Thursday, March 8, 2012

Big Yes! Chaos Theory Scarf by Lesley Starke

Prepare your nerdy heart for some seriously geeky and gorgeous patterns generated by an eight-point, early chaos theory computer code.

Science + Craft = Joy.

No, you did not read that wrong. My Durham String Thing buddy Lesley Starke is knitting up this double-sided scarf using Rule 30 from early chaos theory, written by Steven Wolfram (father of Mathematica.)

She is knitting with two skeins of yarn at the same time.

Lesley is a scientist in ecology. She says that the project is the brainchild of her friend Joe Sexton (not a knitter). “He and I use similar approaches to the ecology work that we do. To put it broadly, we use satellite images to detect and analyze changes in the landscape.”

Back in 2009, while he was finishing up his PhD in Ecology from Duke University, they had a conversation about their work that exploded into this wildly beautiful creation.

Random triangles and shoots!

I love the stark black-and-white translation of the computer code and the random waterfalls and pools it creates.

The Code (pattern) runs along the bottom of the scarf.

Lesley claims that there is no pattern to this double-knit scarf. Here she explains how it works:

“I'm using a code that has 8 keys to it-- each produces a single answer: black or white, to create a random/chaotic image of black and white. The keys are each three-stitch sequences that I read on the row below to determine what color I should stitch in the present row. Four of the keys yield black and four yield white”

Their friends on Facebook
 recognize the code.

Don’t you adore this combination of computer code, utility (this is a scarf, after all, and will eventually warm Joe’s neck), wildly open creativity and the randomly beautiful patterns it creates?

Lesley, mad scientist & knitter, at work.

Big Yes to Lesley! 

"Big Yes!" is a blog feature where I share, with their permission, a piece of textile art that has opened my eyes to the possibility of what we can create.  When faced with things that are truly beautiful or moving or that fill me with awe, I try to say yes. More than that, Big Yes.


  1. Hi Gustav! No, she doesn't sell them. It is an extremely intense labor of love. But thanks!