HerStory August: Seema Prakash

We are sharing our love letters for the HerStory Sock Club here, just in case you misplaced yours, didn’t get one, or want to check out what we send prior to signing up. Remember that there are many LYS’s that carry HerStory (listed on our front page), but if your local shop doesn’t, or if you love getting unicorn-encrusted mail from us, you can purchase a 3-month or year-long subscription from us here

As a child in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, Seema Prakash became interested in science at an early age. She dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, after becoming enamored with Florence Nightingale, but even though as she grew, so did opportunities for women in India, the barriers to medical school were just too high. She attended an all-girls college in her hometown, earning her Masters in Botany before getting married and moving to England for a bit. During the early years of her children’s lives, she concentrated on parenting, but it was while in England that she began her journey on the work that would eventually land her on our 2018 HerStory list. One website we found stated that, in the end, she DID become a pediatrician of sorts, although to plants instead of human babies.

In the 1990s, her family moved back to India and Seema earned her PhD. Inspired by Bob Geldof’s activism in support of raising money for the famine in Africa, including the recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and the Live Aid concerts, she began working diligently on figuring out a less expensive way to clone plants. You see, before Dr. Prakash’s groundbreaking work, plant cloning was prohibitively expensive for most, and thus was reserved for the big dogs of farming: the corporate farms who could afford the large price tag associated with it (the medium in which cloning traditionally occurs (agar) is very expensive). Dr. Prakash, seeing that having access to cloned plants, which have a higher yield, are more resistant to environmental factors that affect lesser plants, and are easier to propagate, would greatly help impoverished areas (such as great swaths of India), experimented with other media in which to culture plant tissue. After lots of trial and error, she discovered that sterilized glass beads and liquid nutrients, which are inexpensive and easy to come by, are just what the doctor (aka Dr. Prakash herself) ordered. 

In the mid-1990s, Prakash founded a company to market this new way to clone, called In Vitro International Private Limited. (If you go to the website, know that it appears to not have been updated since the mid-1990s, and will show you just how far internet technology has come.) Her company is doing good works, pioneering different ways for small-scale farms to up their production and therefore better support themselves in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. The goal is a balanced growth, encouraging farmers to marry economics and ecology to support economic AND environmental sustainability for all. She has also created an education program for school-aged children, encouraging them to learn about plants and plant propagation through a “Plant Passport” program, with the goal of inspiring children to care about preservation and conservation.

We found ourselves very inspired by Dr. Prakash (although we also found that information about and images of her are hard to come by). Her efforts include creating a trust to ensure that rural farmers in developing countries have access to information and knowledge about economically-sustainable plant propagation free of charge; tireless advocation for women in agricultural and sustainable rural development work; and the introduction of technological advances to developing countries to introduce food self-sufficiency to parts of the world that have not yet achieved those goals, mostly because of economic and environmental disadvantages. We hope that this love letter, and the accompanyingly-inspirational colorway, Famine Fighter, that we created in honor of Dr. Seema Prakash teach you a thing or two about this amazing August HerStory recipient.

Speaking of Famine Fighter, we had so much fun creating this colorway! We did a massive google image search of saris, scrolling all around and mentally choosing colors to apply, and then we headed into the dye room and started playing. We have so enjoyed the creation of each of our HerStory colorways so far this year, but this one was particularly fun. Super-saturated silky blue and green and yellow, all in a skein of yarn? YES PLEASE!

2018 National Parks. Week 13: Petrified Forest

This park is something else. Ginormous vistas in an almost-monochromatic color scheme that beg for subtle color play. Just check out our inspiration photo, and tell me you don’t want to make a garment out of this park. Or, add a pop of neon to it and pretend you are hiking through the Petrified Forest wearing something bright! The stunning rounds of petrified wood and the striated mesas give us all the feels. The fossilized trees you see there were alive during the Late Triassic Period, about 225 million years ago. Wowza!

Remember, get this colorway on our website starting today! Make socks with us this Summer as a part of our 2nd Annual Summertime Sock Knitting Extravaganza, otherwise known as Socks on Vacay. Use #socksonvacay2018 on IG while sharing photos of your Knitted Wit/Shannon Squire socks (must use our yarn and Shannon’s patterns to be eligible), and you might just win a prize!

