I prefer.
The other problem is that there aren't that many 1D cellular automata, 16, by my count. While CA were very much the motivation for doing this, I kind of feel that sticking with them is selling the lace pattern generating half of the programme a bit short - it could apply equally well to any binary grid. So while this is a good starting point, I'm thinking about maybe inventing some slightly more elaborate generating rules - a quick way would be to allow a block to be decide by the five blocks above it, or the previous two time steps. Another approach I'd like to try would be to replace the binary grid with trinary, which would give a much wider family of rules, then map all the 2's back to 1 to produce a grid to feed into the lacing programme.

So yes, let's to play with. I particularly wanted to mention this because there was an extremely timely xkcd comic about cellular automata. In fact, I think the CA he's talking about simulating the universe with there may well be the same one in my lace pattern, though I haven't looked too closely.

So, anyone for an extremely geeky shawl?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Ok, just a quick post cos I realise I haven't written anything here for months.
So, I decided to make some roses for a rose-loving friend. I had a fiddle around with a couple of rose patterns, particularly a nifty one from Knittiana which involved twisting your knitting to form petals(I love that about knitting - that whatever you can possibly do wrong, someone somewhere will have found a use for). But I couldn't make them come out how I wanted, they all looked kinda rose-ish, rather than actually like a rose.

Then I came across a great crochet pattern for them from RS Island crafts, which was very simple and turned out really well. I haven't done much crocheting, so I was very impressed with how well this turned out, and heartily recommend the pattern.
I did have some trouble with the sewing up, particularly attaching the stems to the flowers, but that's probably me just now knowing how to sew.

So yep, there's some roses! Should be getting back to posting soon, I have a project or two underway that I've been too busy to blog yet.

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Knitting the polar way

Hi folks.
I've been playing with some knitting-related maths lately, and after a certain amount of experimenting I've just about got a design ready to be playing with.
This kind of follows on from the ideas behind the 'science doilies', trying to knit standard shapes in non-standard ways. Particularly, I've been looking at knitting colourwork radially.
Planning colourwork when knitting flat is fairly straightforward, the lack of shaping means that the stitches obey nice easy-to-follow patterns. If you knit radially(starting at a central point and work outwards), it becomes a lot harder to judge. The reason for this is that flat knitting is based on cartesian coordinates, where radial knitting is using polars.
So to make this work, I came up with another little Maple program which will take a curve(given in normal cartesian coordinates), convert this into polar form, then use some numerical trickery to convert this into a workable knitting pattern. This seems to work pretty well, with one caveat that you need to be a little careful about spacing your increases - the calculation assumes that the increases are all entirely homogeneous about each round, which isn't possible in practice because the stitches are discrete. In particular, the standard trick of distributing increases evenly along the round(as you would for most lace doilies) isn't even enough, I think it distorts the colourwork pattern too much.
The reason I'm really excited about this though, is that the same program could also be used to work out short row patterns for knitting non-trivial shapes in the same radial way. Initially I'd hope to be making sensible rectangular pieces, but ultimately I think there's the potential for some truly mind-boggling designs from this.

I'm working on a design just now which will be a bit of a trial run for this - the plan is to make a little baby jacket for my little nieceling, the back panel of which will be knit radially with a pattern of colourwork hearts. I'll blog about that design specifically another time, because there's some nifty maths behind the heart pattern(if you're part of the 'geekcraft' group of Ravelry, you may have heard me being excited about this already). I'm not too sure how I'll do with the rest of the jacket, will have to play with it a bit more.

So yep, more about that when the actual knitting is underway, and assuming more goes well, I'll say some more about the mechanics of the radial coordinate program then too.

Happy knitting!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Alien surfaces

Hey! It's been pointed out to me that I haven't written anything here for ages, and I realised there's a couple of projects I haven't found the time to mention yet.

So, first off, Alien surfaces!
This project actually belongs to local mathematician Madeleine Shepherd, but I helped out with some of the maths, so I'm sure it's worth a post :o)
As part of a festival exhibition on 'alien surfaces', artwork inspired by descriptions of alien planets in science fiction, Madeleine knit a model of , the surface you get if you take the curve y=1/x and rotate it around the x-axis(for the region x>1 - although I think we took x>1/30, or thereabouts, to make the curvature show up more).
This surface has some very cool properties mathematically - it turns out that it's surface area is infinite, while it's volume isn't, which means that you could, hypothetically, fill one with paint, but it would be impossible to paint it's entire surface. Which is a bit mind-boggling. (The trick is that in comparing a volume with a surface area in this way, you're kind of assuming that you're covering the surface with a layer of paint of uniform thickness, the volume is only finite because the trumpet tapers off quickly as x becomes large.)

