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Periodic Table Tapestry

One of our Chemistry Teachers has designed and hand-stitched the entire periodic table – an epic undertaking that has taken seven years!

Ms Knox embarked on the project in 2014.

It started with an Excel spreadsheet, as so many wonderful things do, containing all the elemental data, including relative atomic masses (RAM) to three decimal places.

She used a retro version of MS Paint and Ariel font to create an alpha-numeric template image, with each pixel corresponding to a stitch. Her husband (a software engineer) then wrote a computer program which turned the data into image files of the right size and layout; she painstakingly marked out the design by hand, whilst referring to the image on a computer screen. “I went through a lot of Sharpies.”

The colour coding is based on the type of each of the 118 elements (eg. alkali metals, transition metals, metalloids, halogens etc) and the borders indicate their states at room temperature: navy for solid, purple for liquid, very light blue-grey for gas. The red transition metal section features white wool text instead of black to help with legibility for those with colour blindness.

“I really hope IUPAC hold off on declaring the discovery of any period 8 elements, since I was hoping not to have to leave too big a gap between the d-block and f-block – transition metals, and lanthanides + actinides respectively.”

Ms Knox estimates the total number of stitches to be in the region of 500,000; most of the embroidery is tent-stitch, with cross-stitching for the name of the element, atomic number and relative atomic mass. She credits her love of embroidery to her mother, Dr Tina Isaacs – formerly a Senior Lecturer at UCL – who has helped her with the project.

The finished article will be proudly displayed at the school as a much-admired work of art as well as an invaluable teaching tool (and has already proved a hit on Twitter!)

Ms Knox previously worked in neuroendocrinology as a postgraduate researcher at KCL, before joining South Hampstead in 2011. As well as teaching Chemistry, assisting on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and singing in the staff choir, she is a Sixth Form tutor and oversees a growing number of student applications for international universities each year.  



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