Mathematical Knitting

Have you ever heard of it?

At Christmas dinner I learned all about mathematical knitting from the mother-in-law of my husband's cousin. She's a retired mathematician and an avid knitter. Here's a mathematical afghan she made. Picture an afghan composed of squares: 10 columns and perhaps 11 rows. In your mind assign each square a number, going across from left to right. First row: 1-10. Second row: 11-20, etc. Now assign each square a color. Prime numbers: color a. Multiples of 2, color b. Multiples of 3 not already colored, color c. Multiples of 5 not already colored, color d. Is that the coolest thing? Here's another one. Picture a scarf, sweater, whatever. It's striped, but the width of each stripe appears to be random. It's not. The first stripe: 3 rows. The next: 1 row. The next: 4 rows. The next: 1. Then 5. Then 9, etc. It's pi! This has totally revved up my interest in knitting, which has been dormant for quite a while (thanks, kids). I found some websites that talk about mathematical knitting, too, although they mostly seem to focus on mobius strip scarves and klein bottle hats.

I finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It was terrific! I wish they wouldn't call it a fantasy, because it might put some people off. This is no heroic quest-type thing. A better description would be alternate history. An alternate history that just happens to include magic, and magic books. In fact, I think librarians will especially appreciate this one, because it's also about collection development and censorship.

Speaking of fantasy, though, I'm feeling bad because Christmas came and went without me rereading The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. Not the whole series, which is uneven, but just the one (actually, book 2 in the series, but it completely stands alone). Please don't think it's a kids' book. It's not. It's a very sophisticated good vs. evil story, full of complexity and ambiguity. Also, full of old Celtic imagery, like Herne the Hunter. And full of mood. It's one of the most moody, evocative books I know. Come to think of it, since it takes place during the 12 days of Christmas, I still have a few days left to read it. Until January 6, if I'm not mistaken.

I started something else yesterday. The Little Women, by Katharine Weber. It's for my book discussion group. Previously we have read: Reading Lolita in Tehran, All the King's Men, Stepford Wives, Wild Heart, Shadow of the Wind. I think I may be forgetting one. So far The Little Women is a fun read, but has some problems.


  • Hey! PHIL discovered this and I'm just so excited. Especially because coming off the Christmas holiday my sister was reading (and encouraging me to read) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I hope to tackle it soon, though I'm still trying to catch up with book group reading.

    My sister also surprised everyone by giving homemade scarves as gifts. Who knew she could knit? It's on my MUST LEARN TO DO list. I want to check out the mathematical knitting. It sounds interesting in concept, but could be a little disappointing in reality.

    Again, I'm thrilled to find this hear. I will start keeping a pad of paper with me when I read so I can jot down possible reads!

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 9:48 PM  

  • Well I am of the opinion that a book can be a "kid's book" and sophisticated at the same time. I was introduced to that series last year and enjoyed it a lot as well. :)

    posted by Blogger Arethusa on 12:25 AM  

  • I read The Dark Is Rising a few years ago for the first time. The whole series, actually. I admit I didn't like it much. I'm glad to know people do, though; I agree with some of the coolness you mentioned above, it's just not for me.

    posted by Blogger Mrs. N on 1:44 AM