Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ribbed - but not for my pleasure

I said I'd explain myself, and I will. In chemistry, there are many types of arrows, each with a specific meaning. You can't just throw any old arrow in between two chemicals and expect it to make sense, each states something about the type of reaction. When you're planning a synthesis, you will generally perform what is called a retrosynthetic analysis, which sounds a lot more intimidating than it is. It basically means breaking down, on paper, your target to it's simpler components. Here's what a simple retrosynthetic analysis might look like, note the specific type of arrow - a retrosynthetic arrow.
Now we've got the explanations out of the way, I can get to the crafty goodness! I mentioned previously that this is the International year of Chemistry, and to celebrate this the School of Chemistry in my college is running an art exhibition, to which we were all invited to submit entries. The focus of the exhibtion is to highlight the chemistry and biochemistry of everyday materials, in such a way that everyone can understand. I thought a retrosynthetic pathway would be a neat way to take something everyday and break it down to it's chemical beginnings. I immediately thought of lanolin. Lanolin is produced in sheep's coats as a natural waterproofing agent, and as such is a by-product of wool production. Through the wonders of chemistry (and, >ahem<, chemists, thank you very much) this oil finds extensive use in cosmetics, topical pharamaceuticals such as burn cream, and even in heavy industry as a lubricant. This is pretty much what I'm trying to illustrate in the piece I'm making. There's going to be a bit of text detailing this in words, quite small, in one of the corners of the canvas, to reward close observers. I don't really know if this is the type of thing they were looking for in the exhibition, but I figured there'd be very few pieces utilizing textile arts such as embroidery, knitting and needle felting, so at the very least people should find it interesting. I haven't put in the aforementioned arrows yet, or the face and legs for the sheep on the right hand side, but you can see roughly where I'm headed.

This is all being done on a piece of soft cotton which will be attached to the canvas via hand stitching.
I'm having a very School of Chemistry orientated week, as I've finally cast on for a scarf that one of the technicians asked me to knit for him. He's quite old, and said he'd love to have a scarf made by someone who's worked where he's worked for so long. He specified only that it was to be red and green (I think it's a sport thing), so to keep costs for him down and also to make it easy for him to care for I picked up some acrylic at Feanor, my local friendly craft shop. I'm being nice and doing a 2x2 rib as opposed to just garter stitch, even though I don't really like switching back and forth between knit and purl so often. I'm using 2 strands held together to ensure speedy progress!
I'll be at home in Donegal next weekend, what with the Easter holidays, so I'll see you on Monday week. Hope you've all been out enjoying the awesome weather.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beer bag

Shopping bag finally finished! I was so tempted to just do a crocheted border and handle instead of the I-cord specified in the pattern, but I'm really glad I went with the I-cord. Not only was it easy and gave a really neat border, it was actually a lot of fun to knit. The handle has just a little bit of stretch, but is otherwise strong and smooth on the hands. I made the bag a little shorter than prescribed in the pattern - laying flat it's about 10-11inches each side. Here it is hanging off my Miffy teddy (it seemed like a more fun choice than a door handle).
The benefit of knit bags like this is that they can be strong while demonstrating a massive amount of stretch. To put this to the test, I put all of the beer in my fridge in the bag to see how it felt. The bag did indeed stretch to accommodate the load, but at no point did it feel like it would snap under the weight. I'd credit this not only to the knit but also to the choice of yarn, mercerized cotton being particularly resilient. While I didn't particularly enjoy knitting this bag, I'm so satisfied with the finished product I would consider making another one - though not for a while.
As promised, I have indeed made some progress in my chemistry art project. I'll explain myself further next week, but for the piece I need some small mechanical pieces - cogs and the like. I thought some broken clocks would be ideal and the lovely Neen came to my rescue to this end, donating 2 clocks and a watch. I basically took a hammer to them so I could get my greedy mitts on their innards. It felt so forbidden - what fun! 
I've actually been meaning to ask around for broken watches and clocks for some time - the little pieces will be useful in making steampunk-esque trinkets. Hence, these parts wont go to waste, but I decided they might be a little bit small for my chemistry project. I was looking on the best site in the world at cogs from sets of lego - just a bit bigger than those shown above, but light and cheap enough to be attached to my canvas. Then it struck me. Shrinky dink! My old friend! Et voila.
Not perfect, but they should do. I'm definitely going to use the clocks parts though (thanks again Neen), and the watch will be turning up in a jewelery related post in the near future. So if anyone has old clocks or broken watches they want to get rid of (mechanical ones, that is), send them my way. Alternative recycling rocks.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The most awesome post of all time

Will this shopping bag ever end? In fairness, it has been a pretty busy couple of weeks  and I've only been able to knit the odd row here and there. Nonetheless, I can't help feeling like this bag has taken me a lot longer than it should have. While I haven't actively disliked knitting it, I will admit I didn't really enjoy it either. I think in future, I'll stick with sewing my shopping bags - much faster. I've nearly achieved enough length to bind off and sew up the sides, before tackling the I-cord handle.
I finished a much belated birthday present for my house-mate, Mo. Or as she calls herself, the Queen of Exaggeration - which explains the slogan I chose to cross-stitch. It's taken a lot longer than necessary because I couldn't work on it when she was around, but when she gets back tonight it will be waiting for her. I finished the patch this morning and am just after attaching it to a bargain t-shirt with the sewing machine.

And finally, did you know that 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry? Well it is, and if you didn't know also, I am a chemist. The chemistry department at my college is running an art competition entitled 'Capturing Chemistry' as their part to raise awareness of chemistry, its place and above all importance in society.With entries due in mid-May, I figured it was time I got started cobbling something together. I attacked a cheap canvas today with some Mod-Podge and an old biochemistry book. I'm going to make myself accountable now, and promise that by next week there will be further development on this piece.

Have a great week everyone.