Knitting for programmers

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 from 5:45 – 6:30pm in B202/203


Yeah, you've seen us knitting during talks. I promise we're paying more attention than the people with their laptops open. Well, now learn how we do what we do... the programmer way. I'll start with the topology of individual stitches and go through geometry to design patterns, and by the end of it you'll know how to knit a sweater.


Knitting consists of a couple of very simple stitches that can be taught in just a minute or two. You may even have learned them already, and knit an ugly scarf or blobby rectangle. Congratulations!

But how do you get from there to knitting a sock, a cardigan, or a klein bottle hat? Turns out that knitting is like programming: the simplest logic can be combined into more complex shapes, and once you’re used to the design patterns (see what I did there?) you’ll be able to put together any kind of knitted object from first principles.

I’ll start with a VERY brief introduction to basic stitches, then cover the topology and texture of knitted stitches, geometry for knitters, and common design patterns such as the Elizabeth Zimmerman “Percentage” Sweater, “contiguous” set-in sleeves, and traditional sock heels. Expect diagrams and equations. I’ll also provide a bibliography/resources for further exploration after the session.

(Note: No prior knitting experience is required, as long as you are comfortable with spatial thinking. However if you are learning to knit and want to acquire materials, I recommend you buy 100g of smooth, light-coloured, worsted weight yarn in a ball (not a skein), and a pair of size 7 (4.5mm) needles. The nearest yarn store, which I highly recommend, is Knit Purl at Alder and 11th.)


knitting, geometry, topology, design, design patterns, craft

Speaking experience

Scores and scores of talks since the late 1990s. Keynoted Open Source Bridge 2013 (and various other conferences before that). Taught knitting to lots of people (especially geeks).