Author Archive

The first genetiknits tea cosy!

September 15, 2010

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!


COUNTDOWN – 4 days left

March 19, 2010

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

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

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.

The world’s most famous sheep

February 21, 2010


A big big thank you to my housemate Woolhelmina for creating our Dolly, dubbed by Scientific American as the “world’s most famous sheep” after her landmark role in cloning research. Woolhelmina put together the design from scratch, and even Dolly’s facial wool ‘side-burns’ are an accurate representation from google images. Her fleece is made from bobble stitch, where you build a ball of stitches onto a single stitch. Just how much you can do with essentially glorified string and sticks keeps on astonishing me.

Classical genetics pattern

February 19, 2010
Classical genetics knitting pattern

Classical genetics knitting pattern

I’ve just finished my pattern for the early classical genetics years. Quite frankly it nearly killed me, not sure I’ve ever had a challenge like condensing and transforming over a hundred years of scientific work into an arts-and-craft plan. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful for Wikipedia too…

Doing it made me realise just how much of us is going to be in the final piece. In the beginning, I thought the size of each bit of knitting was going to end up roughly correspondent to the time over which the science developed, so we’d end up with a whole that was vaguely chronological, and proportionate to time. But I’m not doing this instinctively, and  keep having to check that I’m doing it at all (partly why I’ve added dates to the map).

What’s really been driving the shape of the plan is the importance I assign to each event, career, or development; and I guess what’s mostly imbued these ideas in me is my education and the prominence of the events and figures today. For instance the biggest, brightest and most attention grabbing so far is Darwin’s bit. Pretty obvious why he’s on my mind as significant, he’s bloody everywhere! Second largest is Mendel, drummed into every schoolchild, and third Francis Galton, who infamously laid the foundations of eugenics.  As well as imposing my own development as a knitter on the piece, I’m also refracting the science through my history and experiences.

When I was drawing it I was nearly exclusively bouncing from one Wiki link to another: I’d draw a bit for one scientist or field, and then look for a development or apprentice’s work to represent in the next and connected piece of knitting. I’ve been studying some narrative theory and there seem to be some parallels there too, in the way I was looking at pages and pages of information, but using causal links to navigate it all and tie pieces together.

Anyway, less biro more needle clicking for a bit now…

Mendel rediscovered

February 14, 2010

Knitting the work of Hugo de Vries

Our Mendelian pea is a beauty.

His work was rediscovered in 1900, 35 years after he published his paper, so I’m cracking on with knitting this. Completely by chance, three different scientists came across it independently: Hugo de Vries from Holland, Carl Correns from Germany, and Erich von Tschermak from Austria. We’ve decided to represented this through their national flags, so above I’m working on Hugo de Vries’s discovery.

It’s a bit knotty and wonky next to our lovely pea, but how can you compare with so simple and elegant a theory?

Coming up: William Bateson champions Mendel in England via garter stitch.


February 10, 2010

Ta muchly everyone for your wool donations, we’ve now got a selection worthy of a world-changing scientific field. We’ve got grand plans for the purple, which is being transformed into Walther Flemming’s experiments with mauve dye on the behaviour of chromosomes by Cast-on Clarissa. Drop-stitch Dorothy has earmarked some lovely red for a flavr savr tomato, and blue, red, white, black and yellow is being knitted into the national flags of the groups which rediscovered Mendel.

We’re still hunting for the perfect yarn to become dolly the sheep, and some golden yellow to make Nobel prize-representing pompoms if anyone has some spare…

Woolen-warm wishes.

In the beginning there was Darwin

February 4, 2010

Just finished my first piece! The corner of Darwin’s theory of natural selection with the loose thread of how heredity actually worked…

Only another 150 years to go now.

The first few tentative stitches…

February 3, 2010

Drop-stitch Dorothy takes the first step

But we’re not going to let broken bones get in the way of scientific progress. On Tuesday we headed down to Somerset House on Tuesday to join SOCK (Society of Courtauld Knitters) who’ve very kindly taken us in and offered to teach us all they know. Armed with genetics books, a charity-shop haul of needles straight from someone’s nan’s roof, and wool scraps scrounged from friends and relatives, it was time to get our needles dirty.

And so after two weeks of being told ‘the bunny goes up the hill, round the tree, and down the hole’ by patronising youtube knitting tutorials, endlessly trawling wikipedia and trying to get to grips with imperial to metric needle sizes, Drop-stitch Dorothy cast ON. We’re well and truly off…though only in about 1860 so far.

I’m getting stuck into Darwin’s theory of evolution and Mendel’s pea is also coming soon…

If anyone knows of any knitting techniques which only require one hand or has any ends of wool balls which would like to get involved in a creative science project please let us know!