Saturday, May 6, 2017

Yarn under the microscope

Wool - 10X
I am a microbiologist and a knitter. As a microbiologist, I have access to some fancy lab equipment. As a knitter, I have A LOT of yarn (seriously, my one of my kitchen cabinets is chock full with yarn as I have more yarn than kitchen items).

Last week, I decided to look at yarn under the microscope. Enjoy these photos of yarn up close!

Stereoscope (aka dissecting microscope) images: 10X magnification

Using the lab stereoscope to look at yarn at the CalAcademy's Maker's Night Nightlife

Wool - 10X

Wool 10X

Baby Alpaca/silk blend - focused on two alpaca fibers above the strand

Baby Alpaca/silk - a cut edge with baby alpaca (reddish fibers) and silk (thinner fibers)



Acrylic - focused on fibers above the strand of yarn

Acrylic - focused below on that strand of yarn

Compound microscope images - 60X magnification - all images are on the same scale, shortest side is 0.1 micrometers

One of our lab's compound light microscope



This one was in the silk/baby alpaca mix - I think it is silk

Baby Alpaca

Adult Alpaca - note the air pockets in the fiber - this helps alpaca fibers retain more heat


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Craftimism at CalAcademy Nightlife

Craftimism (and friends) will be having a display and some knitting/crocheting/embroidery/charting tutorials at the California Academy of Science's Nightlife on May 4th. I will post photos after the event, so stay tuned.

Facebook event:

This will be a resource for all of the activities at our display, but this will also prove a useful resource for those not in attendance as well.


Yarn up close! 

We will have a light microscope at our display so that you can look at various different types of yarn under the microscope. (Blog post with these images coming soon!)

I can't move our fancier microscopes, but I will take some photos of the different types of yarn at higher magnification before the event and bring photos to display. (Blog post with these images coming soon!)

Embroider and felt your own pin/magnet

Unfelted (left) and felted (right) crochet circles

We will provide knit and crochet wool samples for folks to embroider with wool yarn and take home to felt. 

Wool is a yarn with slight barbs along the length of the fiber (see microscope images here (coming soon)). When heated and friction is applied these fibers will relax and fuse into each other making a fabric (see image to the left). 

You can felt your item in a top loading washing machine (simply throw it in with towels or denim and wash with a detergent with hot water). If the machine felting does not work, you can also felt by hand using this tutorial by Rebecca of Chemknits (uncut version here).

Learn to knit/Learn to crochet

We will have knitting and crochet experts on hand to teach folks to knit and crochet. My favorite learn to knit diagrams are found here and my favorite crochet diagrams are here

For those who know how to knit or crochet - make a yarn lab item


Patterns for knitting Erlenmeyer flask pins are here.

Patterns for crochet labware are here.

Design your own knitting chart

Use graph paper to design your own 2-color colorwork knit chart. Submit the designs to Craftimism and we will pick a winner and Heidi will make you a hat or other item based on your chart.

Want to make your own Resistor Hat or other science hat?

See this post for all of my March for Science knit designs. 

Still want more? 

Join our Facebook group (March for Science Knitting and Crafting group) and follow Craftimism on Facebook and instagram. Please contact me if you have any ideas for other science or knitting outreach opportunities.

If you live in the SF Bay area, the Silicon Valley Craftivists meet every few weeks in Menlo Park or Mountain View as our schedules permit to knit, crochet, and craft together. Follow Craftimism on Facebook to stay up-to-date on upcoming meetings.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Knitting is my super power - science outreach goals

As I reflect on the March for Science that was held this past Saturday, there are a lot of conversations and themes I'd like to cover (diversity, sexism, GMO's, how to engage and interact with non-scientists, funding, peer review, just to name a few). I look forward to elaborating on those topics later, but for now, I want to focus on my action goals following the march.

