Molecules Quilt

It's rare that my worlds of science writing and quilting collide quite as directly as yesterday, when I made a Molecules quilt.

This started last year when, on a whim, I made a simpler, less purple version as I was finishing up my Molecules book. I ended up giving that one to a bookstore that had been selling my books at a big science festival thing I gave a talk at. My publisher asked if I could make another one as a prize for a "Best Theodore Gray Bookstore Display" contest they were holding, and with typical disregard for the value of my future self's time, of course I said yes.

The molecule rendering is based on the way I show molecules in the book, with a gradient glow that sorta-kinda represents the diffuse electron cloud that surrounds all molecules. Here is the same molecule, theobromine, as it appears in the book:

To represent the glow in quilt form, I made a contour plot of its density and stitched each contour line. I think it's an interesting, rather sculptural effect, though somewhat backwards since the strongest, boldest appearance is where the contour lines are most widely spaced, which is of course where the glow and electron density is weakest. (And yes, it would look better if there were appliqués of different colored fabric for each atom and for the bonds. But life is short.)

For your (or at least someone's) amusement, here is a time-lapse video of the making of this quilt (elapsed time about an hour, not counting interruptions that have been edited out):

The quilt is meant to be stretched on a frame, as shown in the photo at the top. The recipient will be a guinea pig for my quilt framing system. It will be the first time I've tried to send someone a disassembled frame and have them assemble it and stretch a quilt over it. Wish them luck.

When I find out who actually won this thing, I'll post pictures of their Theodore Gray display, and hopefully a picture of this quilt on display in their bookstore, if they manage to get it together and think it's worth putting up!