Friday, November 27, 2009

LaTeX and knitting

Hi folks, we've been talking about this on Ravelry for the last week or so, and I thought I should really put it up here too.
The idea has been floating around for some time of writing a LaTeX package which will typeset knitting patterns, although exactly what it will do and how far it should go has been rather harder to pin down.

I decided to give this a go, and put something together. The idea is that it will provide you with simple commands which will provide a basic skeleton to your patterns using (very) simple commands, so you can just write your pattern without having to worry about the formatting, or even work from a template.
The class I wrote to do this is now at a testing stage -- I've got all the commands I thought would be useful, and I now need to see how this works for people writing actual patterns. I'd rather not make it *entirely* public just yet, so we're doing some testing in GeekCraft on Ravelry. If you'd like to try it out, go there and it will redirect you to the files and instructions and things.

The plan is that after a period of testing I'll collect some feedback, make whatever changes people suggest, then I'll stick appropriate "do what you like" copyright notices in it and release it into the wild. (I suppose I should write some proper documentation at some point too.)
I wonder if CTAN would take it? It *is* pretty elementary.
An important thing to note (and someone mentioned on GeekCraft) is that it should be pretty modify-able too -- since it's mostly dealing with style I'm hoping people will personalise it. Nothing in there is hugely complicated, it's mostly just a matter of tidying it out of the way.

So, if it sounds good to you, look out for it in the near future, and if you're on Ravelry you can come give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!

Relatedly (and coming out of the discussion of this, I was pointed to KnitML. I haven't read up on exactly how much it's capable of just yet so I'll write more about it when I understand it better, but it looks like an amazing project -- go check it out!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Blog note

Hmm, spam-bots seem to have found this blog today, so I'll put comment moderation on and see if it clears up at all. This in no way excuses you from posting comments, which is mandatory :op


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hand grenade

Hey -- just a quick post today, but I realise I haven't been updating this much, so I thought I should post some of the little projects I've been doing.
So, on a strange whim I decided to make a hand grenade. I wasn't too sure about this, because it must be pointed out that grenades are vicious and lethal weapons designed to kill people and destroy things. One thing I *didn't* know about them, until I was looking up information for this project, is that the little raised panels (on some grenades, not all have these) are designed to fragment into shrapnel on explosion, killing anyone nearby. I suspect their purpose is a bit blurred by their use in computer games and films, which naturally gloss over that kind of detail.

That said, they are a very powerful symbolism to them too which is quite divorced from this, about power, change and danger (I suppose the same goes for most military things), and that's more what led me to want to knit one. That and because I've been listening to Green Day's "She's a rebel" way too much lately.
The design is pretty simple -- it's a tube, with a bit of tapering at the ends. There's some (not terribly well done) stranding to give the 'panel' effect, and the top part is knit separately and sewn on. It doesn't have a pin, mostly because I want to be able to throw it (seriously, everyone should have at least one knitted toy for throwing at the tv) and, ironically, metal bits would be slightly dangerous for that.
Really it should be quite a lot squatter and more tapered, but it's very recognisable anyway, and the designs for real grenades do vary quite a bit.

So yeah, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, the biggest concern was that the long-ish floats make the stranding a bit difficult.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More than one Wug.

Hi folks.
I've got a strange little project to describe today. A psycholinguist friend was telling me about an experiment called the Wug test, the aim of which is to get children of various ages to form a plural of 'wug', a fictitious animal, among other things. You can see scans of the original images here. You can also buy merchandise, if you're that way inclined.
Aside from being pretty cute, they're fun little nonsense monsters, and they have the weird property that you're not allowed to talk about them in the plural. So, this is the plan -- I'm going to knit a Wug. Then I'll knit another Wug. Then I'll have two of them. I'll probably knit up one or two of the other monsters, which have the other plural sounds.
The patterns will be quick, simple, and prominently feature googly eyes, since they make everything cute.

