Sunday, 21 November 2010

The final artwork - your input is needed

We're at an interesting point in Knit a Neuron. We've got all the neurons in, we've been speaking with Catherine and we are all set to create the final artwork. But we've hit a snag, well, it's more than a snag, it's a problem.

As you know, when we started the project we got the go-ahead to house the final artwork in the Clinical Research Imaging Centre (CRIC). The CRIC will open in Easter next year, and we've only just been able to see the space. It turns out that it's not somewhere that can handle several hundred woolly neurons. We didn't realise just how popular knitting neurons was going to be and we now have too many (far too many!) to create an artwork that will fit into the space available. Particuarly as there are other artworks to go into the space.

This leaves us in a very uncomfortable quandry - what do we do with the finished piece? We want to hear your suggestions and have a few of our own too. Do use the comments option or email us directly to let us know your thoughts.

We've thought we could do the following:
  1. Find one (or two, or more) temporary exhibition spaces that will host the installation (we have some in mind, but if you know anywhere that would be interested do let us know) and raise money for charity at the same time
  2. Talk to a brain injury/rehabitalion charity who would like the display for their office
  3. Use the neurons for outreach eg doing talks for adult groups, schools etc where each group creates their own temporary installation while finding out about neuroscience, brain injury and therapy and about the project overall
  4. Create a book using photos from events and include some of the amazing stories we've heard from knitters all over the world.

We are incredibly sad that CRIC is unable to host Knit a Neuron as we, and we know a lot of you, were excited that the piece was going to have such a relevant home.

Do let us know your thoughts, comments and suggestions.

Knit a Neuron at the Thunderbolt

Well, it's the end of the Totterdown Arts Trail and our little installation of neurons has gone down well. Here are a few pictures so you can get an idea of how it looked. A great big Thank You to Dave and Sophie at the Thunderbolt for giving us the opportunity to create the display.

Friday, 12 November 2010


It's exciting times at Knit a Neuron Towers. We've been having more chats with Catherine about installing the neurons. Lots to think about: how to join the neurons and how they could be shown off to their best.

We are also making preparations for the Totterdown Arts Trail next weekend. We've got a little corner in the Thunderbolt where we'll be displaying some of the several hundred neurons we've received. We were at the Thunderbolt sussing out our allocated space and hatching some plans. You can see it was thirsty work!

Thanks to the Stitch and Bitch group at the Thunderbolt for their ongoing enthusiasm and commitment for the Knit a Neuron project. We're looking forward to the space-themed launch party on Friday night - see you there!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Wellcome Trust Club Social event

We had a lot of fun this week at the Wellcome Trust. We were invited to run a Knit a Neuron event as part of their Club events.

We met some great folk. Lots of fascinating conversations about brains including neuroplasticity, controlling brains with light and free-will - challenging stuff indeed. You can just see Heather behind the neurons. Heather's been knitting mitochondrial DNA - a kindred spirit indeed.

We'd like to say a big thank you to the Wellcome Trust for inviting us along. Big shout out to Martha, Christian, Kate, Kate and Arifa for throwing themselves in at the deep end and being prepared to talk about their work with the Club members.

On a related note - we've received over 400 neurons! This is truly amazing and all down your collective knitting enthusiasm. We're looking forward to showing off a first interpretation of the final piece at the Totterdown Arts Trail in November.

Monday, 11 October 2010


...Catherine Baker. Catherine is our artist friend who is busy working away with some of the neurons to think about how best to join and display them. You can see her latest work here.

Anne and Anne's mum have being getting the needles and thread out working on a display for the Totterdown Arts Trail. You'll be able to find us in the Thunderbolt.

Calling all neurons

We're still getting a lot of interest from folk wanting to knit neurons, but time is running out. We'd like to have all finished neurons with us by mid November which is only about a month away (Crikey - where has the year gone?). Go on - you can knit one more neuron, can't you?

Here is another bunch (is this is the collective noun for neurons?) from Mandy at the Thunderbolt Stitch and Bitch. I'm sure that Mandy must win the prize for most neurons knitted. Thanks, Mandy!

Friday, 24 September 2010

All quiet at Knit a Neuron towers?

No such luck! Since we came back from Green Man we've been washing the mud from our wellies and thinking about the future of Knit a Neuron. We've had some fantastic conversations with our artist friend about creating the final artwork and getting the piece on tour to friendly galleries. We're also going to start testing out a few ideas for joining all your lovely neurons together. Boy, do we have a lot of neurons to play with!