Since the surface has a rotational symmetry, writing down a pattern for it is relatively simple - you just need to work out the circumference at each row, convert this into a number of stitches, and work out how many stitches you need to decrease each time.
The difficulty is that the rows in this case do not correspond to the coordinate x, but the arclength - the distance you've travelled along the curve from the first row. Now, in differential geometry, this isn't really a problem, you can just change coordinates without any difficulty, but actually doing this in practice takes a bit more work because while it's easy enough to find the arclength from the position, inverting this formula is quite hard, and needs to be done numerically.
Happily though, Maple actually cooperated with this, so I now have a bit of code which is capable of doing this more or less automatically. If anyone's interested, or is keen to knit there own surfaces of revolution, I'd be happy to go into more detail on this. I was considering tidying up the code a little and convincing it to print out real honest-to-goodness knitting patterns, but I'm not sure how many people would be interested in this and have access to Maple?

And I love how the surface turned out, there's something amazing about writing down a bunch of maths and getting to see it suddenly turned into a piece of knitting! I'm quite keen to read the book it comes from too, I'd be interested to see how far the author was able to take this idea, and how this unusual geometry affected the people living there :o)
(Oh, and the tapir is because Madeleine seems to be quite keen on them)

Happy knitting!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Doilies... for science!

Hey folks!
I was doodling away last week and came up with some ideas I'd like to play with knitting. The main idea is that knitting can always be divided up into rows - mathematically we'd call this(ironically) a fibred surface. But this has some consequences - if you want to knit a shape, you start off by picking a fibration. If, though, you picked a different fibration, you could knit the same shape, but come up with a radically different pattern, and a radically different look. A very simple example would be if you were to knit a rectangle lengthwise rather than width-wise(if that's a word). I've come across examples of this elsewhere, such as (the awesome) Nona's Sidewinder socks, Ysolda's sideways hat Urchin, and especially this absolutely amazing sweater(which presumably belongs to, but I haven't been able to find there), but I'm looking to take this idea a bit further.

My first experiment with this idea goes like this - I want to take a question mark, and knit it into a doilie, but in such a way that the question mark is actually a row in the pattern, so it's somehow intrinsic to the fabric somehow.
Or course, while I'm arranging my rows in interesting and nontrivial rows, it would be a shame not to throw in some lace. this will be relatively simple this time around, but I'm really hoping that in future attempts I'll be able to make this a bit more extreme and take advantage of the interesting shapes to make some really interesting lace patterns, but I don't have much experience with lace yet, and I really wouldn't be able to create my own.

Oh yes, and you might wonder why I chose a question mark? Well, primarily because it was the first symbol I found which was simple enough to do this with, but also this is supposed to symbolise inquisitiveness, the need to always find out more which I think lies behind all good science.

So there you have it - Science doily!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More whales!

Ok, just a quick post - following on from the Erst-whale, I decided to make a little school of other whales, and that each whale would be wearing a different kind of hat. Ever since I made the bee-hat, I've been feeling the need to put tiny hats of stuffed toys. I think the whales are particularly suitable for this because with out the "1" on the side the whales are a bit plain and featureless.

So, hats. The first one is a top hat, the second is(inevitably) a fez, and the third is a floppy sunhat. I really like how the tassels came out on the fez - I had some trouble with this, but eventually found that lots of strands of sewing thread worked very well. They're tied very tightly in the inside, so hopefully this is still baby-safe. The sunhat didn't come out so well - I'd hoped that the natural curliness of the stocking stitch would make the brim turn upwards nicely, but I think it curls a bit too tightly here. This might be better if I'd knit the brim on larger needles(here I'm using DK yarn and 3mm needles, so it's quite tight). I also had some trouble making the concave edges, where the brims meet the main part of the hat - for a convex edge a row or reverse stocking stitch makes a nice fold, but the other direction is harder. I found a row of knitting through the back of the loop gives a bit of a crease, but not as much as I would have liked. Any ideas, anyone?

The photos here were taken at the Hermitage, the little nature reserve next to the Observatory, where I took the whales to see the ducks. The first one shows top-hat-whale watching the ducks over the pond. The second one doesn't show so well, but it's fez-whale meeting a suprisingly friendly robin(can you see him? On the other end of the bench?). And the third one is sun-hat-whale having a doze in the sun, reading the newspaper and enjoying the view.

The plan is to make a couple more whales(cos there's a couple more hats I want to try) and then they'll be shipped off to the Neonatal unit all at once, cos I haven't sent them anything for *ages*.
Happy wednesday!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Completed Comrade Leonine

Comrade Leonine!

