Lab Goddess Fibre Club - 2017 Second quarter round up

With the third quarter of the 2017 Lab Goddess Fibre Club about to kick off, I thought I'd share the last round of club colourways. First up is April: Olduvai on 56s English wool blend, inspired by paeloanthropologist Mary Leakey (1913 - 1996).



Mary Leakey was a world-renowned archeologist and paleontologist, who spent most of her career excavating at digs around the world, particularly in central Kenya and northern Tanzania. In 1959 she discovered the 1.75 million year old skull of a hominid that was later named Australopithicus boisei. She and her husband, Louis, discovered some of the first specimins of Homo habilis in 1960, one of the earliest hominid species to use stone tools. Over the course of her many years in the field, Mary Leakey discovered fifteen new species and one new genus. 

This colourway inspiration comes from images of the Olduvai Gorge, where Mary Leakey spent more than 20 years excavating and some of the images from our holiday in April. The overarching theme to the palette is earth tones – browns, tans, oranges, rusts – that reflect the different layers of the gorge’s walls.

Next up is May's "Visual Thinking", inspired by animal scientist Temple Granding (1947- ).

VIsual Thinking on superfine Falkland Merino

VIsual Thinking on superfine Falkland Merino

Temple Grandin is an animal scientist who revolutionised animal slaughter technology by putting humane treatment and reduction of stress at the forfront of livestock handling and the slaughterhouse industry. Diagnosed with unspecified “brain damage” at the age of two, Temple's mother came across an autism checklist when Temple was a teenager and hypothesised that most of Temple’s symptoms could be explained by autism. She was formally diagnosed as autistic in her 40s.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in human psychology, Grandin went on to complete a master’s degree and PhD in animal science. Her research was some of the first to report that animals are sensitive to their surroundings and that animals that remained calm during handling had higher weight gain. Her work also showed that an animal’s previous experience with handling would affect how it reacted to being handled later on,  in stark contrast to the view of livestock at the time.

Dr Grandin has said “I think in pictures, I don’t think in language…my mind works like Google images.” This idea of a visual language made me think about what colours might run through an internal movie reel of Temple Grandin’s work, and came up with this combination as a starting point (although many other combinations are possible).

Finally, we have June's club colourway, inspired by Russian biologist Vera Danchakoff (1879 – ?).

Pluripotent on 70% grey Shetland/30% Tussah silk

Pluripotent on 70% grey Shetland/30% Tussah silk

Vera Makhailovna Danchakoff was born in St Petersburg in 1879 and went on to become the first woman professor in Russia. Although little is known about the personal details of her life, her years as an active researcher and scientist have influenced generations of biomedical researchers.

Dr. Danchakoff’s initial research was focused on blood cell development. In a 1916 lecture, she described studies in several species that led her to postulate a common source for all the cellsmaking up mammalian blood, a cell that has since become known as a stem cell. She also hypothesised that this common mother cell was preserved after embryological development, and could give rise to pathologic conditions later in life.

Since the early 20th century, scientists have filled in the gaps in stem cell theory, and stem cells are now widely recognised to be important potential treatments for disease, and may hold the key to treating brain damage, spinal cord injury, type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and a wide range of other conditions. In graduate school, I learned that the most important differentiating characteristic of stem cells was the fact that they were pluripotent, or capable of becoming many things. A neural stem cell isolated from the brain might become a neuron in one environment, but in slightly different circumstances, it might become a glial cell. A haematopoietic stem cell might become an oxygen-packed red blood cell, or it might become a bacteria-eating macrophage. It all depends on what that stem cell experiences as it differentiates.

In some ways, spinning is a bit like the process of stem cell differentiation: we may start with the same dyed fibre, but depending on how it gets prepped and spun, and how it gets used in the final item means that the possibilities and ultimate results are endless.

That wraps up the second quarter of the 2017 Lab Goddess Fibre Club. If you're interested in joining us for the third quarter, running from July - September, you can sign up now. Sign ups will close on 15 July, so don't wait too long to get yours!