Large Hadron Collider Quilt

For Science!, Sewing Projects

My winter project is done!  Inspired by the textile art of Kate Findlay, and using the Compact Muon Solenoid as my muse, I’ve finally finished the Large Hadron Collider quilt.  It’s 130 cm (about 53 inches) squared.  It’s hard to tell from the photographs, but the silver fabric is sparkly and the silver thread is metallic and shiny.  Yes, I’m a magpie with opposable thumbs.

Large Hadron Collider quilt close up

Embroidered on the back is a wee Carl Sagan quote that I thought was fitting:

Large Hadron Collider quilt Carl Sagan quote

Making a quilt is simple: just create a design, pick out some nice fabrics, and voila!  Five months later, you’ve spent a heck of a lot of time making a fancy blanket.  Of course, said blanket is also a nerdy piece of art, so if making a Large Hadron Collider quilt wins in your hedonic calculus, here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Sanity check

Are you sure you want to do this?  Quilt-making, like cross stitch, requires a significant amount of time and patience.  It really did take me five months from inception to completion, although I only worked on it from time to time, and it’s only my third quilt (the Portal companion cube quilt was my second).  If you’d like to dip a toe without all the commitment of a full-size quilted blanket, try a pillow or a small wall hanging first.

Step 2: Make a design

You know the saying “measure twice, cut once?”  Do that.  No, really.  Few things are more frustrating than realizing you made a measurement mistake and having to re-do a whole lot of sewing.  I started with a few sheets of sketching newsprint and drew out exactly what I wanted the quilt to look like.  This is also a great excuse to get out your old geometry set.

LHC quilt in progress 1

LHC quilt in progress 2Now that you have your paper pattern, you can cut out the pieces, and add a seam margin (1/4″ used here) to make your final pattern.

Step 3: Pick your fabrics

I’d recommend against spending a lot on fabric if you’re new to quilting.  For the record, everything used here was $3-$5/m on sale at Fabricland.  Recycled fabric works well too.

LHC quilt in progress 3

Step 4: Try out a small piece of your pattern

If you have a repeating element, start by cutting just enough fabric to make one.  I tried out a few iterations before I found the colour combination I liked best.

LHC quilt in progress 4

Step 5: Go crazy and cut all the pieces

This can be done while doing other things, like watching reruns of Storage Wars.

LHC quilt in progress 5

Step 6: Sew everything together

Start with each section (each repeating unit), then sew the sections together.  I used patchwork and applique, machine and hand sewing.  The more you can do by machine, the less time it will take.

LHC quilt in progress 6

Step 7: Make the back

Once you have something that resembles the front of a blanket, cut a piece of same-sized fabric for the back.  Place your front and back right-sides together, and sew three of the four edges together.  Now sew most of the fourth edge together, leaving a hole at least as big as your arm.

Step 8: Add quilt batting

Cut a piece of quilt batting the same size as your quilt.  Optional: use some washable fabric glue to tack down the batting so it doesn’t migrate all over the place when you turn it inside out.

LHC quilt in progress 7

Step 9: Turn the whole thing inside out

Turn the whole thing inside out, using the hole you left in Step 7.  Even if you used fabric glue, your batting probably still bunched up and migrated all over the place.  Stick your arm in the hole and skootch the batting all the way to the edges, and smooth it down.

Step 10: Quilting time

Unless you are part of a quilting circle (in which case: cool!), I’d recommend doing all the quilting by machine to save time.  Start by pinning all the edges, making sure the quilt batting hasn’t migrated again.  Sew around the edges until you get to the hole you left.

LHC quilt in progress 8Now, close the hole by hand.  I used a running subcuticular stitch to make it invisible.  I’m sure there’s a non-medical name for this stitch that sounds less creepy, but if you google it you’ll get the idea.

LHC quilt in progress 9

Once all the edges are done, quilt the rest of the blanket until you’re happy with it.  I only quilted along the major lines (so far, anyway), but you could certainly make it more like a traditional quilt.

I should mention that metallic thread, although eye-catching and shiny, is a real nuisance to work with.  It made a nice accent but I wouldn’t use it for anything structural since it has a tendency to snap.

