Posted by on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

I’ve been playing with triangles. I’ve been playing with lots and lots of triangles.  (And I’ve also been fighting WordPress to post images for a week or two, but that’s another thing entirely.)

Flying geese

The triangles are making me think of Sierpinski gaskets. Which, admittedly, is not hard to do, because I went to Tech in the 1990s when all students were legally required to have posters of fractals, and Jonathan Coulton holds an inordinate amount of space in my brain. Fractals came up in conversation a few times at the KR Retreat this year.  Well, I forced people to talk about fractals a few times at the retreat.  Benoit Mandelbrot died this autumn at 85, and that led me to revisit things I’d read about him and his work.  We talked about the possibility of knitting fractals, and those patterns that attempt it.  Really, we can knit or sew tributes to fractals, and sometimes we do, but our lives are too short to complete true fractal constructions.

I was one of those girls who was good at math until I was suddenly bad at math.  The more I study educational policy and methods, the more I understand where it all went wrong between me and math.  I had a couple of horrendous teachers, and then I had a phobia.  I got by and it didn’t torpedo my GPA, but I restricted my AP classes to history and literature and government and the like.  I was very much an English major at Tech, surrounded by people with math and science intelligences I envied so much.  My big brother is excellent at math and has always been. Several of my friends understand and revel in higher maths in ways that astound me.  I surround myself with mathematicians and scientists because they fascinate me so. I’m not one of those artsy types who is proud of my math failings–I want to get better, and I hope I am. One of the reasons I love knitting and sewing and quilting so much is that they force me to engage in applied geometry and they require lots of basic computations.

Back to the practical . . .  I love the three-dimensionality of these one-seam flying geese.  But I’m tearing my hair out trying to decide how to quilt them.  Do I dare sew down all of those little wings?  Or do I dare not? Surely the finished quilt will last longer if I keep those little batik geese from catching on things and being pulled this way and that.

And then there’s the problem of the lost points.  I know there are people, better piecers than I, who can work so exactly that they don’t lose points in the seams as they assemble a top.  I ripped and re-assembled this small top three times trying to prevent biasing and lost points, and then I resigned myself to its flaws.  Despite or because of them, it’s beautiful.

When I’m not piecing triangles, I’m knitting them.  Or counting socks.  More on both later.  In the mean time, check out Vi Hart.  I wish she’d been my math teacher.

Filed in blather,sewing | 5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Angular”

  1. kon 15 Dec 2010 at 7:06 pm 1

    Strange. I’ve been working on triangles in the class that ate my brain.

  2. gayleon 16 Dec 2010 at 3:12 pm 2

    Wow. Love that video.
    I had a well-meaning grade school teacher who almost wrecked my math brain. (Multiplication tables. Speed tests. Take ’em till you pass. (All answers correct within the allotted time.) As time passed with failure after (mounting) failure, the teacher started sending tests home for my mother to administer, too. Almost 50 years later, I still experience brain freeze when I have to do multiplication.)
    Luckily, geometry came along in high school to save my mathematical soul.

  3. DebbieBon 16 Dec 2010 at 4:58 pm 3

    That quilt is spectacular. So is your photography.

    And I’m a little weirded out by the fact that I’d never even HEARD of Mandelbrot before this week, and I saw a NOVA program all about him and fractals a few nights ago.

    (Fractals I’d heard of. Love ’em.)

  4. Chrison 20 Dec 2010 at 3:30 pm 4

    Love the colors. Unlike Gayle above, Geometry was the beginning of my mathematical end. When I went back to school to study to be a teacher (never got to be a full-time teacher but that is another story), I found out that geometry seems to be the beginning of the end for a lot of women who are pretty bright. I personally think we need to rethink the way we teach math to women (and some men). Of course it is all relative. I have friends who have a hard time with percentages and figuring out tips.

  5. kon 22 Dec 2010 at 8:24 pm 5

    I loved geometry. Don’t talk to me about calculus. They want me to take remedial math at college. I may never graduate.

    I’ve noticed that the top picture of the quilt looks almost like flowing lava, when the page loads up under my solitaire game and I catch just a thin slice of it.

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