A Massive, Knitted Tapestry of the Galaxy: Software Engineer Hacks a Knitting Machine & Creates a Star Map Featuring 88 Constellations

The next time some non-crafty type dis­par­ages your hob­by as a frumpy pur­suit, show them soft­ware engi­neer Sarah Spencer’s “Stargaz­ing.”

The 9’x 15’ knit­ted tapes­try is an accu­rate equa­to­r­i­al star map fea­tur­ing all 88 con­stel­la­tions as viewed by the naked eye, includ­ing the Milky Way and the South­ern Cross, the best known star group in Spencer’s native Aus­tralia.

The project ate up 33 pounds of Aus­tralian wool in three shades, includ­ing the same ultra­ma­rine blue sport­ed by a num­ber of accom­plished Aus­tralian women whose por­traits are on dis­play as part of the 2018 Archibald Prize.

While “Stargaz­ing” is machine knit, its cre­ation took longer than most hand-knit­ted projects.

What start­ed as a lark, hack­ing and pro­gram­ming a 40-year-old, sec­ond­hand Emp­isal knit­ting machine, grew into some­thing much larg­er when Spencer devel­oped a com­put­er algo­rithm that allowed one tri-col­ored knit stitch per pix­el.

Years lat­er, she was ready to start knit­ting her star map, a reflec­tion of her inter­est in STEM—science, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, and math­e­mat­ics.

“Stargaz­ing” is actu­al­ly com­prised of sev­en pan­els, each the result of dusk-to-dawn labor on the part of the hacked machine. Stitch­ing them togeth­er required many more human hours.

The piece was unveiled at the UK’s tech-and-arts fes­ti­val, Elec­tro­mag­net­ic Field, on August 31. Spencer had cal­i­brat­ed the place­ment of the tapestry’s plan­ets to cor­re­spond with their celes­tial coun­ter­parts’ loca­tions that night.

For now, the tapes­try is one-of-a-kind, but giv­en its indus­tri­al ori­gins, it’s not hard to fore­see a future in which cou­ples can cud­dle under astro­nom­i­cal­ly cor­rect afghans, while gaz­ing up at the stars.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Astron­o­my Cours­es

The Ancient Astron­o­my of Stone­henge Decod­ed

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy, “the Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever Under­tak­en,” Is Free Online

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 24 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.