This is in no way as weird as a psychology experiment having a line of merchandising. Geeks!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sad news

Hi folks.
Sad news this post -- I've mentioned Knittiana here a few times. She was very ill for a long time, and had been waiting for a heart transplant. We just heard recently that she had died.
She was an inspirational and incredibly brave person, and she meant a lot to the folks in Edinburgh. If you're not an organ donor already, I'd urge you to read about it (here if you're in the UK, or Germany, the US, or Canada). It's a big step, but it's something you should know about before you decide one way or the other.

There'll be more to write about this later, but just now I just want to say that we all miss her.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Knitter

Exciting news this time!
If you're a regular reader of "The Knitter" magazine, you'll know they do a feature in which they select a knitting group each issue and display a collection of their projects. This edition they've chosen City Knitty, so you can see some of us and what we're up to! One of my long-unblogged hats (the heart-hat, which uses some nifty maths/compsci trickery to convert a heart pattern into polar coordinates) was one of the projects, so it's now officially famous :o).
And since another of the featured projects was Madeleine's Helward's world I got an extra mention too!

Thanks to CK's Georgina for organising this!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Prime factors scarf

Right, new project!
This one follows on from the prime number scarf I made a few years ago, which I think was before I started this blog, so it doesn't have an entry here. It was a series of horizontal stripes, with a different colour to represent the primes.
My sister asked me to make a version of this which would give a times-table. I decided the best way to do this would be to pick a colour for each of the primes, and make horizontal stripes made up of the prime factors making up that number. From the prime factorisation you can then work out which numbers divide which, and many more number theoretic properties too.
It's not really viable to do this for *all* the primes, since there are so many, so I had to restrict this to primes under 12, since this is the usual limit for times tables (Is this the same everywhere? Maybe it's just a UK thing?), all other primes are then assigned one colour. So it's a kind of colour-coded version of Eratosthanes's sieve.

I think it might have been a better choice to say that not just primes over 12, but any number with a prime factor over 12, should be left blank, since this won't appear in the times-table at all. This would give a rather different effect - the first way means the colours get more broken up as the scarf progresses, as the larger numbers tend to have more distinct prime factors, so they colours are all mixed together. The latter way would be less cluttered, with the "prime over 12" colour coming to dominate quite strongly be the end.
Knitting-wise, this scarf involves rather a lot of stranded knitting, so I've been trying out the trick of holding yarn in each hand, which has been quite fun. The hardest part is that the number of strands varies, from just one up to three, so keeping the tension even is quite a challenge.

I should mention too, that I've just come across this counting pane design by the Wooly Thoughts folks, which seems to work along quite similar lines, although the factors they colour are not restricted to primes. Go look! Also check out their other things, they have *loads* of cool mathsy knitting projects!

Happy knitting everyone!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Unrelated geekery...

Hi folks! Haven't posted anything here for far too long -- I really need to get down to finishing off some projects. And taking photos of hats. So, should do some of that soon, but in the meantime I really wanted to post this.
It's a project of local geek Bob, and while it's not technically knitted, it is certainly geeky and extremely awesome:

This was a Triumph

Not much I can say about it other than "wow". So, wow!
And since I'm posting this, I should really put up a link to this too:

Huge success

Awesome, awesome craftiness. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Filet Dragon Shawl

Hey again folks, time for some more not-about-hats posting, and this time a rare crochet edition*.

I've been having an odd urge to try some filet crochet(Ravelry) - this is a form of crochet in which you work a square grid mesh, and produce a pattern by filling in some of the squares. This can make some amazingly delicate and beautiful lacy designs, and the complexity of some of the designs is rather epic. (I should give special mention to City Knitty's own Sarah Moore, who has some absolutely stunning filet doilies.)

So, I'm planning to make a filet shawl. This is rather a foolish and recklessly overconfident plan, since I only barely know how to crochet in the first place, and this is a rather large project. But still, a knitxxor's gotta do what a knitxxor's gotta do.
The project is based on Ursula le Guin's Earthsea books, particularly Tehanu, which I tend the think of as the last one, though that's not entirely accurate. I'd say everyone should read this, but since I still need to read the later books I may not be one to talk.

[This next bit is going to be pretty spoilery... ish.] At some point in "Tehanu", there's a song sung, which just comes up in passing:
Farther west than west
beyond the land
my people are dancing
on the other wind.