Knitting is my superpower

I have discovered through going viral after designing the "Resistor Hat" that knitting is a very powerful tool. In a way, it is a super power. Through knitting I can transform balls of yarn into hats and sweaters, which is a super power in itself. In addition, knitting is an extremely powerful tool for outreach. 
My lab and friends posing in some of the hats I designed
for the March for Science (photo credit L.A. Cicero)

If you are a non-scientist, imagine meeting a scientist such as myself in a bar. You say, "So, what do you do?" I respond, "I'm a microbiologist." This is perhaps intimidating, right? I have found through my informal experiences that about half of the people respond, "That is really cool, tell me more" (or some variation thereof) while the other half respond, "You must be really smart" or "Sounds complicated" or something related to that. However, when I introduce myself as a microbiologist who designs science-themed knitting patterns, the second half of people who may have been intimidated or unlikely to engage with me before now are more likely to ask me about my science and my knitting. In addition to talking about my own work, I can talk about all of my friends' research and the knitting patterns I made for that. Through all of the media attention associated with the Resistor Hat, I have found out that knitting is a powerful tool that makes me more approachable and engaging as a scientist. 

Beyond the march - Utilizing knitting as a forum for science outreach

Many people do not realize that science outreach is something that scientists take on in their own outside of the lab. Scientists donate their time to these projects and then must work extra long hours in lab to keep on progressing. I plan on donating more of my time, money, and efforts to such outreach programs in the future as I place a high value on science outreach and education.

Speaking about my recent fame and how I will use my knitting as science outreach at the Taste of Science Bay Area event.
My goals and action plans for the near future and beyond:
  1. Continue to design science-themed knit items and expand to include more information about the science behind the patterns geared toward a general audience. Similar to my video explaining the science behind the Resistor Hat, I will also make more youtube videos explaining the science behind the items. This will help knitters and others who visit my website understand what they are knitting. Some existing examples of this science-themed outreach are my #KnityourPhD series of hats including the Prairie Dog Patterned knit hat designed for my friend Dr. Loren Cassin-Sackett and the Uterus Patterned knit hat designed for my friend, Dr. Erin Reinl when they defended their PhD's.
  2. Develop in person science outreach to knitters and the general public - this will give me an opportunity to interface with people and expand my outreach ability. I will also raise awareness about my efforts to do knitting as science outreach at these events. If you have any ideas of events or Maker's Fairs, where I can present of have a table, let me know!
    • On April 24, I talked about Knitting as Science outreach at the Bay Area Taste of Science event in Redwood City. To expand the reach of this event, I broadcast my talk on Facebook live in the March for Science Knitting and Crafting group.
    • On April 29th, I will present my knitting at an art exhibit as part of the Berkeley Microbiology Student Symposium. I plan to feature my Phage and E. coli knit hats along with some knit microbe pins.
    • On May 4th, I will run a table at the California Academy of Science's Nightlife - as part of their Maker's night
  3. In the next few years, I'd love to develop a weekly knitting after school program to inspire the next generation of citizens. 
    • I will focus on areas with economically disadvantaged children in late elementary/middle school. I hope that providing these youth with the skill to knit and celebrating each stitch and finished object might provide a ray of hope in an uncertain world. 
    • I am seeking to make connections to help achieve this aim - contact me if you would like to help.
Please help contribute to my science outreach (use the "Donate" button on the top right of this website). Any donations will go toward:
  1. Website hosting fees
  2. Outreach activities (yarn, needles, supplies, displays)
  3. If I become overwhelmed with donations or cannot fulfill my outreach plans for any reason, I will donate any extra $ to other science outreach programs such as Girls who Code

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Resistor Headband DIY from T-shirt

There is only one week before the March for Science (it is on April 22, 2017) and if you are looking for a quick and easy design to make and wear in solidarity with Project Thinking Cap, this could be just the solution for you. Also, it is environmentally friendly, as you can upcycle an old T-shirt into a fabric headband. You can use acrylic paint or fabric paint to add on a design.

To learn more about my scientific research, why I am marching, and the Resistor Knit Hat I designed, check out this blog post: Resistor Knit Hat - March for Science.

