Monday, October 26, 2015

The Art of Randomness

Being strategically random is an art, not a science. Years ago I heard a radio show about randomness and I recently came across it again: My two current projects engage the concept of randomness.  I wanted to "eat up" a bunch of hand spun yarn (to make space for more of course) so I started knitting a blanket with blue tones. The other project is a woven piece using some random yarns.

In the Radiolab show they talk about an experiment in which there are two groups. One is going to flip a coin 100 times and write down whether they got heads or tails. The other group generates a random list of heads or tails. Then the scientist looks at the two list and immediately knows which list is real randomness. She knows because there are 7 tails in a row in the coin flip group.  The other group had chosen to not make such a long string of the same outcome thinking they were being random.  Apparently there will always be 7 of the same side of the coin in a row for any given 100 flips.

How does this relate to my project? If you were trying to make pleasant looking random stripes and you put 7 strands in a row it would stand out as odd.  So my randomness is not random.  As I'm knitting the blue tone blanket, if I haven't had a white strand in a while I'll add one in---but I'm definitely not counting and putting in the white at regular intervals.  Every now and then I step back from this blanket and ask myself "What color have I not used in a while?" or "Am I using too much of the same color?" I'm starting to run out of certain colors and that is limiting my options.  Will that mess with my perceived randomness?

It's been a long time since I have sat at the loom. This project was a reintroduction to some of the basics of weaving. For example, after I set the warp I couldn't remember how to start. I kept starting the weaving part, but it looked super sloppy. Then I finally remembered to use a header.  I broke a few wefts along the way and had to re-learn how to deal with that, too.

The design involved random wefts and a solid color for the weave.  I wove about 2 yards, took it off the loom, and cut the fringe. I'm not sure what I'll do with it; it's more of a practice piece.

If you are searching for something to listen to while doing your fiber crafts I highly recommend this episode of Radiolab. If you are a compulsive gambler it's a MUST HEAR!