Science FTW… if you make one too I’d be happy to post a pic or link on the blog :D


F Yeah Cross Stitch

Gamer Crafts, Sewing Projects

I’ve finally taken the plunge and finished a cross stitch project.  Also, I’m not dead (yay), I’ve just been busy.  I sidestepped the more traditional motifs to stitch up one of my favourite Carl Sagan quotes, along with a slightly wonky – let’s call it artistic – freehand interpretation of the Milky Way using random space-y colours I found at Fabricland.  I love how it turned out!

I’ve decided this craft isn’t for the faint of heart… learning cross stitch gave me even more appreciation for artists like the ones at mr x stitch.

Carl Sagan cross stitch

A close-up of the Milky Way, if you like the design…

Carl Sagan cross stitch square

I’m using it to fancy up my kitchen.

Carl Sagan cross stitch framedI’m well on my way to geeking out my kitchen: check out these fantastic N7 tea towels Jess made me for Christmas…

N7 tea towelsMore coming as soon as I have time to finish up some projects.  The Large Hadron Collider quilt, on the other hand, is going to be a while yet :)

White Blood Cell (Leukocyte) Amigurumi

Amigurumi Projects, For Science!

More science-inspired amigurumi!  This little white blood cell plushie can be crocheted up very quickly and is darned cute IMHO.  It’s about 10cm tall, about the same size as the red blood cell pattern I posted earlier.

You’ll need:

  • white or off-white yarn (worsted weight shown here)
  • size F/3.75 mm crochet hook
  • safety eyes (15 mm here)

Stitches used are single crochet (sc), increase (inc), and invisible decrease (invdec).

Body (sphere):

  • 1) 6 sc in magic ring (6)
  • 2) inc x 6 (12)
  • 3) *sc, inc* x 6 (18)
  • 4) *sc x 2, inc* x 6 (24)
  • 5) *sc x 3, inc* x 6 (30)
  • 6) *sc x 4, inc* x 6 (36)
  • 7) *sc x 5, inc* x 6 (42)
  • 8-15) sc around for 8 rounds (42)
  • 16) *sc x 5, invdec* x 6 (36)
  • 17) *sc x 4, invdec* x 6 (30)
  • 18) *sc x 3, invdec* x 6 (24)… add safety eyes
  • 19) *sc x 2, invdec* x 6 (12)
  • 20) invdec around until hole can be covered by flap, FO and weave in tail

Bumps (okay, they’re not really bumps, but they look that way):

  • 1) 4 sc in magic ring (4)
  • 2) inc x 4 (8), sl st, FO and leave tail to sew to body

Make as many bumps as you like and sew them on (actual WBCs have many more, and they’re smaller, but this is a chibi version).


San Francisco is Geek Paradise

For Science!, Random Musings

I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco, and finally got the chance a few weeks ago.  Between the aquarium, Exploratorium, Academy of Sciences, and other science-themed museums and attractions, I feel as though I could have spent a month there and still not run out of things to do.  One of the highlights of my trip, though, was a visit to a place called Noisebridge.

That’s a hacked payphone at the entrance – you have to enter a code to be let in – it reminded me of old Get Smart episodes :)  They’re a non-profit educational collective – aka hackerspace – offering sessions on everything from vegan cooking to zinemaking to Raspberry Pi, or just space to work on projects where no one will look suspiciously at your giant robot.

Once a week they host Circuit Hacking Mondays, where noobs like myself can learn new skills and try their hand at, well, circuit hacking.  It’s free to go, and they have kits and parts you can buy (at cost) if you’d like.  I wanted to learn how to solder safely, so I put together a little RGB LED light kit that slowly changes colours.  If I build a little lampshade to go around it I’ll have a trippy mood light:

So if you live in the San Francisco area, or are there for a visit, be sure to check out Noisebridge!  In the meanwhile, I’m still working my way through the Make:Electronics book, trying to come up with an interesting art/electronics project to sink my teeth into.  Now if only I could get my hands on some conductive thread…