Thursday, November 30, 2006

Knitting and purling

I am making the hat to go with the scarf I just finished. It's Lamb's Pride worsted and Twilley Freedom Spirit held together, and I'm doing what's called "Caterpillar stitch -- horizontal" to add a bit of texture. Not sure caterpillars are exactly what we need here, but they seem to give it a bit of a retro look in my mind.

I'm going to knit make it long enough to fold up the brim, and who knows how I'll shape the top.

Quite the sight with the red coat, non?

Look carefully now, and you will see that this wonder of knitting is all only knits and purls. Like all knitting, in fact, even if it's rather more complicated than horizontal caterpillars. Cables are just rearranged knits and purls, lace has a few yarnovers and decreases, but it's all just the two stitches. You all know this, but this is leading to a story, so bear with me!

Paul Dirac was a 20th-century theoretical physicist, who wrote a nice equation which he gets on a plaque in Westminster Abbey, won a Nobel prize and was generally regarded as a pretty clever fellow. Stephen showed me this story about him:

Dirac discovers purling
Another time, Dirac was watching Anya Kapitza knitting while he was talking physics with Peter Kapitza. A couple of hours after he left, Dirac rushed back, very excited. "You know, Anya," he said, "watching the way you were making this sweater I got interested in the topological aspect of the problem. I found that there is another way of doing it and that there are only two possible ways. One is the one you were using; another is like that. . . . " And he demonstrated the other way, using his long fingers. His newly discovered "other way," Anya informed him, is well known to women and is none other than "purling."

If only Anya had said, "knitters" instead of "women".....

It's from here, where you can read all sorts of other anecdotes about him, if you like! Because it's amazing what you might learn....

And since it's raining, my *!^@% internet connection is not connecting. C'mon, guys, this is crazy.... Ah, this might work now!

1 comment:

  1. Love the caterpillars, and the anecdote. Though we want to know: did Dirac consider the possibilities of ktbl (aka twisted stitches)?? Or would that have been too great a topological variation for him?


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