So, what to say about him? He follows the same pattern as the earlier Gay Pride lions, so there wasn't too much pattern to make up. He was also good and quick to knit, since the pattern is small and aimed to be as simple as possible.

Added to the basic pattern is the moustache and little beard - these are sewn on afterwards, and I'm very happy with how they turned out. Being so small it's very delicate getting these bits just right. And then there's his little hat. This is intended to be a little baggy flat cap. I think it could have done with being a little flatter, really. The crinkly bits at the edges came out nicely, but could probably do with being a bit more pronounced. I decided the hat really needed to be lightly stuffed to hold it's shape, but I think it might also have helped to tie the top down a bit to make it less tall and bring out the edges more.

The photos are taken around KB - I took Comrade Leonine and a few of the Gay Pride lions across and had some fun posing them in different positions. There are a couple more photos, and a bit more explanation here: Facebook link.
(I took some sensible pictures too, but they seem kinda dull in comparison - I guess if you're very keen to see more schematic pictures, let me know and I'll post some).

Otherwise, enjoy, and happy July!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Comrade Leonine

Back to the awful puns, I'm afraid- I have a geeky friend who is very much into his soviet history, and is a very big fan of Lenin in particular, and asked me if I would be able to knit a Lenin doll. There are some soviet Lenin caricatures around, particularly the one above, and I'm told the beard and the cloth cap are the main identifying features.
However, I decided that getting the human features right would be a little too difficult - I think you need to get them *just* right to look good. So instead, I came up with this scheme - based on the lion pattern I've played with before, I'll make a little lion with Lenin's hat and beard - hence, Comrade Leonine :o)

I should say, I'm really not keen on communism in general, or the soviets in particular. I am, however, very keen on history, and people being interested in history. I should really read more of it myself.

So yay, happy knitting, and happy history-ing, people o/

Monday, June 23, 2008


Hey folks!
I've been putting a few patterns up on Ravelry lately, and it only occured to me recently that actually I have made it kind of hard to find them. So I thought I'd put up a quick post listing the patterns which are available just now, and try to post in future if I add any new ones.
I'll post ravelry links for each of them, as well as the direct links to the patterns.
So yep, here they are - if you want to give any of them a try, let me know(I'd love to know how they're doing), and happy knitting!

Crab torus
A stuffed toy based on a crab, incorporating a torus. Or you could make it with a disc. I think the pattern isn't entirely clear, hopefully I'll get around to making some edits soon.

Cthulhu mittens
A pair of mittens featuring runes and symbols relating to the Cthulhu stories(with artwork borrowed from Chaosium). I think the shaping for the mittens was a little iffy, you might prefer to just use the charts - it would make a lot more sense to duplicate stitch them on once the mittens are finished.

A knitted 'd' orbital - actually 3dz^2, it represents one of the ways in which an electron can behave in an atom. It's quick, simple, geeky, and I'm told it would make a good baby toy.

It's a stuffed bee, in a little pointy hat. I really like how the little dangly legs turned out, so I'm planning to make a few more.

Feminist torus
A squishy huggable stuffed female sign. I'm totally delighted with how well the shaping came out on this(seriously, you'd be amazed how much maths is involved in this).

My little collection of toy lions, the Gay Pride. I really like this pattern, the shapes are all very clear and simple, and I like how they turn out.

These are the two trefoil knots - one is a mirror image of the other, but no amount of fiddling will let you rearrange one into to other. They also have googly eyes and make good stress toys.
The pattern was written a while after I knit them, so it's really only "as far as I remember".
Also, in a minor correction, you really need to stocking stitch a row or two after you cast on - the pattern tries to make you start working short rows immediately.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Marine research

Ok, for some reason I seem to have quite a few aquatic projects I'm planning to make at the moment, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to post them all at once.

First, whales! I think I mentioned I was keen to make more whales, so there are likely to be at least a couple more. And given how much I enjoyed making the bee, they're likely to have hats. I have a bit of an ongoing hypothesis that all animals look better in fezs, so we'll see. It rather depends how silly I'm feeling at the time, but I think a small school of whales each with a different hat would be very cute. I suspect these will be headed to the Simpson neonatal unit, because I would like to send them more toys.

Second, pufferfish! I had an idea a few weeks back that it would be very cool to make an inflatable pufferfish. I played around with some stitch patterns, and I think I came up with a way for this to work. The fabric needs to be very stretchy, so the fish can inflate to a good size. More difficult to work were the spines - ideally these should show when the fish is inflated, but be concealed when it's let down. I think I can make this work using a combination of ribbing and a modified fur stitch, but it remains to be seen how convincing this will be as 'spines'. I still need to play around with the fins a bit, and see how much like a fish I can make it look, but I'm fairly confident it'll at least look cute when it's inflated.

