Author Archives: Madeleine

The last stitches

Braid 10_136 by MadeleineS
Braid 10_136, a photo by MadeleineS on Flickr.

The last shirt with the last bits of fabric dying and the last stitches was this one. The fabric has been split and the strands braided then the pieces were attached again to fix the structure.

This was finished not a moment too soon. The work will be hung in the exhibition space tomorrow and will the show will open to the public on Friday 20 January. The venue is a suite of shops in The Saint James Centre, Edinburgh which will house the outcomes of all four projects funded by the ASCUS group. Visit their site for details of the other three projects and, if you’re in Edinburgh city centre, come and see them all over the next five weeks.


Spherical geometry patchwork

This photo shows the patchwork on the spherical curvature shirt. You can see that there’s a lot more machine stitching in this piece. Unfortunately time constraints meant that I had to resort to more brutal methods of joining pieces. The stiffness this imparts is actually quite useful. Piece doesn’t fall quite as flat as it might if it were completely and stitched.

With this one complete we now have our three planes in different types of space – hyperbolic with red heptagons, Euclidan with orange hexagons and spherical with yellow pentagons.

Blackboard shirt

Blackboard shirt 2 by MadeleineS
Blackboard shirt 2, a photo by MadeleineS on Flickr.

Happy new year, shirt-followers! The gap in posting has been partly due to me being on sick leave for a month and then having to catch up on other work. However the shirts are now progressing again and not a moment too soon! The exhibition of ASCUS funded projects is now scheduled for mid January. More details will be posted here when they are confirmed.

As well as exploring mathematics itself, we decided to represent the collaborative process of mathematics. We are preparing two shirts based on the iconic tools of the mathematicians trade, the blackboard and the whiteboard. Mathematicians don’t just use boards for teaching. Ideas are written up to consider privately and with colleagues. The contents of these boards are essentialy ephemeral. Things get ammended, refined and perfected then rubbed out. We have tried to preserve snapshots of this culture.

Images of blackboards were printed on silk and bonded to a black shirt. Relevant text and equations were then hand-embroidered by Julia and I finished the boards with machine stitched grey frames.

For the whiteboard shirt, Julia took a white shirt and a set of fabric dye pens into the School of Mathematics at University of Edinburgh and asked her fellow mathematicians to write examples of current research and open problems directly onto the shirt. After fixing the dyes, I plan to pick out some of the writing in stitch. We’ll have photos of that one shortly.

Shirt shredding

shirt shredding by MadeleineS
shirt shredding, a photo by MadeleineS on Flickr.

This shirt is one of three donated by Helen Frossling of the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences. The photo shows it being cut in to a strip for knitting into a rope. The rope will still contain all the features that make a recognisable shirt somewhere within it. Once the rope is constructed it will be tied and joined to form a knot nominated by Julia (knots are her speciality :-)). Each of Helene’s shirts will be made into a different knot of some mathematical significance.

I like this set of pieces because I hope they’ll convey the intense involvement that mathematicians have with their research. The shirt is deconstructed in a counter-intuitive way, then reworked twice. Each time the fabric is distorted and entangled while working towards an elegant and unique structure.

Three and a half hours work

On Saturday I spent ages cutting papers for traditional patchwork. The will have fabric wrapped around them and basted into place in the traditional manner. Once that’s done, however I plan to assemble the patchwork on the machine. The various polygons will be outlined in stitch – a contrast to the purely hexagonal piece which has been hand stitched, almost invisibly, by Julia!

Making shirts from maths

Making shirts from maths by MadeleineS
Making shirts from maths, a photo by MadeleineS on Flickr.

In my “day job” I deal with mathematical publications and so there are proofs and running sheets galore that are destined for recycling. Being nice quality paper they make ideal paper for hand-stitched patchwork. This weekend I started cutting them up to make the second of out curvature shirts. In this picture you can see my cutting mat, the running sheets, the patchwork grid ruler, a plastic pentagon template, some cut papers and a neat little finger scalpel that’s kind to my arthritic knuckles.

The pentagons will be made up in yellow fabric and will form a part of a patchwork extension to a shirt, much like the one in the previous post. The yellow pentagons will replace the orange hexagons and the shape will change as a result. The final stage is to make a similar piece with red heptagons (7 sides, like a 50p piece) and you’ll see how this changes the shape again.

Last week we made great progress with the Klein bottle shirt. Julia came up with a smart way of connecting the parts of the shirt to get the right shape. With a combination of hand and machine sewing we got it almost finished. parts of the shirt have had wire inserted to hold it in shape. This one won’t be fully completed until we see just how it’s going to be displayed – just in case we need to unpick it and change some thing. No pictures just yet as we don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Next week we’ll make a start on the integrable systems shirt – in the meantime our spare hours hold lots and lots of hand cut and stitched patchwork!

Stitch Lounge gets us going!

Stitch Lounge by chrisdonia
Stitch Lounge, a photo by chrisdonia on Flickr.

We finally cut some fabric this weekend!

Our three shirts demonstrating different types of curvature will involve a lot of hand sewn patchwork. So we took the opportunity to get stuck in at the excellent Stitch Lounge on Saturday afternoon. It’s an open access sewing workshop at Inspace, in University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, that takes place over a weekend. Julia and I met once she’d finished the morning’s Maths Masterclass and come back to town from Heriot-Watt campus.

Stitch Lounge fabric is sponsored by The Cloth Shop, Bonnington Road Edinburgh and they’d provided this lovely shirt-weight cotton in lots of colours – ideal for patchwork. We cut our [very accurate!] paper templates from newspaper and basted the fabric patches around them. All the pieces are then slip stitched together and the papers removed. The paper gives stability to the patches while you’re working. Woven fabric stretches by different amounts in different directions and a hexagonal patch could easily distort as you handle it. Using this method ensures that the only change to the curvature you see in the finished work is due to the different shapes we have inserted in the grid.

[Many thanks to Chris Scott for letting us use his photos on this blog.]

Great Quote/Brainstorm tomorrow

The mathematician may be compared to a designer of garments, who is utterly oblivious of the creatures whom his garments may fit. To be sure, his art originated in the necessity for clothing such creatures, but this was long ago; to this day a shape will occasionally appear which will fit into the garment as if the garment had been made for it. Then there is no end of surprise and delight. – David van Dantzig (1900 – 1959)

Julia and I are anticipating no end of surprise and delight as we get this project off the ground at tomorrow’s brainstorming meeting with local mathematicians. We intend to clothe the conceptual creatures of abstract mathematics by early November. I’ve got a bunch of shirts and and a bundle of ideas – let’s go!

[to find out more about Dantzig see ]