Weirwood

I've been re-reading the Game of Thrones series recently, and am excited to add another GoT-inspired colourway to the shop update this weekend - this is Weirwood, which joins Drowned Gods and The Red Woman.

This is what I was going for a while back when I posted on Instagram about some fibre that hadn't come out quite as I wanted it too...

I'm much happier with the newer version, which will be in the shop update on Sunday! The update will go live at 10:00 am Sunday, but newsletter subscribers get first dibs on Saturday night from 9pm - sign up through the link at the bottom of the website.

Lab Goddess Fibre Club January 2017

The first fibre club of the year should have landed in its new homes by now, so it's time for some glamour shots of the January colourway!

Diving into the Deep on Romney

Diving into the Deep on Romney

This month's colourway was inspired by a woman who mapped the unseeable. Marie Tharp was an American geologist and ocean cartographer and, together with her research partner, Bruce Heezen, made the first systematic effort to map the entire ocean floor. When their map of the entire floor of the Atlantic Ocean was published in 1977, it revealed the existence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an enormous crack in the planet's skin running from north to south along the entire length of the Atlantic. This rift is the site of new crust formation, as molten rock from the earth's core swells upwards, creating a globe-long series of volcanos. The eruptions of these volcanos create new ocean floor, forcing the tectonic plates apart. Their maps helped provide proof for the theory of plate tectonics, which revolutionised geology.

My mind’s image of the colours around the Mid-Atlantic Ridge inspired this month’s dye combination; white hot molten lava hitting the icy cold ocean depths and rapid cooling through orange to red to purple and ultimately cold black. With a lot of blue thrown in for the deep water, this colourway will spin up mostly dark blue and purple tones, with pops of bright red and yellow throughout.

I think I'm going to spin mine up for a pair of socks - Romney is one of the longwools, and I'm going to spin this as a two ply with lots of twist to make a hard wearing yarn. Looking forward to getting started on this over the weekend!

Lab Goddess Fibre Club September 2016

Last week saw the shipment of the last instalment of the third quarter of the 2016 Lab Goddess Fibre Club - Oh Be a Fine Girl on Falkland.

Let me talk about the base first: after a couple of months of crunchy wools, I decided September was a good time for something soft and luxurious. It's also my birthday month, so a treat was called for! This superfine Falkland Merino is soft, squishy and breathtakingly easy to spin. This fibre will make fantastic shawls, cowls and hats - good for anything that's going to be next to your skin.

The colourway is inspired by Annie Jump Cannon, an American astronomer and the person who came up with a new classification for star magnitude using visible light. Over her 40 year career in astronomy, she manually classified (i.e. with her bare eyes through a telescope) approximately 350,000 stars, including 300 variable stars, five novas and one pair of binary stars.

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    By Jan Homann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6504291

By Jan Homann - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6504291

The colourway name and palette come from the spectral classification system that Annie Jump Cannon invented, which is based on the emission spectra of the hydrogen atom, and reflects the effective temperature of the star. The classifications are identified as ), B, A, F, G, K and M, andhave relative colour labels: blue, blue white, white, yellow white, yellow, orange and red, ranging from hottest to coolest. The colourway is a repeating sequence of the spectral classes.

The name comes from the mnemonic that Annie Jump Cannon derived to keep track of the classifications: “Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me.” 

This is the last month of the current fibre club, but spaces are still available for the fourth quarter, running from October through December - space is limited so don't wait!

Lab Goddess Fibre Club February 2016

As I was finalising the March shipment of the Fibre Club this morning, I realised that with all the hubbub of the last few weeks, I completely missed showing off the February club colourway - so here it is!

A Life Aquatic on Corriedale

A Life Aquatic on Corriedale

When I dyed this fibre, it had been very grey for a very long time in London, and I was desperate for something blue! This colourway is inspired by Eugenie Clark, a world-renowned icthyologist (i.e. shark addict) who was one of the first marine biologists to use scuba diving as a major research tool.

In addition to her research, Clark was a bestselling writer who's first book, Lady with a Spear (1953), based on her Fulbright Scholarship experiences studying sharks on the Red Sea in Egypt, brought her to the attention of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, who built her a laboratory in southwestern Florida, where she continued to research sharks, with studies ranging from fish test tube babies to training sharks to press targets to shark repellents.

This colourway is a more abstract one, rather then inspired by a particular concept; its my interpretation of what the ocean must look like from underwater, looking upwards – bright shades of blues and greens, those tropical colours of the ocean under the shining sun.

February’s fibre is one that I recommend to any beginner spinner  – Corriedale. The Corriedale sheep is a dual purpose breed, and is used for both meat and wool. It is the oldest of all the crossbred breeds, and is derived from Merino ewe and Lincoln ram crosses in New Zealand and Australia. The aim in crossing these breeds was to develop a sheep that would thrive in drier climates and produce longer stapled wool. The Corriedale is now raised all over the world.

Corriedale could best be described as “medium”. It has medium staple length, medium softness, and medium crimp. But it’s not a boring spin by any means, just very straightforward. It won’t take a lot of attention and won’t do anything tricky, so it’s the perfect fibre for some truly relaxing spinning. 