Also, psalmon! (This is another of those awful puns) I'd like to knit a small collection of salmon, each of which will have a verse/phrase/something from a psalm sewn onto the sides. This might be tricky because they're likely to be smallish, so there won't be much space, and I'll have to work the shaping to leave a big enough blank patch for sewing onto. I think the fins might be a little tricky too, I think I'd like to make elaborate lacy patterns to represent the patterns on them.

And finally, hammerhead shark! There's something fascinating about their shape, which I think would be fun to try and knit. It'll be interesting to try to contrast this with the whales, see how well I can bring out the difference between them. I understand (female) hammerhead sharks are capable of undergoing parthenogenesis, which is my mind makes them badass feminists, so I'll be looking to make this into another feminist toy. I'm not quite sure how that will work yet, but I suspect it'll depend on what I can come up with to do with it when it's done.

So yes, lots of ideas, with varying levels of vagueness. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with most of them yet though

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Hey again!
This project is a definite contender for "worst pun I've com up with for a while". It started with one of the PhD folks mentioning how cool a word "erstwhile" is. I then decided it would be fun to make an "Erst-whale"- "erste" being german for "first", this consists of a whale with a large number 1 on the side.
I tried to make the pattern good and simple, the knitting starts with two flaps at the back of the body, then joins in the round and then continues up the body, finishing at the nose. The tail and fins are then made seperately. I'm very pleased with how the tail worked out - the idea was that once you'd made the tail, the two flaps on the back would form a nice join onto it, and I think that came out really well. I also put in a couple of short rows to make the tail curve upwards slightly, and am very happy with the effect there too - it's quite subtle, but I think it adds a lot to the look.
The '1' I duplicate stitched on, which is a bit of a new experience for me - I've tended to do these things with stranding, but am very impressed with how easy this was, and how well it came out. I'll definitely be using that more in future.

I kinda realised part way through too, that this doesn't really line up with any particular species of whale. I hadn't realised there was such a variety of shapes to the different species either - I've always thought this was kinda the 'normal' shape for a whale. I'm quite keen to try making a more realistic sperm whale at some point, mostly because the sketch I drew of one turned out really well, but also because I'll be able to make some kind of a Moby Dick reference out of it.

So yep, awful puns and a whale - woo!
Happy knitting!

Monday, May 26, 2008



So, this is a quick little project, based on an awful awful pun.
A little while ago, our preacher-guy had a series on "big hairy audacious thoughts", or "B-HAT"s, the kind of really big simple ideas behind christianity which are so big and obvious we can kind of skip over them.
So, I was a little slow, but I suddenly decided I absolutely had to make a little bee with a hat on. Given my taste in puns, I guess this was kinda inevitable really. So the plan was to just make this quick and simple - the head and body are just ellipsoids, the hat is just a cone with a ribbed brim(actually this idea is kinda borrowed from some awesome gnomes we had knit at city knitty a few weeks back), and the legs are based on the ones from the badger torus, long long ago.

I decided to make the legs quite long and dangly, and I really like how that turned out. You can kind of play with them, and they somehow seem really expressive. The wings I made a bit lacy, to make them look a bit filmy and light. The Mighty Nuala helped me out with that, and I'm very happy with how they turned out. So yay, I'm really very happy with how this turned out.
Slight problems, sewing up the body was a bit of a pain, with the stripes. I should really have knit it in the round, but hey. Also, sewing the wings on was a little tricky, I hadn't left much of a border at the bottom and it was kinda hard to tell which edge was which. But it seemed to work out ok, and hopefully noone will look too closely.
So yay! I'm just wondering now if the hat would look better with a little pompom? And after the fun I had taking photos, I'm not planning to take it around the botanical gardens and take many more. Oh, and more photos on ravelry!
Happy spring!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Boba Fett

Hi folks!

I've been forgetting to update this for a while now, so I've got a couple of designs and even some finished objects to post, so look out for those in the next few days. For today though - Boba Fett.
A member of the local scifi society pointed this comic out to me, and knowing that I like to make odd toys, challenged me to make a Boba Fett like the one shown there. It looked like fun, so I decided to give it a go. To my shame, I didn't actually know who Boba Fett was - I haven't actually watched the star wars films, so I had to do some research. Hopefully I've got all the important features.
The plan is for this to be just a small, quick thing, using nice simple shapes and very little planning. I want to say "amigurumi-style", but I'm not sure if that's specifically crochet. I think this will be a particularly suitable character for this, because I suspect almost all of the recognition comes from the helmet, so as long as that's there I suspect it's be pretty instantly identifiable.