This relates to a folk tale which is told, that once, long ago, there was only one type of people, and they had wings. Over time, they learned to make beautiful things, and some of them loved these beautiful things, so they stored them up and built huge fortresses to protect and defend them. Eventually, spending all their time in their fortresses, these people stopped flying and lost their wings, and these people developed into humans. The other ones though, preferred to live wild and free, never owning or storing anything, they kept their wings and developed into the dragons.
This is (broadly) what the song is about, wanting to be away with your dragon ancestors, soaring over the ocean rather than labouring away hording stuff. Naturally I can't explain it as well as le Guin does.
[/spoilering], the plan is to make a shawl with a big dragon motif across the back, and a border with this folksong written across it.
I made some sketch of how this should be laid out, and I'm liking how it's looking. I've sketched up some charts too, but they still need some finalising. And I've made up some swatches and more or less figured out how the filet technique works(thanks Cynthia!), so now it's on to getting it done!
I'll try to post some of the sketches once I have the charts sorted, assuming I can get them into a format I can thumbnail properly.

Also, knitting in public day this week!

* - because a crochet hook can be just as pointy a stick as a knitting needle.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cthulhu toy

I'd kinda forgotten about this one - I made a little stuffed Cthulhu toy for local geek, and knitter, Rachel, and her imminent Norggling(I checked, this is apparently the approved term). It was a little ad hoc project, made up of nice simple shapes and largely made up as I went along.

Design-wise, the arms and legs have little sloped tops made with short rows which allow them to attach nicely to the body, and I'm very happy with how these turned out. The head is the most complicated part, it is knit as a ball down to the mouth, then you knit a few i-cords to form the first layer of tentacles. After re-joining and knitting a few more rows, there are a second row of slightly larger tentacles. All of the tentacles have short rows included to make them a bit messy and disheveled, they naturally don't lie flat.
I did toy with the idea of making a mouth-pouch to fit in between the two rows of tentacles, so that he could 'eat' things, but I'm not sure how child-able that would be. I experimented with a couple of different kinds of eyes - I had planned to use amber teddy bear eyes, but these green cat's eyes somehow really suited him, so I stuck with those. The wings are based on the design from the Cupid Panda, and again I was very happy with how the 'feathers' turned out. I like too how spiky the tops of them look, it gives them a nice evil feel.

The thing I like most about this though is the way the proportions all came together. The wings somehow add a kind of balance to the whole thing, and there's something about the big limbs which makes it just very huggable. The big problem was that the yarn was really too thin for the needles, so that when it's stuffed it's a bit see through and looks a bit thread-bare.

So yeah, there we have a cute little Cthulhu, all ready to set about indoctrinating the next generation of geeklets(I do love the idea of geek children, growing up with all this kind of stuff just being *normal* :o) ). And best wishes to Rachel, to Norgg, and to their coming Norggling!

Hugh :o)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Herman, the cabaret starfish

Right, another non-hat-based post!
I've been meaning for a long time to post things by other people, and this seems like a great time to get going with that, starting with a present I received from (the awesome) Miya.
This started off life following Knitty's Swell pattern, but was heavily modified and accessorised into a cute stuffed toy. It reminds me a lot of the style of Mochimochiland (which is awesome, and everyone should visit), particularly their Mochimochi-grass. I particularly like the little coloured tassle.

And of course, every stuffed toy needs a backstory, so here goes - Herman is a starfish, who works in cabaret, and dreams of becoming a star(in the astronomical sense). He's not really sure how a starfish develops into a full-blown star, but he knows this is what he truly wants in life. For the moment he's reading up on astronomy in the hope that the other stars will be able to give him some helpful advice.

The photos here show him on a visit to Musselburgh beach to see some old friends, and feeling a bit wistful.

...also, it's just possible I've been playing with stuffed toys for too long.
Anyway, thanks Miya, and happy knitting everyone!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More Hopf link fun

Hi again folks! I think I said I'd post some hats next, but am having some computer issues that will delay taking the photos for a little while. So, in the meantime I'll write a new project involving the Hopf links. I should add a quick warning - this is going to get quite political.

