Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Knitting, Weaving, Love and Lace

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and I must fulfill my pledge to blog about women in science and technology. The brief for this plegde is very general and as a result I've drafted and discarded this post several times. I'm still not sure what I'm writing about but here I go again.

I keeping with the theme of this blog I thought I'd point up some connections between technology and fibre arts and the work of one of the many women I've encountered on my journey.

Having had a scientific education, I never really separated my art and craft from science and technology. A lot of knitting and weaving machinery is controlled by punched cards - so were computers for a long time. Knitting patterns are not unlike computer programmes in their coded language and logical structures. Dyeing and printing fabric requires a knowledge of chemistry. Spinning involves an awareness of physical principles. Many patchworkers have an instinctive grasp of geometry. I could go on - some of you may have heard me in the pub or the coffee bar...

Mary Harris got me started down this road in a much more formal way. I never met her but her book Common Threads explores the links between mathematics and needlework of all sorts and the gender issues therein. It was the starting point for my own research into the situated knowledge of mathematics in communities of patchwork makers (another blog post, another day for more on that). In 2006 Harris's archive was donated to the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre at Goldsmiths College London. I urge you to look at this work and consider all the fibre-based technologies that are overlooked because they are the the work of women.

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