Monday, February 9, 2015

Patchwork Visual Spectrum Scarf

Naturally, I've got Color Theory on the brain, and I've been thinking a lot about light lately - and one night when I couldn't sleep, the idea for making this visual spectrum patchwork scarf popped in my head. And then it was all I could think about until I could make it!

Light is energy, and although we mostly perceive light as "white", it contains all the colors of the spectrum. You're probably familiar with this little nugget of knowledge from somewhere deep in your grade school past - Newton's light refraction experiment with a prism.

It goes like this - light travels in waves, all of the wavelengths together create white light. When travelling through a glass prism, the light wavelengths are split up or refracted, allowing us to see the different wavelengths as they appear in different colors. Quick - check out this awesome video explanation of the experiment.

As shown in the video, each of the colors of light spreading out has a measurable wavelength. Think about waves in the ocean - you can see the top of the wave, the crest, and in between each wave is a low point - like a valley. The waves of light are similar, and are measured from the top crest of one wave to the crest of the next.

These waves of light are very, very tiny and are measured in nanometers. Check out this video to get an idea of just how small a nanometer is! Red light waves are the longest, and diminish in length through the spectrum to violet, which has the shortest wavelength. Above is our visual spectrum of light as measured by their waves in nanometers.

Although the bands of light as seen refracted through a prism look about the same regardless of the light waves (the red band doesn't appear any wider than the violet band, although the red wavelengths measure about 700nm while violet waves are about 400nm), I decided to make my scarf a representation of the different wavelengths of the spectral colors.

So my idea was this - if red waves are the longest at about 700nm, with violet the shortest at about 400nm, and green is in between at about 5nm, then my bands of colored fabric would correspond in inches. At one end the red band is about 7.00 inches (to represent 700nm), in between the green band is about 5.00 inches (to represent 500nm), and at the other end the violet band is about 4.00 inches (to represent 400nm). All the other colors fall out in between, from longest bands representing the longest wavelengths down to the shortest.

This isn't a full tutorial, but I will share a bit of the process with you.

First, I created some improvisationally pieced fabric rectangles. Since this is a scarf made with just the fabric (no batting or extra layers), I used a very small stitch length while piecing - like 1.75mm. I also pressed all seams open, then top-stitched the seam allowances down from the top so that they would not get all crazy inside the finished scarf, or start to unravel. You can see one of the pressed open and topstitched seams in this photo of stitching some of the patchwork together.

As I cut each panel to size, I stitched them together using a 1/4 inch seam, pressed seams open and topstitched the seam allowances. Here's what it starts looking like.

Patchwork pieces all finished and stitched together. At this point the patchwork measures 13" wide and over 70 inches long.

Next, I pinned the long edges right sides together and stitched with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

And pressed the long seam open all the way.

I took a few tacking stitches through the back scarf seam, using the free arm of the sewing machine to reach inside. I did this to help keep the seams flattened inside the scarf, and stitched along the seams between each of the color bands.

Then I pinned and stitched closed the ends of the scarf with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving an opening 3 inches long at one end for turning the scarf right side out.

Turned the scarf inside out, pressed, and hand-stitched the opening closed.

On final pressing, I used a clapper to get the scarf nice and flat.
 After a trip through the washer and dryer, it's actually very cozy!
Loving it, and the best part to me is the reminder of how the colors we see are different vibrating waves of energy!

1 comment:

izosik said...

I admire all patchwork projects. Fist time I can see so theoretical point of view in sewing. I'm physicist so your "physical" scarf is very interesting as colorful and scince project. Maybe I should try the other "science" project create.