So, a while back I made a Hopf link, a pair of interlocking tori in pink and blue. These were a present for the awesome Juliana and family. (There was an earlier version, but I didn't manage to take pictures of those ones).
There was something which bothered me about them at the time, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it - I figured it was probably a sexuality thing, that they were a bit exclusively heterosexual, and I should really make a gay Hopf link too to make things more balanced, but that didn't seem quite right either.
Just recently I came back to the idea, and I think I can see now why they bothered me - they're what feminist folks would call heteronormative, which is a rather broader concept - it's not just that they were explicitly heterosexual, it's that they push a view that heterosexual relationships are a necessary and unique way to live. If there were some gay pairs, that would be slightly better, but not by much. It's broadened the criteria slightly, but is still prescriptive in the same way. There are *lots* more types of relationships around, and the issue isn't really validating each type one at a time, it's realising that they don't *need* validating in the first place.

So, rather than making a couple more Hopf links to balance things out, I've decided to make a whole collection of them, all of different kinds. It's going to be a bit ad hoc and random, but this is part of the plan. There are a couple of things I've decided though:
- It won't include every permutation. It's not trying to classify everyone, it's more about celebrating diversity.
- There will be at least a couple of single tori, cos I think the "you don't have to be in a relationship" message is very important too.
- There'll be some tori which will be yellow or green, rather than blue or pink. Cos not everyone falls neatly into 'male' and 'female' categories, especially not in the 'blue' and 'pink' sense.
- There should probably be some kind of polyamorous grouping too, though I'll need to think through more how to do that one.
- There will be at least one that just doesn't really make sense. This will, broadly speaking, be to represent "variations I haven't thought of", but also to stress that there is some room for interpretation here, that what each one means can be subjective and might mean different things to different people.

So yay! That said, I don't know what I'll actually do with these when they're done, other than revel in having a big pile of stuffed toys. Suggestions, anyone?
Also, knitting-wise I'll be using this project to get some practice at continental knitting. I've just about got the hang of the basic motions, but I need a lot more practice and still find it quite unnatural, especially for anything other than basic knit and purl stitches. But I'm improving!

Happy knitting everyone,


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace day!

It's Ada Lovelace day today, and to celebrate some folks are getting together to write blog entries about a woman in technology they admire. I try to avoid putting too much politics here, but I figure this fits into the 'geekery' aspect of this blog.

So, I'd like to tell people about Graciela Chichilnisky. This will be largely based on her article "Sex and the Ivy League", so it's not exactly well-researched or cross-checked.
So first, who is she? She is one of the forerunners of modern mathematical economics, using geometric techniques to build economic models which have had some *huge* shifts in development policy worldwide.

Why do I think she's so admirable? Firstly, she is ridiculously talented. She skipped through college to start a phd in maths early, where in a 'test' year she proved herself by coming top of her class. (This despite raising a 2 year old child by herself and not speaking much english). And the rest of her career seems every bit as impressive.

Secondly, through all of this she remained deeply committed to helping others, to building models of international development that would help poorer countries and give them a more equal footing in the world, and particularly to the concept of sustainable development. She states that "the only genuine source of happiness in life is the feeling of being useful to others", and she really lives this.

Thirdly, she has had to go through some pretty shocking discrimination to get where she is. She says in this article that she recommends a policy of "turning dung into fertiliser" for women suffering discrimination, to take the 'energy' of that discrimination and turn it to their own advantage. When I first read that, it struck me as pretty blase, pretty dismissive, and maybe it's only that easy for her because she is so talented. But reading more about her, I'm realising that she *really* know what discrimination means, and even with her abilities it hasn't been easy.
Professionally, there have been several points in her career when important results have been attributed to male colleagues with serious career-threatening consequences, and spent at least 10 years in litigation against Columbia over pay discrimination. She also suffered more personal discrimination when she found she could not travel to Argentina with her first child - at the time the child would belong entirely to the father, a fact which kept her away from her home and her family at a particularly difficult time in her life. And she seems intent on using these experiences to help other people who are dealing with the same things.