We have another plan afoot too, but that's probably best kept under wraps until we know more.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Green Man - the evidence

Well, well, well. What a great time we had at Green Man! Here we are with a couple of our neighbours. If you're interested, "we" are Amy (University of Bristol), Caroline (University of the West of England), Alison (University College London) and Helen (University of the West of England) from L to R - unfortunately Anne couldn't make it.

We were kept busy from the moment we opened to when we closed each day with knitting, nattering and neuroscience.

We met so many amazing people, young and old, who
talked about consciousness, music and the brain,
encephalitis, altered states, learning, strokes, brain development, dreaming and much, much more. We were certainly kept on our toes!

Harriet was one of our youngest knitters, here she is taking a few tips from Pat.

Noah and the neurons. Just in case you were wondering, we had lots of chaps stop by for a knit and a natter. Noah is a neuroscientist too.

We had an amazing time at Green Man and loved talking to everyone. Thanks very much to all the folk who stopped by our little green gazebo to talk brain science and knit neurons. Thanks also to Ellen who organised Einstein's Garden.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

What do you get if you take...

four neuroscientists and their tents, sleeping bags and wellies
one case of yarn
too many needles and hooks to count
one gazebo
some pictures and models of brains
250 pin badges
50 patterns
one risk assessment
one pasting table and table cloth
one packet of paper chains
two pop-up banners
50 wooden pegs
one set of directions
an alarming number of 'pick my brains' t-shirts
one bicycle
3 camping chairs
and lots of enthusiasm?

Knit a Neuron at Green Man Festival!

See you there!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Green Man preparations

We're off to the Green Man Festival next week for four days of knitting neurons in the glorious Brecon Beacons. There will be four of us knitting, chatting about neuroscience and watching great bands. We'll be in Einstein's Garden along with fellow sciencey folk like Make it Molecular the Living Colours of the Ocean. We're also looking forward to hearing the space stories told by Jim and the gang.

In a new venture, we've got badges to give away. If you come and knit a neuron with us you can take away one of these fabulous badges. What more could you need?

Friday, 13 August 2010

Neurons from Cornwall

Thanks very much to Rebecca and the lovely folk at the Cornwall Yarn Shop for their glorious bundle of woolly cells.

Aren't they fabulous?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Returns from our travels

Phew! A busy few days what with the BIG Event and Indietracks. It was great to meet so many people interested in the project. Lots of folk have gone off with patterns and ideas for getting their group knitting neurons. We're looking forward to hearing about how it all goes - do send us pictures so we can share.

A few thanks to everyone who's made things happen. Anne's family and friends, Alice and the BIG exec who accepted our proposals to contribute to the various events, Gill for crocheting a lovely green neuron (pictures to follow), Phil for learning to knit just so he could make a lovely blue neuron, Dave for a great idea for next year's Indietracks (watch out Alice!) and of course, everyone who came along to the events to knit and natter about neurons.

Next stop - Green Man!

Friday, 23 July 2010

From BIG to Indietracks

We're on our way to Indietracks! Fresh from sharing our enthusiasm for all things woolly and sciencey at the BIG Event KAN are on the train to Derbyshire. The sun is shining and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it stays that way.

Here are a couple of the lovely folk from the Centre for Life. Watch out for knitted neurons in Newcastle!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Knit a Neuron goes to the BIG Event

Amongst all the excitement of Indietracks we nearly forgot to mention that we're sharing our project with the lovely folk at BIG. It's their annual get together (also known as the BIG Event) this week and seeing as we were laden up for Indietracks we thought we'd spread the word.

We like BIG a lot - they're a grand bunch of folk who do interactive science communication stuff and we think that knitting woolly neurons will be right up their street.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Last minute preparation for IndieTracks

We're packing our rucksacks and airing our sleeping bags in readiness for our trip to IndieTracks. Amongst all the tent pegs, roll mats and yarn we even had time for an interview. You can read it here on the IndieTracks blog.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

It's all go at Knit a Neuron Towers

We heard this week that we were successful in our application to take Knit a Neuron to the Green Man festival. KAN are very excited about this: four days of knitting, brain science and music.

In related festival news we've also been getting ready for Indie Tracks. It may be a month away but we've a busy month so thought it best to make a plan of action for our workshop. It should be fun!

