Today's post was written by Audry Nicklin, designer of the amazing Celestarium, the starry shawl from our newest issue. In this entry Audry explains how she knitted the sky. Literally. You can also find it on her website.
Celestarium started it's life in early 2011 with the question, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a shawl that was also a star chart?" Of course knitting a star chart seemed utterly crazy. How do you even chart something circular that has no pattern repeats. Although the idea was neat enough to earn a sticky note on what my brother lovingly refers to as the "Beautiful Mind" wall, it seemed impossible, so I tried my best to think about other things.
Except that the idea kept bugging me. It seems obvious now, but it took me 6 months to determine that the only way to chart the sky accurately was to make a circular chart. After an unsuccessful search for a circular pi shawl chart, I ended up building one in Illustrator using a polar grid as a starting point. Eventually the chart was printed out, taped together, and hung on my window so I could refine the design.
Being from the northern hemisphere, Polaris seems like the logical center of the shawl. That ended up being the only easy star to chart. As it turns out, there is no standardization to constellations, so several sources had to be checked for each constellation before adding them to the chart.
The next big job was to make the piece knit-able. A big circular chart is wonderful for graphing, but an absolute nightmare to knit from. I toyed with different ways to keep track of star placement, but settled on placing a stitch marker every 36 stitches. Star positions were refined to make sure there were exactly 36 stitches in between each marker. No marker has to be moved in order to get the star placement correct. Additionally, all increase rounds do not have any stars, which makes the knitting go much smoother. As a bonus, the pattern includes a chart of the constellations so you know exactly what you have knit.
After 18 months of development, I finally was able to knit up the first version. Call it a coincidence or Providence, but right as I was looking into publishing the pattern Twist Collective's mood board landed in my inbox. One of the themes was macrocosmos with an image of stars. The rest is history.