So yeah, happy geeking!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'D' orbital

Hi folks!

A quick project to talk about today - last week I had a strange urge to knit an atomic orbital. The story goes that according to quantum mechanics, electrons live in atoms not as particular points, but as probability distributions. The standard way to represent these distributions is to draw surfaces enclosing 'most' of the probability. (I'm a little shaky on how this works exactly)
Surprisingly, the geometry of these surfaces can be quite interesting, particularly as the energy increases.
I decided to make the 3dz^2 orbital, which is my personal favourite - it's complicated enough to be very recognisable, while being simple enough to make some sense. I should say thanks too, to the Scientific Knitters group over at Ravelry for helping me figure out the shape.
I should say too that one of the components of this particular orbital is a ring, so this counts as another torus toy.

So here it is! I decided to knit the ring and the cones in different colours just to make it look colourful and nice, but apparently this has some physically relevance too - I'm told there is some kind of phase difference between the wave functions in the two parts. I don't really understand, but it's a nice coincidence.
I decided too to make the ring detachable, in the hope that this would make it more play-with-able, but this has the downside that the ring can't be tight enough around the waist to stay in place by itself. I guess I could make a second version in which the ring is smaller and sewn on to make it more realistic. But I kinda like it this way - it looks like it should be a child's toy, and I'd hope the detachable ring adds to this.
There's one slight problem, that I knit this on slightly too large a pair of needles, and the fabric on the ring part isn't quite as dense as I'd like. I should really have learnt by now that if you're knitting stuffed things you need to move down a needle size or two.

So yeah, it's all done, and I put the pattern up on Ravelry if anyone wants one of their own.

Happy knitting!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cupid panda finished!

Right, it's been a while since I posted anything here, so this is really a little out of date, but the cupid panda is finished!
It turned out to be quite a bit more complicated than I'd expected, especially the shaping around the legs. I'm not entirely happy with how it turned out, but it was always planned as a prototype, so hopefully the second version will be able to correct these faults.
The main problem, I think, is that the chest is just too big, which makes everything else look a bit small by comparison, but I think the arms and head need to be larger too.

The eyes are bothering me too, I think they're too big and staring, so in the second version I'll be using some smaller amber eyes, which I'm hoping will make it look rather less... intense.
I'm very pleased with the little wings though, they've come out so cute, and just about exactly how I was hoping they'd look.
I really like the little feet too. They took a couple of attempts, and the pattern I settled on was really quite complicated(and is based on a baby's bootee pattern.

There's a couple of more awkward problems though - first, people seem to assume he's a ghost panda, so I think he really needs something extra to emphasise the 'cupid' aspect. But I'm not sure how to do this - I could make a little quiver, but arrows would be a little tricky(maybe some kind of pipe cleaner arrangement, with little knitting heart tips?), and would make it very much not child-safe. Similarly I could make a little bow, but I think that would need pipe cleaners and would be a little dangerous. So I'm not sure - any ideas, people?
The other problem is that the legs are designed to tilt backwards a bit. I really like the posture they have, and I guess it's good if you're holding them but it makes it very difficult to make the things stand up. Maybe that's how toys should be though, more for holding than admiring?

Anyway, hopefully will get around to making a second attempt soon-ish. In the meantime, happy knitting!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Squid purse completed!

Hi folks!
I've finished making the Vampire Squid from Hell purse, so here we go with some pictures. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, particularly the way the bottom of the cloak ruffles up, and something about the shape of the body really makes me think 'squid', I think possibly it's how the eyes are placed relative to the fins.
Also, when it's wrapped up, it really doesn't look like anything in particular, which, again, I'm very pleased with, it makes it all the more suprising when you undo it and suddenly you have a squid.

I did take a few liberties with the shape to make this work better:
When the vampire squid wraps it's cloak over it's head, I think it doesn't cover the whole body - it leaves the top open so it can do bioluminescence tricks with photophores(which look like eyes) on the top. For the purse the cloak is a bit longer so that it can close properly.
The fins, I think, are squarer on the real vampire squid. I changed them to be more swept back to give it more of a squidy feel*, although I think this shape is really borrowed from a differnt kind of squid.
The biggest change though, is the eyes - I used amber teddy-eyes, where the original eyes are little pale milky blue spheres, with no features at all. You could probably do this better with some kind of beads, or possibly just stitching on a couple of baby blue spots, but I wasn't sure they would be recognisable as eyes. It might be worth trying though, I really like the original's eyes, they look so innocent and out of place!

