Saturday, 5 April 2014

Finally got to Vet School!

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was nuts about animals. She went to the zoo and the museum regularly and lived round the corner from the veterinary college. From about the age of 2 she wanted to be a vet and work at the zoo. She collected plastic animals and memorised lots of facts.  She also loved plants and did the same for them, visiting the botanic gardens and leafing through her father's textbooks.  Then she went to school and it all went wrong.  How it went wrong is long and complicated, took 50 years to work out and doesn't belong in this blog post. 

The little girl never went to vet school.  The college round the corner eventually moved to an out of town site.

The old college buildings have become a wonderful arts venue in the heart of Edinburgh.  After a twisty turny careery thing, the little girl realised she had been a textile artist all along. At last the girl and the college have come together and the arts centre is home to her textile work for the next two weeks of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Botanica Mathematica
part of the Sci-Art trail at
Summerhall Place
5-20 April

Monday, 3 February 2014

Mining the wool mountain!

Over the last 30 or more years I've been collecting yarn. Travel souvenirs, online bargains, local sales, charity shops and abandoned projects have all contributed.  In December my brother christened it the European Wool Mountain!

So I've decided to start mining the wool mountain.  So far I've discovered
Noro Furin and Silk Garden
Natural Dye Studio cashemere alpaca and silks
Rowan cotton chenille, tweed and some of their R2  "street" yarns
Debbie Bliss tweeds
Colinette in all sorts of colours and yarn styles
1980s mohair on cones
vintage Bernat Klein cotton
and a matching skirt and jumper pack of turquoise tweed fabric and 4-ply yarn from the Isle of Skye

I've developed a few ideas for simple yet dramatic pieces that will turn things found in fairly large quantities into an interesting collection for Open Studios events.  A couple of them are pictured below in Rowan Kidsilk and Noro Furin. I love the way the stripes end up at right angles and are vertical across the back.

This week I also made a much smaller one that's more of a neckerchief so single skeins of sock yarn are getting used up this way too. Expect more variations on the shawl/wrap/poncho/cowl/scarf theme in a few weeks.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Decorate Transreal!

Today was light up day for Decorate Edinburgh and that means a full reveal of the Transreal Fiction  tree I've been decorating with mathematical knitting and crochet. Decorate Edinburgh is a fund raising project for local charities. Around the city, small businesses have given money and received trees to decorate in return. Their Tree Trail leaflet lists all the participants so you can see how they've all gone about decorating Edinburgh for Christmas.

I volunteered for the decorating without much persuasion. This seemed like the perfect reason to finally knit Norah Gaughan's  stellated dodecahedron. After all, her father, Jack Gaughan, illustrated science fiction books and magazines. So now my version of her design top of Transreal Fiction's Christmas tree. (Want to make one too? the pattern is here and it's free

So much for the tree topper but what about the rest? Well, having started with a mathematical idea I figured I could crochet and knit lots more in the sparkly yarns sitting in my stash for just such a project.  Hyperbolic pseudospheres have been used as baubles since mathematicians started crocheting them so I made some of those.  Strips of hyperbolic surfaces make lovely garlands - a couple of those were made.  Mobius bands are a perennial favourite and so I crocheted a few small ones.  I also found a couple of patterns using modular knitting to make stars by tiling parallelograms and made a whole bunch of them. The most comprehensive web page mathematical knitting information is maintained by sarah-marie belcastro on her Torioidal Snark site.

So far so straight forward.  I went hunting something a bit more obscure and I found the Seifert surface patterns by Hugh Griffiths.  Hugh helped me design a large scale hyperbolic knit when he was a PhD student in Edinburgh a few years ago.  It was exhibited in Transreal Fiction's previous shop. So a Seifert surface was duly knitted.  This one is related to the trefoil knot but there are are others for other knots.  You can find out more about the maths and get Hugh's pattern here.

Once I assembled all the sparkly knitting I realised my subconscious had added another layer of maths to the project for I had made:

8 parallelogram stars

5 hyperbolic baubles

 3 Mobius bands

 2 hyperbolic garlands

1 Seifert surface

 1 stellated dodecahedron

The quantities turned out to be the Fibonacci sequence!  I'm thinking of adding 13 little knitted knots and maybe 21 other things if time allows between now and Christmas. Pop in to Transreal Fiction at 46 Candlemaker Row and see how I've got on...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Plum & Pepper Christmas Outings

In spite of trying to take it easy this year I have very full December so you lucky people can see (and even buy!) my work.