If you'd like to join the Lab Goddess Fibre Club for April through June, slots are now open - we'd love to have you join us!

Lab Goddess Fibre Club December 2015

So this month's inspirational woman scientist was certainly on my short list from the beginning, seeing as I work at her former institution in a building named after her. But I did not plan to have her front and center quite so quickly. A recent trip to the theatre to see Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler was so moving that I decided that Rosalind Franklin had to be next for the club.

Dark Lady on Bluefaced Leicester

Dark Lady on Bluefaced Leicester

Here's the blurb that went out with the club packages:

Rosalind Franklin and Photograph 51

Rosalind Franklin and Photograph 51

Born into a prominent Jewish family in Notting Hill, London, Rosalind Franklin grew up in a family that valued education and supported her scientific aspirations. She went to St. Paul’s Girls School and from there to Newnham College at Cambridge, where she graduated in 1941 with a degree in chemistry. She then joined the physical chemistry laboratory of the University of Cambridge, working under Ronald Norrish (winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry), but this was not a successful pairing. After resigning from Norrish’s lab, she went on to the British Coal Utilisation Research Association (BCURA), where she remained for several years, studying the porosity of coal. This work formed the basis of her Ph.D. research, which was completed in 1945.

At the end of World War II, Dr. Franklin contacted her friend Adrienne Weill, a former student of Marie Curie, for assistance in finding a position for “a physical chemist who knows very little physical chemistry, but quite a lot about the holes in coal”. She ended up in the lab of Dr. Jacques Mering at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat in Paris. There she learned X-ray crystallography, which would be key to her role in the discovery of the structure of DNA a few years later.  

Rosalind loved Paris, and blossomed in Mering’s lab – she was able to work independently but with a group of enthusiastic and collaborative colleagues. In 1951, however, she left Paris and returned to London, taking up a position as a research associate at King’s College London in the Biophysics Unit headed by John Randall. She was originally slated to work on proteins and lipids in solution, but upon arriving was redirected to work on DNA fibres with Maurice Wilkins and Raymond Gosling, her newly assigned Ph.D. student.

The relationship between Wilkins and Franklin was difficult: conflicting communications styles made their interactions rocky. Perhaps if their roles had been clearly defined and expectations laid out at the very start of Franklin’s time at KCL, their partnership would have been more successful, but miscommunication from Randall and Wilkins being on holiday when Franklin arrived, coupled with her understanding that she would be an independent researcher rather then an underling of Wilkins, made this challenging.

After Franklin and Gosling identified two forms of DNA (A and B), Wilkins continued with the A form while Franklin focused on the B form. Franklin’s X-ray crystallography photographs of DNA were extremely suggestive of a helical structure, but she was very cautious of publishing her data without being absolutely certain of her conclusions. Meanwhile, Francis Crick and James Watson from the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge had begun building a model of the B form of DNA using data that had, in part, been derived from research done by Wilkins and Franklin. The ultimate result was that, although Franklin’s papers were submitted either prior to Watson and Crick finishing their model, or almost immediately after (without any knowledge of the Cambridge model), the critical paper was Crick and Watson’s published in Nature on 25 April 1953. Franklin’s and Wilkins’s papers were published in the same issue of Nature, but were presented as being in support of the Cambridge group’s work, not as parallel and independent findings.

By this time, Rosalind had left KCL, and moved on to BIrkbeck College where she headed her own research group. She left DNA to study RNA and the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus. Her work at Birkbeck was very successful, as she published multiple papers and was awarded a grant from the US National Institutes of Health. Sadly, in mid-1956, while traveling in the States, she began to feel ill. Upon her return to the UK, it was discovered that she had ovarian cancer. She died in September of 1958, four years before Crick, Watson and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize for their body of work on DNA, including the discover of its structure.

Franklin has been portrayed as a prickly and abrasive woman, who held herself apart from the old boys network that was wide spread in British academic circles at the time. She and Wilkins certainly had a fundamental personality clash, with her forthright and impatient communication style running up against his contrasting reticence. However, the real tragedy in this story is not that she didn’t win the Nobel Prize, but that she died too young. As Brenda Maddox writes in her excellent biography[1] “She was cheated of the only thing she really wanted: the chance to complete her work. The lost prize was life”.

[1] “Rosalind Franklin: the Dark Lady of DNA”, Harper Collins, 2002.

The colourway name comes from a (not-very nice) quote from a letter from Maurice Wilkins to Crick and Watson announcing with some relief that Franklin was leaving KCL. For this colourway, I was drawn to colours that might have been associated with post-war Paris, where Rosalind spent such a happy time before going to King’s: greys for the cobbled streets and stone buildings, pinks for springtime flowers, and dark red for (of course!) the wine. I'm very tempted to spin mine up over the holidays as a gradient - darker purpley red to pink to grey to slate blue - and knit a top down hat with a DNA motif. As you do...what would you make with yours?

Spaces are still available in the next round of the Lab Goddess Fibre Club, which will ship out in mid-January; the initial instalment is already in the works, and has a much... earthier inspiration, if that whets your appetites at all. Happy spinning!