When an animated film creator and science author join forces with a monster-sized robot quilting machine experimental embroidery emerges upon their blankets. Nina Paley (writer and director of “Sita Sings the Blues”) and Pop Sci columnist Theodore Gray use their unique skills to create quilts that display the entire periodic table, for example, as well as a design that beautifully displays more than 100 digits of the transcendental number π. Showing off the Urbana, Illinois-based duo’s sense of humor are their molecule quilts, featuring some well-known names that can get pretty punny. Molecular representations of THC, Ambien (to be specific, the generic Zolpidem), melatonin and more bring up jokes about having a good night’s sleep, and there’s even a set of contour lines that fill up the quilt to simulate each molecule’s electrostatic field.
“Nina and I have actually known each other since we were kids. We started working together on quilts about 40 years later, after we had been an item for about a year,” Gray tells CH. Paley took up quilting as a form of procrastination, when she needed a break from her animation work—and the purchase of a 3000-pound, high-production quilting machine was an investment into how serious she was about the side project. The robot stitcher takes care of the tedious parts of quilting (“the actual making of quilts”), so Paley can concentrate on designs. Using Mathematica code, Gray transforms Paley’s designs into a single continuous line (since the machine can’t cut thread, it’s ideal to avoid starting at different points because the lines will show up in the fabric) or generates new designs from scratch.
Peruse all the past quilts and projects Pale Gray has made here, and to purchase a quilt—or request a custom design, as shown in the photo above—visit Theodore Gray’s website. Also noteworthy is the Stitch Cam, which live-streams the massive quilting machine when it’s in action.
Images courtesy of PaleGray Labs