The big problem I had was with the cloak - I wanted the tentacles to be cabled, but since they don't move across the fabric there was no easy way to do this. It would have been possible to cable back and forth by one stitch, so it wouldn't move much, but I didn't like that idea. Instead I worked increases down one side and decreases on the other, something like
Kfb, slip 1 to cable needle, K2, slip 1 back from cable needle, P1

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to give quite the same tension as normally cables, so they don't stand out as much as I'd like(although this might just be to do with the yarn I used). So you can't really see the tentacles on the right side. To correct this, I'd like to make a second version in which the tentacles are just ribbed. This would mean making the rest of the cloak reverse stocking stitch, but perhaps the change of texture will suit it. It will definitely make the whole thing a lot quicker and easier to knit, the cables seemed to take forever.
Sadly I still don't know what to do with one squid-purse, let alone two. I was thinking it would make a good dice-bag for roleplaying types, or something along those lines.

Also, it's been suggested** that when the vampire squid wraps itself up, it looks kinda like it's trying to disguise itself as a pumpkin. So here we have the world's first lol-hellsquid:

Happy knitting o/

* - Thanks Stephanie!
** - Thanks Clare!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Snail II

Hey folks!

This project is actually a little old, but I finished making a second version of the Snail torus! I've been delaying posting pictures of this so that he would be more of a suprise for his intended owner. He's now arrived safe and well down in London with Helen, so it's time for pictures!

Design-wise, there are a couple of alterations from the first version("Spiral"). Aside from a different colour scheme, the shaping on the tail is a little better - Spiral's tail was trying to be a little more complicated than it needed to be, and didn't quite work out. Similarly the shaping on the head and particularly the face is a lot simpler and I think works a bit better. That said, I really liked the expression Spiral had, but I don't think I could actually reproduce it. Mostly likely it was more a fluke of tension working out just right than anything, certainly I can't claim to have planned it. I think the tail might have been quite a bit longer too, though not by any deliberate decision.

I'm still not entirely convinced by my knitting of the short rows in places though, I don't think I got the tension quite right with the wraps, but hopefully that's just me, since I know where to look for them, and it won't bother other people. And I'm still not entirely happy with how straight the shell was. I'm not good at sewing at the best of times, and this is a particularly delicate

The big difference really is that this time I took notes properly, so hopefully will be able to write up a coherent pattern of this. I'm very happy with how the two snails have turned out, and I'm very keen to see how interested people will be in this design. (After I posted the first snail, I got a very nice message from a knitter who keeps giant african land snails - I had no idea you could keep snails as pets!)

Have fun!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Vampire squid from hell purse

Hi folks.
I'm not sure if you remember, but there was a news story a few months back about 'Vampyroteuthis infernalis' - I think biologists had managed to video one in the wild for the first time, but I'm not sure. It's name means literally "Vampire squid from hell", which is quite a name to live up to.
I found a video of this on YouTube(I'm not sure if this is the footage everyone was excited about?):

Squid video

But I for one think this is an awesome, awesome creature. It has a funky oxygen-gathering 'cloak', it does nifty bioluminescence tricks to confuse predators, and when threatened it can even turn itself inside out.
Then last night a friend was asking about ways to knit purses. Or course you can sew in zips and other fasteners to make good safe seals, but I was wondering about the little bags banks give you for putting coins in - they manage to seal quite securely without any extra pieces. And they do it by turning inside out(sort of).
So that's the idea for this project - to make a small knitted purse in the shape of a vampire squid, which you secure by turning inside out. I made some preliminary sketches of this and it seems quite plausible - the body will be a pouch with an opening towards the bottom, then the cloak will fold over to cover the body and fasten with a drawstring.
One of the things that really appeals to me about this(other than being able to tell people I'm knitting a vampire squid from hell, of course) is that most of the time the squid would be in it's inside out form, so you won't be able to see what it is. I kind of like how that reverses the ideas of 'right' and 'wrong' sides.

Then I'll just need to find someone who would like a vampire squid purse...

Happy knitting!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Baby photos!

Hi folks!
A little follow up on the Maxwell cardigan - Dave was good enough to send me some cute baby photos showing the cardigan in action.

Isn't he adorable? I'm suprised(pleasantly) how well it seems to fit, I'd pretty much just aimed big and hoped for the best. He seems quite happy to be promoting maths too :o)

More baby pictures, not to mention various pro-canadian propoganda, can be found over at The Urminskys.

