March 29, 2020
Ever since I presented at the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting on my use of crocheted temperature data in the classroom [see blog post], and again when this article appeared in The New York Times, I’ve had several people reach out to me with questions as to how to get started on creating their own temperature blanket (or scarf, etc.). So I thought I would pull together some tips and share some ideas of variations to consider.
— Dr. G (@guertin) February 22, 2020
Questions and Answers about temperature blankets
Q: Do I have to make a temperature blanket? Can I make something else?
A: Let’s break this question down into two pieces. First, for the “blanket” part, it is up to you if you want to make a blanket that covers a bed, or a throw blanket, or a baby blanket! You may decide that a blanket takes too long to make, or gets to heavy/bulky to work with. If you’d rather do a project that takes less time/yarn, then consider a scarf, a table runner, a potholder, etc. Maybe you’d rather do a temperature hat, or temperature socks. You have options!
This is the first temperature blanket I saw pictured on social media – but again, creating a blanket is not required!
ARE YOU KIDDING ME THIS IS THE COOLEST!! pic.twitter.com/xrbMdf9dkp
— Ellen Bacca (@ellenbacca) January 1, 2017
For the “temperature” piece, this is also up to you. Temperature data is very simple for people to collect day-to-day by following their local weather forecast, or by taking their own measurements. But other data that can be visualized with yarn include precipitation, snowfall, air quality index, pH values in a stream, average windspeed, etc. Any measurement that is gathered over time is fair game for your creative work.
Q: OK, so if I stick with temperature data, does it have to be for an entire year? From one location?
A: Again, you can use any data you like that has been collected over time, but we’ll stick with talking about temperature data for the remainder of these questions. The data can be for one full year, but it doesn’t have to be! For example, the blanket on the right is one I made for a friend of mine as a delayed baby shower gift. I waited until her daughter was born and made a baby blanket representing the daily maximum temperature for the first three months of her daughter’s life. I also gave her a graph of the data, which makes for such a unique gift! (and an opportunity for her to talk about temperature changes with everyone that sees the blanket!) If you want to make a smaller object such as a potholder, one month of data may be enough. So the length of time and the data record you represent with your yarn is up to you.
And the data doesn’t have to be from one location, or even the location you are at! I made a temperature scarf for myself where I looked up the records for the city and date I was born. I saw online where someone said they took their scarf with them everywhere they traveled for a year and knitted the temperature of the location she was visiting. Another person said she crocheted two blankets of temperature data – one representing the temperature of where she was living, and another of where her daughter was living, so the two could be laid side-by-side for comparison.
Q: Do I have to knit or crochet? Do I have to do straight lines? Can I do something else?
A: Most of the results I’ve seen online are examples that have been knitted or crocheted, but I’ve also heard of others quilting, doing cross stitch… there’s no reason to limit yourself to using yarn to create your data record.
And straight lines are certainly not required! One of the creative projects I’ve seen is where someone crocheted a granny square a day. The inside of the square was crocheted in a color that represented the minimum temperature of the day, while the outside of the square was in a color for the maximum temperature of the same day. Below is an example of a temperature blanket for 2020, where each square represents the temperature for one day.
Q: What colors am I required to use?
A: The color choice is up to you! (By now, I’m sure you see a theme here….). It seems that many needleworkers started generating temperature blankets by using the typical ROYGBIV color palette, such as what is shown on the CraftWarehouse and Lion Brand Yarn website. I also used that for the scarf pictured to the right, which is one I made for my Chancellor to represent the maximum daily temperature for her first year as Chancellor at my campus. The red and orange represents the warmer temperature, while the blue and purple represents the colder temperature.
And note that each color of yarn does not need to represent a 10-degree span of temperature. In my geographic region of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I could do red for the 90’s and orange for the 80’s, etc. But your region or dataset may not have that much variation, so you can use a color to represent a 5-degree temperature interval, or 3-degree interval. I would recommend looking at the range in your entire dataset first (if you have your data already – or look at the historic record for an idea of the range) and decide how you will assign your colors.
Here’s a beautiful example of a temperature blanket where ROYGBIV was not used, and the white row represents a break between the months. You may want to explore using color scales that are friendly to those with color deficient vision.
Q: Where can I see other projects to get some inspiration?
A: Ravelry is an excellent online community that has several groups working on temperature blankets and similar items. You can sign up for free and join the fun! You may also want to check out The Tempestry Project to see examples of their projects that have documented temperature changes in National Parks, and more. They also sell yarn and data kits to start with. A version of The Tempestry Project – Philadelphia Edition was organized locally – perhaps you want to do the same with your group or campus!
Q: Where can I get access to data records?
A: If you are creating a temperature blanket for this year, you can record the data day-by-day as we move through the calendar year. If you are looking for previous data and are in the United States, I encourage you to check out NOAA’s Climate Data Online Search. Here, you can select the type of data you would like, date range, and location.
For those that may be unfamiliar with this interface and to broaden the participation of those engaging with temperature data, you may want to create instructions and share them with others on how to use this interface (which I’ve done as a PDF and PowerPoint), or download datasets for them to use. For example, I’m working with the Public Programs group at Tyler Arboretum and have downloaded data for them to share with volunteers that record the temperature during the first year the Arboretum was established, the temperature for the region during the first year of Earth Day, the most recent calendar year (2019) – the possiblities are endless! We hope to have a community event in the future where everyone can bring their creations with whatever data they used and how they represented that record.
I hope this post helps everyone get ready, get set, and create! Please leave a question for me in the Comment box below so I can continue to respond to questions as they arise.