So, Graciela Chichilnisky. She is an amazing mathematical economist as well as a fantastic person, and I would recommend reading more about her. I'm very much planning to myself :o)

Happy Ada Lovelace day everyone o/

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Slogany mittens

Ok, I should post about this now for time reasons.
The idea for this comes from a discussion about Lisa-Anne Auerbach's knitting. LAA knits amazing designs with witty slogans on them, and is quite simply amazing. You can find her on Ravelry, and she also has a couple of websites. Her subjects are usually political, often provocative and always genius. My project won't actually look anything like hers, but I really wanted to plug her work.

So, sloganny mittens. The idea is to have a pair of mittens, with a slogan on each.
On the right:


The motto of the world-state from Brave New World. And on the left:

Avoid Magic!
Be Aware!"

A saying from a short story "Solitude" by Ursula le Guin(in the collection "The Birthday of the World").
The first is the guiding principle behind the perfect(in some sense) human society, in which everyone is cared for and looked after, everyone is content and noone wants for anything. It's also entirely social - noone does anything individually or has(or needs) any privacy.
The second is a saying from what le Guin describes as a society of introverts - they live alone, not intruding on each other, everyone in perfect freedom. The meanings of the three phrases are a little obscure, and exactly what is meant by them is kind of the point of the story(go read it!).
So the two slogans are kind of opposite, but neither is really the whole story by itself - Brave New World is written as a dystopia, this perfect world is in it's own way a nightmare scenario, as would be the world of "Solitude".

I wanted to post this now because I notice radio 4 have a programme about Ursula le Guin up just now - it was broadcast on Tuesday, so folks in the UK will still be able to find it on iPlayer(I think iPlayer is only available in the UK, but I could be wrong?)

That's the plan!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A tank which is also a giraffe

Right, giraffe-tank pictures!
The tank part is made up of a simple block with an angled front and the tracks are garter stitch loops sewn on. I had intended to cover the tracks on top(apparently this is standard in tanks nowadays), but I found the thickness of the tracks would make this too bulky. The head and neck of a giraffe then replaces the turret part.

I like how the giraffe part turned out, but I really think the tank was a bit too simple. The track coverings might have improved this, or it might have been better to extend the giraffe's splotch pattern over the tank. Still, as a nice quick project I'm quite happy with it, and I think it nicely leads the attention towards the giraffe part.
Now, I need to think of something I can actually *do* with this?
(Pictured here with Ray, who happened to be wearing a tank-related t-shirt when I took it along to visit anime-people)

Coming soon - hats. Lots of hats.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Black Lagoon

Hey again.

So, a quick silly new project I should blog about. This one is kinda an in joke, so bear with me.
Lately the local anime society has been watching the series "Black Lagoon". It's very much an over the top action programme, and... to say I dislike it would be something of an understatement. Usually with bad series I'm happy to accept their flaws and look for something positive, but there's something about Black Lagoon which somehow I find totally infuriating.
During one of out after-anime discussions*, one of the anime folks suggested that given the silliness of the series, they should really have an episode about "a tank which is also a giraffe". And... that struck me as such a great image that I decided I *had* to knit one.
So that's the plan, to knit a tank which is also a giraffe. After playing with some ideas, I decided the best way to do this would be to make a simple tank body, then replace the turret with the neck and head of a giraffe. Fortunately, I already had a giraffe pattern to hand from my safari adventures last year, and the body was a very simple shape, so it's come along nice and quickly. (Actually I'm cheating a little - it's more or less finished, modulo some possible finishing touches I may add, but I thought I should blog the design up first anyway).

And remember kids, Black Lagoon - just so no.
Pictures soon!

* - more accurately, my latest rant about it's total disregard for physics, plot, character design and/or common sense.

Mathematical Fiber Arts Exhibit

Right, more belated bloggings today, and quite a bit of belated excitement in this one! In January, the AMS held it's [not at all] annual "Special Session on Mathematics and Mathematics Education in Fiber Arts" in Washington, and I was invited to send my trefoils along to be exhibited there. Naturally I was delighted that they were chosen and to be able to show them off to other geek-knitters! Even more awesomely, local geek-knitter Madeleine's "Helward's world" was invited along too.