Knitting magazine have also been in touch, asking us a few questions and wanting pictures of the lovely neurons. KAN have been getting to grips with their camera to oblige.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Knit a Neuron is spreading...

We've just heard from Rebecca at the Cornwall Yarn Shop who tells us that her customers and knitting group are going to be knitting some neurons as part of the shop's Charity of the Month. How exciting that people are hearing about us and getting involved.

Looking forward to seeing some pictures of your knitting group getting on with their neurons, Rebecca!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Are we going to the Green Man festival?

Carrying on the festival vibe we've submitted our proposal to take part in Einstein's Garden at the Green Man festival in August. They are looking for stalls, talks and thrift workshops with a science theme. We're proposing a marathon Knit and Natter where festival goers can drop by to knit a neuron and have a chat about brain science. Should be fun if we're accepted. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Stitch and Bitch at the Thunderbolt

I'm just back from the inaugural Stitch and Bitch at the Thunderbolt, Bristol. What did I find? A lovely jumble of knitted neurons from Amanda, Vanessa and Beccy! If you want to see more neurons then Amanda says she'll be knitting more while at the Art Fair at Trinity this weekend.

Beccy donated a neuron to the Thunderbolt, maybe some more folk will be inspired?

Thanks everyone!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Let's Knit Magazine

In rather exciting news Let's Knit magazine have been in touch as they'd like to feature us in their Charity of the Month section. We're really rather pleased about it!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Knit a Neuron at Indietracks

As I said a little while ago we got in touch with the lovely folk at Indietracks who were looking for workshops. I've just heard that we've been selected to run a workshop on the Saturday - woo hoo! What more can a girl want: music, camping, knitting, crochet, science (and a railway)? Perfect!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

4 needle with i-cord axons

Use 4 double-ended needles. Start at the top and work down and round the cell body like a sock, tapering down to a point where the axon joins on to the cell body. Stitch in your axon, stuff and close off the body, and add your dendrites.

DPN: double pointed needle
St: stitch
KFB: knit into front and back of the st = increase
First make your axon. Cast on 3 stitches onto a DPN. Slide the stitches to the other end and knit from the start. Do this at the end of every row and the piece will curl round on itself, looking like French knitting. Continue until you have made a length of i-cord ~10-15cm long.
next row: KFB 3 times (6 st) then place 2 st on each of 2 new DPN
- continue working in the round, using 4 DPN
Round 1: KFB, K1 3 times (9 st)
Round 2: KFB, K2 3 times (12 st)
Round 3: KFB, K3 3 times (15 st)
Round 4: K1, M1 for all three needles (3 x 10st = 30st)
Rounds 5-8: K
Rounds 9 onwards: Start to stuff the cell body with toy stuffing as you go
Decrease stitches by reducing by one stitch every other needle as follows:
needle 1: K2 tog, K8 (9st); needle 2; K (10st); needle 3: K2 tog, K8 (9st)
needle 1: K9 (9st); needle 2; K2 tog, K8 (9st); needle 3: K9 (9st)
needle 1: K2 tog, K7 (8st); needle 2; K9 (9st); needle 3: K2 tog, K7 (8st)
needle 1: K8 (8st); needle 2; K2 tog, K7 (8st); needle 3: K8 (8st)
needle 1: K2 tog, K6 (7st); needle 2; K8 (8st); needle 3: K2 tog, K6 (7st)continue until
needle 1: K3 (3st); needle 2; K2 tog, K2 (3st); needle 3: K3 (3st)
needle 1: K2 tog, K1 (2st); needle 2; K2 tog, K1 (2st); needle 3: K2 tog, K1 (2st)
Congratulations – you’ve reached the top of the axon!

Next round: K2 tog 3 times, leaving 3 st
Place these 3 st on a single needle
Continue knitting an i-cord as before, until you reach the desired length.
To make more than one dendrite, you can split the original 6st in half, working 3 on 1 needle and 3 on another to give 2 dendrites. Alternatively, pick up and K 3 st from anywhere on the cell body, then continue to knit as i-cords.

For the ends of the i-cords, you can sew in the loose end of yarn or, as I have done in the picture below, you could thread in a short piece of yarn and knot it over the end of the i-cord to give extra dendritic projections.
Thanks to Caroline for this new version!

