Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Fossils on my mind

subtle textured trilobite on a hat
You may know that I am a palaeontologist. My day job involves studying fossils, and teaching undergraduate students about them. As well as teaching, I also do palaeontological research, with my chosen specialised subject (to coin a phrase from Mastermind) being fossil sea urchins. I am particularly interested in mass extinctions - times when many different organisms all went extinct within a short space of time. The most recent of these events was at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs (and lots of other creatures) came to a sticky end. However, the biggest ever mass extinction occurred at the end of the Permian period, about 250 million years ago when over 95% of all species alive at the time died out. One of the groups that bit the dust back then were the trilobites - marine creatures distantly related to crabs and lobsters that had more than a passing resemblance to woodlice. I am a big fan of trilobites - they come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Some are ridiculously spiny, others totally smooth. Some had eyes on stalks, other had no eyes and were completely blind. It all sounds a little like science fiction, doesn't it?

For a long time, I've thought about mixing science and craft. I have designed several craft projects that link the two parts of my life, but I always seem to put them off, worried that I don't have the time or skill to do my vision justice. Maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning now. A couple of months ago, I came across Hannah Ingall's trilobite hat on Knitty, and decided to knit it for myself. With all the tricky design work done for me, I could concentrate on learning how to knit bobbles, and how to simultaneously manipulate circular needles and cable needles. I cast on a couple of weekends ago, and on Saturday night after my weekly fix of Strictly Come Dancing, I cast off and sewed in the ends. I have been wearing my trilobite hat pretty much non-stop since then.
Trilobites on my mind. Well, on my head!
Except when Mr Q has stolen it.
Mr Q in the stolen trilobite hat
For those who like to know all the details, the yarn is Debbie Bliss Luxury Donegal Tweed Aran in a charcoal colour way (15) knitted on a 4mm circular needle. My reasons for choosing this yarn were several...
1. It's soft, cosy and rustic looking.
2. I lead field classes in Donegal looking at rocks of trilobite-bearing age.
3. The colour is similar to the rocks that many trilobites are found in.
4. The tweedy colours, and angora texture mean that the trilobite is quite subtle, disguising any mistakes, and preventing my students from immediately thinking that I am a total geek. They'll have to be quite observant before they are able to think that!


Jane S. said...

Well isn't that cool! I have a trilobite fossil as a paperweight on my desk so I was very interested to see the hat. Perfect yarn for the design!

Stitched Together said...

I love trilobytes. I also have a nephew who loves them, so I may have to knit this hat for Christmas! It looks like you might have to knit another one so Mr Q gives yours back.

slope said...

Subtle and stylish. For more overt trilobite bling, how about this?