Starry starry knit
July 14, 2019 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Wouldn't it be cool if there was a shawl that was also a star chart? Seven years ago, Audry Nicklin built that idea into a pattern that became a virally appealing star map shawl (with some modifications), depicting the constellations as viewed from the North Pole. Nicklin later added a Southern Skies version as viewed from Antarctica. But the newest knitter pulling the stars into her tapestry has perhaps an even more ambitious vision: software engineer Sarah Spencer recently produced a 300 sqft tapestry of star charts centered around our Earth. (Previously.)
posted by sciatrix (14 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
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posted by sciatrix at 9:49 AM on July 14, 2019

I saw the giant knit star chart at EMF, and it really was as amazing as it looks. And comfy. You really just wanted to lie down on it and trace all the stars around you.

I keep on meaning to knit Celestarium, but I've not knit anything with beads, and I already have way too many shawls, so I'm holding back.

I've also seen a shawl that includes an arsenic atom in the centre, and that's been kinda tempting as well.
posted by Katemonkey at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

These are fucking amazing.
posted by minsies at 10:19 AM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just want to say this post deserves Best Title Of 2019.
posted by hippybear at 11:05 AM on July 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Wow, that shawl is incredibly gorgeous. I have a star chart scarf (pretty sure it's this one) myself and now I want the shawl too!
posted by capricorn at 11:18 AM on July 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I thought this was going to be about the star chart tapestry, and then saw "shawl" and was like, "Oh, something I didn't know about!" and then after opening up the links, "Oh, it's Celestarium, that's been in my queue forever," and then back to, "Oh, it is about the star chart tapestry!" and anyway I clearly spend too much time in the knitting community.

Thanks for calling attention to both of these great works!
posted by brook horse at 2:28 PM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was honestly pretty surprised we've apparently never had an fpp on the Celestarium before! I guess that goes to show that it's really worth sharing things even if you think everyone already knows about them. And I missed the tapestry completely, so it totally delighted me when I was finding links that focused on the shawl.

Clearly the solution is more KnittingFilter. :D
posted by sciatrix at 3:55 PM on July 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

I love the combination of fiber arts and science.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:59 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Celestarium is one of my favorite shawls! I've wanted to make it for a very long time, but that much lace stockinette with essentially randomized yarn-overs sounds like kind of a nightmare. I have a white silk that would be pretty perfect for it, though, although white does seem a bit bridal.
posted by sockermom at 5:35 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have plans to make Celestarium as a blanket with DK weight yarn and appropriately sized beads. I'm going to start at the center with the darkest blue I can find, and try to fade outward to pale blue at the edges.
posted by dialMforMara at 2:55 PM on July 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh, Celestarium has gone onto my to-make list, it's wonderful!

(Terrible pedantry question: can a tapestry be knitted, or must it be woven? I'm thinking here of the Bayeaux Tapestry which is not really a tapestry as it's embroidered...)
posted by kalimac at 3:05 PM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

That's an interesting question. I'm not sure--I keep looking up definitions of tapestry, but most of them don't seem to be too specific about the specific mechanism of the construction of the cloth. At least one dictionary site specifically includes embroidery as a potential form of tapestry, and while I can find a whole bunch of people talking about tapestry weaving, I don't see a lot of people making a distinction between hanging textiles depicting patterns or pictures that are woven versus those which are constructed in other ways. Quilts or sewn pieces, yes; but single pieces of hanging textile art, not so much. Maybe the Bayeaux Tapestry is disqualified because the embroidery means its color work isn't part of the makeup of the fabric itself, but that won't be the case for a knitted piece.

Where did you find out the Bayeaux Tapestry wasn't a tapestry? I'm curious about the distinction now but I'm having a hard time digging up people talking about what it is specifically or why people might draw it.
posted by sciatrix at 3:18 PM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, good point -- I don't have a single named source, but it tends to be an aside in various things I've read, so perhaps I should take that with a bigger grain of salt. (I would almost be willing to bet that this is mentioned in Peter Ackroyd's history of England, but I don't have my own copy to check.)

My background is conservation, and it's sort of...assumed that tapestries would be woven? Kind of a 'begs the question' style of 'as we talk about this part of your textile collection, know that it is definitely woven'. I found this page from the V&A which displays this nicely; it assumes that of course weaving is part of the construction of a tapestry. (This may be one of those things where there's a difference between tapestry the technique and a tapestry; the technique is always woven, but the thing that is called a tapestry is a piece of fabric hung on a wall?)

I have a bunch of textile history and conservation books still -- will take a noodle through them and report back if I find anything useful!
posted by kalimac at 6:51 PM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's also quite possible that the distinction doesn't arise because in the heyday of tapestries, no one in their right mind would have knit something so large. Especially before the advent of circular needles in the early twentieth century, something like that would have required absurdly long, unwieldy needles. Weaving inarguably scales to size better, and if I remember right it's also a much older technique of textile manufacturing - - knitting as a technique only filtered into Europe during the fourteenth century, and techniques like intarsia would be much newer. You'd also have to knit in panels and sew them together, and it's hard to see why you'd want to bother. Plus, if I understand it right, weaving allows for much more color flexibility in the finished product than knitting does, even techniques like Fair Isle that doesn't require exactly two colors per round.

Better to use the tried and true techniques for wall hangings and save the knitting for uses that are obviously suited to it, like socks and stockings. By the time knitting was well enough established that someone might want to use it for something like that, were tapestries still all that common?
posted by sciatrix at 8:24 PM on July 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

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