2018 National Parks. Week 12: Olympic National Park

This week’s National Park is practically in our back yard here in Portland. Olympic National Park is stunning. Like, can-barely-catch-your-breath, eyes-full-of-wonder stunning. There are so many different possibilities, inspiration-wise, that it was difficult to choose one photo that encapsulated what the park means. This one, however, really spoke to us: the trees growing out of their deceased bretheren, the moss, the ferns, the riot of life and greens and browns…

Remember, get this colorway on our website starting today! Make socks with us this Summer as a part of our 2nd Annual Summertime Sock Knitting Extravaganza, otherwise known as Socks on Vacay. Use #socksonvacay2018 on IG while sharing photos of your Knitted Wit/Shannon Squire socks (must use our yarn and Shannon’s patterns to be eligible), and you might just win a prize!

2018 National Parks. Week 11: Lassen Volcanic

This week, we’re heading to Northern California and the breathtakingly-beautiful Lassen Volcanic Park. Our inspiration photo is courtesy of the always-stunning photography of National Geographic and their guide to the park, from which we learned a great deal.

Did you know that the volcano was slowly erupting from June 1914 through May 1915? And then, through June 1917, it erupted with more force and ash and steam, but has been relatively quiet ever since? In the one park, you can walk past and up and around four different types of volcanoes: shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome. And our Lassen Volcanic yarn is the perfect representation of the grays and greens inherent in the scamper we hope you’ll make through the park.

Remember, get this colorway on our website starting today! Make socks with us this Summer as a part of our 2nd Annual Summertime Sock Knitting Extravaganza, otherwise known as Socks on Vacay. Use #socksonvacay2018 on IG while sharing photos of your Knitted Wit/Shannon Squire socks (must use our yarn and Shannon’s patterns to be eligible), and you might just win a prize!

2018 National Parks. Week 10: Katmai

If you do a google image search for Katmai National Park in Alaska, your results are overwhelmingly photos of bears. Big bears, little bears, mama bears, papa bears, and oh, so many baby bears. So of COURSE we had to use as our inspiration photo a bear family. DUH. This skein of yarn is the perfect bear-family brown, shaded and deep and just plain perfect.

Remember, get this colorway on our website starting today! Make socks with us this Summer as a part of our 2nd Annual Summertime Sock Knitting Extravaganza, otherwise known as Socks on Vacay. Use #socksonvacay2018 on IG while sharing photos of your Knitted Wit/Shannon Squire socks (must use our yarn and Shannon’s patterns to be eligible), and you might just win a prize!

HerStory July: Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

We are sharing our love letters for the HerStory Sock Club here, just in case you misplaced yours, didn’t get one, or want to check out what we send prior to signing up. Remember that there are many LYS’s that carry HerStory (listed on our front page), but if your local shop doesn’t, or if you love getting unicorn-encrusted mail from us, you can purchase a 3-month or year-long subscription from us here

We all know the feeling: you walk into your kitchen, prepared to start your day, and a cloud of wee annoyances lift off of an overripe banana on your countertop. Your kitchen has been besieged by those unruly, buggy little things we all know as fruit flies. But just imagine if you will, that you look at one of these wee annoyances and instead see the key to understanding just how genetics work. Imagine seeing the beauty and the possibility in a cloud of fruit flies. Well, that’s what our July HerStory recipient, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, did. She embraced (not literally, because fruit flies are teensy) the little buggers and figured out how genes control embryonic development.

Born in 1942 in Magdeburg, Germany, Nüsslein-Volhard was a precocious child, always interested in biology and the natural sciences. Her grades throughout primary school were mediocre, as she professed to not give time and energy to the subjects that didn’t interest her. She attended Goethe Frankfurt University in Frankfurt in the early 1960s, but found herself feeling unchallenged and bored, so transferred to the University of Tübingen when they debuted a biochemistry program in the mid-1960s. Tübingen housed the Max Planck Institute for Virus Research, and was host to visiting scientists from a variety of fields, which proved to be inspiring to our young researcher. While at Tübingen, she briefly married and gained a hyphenated name, but when the marriage ended in divorce, she kept both names, as she had begun to be published, and preferred the continuity of having the same name. Her PhD work led her to study molecular biology and genetics in more depth, but she found that the course of study she had chosen was limited and not as inspiring as she hoped. She moved on to cellular biology, and studied at the University of Basel in Switzerland for a time, learning more and more about how genes behave, and what effects introducing mutations into a developing embryo have. She moved back to Germany to continue her work on genetics, and in 1980, along with her research partner, published a paper identifying fifteen genes that compromise the fruit fly.