Science Cafe - 2 March, Pierian Centre

Hot on the heels of the Science Cafe at the Tobacco Factory earlier this week we're having another go! Come along on 2 March, 8.00pm, to the Pierian Centre to experience the delights of combining science and yarn.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Science Cafe - the aftermath

Wow! so many people turned up tonight to knit and crochet neurons. We now have lots of lovely neurons and more to come: some people didn't quite finish theirs. We're at the Pierian centre next week and we've also been invited to Weston. I love the great variety in the neurons: different sizes, colours, and textures - each one unique - just like the real thing.

Thanks everyone for a great evening. Next time, I'll remember my hooks so I can make a neuron or two too!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

More interest in woolly neurons

Hooray - it turns out we're not completely bonkers! I posted information about the Science Cafe on a couple of Ravelry groups and people have responded incredibly positively. Looking forward to receiving neurons from all over the world now.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Knit a Neuron at Science Cafe, Bristol

Great news - Bob has said we can take over the next Science Cafe. Come along at 8pm on 22 February, to the Tobacco Factory, North Street, Bristol. Bring yarn, hooks, needles and conversation. The Tobacco Factory is a lovely bar, with plenty of room, good selection of drinks and great olives.

Some finished neurons

We've got some finished neurons to show you. Which should make it a bit easier to see what this is all about.

Woo hoo - aren't they fun!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Pattern - 4 needle knit

To knit your neuron on 4 double-ended needles, you start at the top, and work down and round the cell body like a sock, tapering down to a point where the axon joins on to the cell body. You then stitch in your axon, stuff and close off the body, and add your dendrites.

I used 4 double-pointed 3.5mm (US4, UK10) needles & Double Knitting wool, but please use what you like). You also need darning needle & a small bit of stuffing.

AXON: Cut 15 equal lengths of wool 10-20cm/4-8”.Knot together, divide into 3x5, & plait. Knot ends together,

CELL BODY: Cast on 15 & divide between 3 needles (3x5 stitches)
Round 1: Knit 1 complete round (3x5st = 15st)
Rnd2: M1 for each st on all needles (3x10st = 30st)
Rnd3-6: K complete rounds
Rnd7 onwards: Decrease number of st on each needle for every other needle by doing the following:
Rnd7: K2 tog, K8 on needle1 (9st); K10 on needle2 (10st); K2 tog, K8 on needle3 (9st)
Complete round therefore has 9+10+9 = 28st
Rnd8: K9; K2 tog,K8; K9 (9+9+9 = 27st)
Rnd9: K2tog,K7; K9; K2 tog,K7 (8+9+8=25st)
Rnd10: K8; K2tog,K7; K8 (8+8+8=24st)
Rnd11: K2tog,K6; K8; K2tog,K6 (7+8+7=22st)
Rnd12: K7; K2tog,K6; K7 (7+7+7=21st)

Continue decreasing in the same way until you have a complete round of just 9st, with 3st on each needle.

Casting off: cut wool allowing length of ~15cm/6”. Use darning needle to draw cut end through remaining st, stitch furthest from cut end first. Slide remainging st off needles.

Finishing: Place one end of your plaited axon into the loop of casts-off stitches, pull loop tight, & sew axon into body. Stuff the body then sew he top closed.

DENDRITES: Cut 6 equal lengths of wool of e.g. 15cm/6”. With darning needle, pull strands through a few stitches on the cell body so that you have 12 free ends hanging out.
Divide into 3x2 strands & start plaiting. Make the dendrite branched by separating out & tying off strands at intervals, continuing to plait with remaining strands. Knot the end. Repeat many times!

K=knit; M1=Make 1 by knitting both front & back loop of stitch; P=pearl R=Row; Rnd=Round; st=stitch; StSt=stocking stitch (1 row knit, 1 row pearl); tog=together

Pattern - 2 needle knit

I used 3.5 mm needles (US4, UK10) & Double Knitting wool - but have fun trying out anything else! You will also need a darning needle & a small bit of stuffing.

AXON: Cut 15 equal lengths of wool 10-20cm/4-8”.Knot together, divide into 3x5, & plait. Knot ends together,

CELL BODY: Cast on 6
Row1: Increase by knitting back &front loop of each stitch (6xM1) (12 stitches)
R2: Pearl to end
R3: 12xM1 (=24 st)
R4: P to end
Rows 5-18: Stocking Stitch, starting on K row
R19: 6 x [K2 tog, K2] (=18 st)
R20: P
R21: 6 x [K2 tog, K1] (=12 st)
R22: P
R23: 6 x [K2 tog] (=6 st)
R24: P to end
Cast off: Cut wool with 15-20cm/6-8” length left. Use darning needle to bring wool through remaining 6st. Slide off needle.

