Botanica Mathematica

a textile taxonomy of mathematical plant forms


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Public lecture – with free mince pies!

BotanicaMathematicaTreesAs we reach the end of 2013, it’s time to pause and take stock of all the wonderful things Botanica Mathematica has produced over the year. Join us at ICMS for a public lecture about the project, including the mathematical ideas behind the patterns, the classification of all the specimens we’ve been sent, and all the crazy directions that people have taken the project in!

The talk is 6-7pm on Tuesday 10 December, at 15 South College Street. Tickets are free but limited, so book yours today at Eventbrite: https://botanica-mathematica.eventbrite.co.uk/. The event will be followed by drinks and mince pies, and a chance to see the full Botanica Mathematica collection.

This lecture is actually the third in a trilogy of talks celebrating Maths for Planet Earth. As this year draws to a close, we will be starting to think about 2014 and what new projects might be in store. 2014 will be the International Year of Crystallography and also the 400th anniversary of the invention of logarithms in Edinburgh by John Napier. Tell us what ideas you have for a new maths/textiles science communication project!


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Natural Knits!

Natural Knits! by MadeleineS
Natural Knits!, a photo by MadeleineS on Flickr.

Back in February we met the organisers of the Midlothian Science Festival at a networking event. They were looking for some science and knitting input for their programme so we stuck our hands up and said “pick me please!” – and they did!

The festival takes place in October in the towns and villages of Midlothian. Roslin village is one of them. They have an active knitting group called Knit, Knot and Sew who exhibit in the local library from time to time. The idea was for them to try out some of our patterns over the summer and then come to a public workshop during the festival.

Roslin Library hosted the workshop on 12 October and very friendly hosts they were too. The Knit, Knot and Sew group had dropped off a lovely basket of hyperbolic knitting chanterelles and some came along to try out the binary bonsai pattern on the day. Once the trees started to take shape there was a lot of enthusiasm for making more as presents for friends and family.

We left a little display of trees and fungus, pattern leaflets and yarn with the library for the rest of the festival and to inspire the local knitters. I’m really looking forward to collecting the results.

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Doors Open Display.

Doors Open Days is a project that encourages buildings not normally open to welcome the public in for a nosey around. The focus is architecture but most have some more exhibits and activities. On 28 September my Day Job at the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences involved taking part, so they asked me to bring along Botanica Mathematica.

We set up the entire collection in the glass walled room that houses the library. Around 200 people came along and from the way I was croaking by 4pm, it felt like I spoke to most of them! I know i didn’t because I lurked in corners to take photos.

One of the 200 visitors was a schoolteacher I met in Orkney. She’d taken a few of the kits I had there to try and get some of her pupils interested and dropped in with the results. Out of her bag came lots of lovely hyperbolic crochet algae and flowers.

Katy's Hyperbolic Flowers

Katy’s Hyperbolic Flowers

A special thanks go to Katy from Kirkwall Grammar School who I understand learned to crochet in order to take part with her red and lilac flowers!

Hyperbolic Crochet Laminaria by Jean from Kirkwall

Hyperbolic Crochet Laminaria by Jean from Kirkwall

The algae included a lovely specimen of Laminaria sp. complete with holdfast attached to a felted pebble covered in fleece from a local pet lamb.

It really makes the project feel worthwhile when I see how people can take the ideas we’ve set out and make them their own. I hope we get some equally good feedback from the people who visitied ICMS on Doors Open Day.


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Island Hopping!

It’s been quiet on this blog for the last couple of months but that’s because we’ve been doing so many things! A trip to the Orkney Isles was the first of these activities.

The Orkney International Science Festival team made Julia and I very welcome in the first week of September. Julia gave several talks about different aspects of mathematics while I got to show the ever-growing collection of trees and fungus to 250 visitors on the Family Day. I arrived the day before and collected some locally made trees from the library in Kirkwall – the delicate little peach tree in the pot on the table and the magnificent green specimen with the hanging red fruits. Many thanks to the Orkney Library Service for co-ordinating this and the Orkney knitters for their excellent work.

All the binary and trinary trees were on display along with all the the hyperbolic flower and fungus creeper, which is becoming quite encrusted! Click here to see more of the event and some tourist photos from around Kirkwall.

More trees and fungi arrived later in the day and lots of yarn and pattern kits were handed out. If you picked up a kit, we’d love to see what you’ve made. Contact me using the details on the leaflet.

Some lovely flowers, fungi and kelp have arrived from Orkney since I got back to Edinburgh, but they’re destined to be part of the next post…


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Fibonacci Fungus attacks Binary Bonsai!

A wonderful surprise arrived at the studio this weekend. Azly from Amsterdam sent this beautiful old tree. It’s based on the binary bonsai pattern but has suffered the ravages of time. The broken branch show some growth rings. There are several species of fungus growing on it: yellow hyperbolic, blue chanterelles, purple Fibonacci and grey/green rule 30 fragments I think. A wonderful encapsulation of all the project patterns so far.


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donated trees and sheep from Pleasantville!

When I got to the studio today these guys were waiting in the mail for me.  They were made by Coollinda who joined our group on the knitting and crochet network, Ravelry. There are may more trees that have made their way to us from Ravelry folk so I say a great big thank you to all the knitters who’ve sent work for the collection!


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knitted chanterelles

knitted chanterelles by MadeleineS
knitted chanterelles, a photo by MadeleineS on Flickr.

Whoops! this picture was originally posted without any text – sorry.  I was testing a new uploading app for Flikr and hadn’t realised it had appeared on the blog too.

Anyway these cute little knits are a couple of hyperbolic chanterelle mushrooms that I knitted up using different increase methods.  The knit front and back method is definitely more realistic but the holes from the yarn over technique create interesting patterns of their own.

So how do you make one?  These are knitted in slightly heavy double-knitting weight yarn on 4.5mm circular needles but you can make them bigger or smaller by choosing different yarn and needles.  Cast on 6 stitches and work a short i-cord stalk (6 rows or so). Now increase every fourth stitch till you get 8 stitches.  After that it’s a bit too big to work as i-cord so work flat stocking stitch instead but slow down the increase rate.  On the plain rows increase every fourth stitch.  On the purl rows don’t increase at all.  After about 20 rows cast off and you should have something that looks like one of the mushrooms in the photo.

Have a go! Have fun with it and let us know how you get on.