Science, Knitting, and Scientist Knitters

Are there any blue microbes?

A year ago I wrote this post highlighting the Great Microbe Knit, an event at the Manchester Science Festival where you could learn about microbiology and knit a microbe at the same time. It turns out that the event was very popular and several more knitting-themed events are scheduled for the 2010 festival. This year you can knit and learn about bees. And the microbe knitting patterns are still available online as well.

Comments on my earlier microbe knitting post brought to light a whole world of science-themed knitting, some of it spectacular, like the knitted coral reef, or delicate, like the knitted and crocheted neurons (both featured here), or strange educational like this knitted gi tract. Science-themed knitting seems to be on the rise, and attracting attention.

There are more than a few talented scientist/knitters using fiber to create science themed art and clothing, using knitting to de-mystify mathematics or to create everyday garments with a science twist. The knitting community Ravelry hosts a large and active science knitters group, discussing everything from the chemistry of blocking finished garments, to job openings, knitting patterns, and upcoming scientific meetings. So is there something about knitting that is particularly attractive to scientists? What do knitting and science have in common?

In an article in 2020 Science, Andrew Maynard discusses the connection between science and knitting at length, stating:

“Clearly there’s a rich and complex intersection between science and knitting. This is knitting as a method of storing, transmitting, manipulating and using information, as a way of realizing complex mathematical concepts and structures, and as a form of visualizing the world we live in in new and insightful ways”

I think that is a compelling argument for why knitting might appeal to a scientist, particularly to those who are creating knitted representations of scientific subjects or mathematical concepts. But I learned to knit long before I became interested in science. Until the knitted microbes came to my attention last year, I would never have dreamed of knitting an E. coli or a Salmonella. My knitting has so far been disconnected from science, at least on a conscious level. Over the last year, the enormous diversity of the world of science knitting has opened my eyes to the possibilities that are created when science and knitting collide. So much so that I may try my hand at something new and “sciency”. There is an exhibit of microbe-themed fiber art coming up in Madison, and they are seeking contributions. Maybe I can get some of the knitters and bloggers here at Promega to join me in knitting a contribution. Any suggestions for an easy, artistic microbe knit we could make?

Science knitting Sampler

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Isobel Maciver

Isobel is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and of Aston University in Birmingham, U.K. She is a technical writer and editor, and is also manager of the Scientific Communications group at Promega. She enjoys writing about issues in science and communication.

4 thoughts on “Science, Knitting, and Scientist Knitters

  1. I recently talked to one of the organizers of the Madison event. Her samples were great and I’m very interested in participating. Need ideas for microbes to knit, though!

  2. Isobel,

    Of course that first post of yours is responsible for sending me on a downward spiral of knitting and yarn addiction which has my husband complaining that he is losing his section of the basement to an encroaching stash…

    Count me in on the microbe knitting, willing to contribute some blue yarn for the blue-white selection.

    Michele

  3. Hi Isobel.
    Thanks for the post. It is so much fun to see how scientist are using their sceince in creative ways!

    You can count me in to. I can donate some white and blue (if you need it).

    I can’t blame my stash on Isobel’s post, although it has grown larger since then… I guess we just need to keep telling them that they aren’t seeing all the yarn we DIDN’t buy!

    Kelly

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