Spiral Defect Chaos Knitting Pattern

Spiral Defect Chaos

in Knitting

by Mary de Bruyn

photos of the sweater

how to knit the sweater

The sweater was made from a simple stockinette cardigan pattern at a gauge of 20 stitches/4 inches. To make a man's sweater that measures 50 inches all around, cast on 62 stitches for each front and 125 for the back. The border of garter stitch was done on smaller needles, then just continued straight. You could use any basic sweater pattern, but avoid those with waist shaping!

Any pixelated data would work, but you must remember that knitting squishes images, because the stitches are not square. You can find knitters' graph paper online at several places, like here or here. You can map out a section of pixels to see how your data would look knitted.

In order to keep the continuity of the pattern, knit an extra stitch at each edge for seaming, so that the convection "flows" neatly around the sides.

download the convection pattern

Spiral Defect Chaos pattern strip

the science behind the pattern

The pattern is formed by temperature differences in pressurized CO2, which flows in a chaotic pattern when it is heated from below and cooled from above. The light areas are cool downward flowing fluid, and the dark areas are warm upflowing fluid.

other art objects inspired by spiral defect chaos

  • A nice warm ski hat, knitted by Erica Bird.

  • A painted wooden pencil box, made by Erica Bird.

  • A painting entitled "Spiral Defect Chaos", by Martin Pearce, 1997.
    The original is in the University of Toronto Art Centre. Interestingly, it contains no spirals.


    • You can read Mary de Bruyn's knitting and travel blog "Knitting on the Cam", here, and leave comments.

    • You can read more about pattern formation here.

      The Experimental Nonlinear Physics Group, Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto,
      60 St. George St. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 1A7. Phone (416) 978 - 6810.