First up is the geekiest project so far - knitted mathematical Christmas decorations for a charity tree in a science fiction bookshop! Transreal Fiction asked me to help out with their Decorate Edinburgh contribution and and you can see the resulting Fibonacci series of baubles and garlands in the shop at 46 Candlemaker Row until the end of the month. This knitted stellated dodecahedron is on top of Transreal Fiction's Christmas tree. (Want to make one too? the pattern is here and it's free

Next up is the Craft Reactor Winter Exhibition, 3 December to 7 January in Hula Juice Bar and Cafe 103 West Bow Edinburgh. I'll be taking part with lots of my crafty chums. Pop in for a look and some coffee and cake!

Coburg House Open Studios is next. Come and see what everyone's been up to since August. We're open at 15 Coburg Street, Leith 11am-6pm Sat 7 December and Sun 8 December.

Botanica Mathematica is the subject of a public lecture at the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences. Julia Collins and I will be talking about this maths/texitles/botany mashup and you can see the installation afterwards over wine and mince pies. 6pm on 10 December at 15 South College Street. Book your free ticket here.

The following weekend I'll be taking part in two markets:
  • The Arts Market is on 14 December at Out of the Blue in Dalmeny Street, Leith. Craft Reactor will also have a stall and there'll be loads more besides us!
  • The Summerhall Christmas Market is the last event in my calendar. I'm really happy to have a stall here - the line up looks great! It's on Sunday 15 December 11am-7pm at Summerhall, by the Meadows in Newington, Edinburgh.
Once that lot's over I'll be needing my Christmas hols, but don't forget that you can always see some of my work in The Stick Factory Gallery, 69b Mayfield Road Edinburgh.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Making holiday

Crimson drops waistcoat wrap
Originally uploaded by MadeleineS.

Not a holiday from making but a holiday from the day job for the purpose of making stuff. I have the rare luxury of 6 consecutive days in the studio.

The plan was to make a few fairly big pieces and a collection of smaller related scarves. The first of the big pieces is in the picture. It was a joy to be able to work on it over several days without 5 days of office work intervening somewhere. There's another waistcoat waiting for me to finish it when I get in today.

So far I'm really pleased with the way this week is going. Making is, however, the easy bit of getting a second income from my work. The hard part comes in December when I try to sell stuff. The current target is to break even - i.e. cover the costs of materials, having a studio and taking part in fairs and open days. If it looks likely this year then I might have a proper, part-time business next year!

Via Flickr:
pre-felt and roving in merino wool, Needs a fastening of some sort - am thinking of a matching shawl pin.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

past and future stuff going on!

Water bowl
Originally uploaded by MadeleineS.

A quick post to prove this blog is not dead! Actually not having time to post is probably a good sign in some ways. I've been really busy with all sorts of stuff - art, work and social. Some of those categories are beginning to overlap!

Botanica Mathematica has really dominated most of what I've been doing over the summer. The project has really changed since Julia and I started it in January. I originally envisaged it being a studio project with me working in the studio on sculptural ideas, kept mathmatically rigourous by Julia'a watchful eye. It quickly developed an outreach aspect which has largely taken over the project. Because of that I've spent a lot less time on my own work and a lot more time on events and admin. This is not a bad thing at all:the project is alive and growing. It's getiting noticed in all sorts of places. I've met some lovely people and renewed some friendships through it. If you haven't already, then have a look at it's web pages at and join in.

In between knitting trees for Botanica Mathematica I did find time to celebrate Felt United day in my own little way. The theme for 5 October was water and I made the vessel above with that in mind. Working with this colour scheme in an organic style is likely to continue but I'm really not sure when, because...

In August I was a student on a wonderful masterclass where we learned some very technical styles of feltmaking. I need time to revise what we did and plan some pieces of my own. I reckon this might stand a chance of happening around the turn of the year, if I'm lucky.

More definite and more imminent are
Coburg House Open Studios 7&8 December,
the Transreal Fiction Mathematical Knitting Christmas Tree 9-31 December
a talk about Botanica Mathematica at the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences on 10 December
and a stall at the Arts Market on 14 December.
I'll post more details of these in November - promise!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

August Open Studios at Coburg House

Coburg House Art Studios is open to the public for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Friday 2 - Sunday 4 August.  Come and find me in Studio 35 - I'll be there with all the other artists and makers, from 11am to 6pm each day.

My new work is mostly felt necklaces and brooches but there will be a selection of old favourites and a few felt scarf bargains as well. 

Botanica Mathematica, my major work in progress, will occupy a corner of the studio too.  It is very much a collaborative piece so please talk to me about it, take away a knitting pattern and let me know how you get on.