The photos from this event are now up, so you can see the trefoils on their exciting adventure to Washington here, and you can see Helward's world here, and you can also ogle the other exhibits too(although this may lead to a burning desire to knit Seifert surfaces). You can read more about the event here.

So yay, the trefoils are famous! Worryingly, they're also more well-travelled than I am...
More bloggings soon!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Catching up with the lions

I think I didn't blog this at the time because I didn't have any pictures, but the Gay Pride lions have moved on to a new home, at the LGBT health and well-being centre over near McAree's. Here you can see them lounging around the welcome desk. They seem happy and well, and I'm sure are enjoying the attention.
There's other lion-retrospective news too - the extra bonus lion is well and truly settled in at the primary school he was going to, and is apparently very popular with the children, and they've decided to name him Rainbow.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cosmic microwave background hat

Hi again folks.
So, today an old idea which I'm just about getting around to planning seriously now. This started with a discussion here about the big bang and background radiation(or more accurately, a whole bunch of helpful geeks helping me with physics - thanks folks!).
So, science, and a quick recap of background radiation. According to the big bang theory, in the early days the universe was very hot, and full of light. As it expanded and cooled, this light has lost a lot of energy, but it should still be there. This is called "cosmic microwave background" radiation. The stories of early experiments into detecting this are quite famous, but the upshot is it was detected experimentally, and as I understand it, is some of the hardest experimental evidence for the big bang. Lots more cool information at Wikipedia.
In the 1990s, the COBE satellite made some very precise measurements of the energy of this radiation, and found that in fact it varies(though not by much). The thinking is(well, was, back when I kept up with popular science) that these variations would be caused by tiny variations in the very early universe, which would grow larger as it expanded and these tiny variations would lead to the formation of galaxies and stars. So these variations are very important - they could well be responsible for the entire structure of the universe we see today. Since then there have been more accurate probes, particularly WMAP, which just gave some new measurements last year. And what better way to celebrate all of this than with a hat?

So the plan is this - to take one of the images produced by the COBE probe(WMAP is more accurate, but I think the resolution is too high for my purposes), chart up the data and using stranded knitting, knit it into a hat. Possibly making up a few over the top lines about how this hat contains the pattern for the universe along the way. The main difficulty is drawing a chart of the right kind, which is mostly a question of manipulating images to make a nice grid in polar coordinates. (That said, other people seem to have done this much better, than me as you can see here).

So yep, that's the plan. Perhaps I should write "COBE" on it too, so people will realise it's not just a splodgy coloured hat.
Happy knitting!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Finished alchemy mittens

Ok, first finished object for a while - the alchemy mittens are done! I tried to keep the pattern reasonably simple, which probably helped a lot. Also there was a lot of snooker on tv, which is ideal for knitting along to!

I'd intended to make this in the round using two circular needles(I've just come across this technique, and it's awesome), but ran into some problems - because of the way the stranding works, with independent bands on the front and back, it would be difficult to work this in the round, you would need to carry the green yarn too much. So I decided it needed to be based on intarsia in the round, which meant a switch to dpns(because I'm using interchangable needles rather than "real" circulars, and they don't handle purl rows well).
The intarsia in the round gave me some trouble - I'm not sure if I'm remembering it being easier than it was, but I ended up with some loose stitches at the join. This might mean I was somehow wrapping the yarns wrong, or possibly just that you shouldn't try to join the intarsia pieces at the end of a needle? I suspect the latter, since the stitches just looked loose rather than wrong. This seemed to get even worse when the shaping started to get involved at the top of the mitten.

Pattern-wise, I may be able to explain the design a bit better now I have visual aids. The left mitten represents antimony and the right is tin- I chose these elements because they had nice alchemical symbols and roughly the right atomic numbers to make the patterns work and fit nicely onto a mitten.
The symbols on the back are alchemical signs for the respective elements, although I suspect noone would actually recognise them without looking them up. The number of spots on the back of the hand give the atomic number of the element(51 for antimony, 50 for tin), and they're arranged to show how the electrons are divided up into shells(or, I suppose it's position in the periodic table?).
The spots on the front represent the number of neutrons in the most common isotope, so that the total number of spots on both sides gives the atomic weight. They're also supposed to give them a slightly checkered look. I'd planned to make the front kinda textured based on a pair of gloves I saw made by the mighty Juliana, which gave them a wonderfully grippy look, but chickened out cos I wasn't sure how the texture would interfere with the stranding and was too impatient to do the swatching first.

