The first genetiknits tea cosy!

September 15, 2010 by

It’s been several months now since the carefree days of genetiknits, when I got to spend my days wondering whether stocking or rib best represented Francis Galton. Sigh.

However my Aunt Penny has knitted me a tea cosy inspired by the project which I think definitely deserves a post.

Amazing huh? It’s even got the pattern Rosalind Franklin found in photograph 51 – the x-ray diffraction image that gave Crick and Watson ideas – knitted into the top.

Apparently she pinched some of my hair and decoded my genome, so this the helixes represent my actual DNA. She has recently been to the Southwold Under the Pier Show, home of this DNA Forecaster machine, which makes me slightly sceptical…

I feel it’s an awesome addition to both the world of scientific knitting and my flat whatever though!


The grand finale.

March 22, 2010 by

After many long hours of work stitching and labelling. Here it is. The finished piece.

We’re very proud but very tired. I read somewhere (I think the Times) that two hours of knitting burns a bowl of porridge of calories, so I think we’re owed a lot of porridge…Anyway, like proud parents. It’s hopefully going to be exhibited at Imperial (College) soon so we’ll keep you updated. If you click on the photo you can zoom in and read all the tags.

COUNTDOWN – 4 days left

March 19, 2010 by

It’s now just four days until we’re unveiling and presenting the project. We’ve got ourselves a rather swanky (and also brilliantly cheap) artist’s canvas and are starting to stitch it all together. After being hunched over our little individual patches of knitting it’s a bit of a shock, but really satisfying, to see it all together. It does look a bit like a primary school mural at the moment, in the best possible way. However we’re going to add museum style labels to explain what each piece represents (we wanted to play with it being an artist and also a scientific representation) so those should lend it some gravitas.

The only concern now is our stunning centre-piece, a very colourful double helix currently being slaved over by my sister. She’s an expert knitter but whether it’ll all come together in time is balancing on a needle point…

A brief beta knitted history of genetics – 1800-1940

March 10, 2010 by

Here’s the knitting we’ve got so far for the pre-Watson and Crick era. It’s still missing a few bits and pieces (pompoms, some post-Darwin thinking, JBS Haldane’s moth) but it’s getting there. It’s quite exciting to see it all together after hours of being hunched over individual pieces.

It’s all going to be mounted up next week onto a big canvas, and we’re planning on adding museum-style labels too so it all makes sense. We will be stitching them on though, of course. Grand presentation and possibly exhibition coming soon…

Evolving moths

March 10, 2010 by

It’s two weeks till the project is going to be presented, so I called upon some professor-level expertise to help with the finishing touches: that of my Mum.

She’s knitted this peppered moth for us, complete with pipe-cleaner antennae  and legs. The evolution of this species has been studied in detail over the last hundred years, especially the changes to the colour of the population over the industrial revolution. Originally, the vast majority of peppered moths were lightly coloured, camouflaging them against pale trees and lichen. But widespread pollution caused by the revolution caused many of the lichens to die out, and the trees that the moths rested on became blackened by soot. Most of the light-coloured moths died off through predation, whereas the darker ones flourished, hidden against the soot-covered trees. JBS Haldane figured out the finer points of this change in 1924.

This one’s photographed on my chopping board but you get the idea.

1953 and onwards….the creation so far

March 4, 2010 by

It isn’t finished, but here’s a sneak preview of how we see genetics post 1953.  Watson and Crick’s discovery is still being created, but the purple and red rectangles represent the cracking of the genetic code, recombinant DNA techonology, and DNA sequencing.  Five yellow and gold pom poms are the five Nobel prizes won in this era.  After this, in purple is genetic engineering, with cloning as a side branch; dark red is molecular and clinical genetics; lighter red is genomics; green is applied genetics such as DNA fingerprinting, and barcoding.  Each field is illustrated with its key discoveries.

We’re going to leave our knitting needles at the base of each field: genetics isn’t finished, so we’re not casting off…

1953 and onwards…the plan

March 4, 2010 by

Watson and Crick won the race to discover the structure of DNA in 1953.  After this, three other discoveries were essential to the development of genetics into the fields we recognise today.  Crick, Nirenberg and others managed to crack the genetic code in 1961, after 8 trying years.  In 1972 recombinant DNA technology was born, and in 1977 Gilbert and Sanger devised techniques for sequencing DNA.  Following this,  genetics research expanded rapidly, and different fields began to be identifiable.  The flared shape of each of the four fields represented here shows their growth.  Industry weaves its way across all fields.


March 3, 2010 by

The first recorded description of the symptoms of Huntington’s disease go back as early as the 16th century. It was recognised as a hereditary disease and years of research finally established that the condition was due to a genetic variation on Chromosome 4 containing a repeat of the CAG codon. These DNA bases are traditionally given the colours blue, green, yellow.

So the stripes are Blue, Green, Yellow for C, A and G.

Let’s not forget Rosalind.

February 25, 2010 by

The discovery of the structure of DNA is famously attributed to Watson and Crick. But let’s not forget Rosalind Franklin. Her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA helped Watson and Crick formulate their hypothesis of the double helix. Sadly, her important contribution was not recognised until after her death.

We decided to represent Rosalind by reproducing the X-ray diffraction image in yarn. The white threads coming off the piece will then discreetly weave their way into Watson and Crick’s double helix…

Flavr Savr

February 25, 2010 by

The Flavr Savr tomato was the first commercially grown genetically engineered food to be granted a license for human consumption.

This is my attempt to recreate this landmark vegetable out of yarn. My knitted version might not be perfect, but neither was the actual GM tomato, first sold in 1994, it was only available for a couple of years before production ceased.