November 20, 2009

I've moved

Just to let you know, this blog is now going to be continued on wordpress. Sorry blogger. If you're lucky enough to find me here, I thought I should let you know why the posts have completely stopped here.

There's a podcast on wordpress, and that's where I'll concentrate my show notes from now on. See you at the new place!

September 29, 2009

1.7 Designing a Well Constructed Experiment

When you want to test something new out, you can create a mini experiment. The time and energy may set some limits on how much or how elaborately you can test something.

For crocheters (& knitters too, right?), isn't this a "swatch" - a small piece of "fabric" created using the needles and yarn that you want to use, making a certain number of stitches, so you can test to find out how big of object the pattern will create. To change the results of this test, you either, a) change the amount of tension you put in the piece, b) change the yarn, or c) change the needles. (See an article by blog for a little bit more on this)

For some experiments you may hate the original test swatch, and start over from scratch with all three new things. But if you "kind of like it" to create a well constructed experiment, you want to change only one thing. You create one swatch with different needles but the same yarn, a third swatch with different yarn, but the same needles, and compare. This way you know the difference the needles make, and what difference the yarn makes - but you have to make 3 swatches for this.

For quilting, if you would want to test a thread, you would divide the same batting up into small pieces - one piece for each thread you want to test, and have a top and a backing fabric the same for each test piece, then stitch similar designs with similar stitch length (use a walking foot on all test patterns and do criss crosses on each test piece for example). You stitch with each thread onto your quilt test pattern, and decide what you like best.

Keeping things the same in science is a controlled variable. The batting, the top and backing fabric, the stitch length are all controlled variables in the example above. It makes for good science to have a lot of controlled variables, and then only change one thing. Otherwise, if you change the batting, backing fabric, stitch length, and thread, you get a different result, but you don't know what caused it. This will give you a well constructed experiment.

Getting a completely different result because of changing all the variables isn't always bad. But it will not help you figure out differences in specific items easily. From a scientific approach, the better the experiment, the better knowledge you gain as a result, but maybe most of the results are not pretty, so more results could = more failures. (which isn't always bad in crafting & experiments).
Remember that a failed experiment is still a good experiment.

I am trying to figure out if my applique quilt will work good for embroidery. I made a sample block of the same applique fabrics, patterns, technique, backing fabric, applique thread, and now I am making my only major difference the embroidery. Well the overall pattern isn't the same exactly, but it will give me an idea - and there is no way I'm making more than one of the original quilt tops right now. I am trying to set up a well constructed experiment for myself that will give me enough information to make a decision on the original.

September 28, 2009

1.6 Letting Something Intimdate You

Many, many people are scared to death of math. As a child, I was never scared of math, but embraced it. I had many classes in math, a lot of my undergraduate degree centered around math, so I have never understood people's fear of math - not fully.

But computers - well - some things about computers completely intimidates me. I don't want to learn about putting together a computer, I don't want to learn about networking and routers, and other things. I just want to have my computer the way it is and the way it works and I don't want to troubleshoot when things go wrong with it. I let the stupid things intimidate me.

And I have to think that is how other people feel about math. Maybe about science too. The palms sweat, and when people are explaining things to you - things you probably could understand if you sat and let them congeal in your mind - it sounds like Charlie Brown's teachers when people start up about math - wah waaah, wah ...
No matter what people shut down their brain and stop and don't let the things that are bothering them in. A lot of time it is a matter of caring. I know I don't have to troubleshoot my computer when it goes down - I don't care to work on it.
How does this relate to quilting? I know that there are subjects people don't care about - just shut themselves down about and never push themselves to learn.
I was inspired lately by a lady in my applique class. She was in my applique class and she had the distinct reason of attending so that she could figure out if she could like applique. Previous to this experience she didn't like applique. At the end of the class she was talking about buying a kit that had a lot of applique in it. She faced her fears and didn't let the thing intimidate her, and in the end enjoyed it.
But the point is, that people can get stuck - stuck with the math of quilting, stuck with some new aspect they don't know about and refuse to learn about because they are intimidated by it. Maybe for one quilter it's applique, for the other its free motion quilting, the other its piecing curves, or mitered corners. The best thing to do is to try to figure out more about it, so you can find out if you are intimidated by the technique because you don't perceive you are good at it, or you just don't like something. Trying to do the technique - at least once - should also be necessary. Then the hypothesis of "I can't do this" can at least be tested!
Maybe you'll never be the one who makes the best crazy quilts, but you'll have tried it and then know you don't like it. Or maybe that technique will open the doors to other techniques, which in turn will lead you to something you do like.

September 18, 2009

1.5 Getting Back on the Horse

I knew the project would completely derail me. But its complete and wonderful and lovely and ... sigh. It took a LOT of work, a LOT of time. None of the work was hard, but there were times when it was tedious and times when it was downright boring, but I had deadlines I had to meet to be with the rest of the class, and so I ignored as much as I was able to - too bad I still had to go to work most of the weeks I was working on it.