After publishing this seminal paper, in 1986, Nüsslein-Volhard went home, to Tübingen, Germany, and became the director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology. She held this position for many years, and continued her work on genetics. Inspired by her genetic discoveries with fruit flies, she began working on isolating genetic structures of vertebrates, and began studying zebrafish.

Nüsslein-Volhard also began working on social, ethical, and philosophical issues in the sciences. She served on the National Ethics Council of Germany and became a leader on ethics and gender equality issues. Nüsslein-Volhard established the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard Foundation, an organization which seeks to promote gender equality in science by providing support and resources to female scientists. One of things that most inspired Nüsslein-Volhard to found this organization was the realization that, no matter how accomplished a female scientist was, at the end of the day, for many women, the burden of homemaking, otherwise known as the invisible workload, most commonly falls to women. Her foundation provides funding resources to help female scientists hire out that invisible workload. She has spoken on the ongoing difficulties women face in the sciences: how hard it is for women to balance research and family obligations, and the fact that this is the leading reason women are so underrepresented in leading scientific positions.
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard won the Nobel Prize Physiology and Medicine in 1995. She later reflected that it was a double-edged sword: she enjoyed the legitimacy and professional honor, but found it a distraction in many ways. She was torn between feeling the need to accept all invitations to speak and the desire to get back to work, and felt that there was a definite sexist slant to some of the reception to her award. Throughout her career, and throughout the careers of many women in fields that have been dominated by males, she’s had not only to do the work, put in the time, and make sure her work is exemplary, but also to fight against the sometimes-fragile male egos of her contemporaries.

She’s currently Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, and in her spare time, loves to cook (she’s even published a cook book!) and play the flute and sing. She continues to be a leader in the field of genetics, and even has an asteroid named after her. So, the next time you find yourself with some overripe fruit and overzealous fruit flies, take a moment before smashing them all to think about how these humble pests helped to further our understanding of how genes work, and inspired the career of a truly inspiring HerStory recipient.

2018 National Parks. Week 9: Isle Royale

Who wants to go on a road trip to Michigan with me? Because Isle Royale National Park is the dreamiest, and I’m feeling the need for some of that beauty in my life. Oh, well, I’ll just have to be content to cast on some Isle Royale socks, huh?

Here’s a link to the google image search for Isle Royale. It’s just the prettiest, and there seems to be a lot of awesome wildlife to see, too!

Remember, get this colorway on our website starting today! Make socks with us this Summer as a part of our 2nd Annual Summertime Sock Knitting Extravaganza, otherwise known as Socks on Vacay. Use #socksonvacay2018 on IG while sharing photos of your Knitted Wit/Shannon Squire socks (must use our yarn and Shannon’s patterns to be eligible), and you might just win a prize!

2018 National Parks. Week 8: Grand Canyon

This week, we are visiting the amazing Grand Canyon National Park. Can you feel its immensity? Because, we sure can!

The image James Kaiser created for his guide to the Grand Canyon made our hearts go pitter-patter. We seriously almost packed up the Knitted Wit-mobile that very second.

Remember, get this colorway on our website starting today! Make socks with us this Summer as a part of our 2nd Annual Summertime Sock Knitting Extravaganza, otherwise known as Socks on Vacay. Use #socksonvacay2018 on IG while sharing photos of your Knitted Wit/Shannon Squire socks (must use our yarn and Shannon’s patterns to be eligible), and you might just win a prize!

2018 National Parks. Week 7: Gates of the Arctic

We really do hate to play favorites, particularly when each color is so unique and beautiful, but this color is this year’s answer to last year’s favorite, Acadia. For Week 7, we are visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park, and oooh, baby, is it a gorgeous place to be!

Check out our inspiration photo for this park, and tell me that you don’t want to climb right into the screen.

Remember, get this colorway on our website starting today! Make socks with us this Summer as a part of our 2nd Annual Summertime Sock Knitting Extravaganza, otherwise known as Socks on Vacay. Use #socksonvacay2018 on IG while sharing photos of your Knitted Wit/Shannon Squire socks (must use our yarn and Shannon’s patterns to be eligible), and you might just win a prize!