MAKING UP CELL BODY: Place knotted end of the axon (plait) in the loop of cast-off stitches, pull tight & stitch together. Sew together sides of cell body, stuff with kapok/cotton wool stitch over top.

DENDRITES: Cut 6 equal lengths of wool of e.g. 15cm/6”. With darning needle, pull strands through a few stitches on the cell body so that you have 12 free ends hanging out.
Divide into 3x2 strands & start plaiting. Make the dendrite branched by separating out & tying off strands at intervals, continuing to plait with remaining strands. Knot the end. Repeat many times!

K=knit; M1=Make 1 by knitting both front & back loop of stitch; P=pearl R=Row; Rnd=Round; st=stitch; StSt=stocking stitch (1 row knit, 1 row pearl); tog=together

Knit a Neuron at Indietracks?

Very excitingly, Indietracks are looking for workshops. I've emailed the lovely folk there to see if we can run a Knit a Neuron workshop. Fingers crossed....

Now I just need to ask about doing a Science Cafe at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Pattern - crochet

The whole pattern is worked in UK double crochet, or US single crochet.
Work this pattern continuously, do not join at the end of each round. A stitch marker may be useful.

Gauge is not important but you want it to be fairly tight so the stuffing is contained.

You will need:
* Small amount of yarn
* Hook of appropriate size to get a dense fabric
* Stitch markers (optional)
* Needle for sewing in ends
* Small amount of stuffing - you can use plastic bags or bubble wrap if you don't have toy stuffing

Cell body
Start with an adjustable loop
Row 1 6dc into the loop and pull the adjustable loop tight
Row 2 2dc into each sc (12 stitches)
Row 3 (1dc into next dc, 2dc into next dc) repeat 5 times (18 stitches)
Row 4 1dc into every dc (18 stitches)
Row 5 same as row 4
Row 6 same as row 4
Row 7 (1dc into next dc, 1invdec) repeat 5 times (12 stitches)
Row 8 1dc into each dc (12 stitches)
Row 9 pull tail through the centre so it is inside the body. Stuff body well.
Row 10 (1dc into next dc, 1 invdec) repeat until you have 4 stitches

Working in a continuous spiral, 1 dc into each dc until your axon is the length you want it.
This one is about 10cm.
Or you can just plait a few strands of yarn together like in the knitting patterns.

Synaptic terminal
Work 2dc into each dc (8 stitches)
Work 2dc into each dc (16 stitches)
Join with a slip stitch and sew end in.


Make as many as you like, there are 7 on this neuron.
Make a slip knot with a longish tail so you can use it for sewing in.
Make a starting chain (it doesn’t matter how long, these ones are about 9 long), turn
2dc into 2nd stitch from the hook, 2dc into every chain
Finish off
Sew these on at random over the cell body

Your neuron is now complete!

Who we are

Anne and Helen are the brains behind Knit a Neuron. We're both scientists by training, science communicators and avid yarners. Anne knits, while Helen prefers the hook.

In an attempt to combine our love of science and yarn we came up with Knit a Neuron project. We hope that by garnering the support of hundreds of knitters and crocheters we can create a beautiful artwork which illustrates what happens to the brain when it is injured by a stroke.

Helen and Anne are both based in Bristol. Anne works for Bristol Neuroscience and the British Neuroscience Association. Helen works for the University of the West of England and At-Bristol.

Knit a Neuron

Welcome to the Knit a Neuron blog. Here you can find out all about the project and who's behind it, along with knitting and crochet patterns.

Knit a Neuron is a collaborative, knitting, art project. We want you to pick up your needles and hooks to creates hundreds of woolly brain cells. We'll sew them all together to create a fabulous brainy artwork. Once it's done, the woolly brain will go on tour to raise funds for the Head Injury Therapy Endowment Fund and will have a permanent home in the University of Bristol's brain imaging centre, CRIC (Clinical Research Imaging Centre) opening later this year.

Want to make your very own brain cell? Follow the two-needle, four-needle or crochet instructions, make a brain cell and send it in!

These are great patterns as they don't use much yarn, size and gauge aren't critical and they can be any colour you like. Go on, dive into the stash and get the hooks out.

Once you've made a neuron (or three!) send it in to
Dr Anne Cooke
Bristol Neuroscience
University of Bristol
Bristol, BS8 4PJ