Have a good week o/

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cupid panda

This project comes (rather randomly) from the comic Tea Club.
It's very cute, and centres around a university student who loves tea. (I think it's defunct now though) It featured a rather odd little story about Cupid pandas, which I think was a reference to an earlier comic by the same artist. Sadly I can't find that comic anymore, and you might need to see that to understand quite why I find the pandas so appealing. Suffice to say, they're not quite a sweet as they look.
So the plan is to knit a Cupid Panda. I suspect getting the shaping right will be a little tricky - it's easy enough to knit something roughly the same shape, but I think the cuteness with these things has a lot to do with the detail - getting the proportions just right, making everything curve just enough. I'm very interested though in how this relates knitting to drawing. I think with drawing, and more so with cartoons, the big skill is understanding what it is about an object that makes it recognisable, what the cues people latch on to are.
So I'm planning to have two attempts at this, hopefully the first one will let me get the shape roughly right, and with the second I'll be able to refine it to something that has the same cuteness as the original.

I'm not quite sure what I'll do with it once it's done though. My current plan is to have it done somwhere around Valentine's day, and send it to the premature babies unit, who apparently are always keen on knitted toys. I'm not generally keen on valentines day, but this scheme appeals to me for slightly convoluted religious reasons.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Maxwell cardigan

The Maxwell cardigan is now completed and has been passed to it's new home for baby-ifying. I've been pretty amazed at the response it's had around the maths department.
There were a couple of problems - the stranding wasn't quite as even as I would have liked, and particularly the last 'J' looked uneven to me. That might be just because I know where the mistakes are, so I'm tending to see them more. And it'll probably settle a bit once it's been washed a few times(particularly cos I didn't quite get round to blocking it properly).

The edges rolled rather more than I would like too, but I suspect this is more of a problem for trying to take good photos than it will be for actual wearing, when lying neatly isn't such an issue.
I'm a little concerned too that the yarn might not have been the best choice. I used RYC cashsoft, which feels amazing and I've been wanting to work with for a while, but I think from looking at the washing instructions that it might be a little delicate for use in baby clothes. So I'm hoping it wears well.

I wanted to say a little about the equations too(with assistance from Wikipedia):
The first is Gauss's law, and says that charge is the source of electric fields.
The second is Faraday's law. I'm not sure how you interpret that one really.
The third doesn't really have a name, but it says there are no magnetic monopoles. That is, there is no 'source' of magnetic fields like there are for electric fields.
The fourth is Ampere's law. The first term there, together with Faraday's law, imply that there are wave solutions to these equations- if I remember rightly, this was what first led Maxwell to suggest that light could be electromagnetic waves.
Some combination of the second and fourth one also explain the principle behind electricity generation - that you can create a current in a wire by passing it through a magnetic field.

So yes, they're pretty amazing. The cardigan itself is borrowed from Knitty's Devan design, which is nice, simple and elegant.
The baby in question is one of the Urminsky clan, so you can see more pictures over there, and hopefully we'll have some of Maxwell wearing the cardigan soon :o)

Hope y'all like it :o)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Totoro progress!

Hi folks!

So, the Totoros are coming along well, and I'm so pleased with how they've turned out, I thought I'd post a quick photo.
They're not quite done yet, they both need tails and possibly feet, as well as deciding if they should have some weights in to help them stand up. I'm leaning towards no - I think part of the cuteness of them is how completely unbalanced they look.
They big one may have to wait a little while, unfortunately, until I can nip home and pick up some grey wool. He'll probably need to be a bit smaller than the actual proportions would suggest too, but I that seems to vary quite dramatically anyway, so I'm not so concerned about taking some liberties.
I'm also extremely proud of the seams on the back of the blue one(although you can't see that from here). I realised I'd been doing mattress stitch all wrong, and suddenly figured out how to do it properly. They're still not perfect, but *so* much better. I'm now actually looking forward to when I next get to sew some seams!

Hugh :o).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Smoothie hats

For a couple of years now, Innocent smoothies have run a campaign in which they ask knitters to make little hats to go on their smoothie bottles. Around christmas time they then sell drinks with hats on(in some places, but these seem to be quite hard to find). In return, they then give money to Age Concern.
It's a really nice idea, as well as raising money it gets people involved, raises the profile of both knitting and Innocent, and since they encourage people to modify their basic hat design as much as they like, it's a great chance to be creative which they would never be able to match if they just produced the hats themselves on a large scale. I think we at City Knitty have a bit of a soft spot for them too because they gave us a huge number of freebies to get us going for knitting in public day.