So yeah, I'm very happy with how these turned out, the dots give them a nicely complicated look and the symbols came out just about the right size that they dominate without overpowering the rest of the design. I'm curious how it would have looked if the symbols were a different colour, but I think I prefer it this way in the end. They could maybe have been done on smaller needles to make the fabric denser and warmer, but this was rather a "what I had to hand" project.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Alchemy mittens

Right, continuing Operation Catch Up With Knit-Designing, I thought I'd post about the alchemy mittens I have underway.
So, what's the idea? I wanted to make a pair of mittens which would encode alchemy symbols and chemical information about certain chemical elements in a subtle enough way that they will look a bit arcane, while actually being entirely about chemistry.
Each mitten will represent a chemical element- I've picked antimony and tin for these ones, but others could be fairly easily substituted. It'll have the alchemical symbol for that element on the back, along with a pattern of spots which represent the atomic number of the element, arranged in a series of bands representing the number of electrons in each electron shell. On the front of the had there will be another collection of spots representing the number of neutrons in the commonest isotope of the element, so that the total number of spots on both sides gives the atomic weight of this isotope.

Why is a little harder to explain, but it has something to do with the different attitudes we have towards alchemy and chemistry. I think we have a tendency to see science as a bit dull and safe, as very *normal*. Alchemy, on the other hand, is a kind of magic- it's crazy and mystical and occult. I think we'd do better to see science a bit more that way - after all, it contains dragons(see also), time travel and guns that shoot lightning. And the really amazing thing is that science can *prove* that all these things exist(well, 'prove' isn't quite the right word in the last case, but hey).
So that's kinda what I'm aiming for with these mittens, that they will be based on chemistry, but in a slightly magical/arcane/alchemical sort of way.
Also, because alchemy symbols are neat.

I've done most of the knitting for them now, so hopefully will have some finished objects to show in the near future(and hopefully my explanation will be a little more coherent then).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bell-ringing(ish) cardigan

Hey folks!
Well again I've failed to update this for way too long, despite having a couple of projects I should've mentioned. So without further ado - the bell-ringing cardigan. Sort of.

The idea for this cardigan grew out of a discussion of bellringing with Mair, and how this might be expressed in knitted cables. As I understand it, a bellringing pattern is produced by repeated applications of a pair of permutations (subject to some constraints), and the aim is to run through every ordering of a collection of bells(usually four, five or six). Some quick calculations suggest that a full 'peal' with five bells would involve 120 changes and would run roughly the full height of a jumper.

This project is a baby cardigan along similar lines: if you use just three cables, any pair of transpositions will run through every ordering of the three cables. This pair of transpositions can be chosen in six different ways, so the idea is for this cardigan is to have six different cables to represent each of these choices. The cables are picked out in intarsia to make the rearranging clearer as well as to make the whole thing pretty and colourful.
The 'ish' is because not all of these transpositions is allowable in the bell-ringing problem - the position of a bell in the sequence can only move by one place for physical reasons, but we haven't included this constraint here - some of the patterns involve swapping cable 1 with cable 3. This leads to some fabricky issues too, since this is quite a big cable and distorts the fabric a bit. Some experimenting shows that this isn't too bad provided the cable rows are appropriately spaced though.
One other problem is that these patterns don't distinguish "over" and "under" crossings, so these have to be more or less made up. To make the braids (more or less) alternating(so that if a cable went 'over' on the previous cable row it will go 'under' on the next) narrows it down a bit, and I seemed to come up with the right number of solutions, but it struck me as a little arbitrary and I'm not sure if there are others. Quite possibly there are exactly six though, and I just haven't spotted the reason for it yet.

So there we go - colourful little baby cardigan with intarsia cables, group theory and possibly some bell-ringing. I actually did most of the knitting over christmas and just need to get around to sewing it all together, so hopefully it'll be all done and ready to post pretty soon!
Happy knitting,