Neural Knitworks

Neural Knitworks installed at Hazelhurst Gallery in 2014

Neural Knitworks displayed in 2014

Neural Knitworks is a collaborative project about mind and brain health.

Whether you’re a whiz with yarn, or just discovering the joy of craft, now you can crochet wrap, knit or knot—and find out about neuroscience.

During 2014 an enormous number of handmade neurons were donated (1665 in total!) and used to build a giant walk-in brain, as seen here at Hazelhurst Gallery and Arts Centre.

In 2015, the Neural Knitworks team invites you to create your own home-grown Neural Knitwork for National Science Week. Together we’ll create a giant ‘virtual’ neural network by linking your displays visually online.

Your creation can be big or small, part of a formal display, or simply consist of neighbourhood neuron ‘yarn-bombings’. Knitworks can be created at home, at work or at school. No knitting experience is required and all ages can participate.

See below for how to contribute.

What is a neuron?

Neurons are electrically excitable cells of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. The billions of neurons in your body connect to each other in neural networks. They receive signals from every sense, control movement, create memories, and form the neural basis of every thought.

Check out our neuron microscopy gallery for some real-world inspiration.

What happens at a Neural Knitwork?

Neural Knitworks are based on the principle that yarn craft, with its mental challenges, social connection and mindfulness, helps keep our brains and minds sharp, engaged and healthy.

Have fun as you

  • design your own woolly neurons, or get inspired by our scientifically-informed knitting, crochet or knot patterns;
  • natter with neuroscientists and teach them a few of your crafty tricks;
  • contribute to a travelling textile brain exhibition;
  • increase your attention span and test your memory.

Calm your mind and craft your own brain health as you

  • forge friendships;
  • solve creative and mental challenges;
  • practice mindfulness and relaxation;
  • teach and learn;
  • develop eye-hand coordination and fine motor dexterity.

Interested in hosting a Neural Knitwork?

  1. Log your event on the National Science Week calendar to take advantage of multi-channel promotion.
  2. Share the link for this Neural Knitwork page on your own website or online newsletter and add information your own event details.
  3. Use this flyer template (250 kB Word) to promote your event in local shop windows and on noticeboards.
  4. Visit our event organisers toolbox for tips on hosting a successful event.
  5. You’ll need plenty of yarn, needles, copies of our scientifically-based neuron crafting pattern books (3.4 MB PDF) and a comfy spot in which to create.
  6. Gather together a group of friends who knit, crochet, design, spin, weave and anyone keen to give it a go. Those who know how to knit can teach others how to do it, and there’s even an easy no knit pattern that you can knot.
  7. Download a neuroscience podcast to listen to, and you’ve got a Neural Knitwork!
  8. Join the Neural Knitworks community on Facebook  to share and find information about events including public talks featuring neuroscientists and tweet #neuralknitworks to show us your creations!

How to contribute to our virtual art gallery

Find display ideas in the pattern book, in our 2014 gallery and on our Facebook page.

Plan your event or display during or close to National Science Week, 15-23 August.

Photograph your creations and post images in our Facebook community. We will link images visually on-line to create a giant virtual neural network.

Have your display ready to be networked during or close to National Science Week.

Share photographs of your creations in our Facebook community as you go along, to inspire others. If you have created a great pattern you want to share, you can upload it to the group ‘Files’.

Hints for a successful event

  • Prospective venues and speakers will love the idea but may need lots of notice.
  • Avoid privacy issues by posting or displaying photographs of hands and neurons only.
  • Ask first if you plan on ‘neuron bombing’.
  • Start knitting now!!

Watch this giant ‘virtual’ network grow.

Thanks to all those willing to contribute their neurons to help bring this woolly brain artwork to life!

This short video featuring Professor Ian Hickie is of the Neural Knitworks workshop held on 19 June at Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre:

Meet the Neural Knitworks team

Textile artist Pat Pillai’s idea to knit and weave brain cells was the winning pitch at the 2013 Ultimo Science Festival Art & Science Soiree in Sydney.

With encouragement from the Soiree’s organiser Sophie Weeks and fellow artist Rita Pearce, the idea for the Neural Knitworks exhibition at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery soon took hold.

Inspiring Australia’s NSW Manager Jackie Randles worked with the artists to extend the concept beyond the gallery as a National Science Week community art project. Input also came from Jenny Whiting, Heather Main, Deirdre Molloy, Sarah McKay, Rod Dowling, Kuldip Sidhu and Carrie Kibbler. We’ve blogged about the development of the project too.

Huge thanks to the many scientific researchers who provided access to inspirational images used as the basis of patterns, and to all those who have offered support and assistance along the way to bring this big woolly project to life.

Founding partners include Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, Inspiring Australia (NSW), ANSTO, Your Brain Heath, Brain & Mind Research Institute, the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, and Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation. New partner Caringbah Lions Club joins us for 2015.

References and Acknowledgements
Knit a Neuron, UK: Dr Anne Cooke & Helen Featherstone; Gabrielle Theriault via Ravelry; Sydney Hyperbolic Reef Project and ABC Knit-in (now Wrap with Love Inc), Pistil – X Chromosome, Hiromi Tango Qld GOMA The artists would like to acknowledge the mentorship of Hiromi Tango. The original concept for Neural Knitworks builds on the success of their collaborative project Hiromi Hotel: Moon Jellies at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre in 2013.