Step 1. Find a T-shirt - I did not want to part with any of my blue or green T-shirts so I found one at a garage sale for $1. :)

2. Cut T-shirt ~3 inches from bottom

3. Cut bottom seam from the strip.

4. Option 1: Cut the T-shirt so that it is ~1-2 inches shorter than the diameter of your head 
(mine is folded in half and was made for a 24 inch hat brim). 
Option 2 (not pictured): leave T-shirt strip original diameter, but cut to open up the strip. This will make a long strip of T-shirt that can be tied around your head ninja style. :)

5. Assemble paint - I used a white acrylic paint for the design. You can also use fabric paint (the puffy paint type). Tug the fabric a little laterally so that you can see which side of the fabric naturally folds under. You will want to paint on the side that does not fold under (so your head can keep the fabric flat). I am having trouble explaining this, so comment if it seems unclear. For my T-shirt, I ended up painting on the side that originally was the interior of the shirt.

6. Paint on desired design. I used a design showing a circuit with the symbols for a battery and two resistors.

 7. Let paint dry, then fold in half with the painted side in. Seam the edge with a sewing machine or by hand using a whip stitch.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March for Science Knit Designs ebook

Hi all,

If you've been following along you will know that I have been busy designing knit hats and headbands for the March for Science. I've tried to be as inclusive as possible to the sciences and have designs that represent agricultural science, chemistry, physics, biology, renewable energy, computer science, archaeology and medicine. I hope you enjoy this ebook full of patterns!

In the next few weeks, I will update the pdf with some science outreach about each of the areas of science represented by each hat. Stay tuned!

I am providing these patterns for FREE as I want them to be as accessible as possible. If you appreciate this service and would like to donate to help support Craftimism's knitting and science outreach efforts, please consider giving a few dollars with the donate button on the right panel.


Click here for more about Project Thinking Cap and the March for Science.

Click here to see the original Resistor Hat post.

Click here for a pdf of the March for Science Knit Designs ebook.
Note, there is one error in the pattern that will be fixed in the next edition: "41 stitch charts, repeat twice" should read "42 stitch charts, repeat twice"

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mini Erlenmeyer Flask and Water Drop

I was challenged to design a mini Erlenmeyer Flask that could be used as a pin in the March for Science. I think I rose to the challenge and designed this super fun and fast knit. I also designed a water drop that symbolizes the need for safe drinking water. 

These could be attached to a safety pin and used as a pin. They also could be sewn onto any simple knit hat or headband for Project Thinking Cap.

Would you like to see more science minis? Let me know what you would like in the comments.

Click here for the pattern.

I designed a wider option for the flask - pictured here. Apologies for the poor picture quality. Will get a better one in time. See this PDF (Click here) for the original flask and water drop pattern, use modifications below for a wider flask.

Wide-bottomed erlenmeyer flask
© Heidi Arjes, 2017. This pattern is for personal use only. Commercial use without written permission of the author is prohibited.

With bottom color:
Cast on 16, divide onto 2 needles (8 stitches per needle), join to knit in the round.
Knit 1 round
*K2tog, K6* repeat twice

Switch to off white:
*K2tog, K5* repeat twice
*K2tog, K4* repeat twice
*K2tog, K3* repeat twice
Now you should have 5 stitches on your needles.
Knit around for 4 rounds
Bind off by cutting yarn and weaving yarn tail through the 5 stitches and pull tight. Weave in ends

Monday, March 20, 2017

Resistor Armband/cup cozy Pattern

I have extended my line of Resistor knit items for the March for Science (see also my Resistor Hat and my Resistor Headband). I now have Resistor armbands and mug cozies! I have included an easy option with single color knitting and double knitting the pattern as well as a colorwork pattern.

A printer-friendly version of the pattern is available here.

If you would like a "Resist" bracelet with a real resistor, please check out my Etsy page here. I am selling these as a fundraiser for the ACLU.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Laboratory Glassware Headband (with option for hat)

Has anyone else ever seen the Corning glassware logo and thought "That would make a swell knit hat design." Just me? 

Anyway, I used this logo as inspiration for my latest March for Science knit hat. This headband features laboratory glassware and a bunsen burner.

The pattern will be available HERE for free until the March for Science on April 22.

If you'd like to learn more about the 3 scientists organizing the effort to get hats to DC, check it out HERE.
If you'd like to contribute to the effort to donate hats to marchers in DC,  check out

Also, join our Facebook group (HERE) and Ravelry group (HERE).