Monday, May 6, 2013

More classes at Artisan's Asylum!

Thanks to all the wonderful people who joined me for my Intro to Crochet and Sculptural Crochet workshops at Artisan's Asylum in March! They were lots of fun to teach, and I wanted to share a couple of examples of what students have made after the class and shared with me through the magic of the interwebs: this lovely exploration of hyperbolic geometry by Meghan:
And also a beautiful doll made by Sarah:
This project was freeformed according to Sarah's own design!

I'm running these classes again soon: the Intro class on Saturday, May 25, and the Sculptural one on Saturday, June 1.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Crocheted carboxysomes (and other geometric structures)


While preparing for a sculptural crochet workshop at Artisan's Asylum last month, I wanted to further expand an existing toolkit for making elemental forms. One thing that's missing is a scheme for making polygons.
It's simple, though: all that's needed to transform a circle is to repeat a high rate of increases directly over previous increases in the earlier rows. For example, to make points of a triangle, you can crochet 5 times in one stitch. When you come around to this area again, just crochet 5 times in the middle of that increase (the 3rd stitch).
Playing around with this got me excited about modeling biological compartments like the carboxysome, a carbon fixing structure in photosynthetic bacteria. Besides being ecologically important, they're amazing protein compartments in that are though to assemble with a very specific geometry: an icosahedron. Each face of shell protein forms an equilateral triangle, and a different protein forms the vertexes. Inside is packed RuBisCO, which fixes carbon. 
Prof. Todd O. Yeates, UCLA Dept. of Chem. and Biochem., Wikimedia Commons
Making the carboxysome simply involved accumulating 20 triangles, like the one above, and then sewing them together with a yarn needle by the front loop - this leaves a tiny groove of separation between the faces on the right side. Even with this effect, however, the crocheted version is very floppy, which is charming in its own way. I'd be interested to find a springy method for maintaining shape that doesn't rob the object of its softness like traditional stiffening...any tips?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Workshops at Artisan's Asylum

Chris Devers - http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdevers/
I'm thrilled to announce I'll be teaching two classes at Artisan's Asylum next month! Artisan's is an incredible 40,000 square foot makerspace in Somerville, MA. As you can see from their website, crochet is just about the lowest-tech sculptural method that will be represented there!

Both classes will run on Saturday afternoons for 4 hours. The first class, on March 16, is an introduction to crochet - I'll teach you the basics of reading patterns, how to do simple stitches, and tips on yarn tension and form. Along the way, you'll make a jellyfish. The schedule will be as follows:

Introduction (30 minutes)
A brief presentation on the basic principles of crochet and what the medium can be used to make.
Hook and yarn position and tension, chaining (30 miinutes)
Students will learn how to make chains, the basis of all rows of crochet. These elemental strands will also form the tentacles for the jellyfish. Each student will get individualized help in mastering hook and yarn position and tension.
Single crochet and working in rows (20 minutes)
We’ll learn how to double back on our chains to single crochet. Foreshadowing sculptural techniques, we’ll use single crochet to build curly structures that will former the oral arms of the jellyfish.
Stitch height: double crochet and slip (20 minutes)
By repeating or omitting sub-sections of the single crochet stitch, we will generate stitches of different height to give our oral arms more shape.
Working in rounds (30 minutes)
Students will learn how to work in circles to start forming the bell of the jellyfish.
Increasing and decreasing (30 minutes)
We will see how increasing and decreasing can shape a 3D object as we finish the body of the jellyfish.
Finishing the jellyfish (20 minutes)
How to use yarn needles to attach pieces together and work in the ends to create a finished product!
Sign up for the introductory class here!

The second, on March 23, is more advanced - I will teach you how to break down almost any 3D object into elemental shapes that can be replicated with crochet, and then how to put them together to create a sculpture of your own design. The schedule will be as follows:

Introduction (30 minutes)A brief presentation on the sculptural potential of crochet, relevant stitches, and breakdown of elemental forms (physical examples will be on hand for reference throughout).
Planning/design (30 minutes)As a class, we will break down example objects (taken from the desired building goals of students) into simpler shapes, and decide on a method and order of construction.
Workshop (2.5 hours)Students will design an approach to fabricating an object of their choosing. The instructor will spend time individually with each student, demonstrating necessary techniques and providing feedback on form, design, and fabrication methods.
Demos (30 minutes)Students will informally present their prototypes, discuss design considerations and technical challenges, and provide feedback and plan modifications to their designs. The instructor will provide tips on writing up patterns for publication.

You can sign up for the sculptural class here!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ghillie scales cowl

Second in a series of posts about FabLab Tacoma!

Given the experience laser cutting Turing patterns into fabric, I wanted to see if I could create something even more complex by layering cut fabric. My fiance's brother joked that I was essentially talking about making a Ghillie suit, which I had never heard of. But he was right!

 Much like the Turing pattern, this design began with an Inkscape file. After laser cutting (which cauterized and sealed the edges of this polyester fabric), I simple sewed the strips together into a tube that opens at the shoulders and tapers to a point in the front and back, and then lined it with an old t-shirt.

More FabLab posts forthcoming!

Laser cut Turing patterns

This is one of several projects completed during a few wonderful days at FabLab Tacoma, an incredible maker space in the Seattle area. More posts forthcoming!

One of Alan Turing's most impressive contributions was a 1951 paper called "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis," in which he described a theory for how complex biological patterns, like those found on skin, fur, and shells, could arise from simple chemicals diffusing through a tissue. This theory can be expressed mathematically, and these reaction-diffusion simulations can make images of incredible beauty. I've wanted to play around with applying these Turing patterns to various media for a while, but they really look best with precise, mechanical treatment.

Enter the Epilog laser cutter at FabLab Tacoma, which permitted cutting and engraving Turing patterns into various synthetic fabrics.

To generate the original pattern, I used this handy simulation from the supplementary material of Kondo and Miura (2010). If you run it yourself, you'll see that you can tune each of the parameters in the equations by clicking on them. It's really worth playing with!

The simulation will output a bitmap which can be mirrored, tiled, and thresholded with GIMP, then imported to Inkscape, where the Trace Bitmap command will vectorize it.

Each fabric (synthetics work best as they can be melted and cauterized) does require a bit of playing around to get the laser power within the range between "etch" and "immolate." And, by utilizing two different modes of image interpretation, the Epilog can either draw vectors, cutting cleanly through fabric (such as the brown rayon in the first image) or raster across filled patterns, marking the leggings below.
Up next: making complex fabrics out of layers of cut polyester.