Our Solar System
They're out of this world! You'll be walking on sunshine! Insert your own space pun here!
Today’s post was written about a year and a half ago, when we released our solar system yarn. I’ve been puzzling over how to translate this striping pattern onto worsted yarn, so it’s been on my brain a lot lately and it seemed like a good time to share it here.
The solar system is mostly empty. Just nothingness and dust. Then every once in a while there is something unimaginably huge or comparatively tiny.
Mercury is around 58 million km from the sun, which sounds like a lot until you realize that Neptune is 4,498 million km from the sun. Saturn is 10 times the size of the Earth and Jupiter is nearly 30 times larger than Mercury.
In other words, the solar system is awkward to draw to scale.
The vastness of space is a real problem for someone who wants their socks to be an accurate representation of the cosmos, and an even bigger problem if that someone also does not want their socks to be longer than their legs. Since I am that someone, I had to get creative with stripes.
My first attempt at a Solar System striping pattern. The title says “Our Solar System” and the sun and each of eight planets are labeled and represented by colourful stripes. Below the stripes is a legend showing the distances represented by each colour.
I decided to use different colours to represent different orders of magnitude. So, for example, one stitch of dark orange on Jupiter is equivalent to 10 stitches of the pale orange. This compresses Jupiter and Saturn to reasonable sizes, and makes the billion and a half kilometres between Uranus and Neptune seem like a manageable distance.
The widths of the various stripes were determined by math and science. However, in regions that need both dark and light stripes, like the space between Saturn and Uranus, the placement of those stripes was determined purely by what I thought looked coolest.
My original sketches used paler colours for the smaller distances, and darker colours for the larger distances. While this was more satisfying in theory, it made for low contrast between the planets and space, and just didn't look as nice so I changed it.
Final Our Solar System striping pattern, plus actual socks knits up using the yarn.
Another change from my original sketches was including Pluto. Since it's generally considered a dwarf planet now, I left it out of the first draft. I quickly discovered that Instagram is teeming with pro-Pluto activists and folks who genuinely miss having a ninth planet in our solar system. Needless to say, I added it in. You'll need to make large socks to get all the way there, but now Pluto can be in your socks and well as in your heart.
I did not include any other dwarf planets or large moons or asteroid belts. If you are a fan of, say, Eros or Ceres, I strongly encourage you to find scrap yarn in a cheery colour and add them in yourself. You're already in a corner of the internet where people are reading paragraphs and paragraphs about solar system yarn, we are all going to just love any personal touches you add.
I used data from this NASA fact sheet. Since planets are not perfect spheres and planetary orbits are not perfect circles, distances and diameters are all averages or equatorial diameters. If, like me, you're excited but not particularly knowledgeable about the planets, this fact sheet is wildly interesting. Did you know that a day on Jupiter is 9.9 hours, or that Venus does not have a global magnetic field? Great stuff.
I've resisted the temptation to talk about the distance "between planets", even though that's how they're laid out in the graphic. Earth is, on average, 149.6 million km from the sun and Venus is 108.2, so I put 41.4 million km "between" them. Of course, Earth and Venus don't care about my yarn and spend, I assume, about half their time on opposite sides of the sun, much farther than 41.5 million km apart.
Finally, since a chart without a title is just multi-coloured chaos, I had some custom tags made and I'm including them with every skein. I hope you and/or the space nerd in your life enjoy that little detail as much as I do. Wear it with pride, nerds.
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Thanks, Lynne! I've only ever dyed the "updated" version on yarn. The first attempt was a sketch only. And right now it's all on fingering weight. I'm still figuring out how to get it to work on heavier weights.