I let myself get excited about this project a full month before the class started. I got the quilt shop lady excited when we were picking out fabrics for it. This excitement followed me through and helped me get through the boring parts. I knew the end result would be wonderful and it was. Today I want to talk about the excitement you feel for a project and how it plays into any project.
As a scientist, it is hard to think about how excitement will help with any experiment, but it really affects you. An experiment that you have a minimal amount of desire to finish will get put aside, will be hard to find the data for, and will be hard to find an appropriate hypothesis and questions to help guide your experiment. The results will be lackluster and results will show up. The quality still may be there, but the extra ... umph ... that certain special something .... will not show up in the final product. In the end, you will be unhappy with the product if the process is not good. The conclusion to any experiment will be brief, incoherent, and unsatisfying. However, the upside to this is it may raise further questions and further experiments to try out.
For example, this blog completely frustrates me. Not the excitement about creating it, but the tools used for creating it. Just like the wrong notions (or lack thereof) can make something you sew ten times harder than it really needs to be, this blog software is ten times harder than it needs to be. I should be able to drag & drop pictures in the middle of my text, but the pictures are the same size as the text editing software, and so drag & drop is not available as easily as it should be. Maybe it has to do with picture size, but I find myself not excited to finish, knowing how much struggle this is to do correctly. I tried once with preloading pictures into Word and that didn't correspond into anything different than what I am currently struggling with.
I want to get back on the (blogging) horse, but before I can do that well, I think I need a new saddle. Just as long as I know how much the new saddle will cost and how I will find it. Craftcast suggests to "get your butt in the chair, and keep crafting", and so I need to struggle before this comes out right (the paragraphs actually show up as I am seeing them when I write them - AAAAAA!!!!) but they also talk about knowing when / how to walk away to get a different perspective on things. Hopefully that new idea comes soon.

August 20, 2009

1.4 Just a few little thoughts on copyright

Yes, my post on Broken experiments has a broken title tag. There is no 1.3 post. I think I'll leave it broken as a sense of the "brokenness" of the post. Nice one.

Anyway, I have been working on my second applique quilt ever and am in a class that completes a four block applique quilt in four weeks (with four appliqued borders) and there are SO many little pieces to trace and cut and glue and sew down. Free time has been consumed in working on that and staying away from the computer.

Speaking of computers and blogs and other things. I don't really know a whole lot about copyright. Here is the question that started me thinking a lot about copyright. Is it violating a copyright if I scan a piece of fabric into the computer and then take the patterns and repeats from that fabric and change it with photoshop to make images for the blog?

Side questions arise: Does it matter how I change it, or how much I change it? Does it matter whose image it is to begin with? Do I have to get permission from the designer before doing so? Can I post the original fabric, or only the modified version, or neither?

Other questions about the public images of NASA and other scientific endeavors. Are the NASA pictures really public images? Do I have to credit their site for images I would like to have on my blog? Are they part of the public domain, as long as I don't sell an item? What about images from college students/professors, are they part of the public domain? Do they belong to the college or the students involved? I could see some of my images coming from wonderful experiments done by college students. Do I have to credit the specific photographer and link to every image that I found? What if there is multiple people involved with a project? Get all of their permissions?

On the quilting side, if I take an image of something I appliqued, doesn't the applique pattern show up in that image? Understand that I am not taking pictures of the pattern itself, but in seeing the completed image, can't one figure out the pattern that was used? I could very well look at someone else's quilted block and create my own pattern from just what I see. Is that illegal to do? Can I see something and be inspired by it for my own and modify it enough just like the fabric image I wondered about initially? Can I post it then? Technically can I post pictures of my progress?

Most people know way more about copyright then I do. I realize this has little to do with science and quilting, and more to do with an individual's right to preserve something he / she has created, but it lies at the core of this blog. I can't always take pictures of the scientific things that I am interested in - there is no way for me to gain access to the equipment.

I would like to be able to take a picture from some website and then also direct people to a link back to the website where I found the picture? I would not like continually having links in my blog - that gets really boring to read without some visual eye candy. I also cannot stage elaborate and sometimes incredibly beautiful work at my own home as much as I would like to be able to do so.

For example: On my computer desktop is an incredible shot of a high speed camera and colored milk drops that are amazing, and inspiring in the crafty sense, but show so much the beauty of science, which is the core of this blog. I downloaded the picture long ago and cannot find the original website, so I cannot post it. Or at least, I should not post it.

Just a few thoughts.

August 10, 2009

Broken Experiments

I consider this blog an experiment. After my image frustration with my last blog post, I realized I had a problem with this experiment. This week I also finished a pieced apron I was working on and found it was WAY too big. This reminds me that there are a lot of times in crafting and in science when things don’t go the way you expect.