So I'm having a play around with some of these. It's nice to be knitting something for charity as well as playing around, and this seems to be a great way to get through the loose ends of wool I have a bad habit of collecting. It's also a great little thing to do in between other projects, particularly for those times when you need something simple to knit but don't want to start any big new project.
My main reason for doing this though(and this is where it gets geeky) comes from a talk I went to recently about Bach, which got me thinking about art generally. There's a whole philosophical ramble behind this(ask me if you're interested), but the upshot is that I'm keen to knit in a more impromptu way, taking little ideas and working them into things, whereas up til now I think I've tended to start with a big idea and go from there. That's a little vague, I know, but the concept is still a little vague for me.

Hugh :o).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tea - now with added Wellness!

Right, tea cozy is done! It was a nice small project so it hasn't taken long at all. The design ended up being quite a bit more intricate than I'd expected- I really wanted to knit it mostly in the round, with some flaps and buttons so that it could be fitted onto the teapot without any stretching. I'm sure this isn't really necessary, but it seems more elegant, as well as being a handy excuse to add some buttons.

I decided too to add a little ribbed border around the spout. Mostly this was because I realised the hole I was leaving for it was quite large, but I think it makes a nifty little feature too. Unfortunately the spout on this teapot curves quite sharply so the border could only be a few rows wide without needing some drastic shaping, otherwise this could have been a rather tighter fit.

Of course the big test will be how long it can keep my tea warm for. I've tried it a few times, and it seems to keep it hot for just about long enough, but the real test will be tomorrow, when I take it in to the maths department. The motivation for this was largely so I could drink pots of tea while I'm working, rather than having to make several cups of tea. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself- that way this almost counts as work :o)

Slight cause for concern is that tea seems to stain knitting really quite badly, and seems to be nearly impossible to get out, so I'm going to need to be rather careful with my pouring in future...

Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cheshire cat scarf

Ok, the Cheshire cat scarf is done!
I'm not really happy with how it turned out, to be honest. The peach colour for the mouth is a bit too bright, and it doesn't quite go with the dark brown colour of the stripes. I don't like the edges, which look quite messy and would be much better with some kind of border to hide them. I guess I might decide to add some kind of crochet edging to make this better, and happily I think I have enough spare yarn to do this.
But the big problem I have with it is that the cat looks kinda cartoonish to me. It needs to be simple to be clear so I'm not sure how this could be improved. It's possible an added edging would help with this too, take some of the emphasis away from the picture.
On the whole though, it seems like this was an interesting idea but didn't really work out it practice.

That said, the combination of stranding and shadow knitting did seem to work out, so it at least shows this is possible. One concern is that the stranding does affect the stiffness of the fabric, so when you work both at the same time it would be better if the stranding ran the whole length of the piece, rather than just a small patch here. This would make the pictures show up more clearly, with less care taken to hold the piece flat.

But hey, maybe I'll like it more once I've put it away for a while. I do have another plan or two I'd like to try out with shadow knitting at some point too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tea-cozy of +4 wellness

So, a while ago I was wandering around Ravelry and came across a design for a tea cozy. (The Ravelry link is here, but needs some logging in.) It was designed and made by crocheting-mathematician Cayenne.
It's a tea cozy of +4 wellness. After all, tea cozies are pretty cool, but surely a tea cozy *and* +4 wellness has to be even better? I'm not really a role-playing geek myself, but I really like the idea of taking objects and unilaterally assigning them special powers. I am, however, a tea-geek, and hoping that a good warm tea cozy will make it possible to keep a pot of tea nice and warm through a good long afternoon of maths.

The original tea cozy is crocheted, but I'll make a knitted version instead - because it's symmetric the shaping should be quite simple. And I'll add a little button flap to open and close it, if only because I'm enjoying making buttonholes lately.

And thanks to Cayenne for letting me borrow the idea!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


If you've seen the film My Neighbour Totoro, this'll probably make sense to you straight away. It's a wonderful film by Hayao Miyazaki, about two young girls living in the countryside for the first time. It's quite hard to explain why the film is so much fun, but 'enchanting' is very much the right word for it.
It features three woodland spirit... things of different sizes. The largest of these is Totoro, although I'm not sure if that's a name or a description, and it may of may not include the two smaller ones, but for my purposes I'm going to call them all Totoro.
So the plan is, I'm going to make a set of the three Totoros. There's a few patterns out there for these, and the best seems to be these ones:

I haven't been able to find a pattern for all three, and I'm particularly keen that they all be in proportion to each other. That's a little tricky because the big one is a lot bigger than the smallest(about 9 times, by my reckoning), but I think that's reflected really nicely in the animation, the size is reflected in the level of detail, which is something I'm really keen to carry across. And to be honest I just prefer to make my own patterns anyway, it's much more fun.

So that's the plan, I'm gonna knit me a family of Totoros. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with them, so if anyone has ideas, or would be keen to provide a loving home to a family of troll-thingies...?