If you are a fan of Mythbusters, you probably know that things don’t always turn out the way we expect in science. I love their scientific process – I think this will work, I am trying this, no it doesn’t work, what else will make it work? Encountering problems and road bumps is actually great, even though it doesn’t feel that way. Problems or failed experiments don’t make them scientists – it just means that they have to make adjustments to their plan as all good scientists do.

In sewing or crafting, just look at the mistakes I’ve made lately.

The Apron

This is very cute and is what I was wanting in terms of color, but it goes down past my knees close to my feet. It’s my bad for missing a step on the directions. At this point, I haven't made a decision on how to remedy this, or if I even want to do so. It needs a lot of trimming on the sides if I keep it intact.

The Shrinky Dink Pins

I found this tutorial here off of a pincushion blog post for "Shrinky Dink" fabric pins. I thought they would be great. I made some and they didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to look. (I wanted my own version of the flat flower pin for quilting people rave about.) The pin wouldn’t lay flat and in my efforts to get them flat, most of the pins fell out of the Shrinky Dinks. I am unsure if this is a problem of unrealistic expectations, or execution. If it's an execution problem, I should try a few other things: different pins, gluing the pins down in the correct orientation first, different pin widths, location of putting the pins in the Shrinky Dinks, or baking at a different temperature - to name just a few.

My Camera Bag

Let me just say this isn't a complete failure. It holds my camera and I like the colors and fabric used. It is also my first finished project of late. I based the bag portion of the project off of this tutorial. The bag is cute, but there are two things I consider wrong here. I added the straps horizontally instead of vertically (there were no straps on the original project) and so it hangs funny. I also ran a zig zag stitch on my straps over the top of a straight stitch, but didn’t match up the straps all that well.

At this point, nothing has been fixed, modified, corrected, tested, or even really scientifically or artistically analyzed. This is perhaps due to a fascination with "startitis" (wanting to start something new before finishing and correcting something old), or the nature of crafting, or a non-professional (read lazy) viewpoint toward fixing these mistakes.

A true scientist would spend the time and energy towards getting these projects finished, getting a satisfactory result. There is some joy in that, trying to figure out the problems, create acceptable solutions. There is also some joy in letting mistakes happen, and letting them be. A shining example of something that isn't done as eloquently as should be done - something that may show up later as a "look how far I've come now" moment.

At this point. I haven't decided. I do know that I am embarking into another fairly time consuming project starting tomorrow, for which I am excited. For now, I am content for letting some time elapse between the failed experiments and their possible solutions.

August 4, 2009

Post 1.2 Scientific Ideas and Inspirations for Quilts

Wow. I talk (write) a lot. I am going to have to learn how to edit myself better. This happens in conversations all the time with people too. I get excited and just keep talking.

Anyway, this is a quick post because I am thinking of LOTS and LOTS (okay some) of subjects and things that could bring science into quilting. Let's make lists & try to get pictures & links where they go!

Art Quilt - of the Space Shuttle taking off! Get one of those amazing NASA pictures, get fabric and GO!

Hydrogen & other gas Spectra Quilt - This could be an easy strip quilt, that has a lot of black and bright colors. You could have rows of the different gases, like Argon, Sodium, Neon, Mercury and then colors at about the appropriate locations.

Physics Quilt - This has been done and has been featured in the Physics Teacher magazine (I believe). I really liked how the website explains the science of each block. The Quarks and Quilts sampler was done by Julie A. Becker. Beware, science ahead.

Wildflower sampler - This could be done by researching your local state's wildflowers and then developing applique blocks based on the wildflowers of your area - instead of all being sunflowers, tulips and so on. If you were brave (or slightly crazy), would could modify this to include local grasses or trees. Here is one website that shows Kansas wildflowers, and it has a LOT of pictures, even based off of color!

Periodic Table Quilts - I have seen pictures of two different ones, but the blocks of the periodic table really lend themselves to quilting. This is one that has appliques of the elements, while this one is more colorful without the info on it. (I like both!)

Colorful Charts or graphs - Here is a quilt made one that someone liked the chart she walked by in the hallway - “Capturing Phase Dynamics of Circadian Clocks.” - Sleeping rhythms - how cool is that She made a quilt out of the chart and then quilted EEG sleeping patterns for her quilting. How clever!!

The Star Quilt - NOT a "traditional quilt star", but one with circles all over it that are the different star colors, and then you could applique sunspots on one of them, and on the borders have a telescope applique and then a ray diagram for border quilting, while the quilting on the top is the sunspot cycle. Strange - yes I know.

We're going to have to stop here. The Sun picture is not cooperating in moving down the page and it looks like I am going to have to change this website for some better software because in trying to drag the picture to the bottom of the post, my text size changed and a whole bunch of spaces came in where they don't belong, and rather than inspiring, it just frustrated me.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed thinking about science in a different way.