By Christina Catanese, Director of Environmental Art
There’s just something about climate change. Despite the fact that predictions grow more dire by the day, it doesn’t feel like an emergency. It can be hard to wrap our minds around something so big and abstract. So how can it become more personal, tangible, visceral?
A group of knitters has one idea—by applying their craft to climate change data.
The Tempestry Project (https://www.tempestryproject.com/about) is global climate data visualization through fiber arts. A Tempestry is a wall hanging, or temperature tapestry, that represents the daily high temperature for a given year and location, with January at the bottom and December at the top—think of it like a bar graph. The Tempestry Project was founded by Justin Connelly, Marissa Connelly, and Emily McNeil in Anacortes, WA.
All Tempestries use the same yarn colors and temperature ranges, creating an immediately recognizable and globally comparable mosaic of shifting temperatures over time. If the high temperature is a roasty 96 degrees, the row for that day will be Cranberry, a rich red. If the polar vortex has just come through and the high is just 11 degrees, that row will be Fjord. The illustrative names of the yarn colors are an additional delight.
I’m a hybrid science/art person already, plus an avid knitter, so I couldn’t be more excited by this project. I finished my first Tempestry this winter. I chose 2017 in Cooksburg, PA, the year and place where my husband and I got married. I even knitted in a little silver thread for our actual wedding day; with an 84 degree high, it was a lovely row of Papaya.
People all over the world are making these Tempestries, assembling a global mosaic of shifting temperature patterns, row by wooly row. It’s gratifying to be part of a connected global network of fiber artists putting their energy toward raising awareness, and I found that the mindfulness of knitting and sitting with this global challenge helped me process my own feelings about it.
A single Tempestry is meaningful on its own as a snapshot, a moment in time, a commemoration. But a collection of Tempestries reveals change over time. What if we had a whole slew of Tempestries for one place? Would we visually see the shift, as models predict for Philadelphia, to a hotter, wetter world?
During 2019, the Schuylkill Center will coordinate a collection of Tempestries that show daily maximum temperature data over several years for Philadelphia. The collection will be on long-term display at the Schuylkill Center to educate about how climate change is impacting our region.
We are seeking knitters and crocheters to get involved in creating this collection! To get involved, please contact me, Christina Catanese, at email@example.com or 215-853-6269.
We’ll be holding a kickoff meeting this spring for interested crafters to learn how to start making a Philadelphia Tempestry and assemble and distribute yarn kits for the collection.
More information on the Philadelphia Tempestry collection: http://www.schuylkillcenter.org/art/?ha_exhibit=tempestry-project-philadelphia-collection
Update 3/19/19: We have received an amazing response to this project and currently have more than enough volunteers to knit/crochet Tempestries complete our 30 piece collection! But there are still ways you can get involved.
- Contact Christina to be added to the list of alternates, in case any of our current team is not able to complete their Tempestries.
- Help assemble yarn kits for knitters – contact Christina for more information on this, and note whether you have access to a digital scale that measures in grahams and/or a ball winder.
- Make a donation to the Schuylkill Center to support this project: visit https://
schuylkillcenter.pivvit.com/ make-a-gift and include “Tempestry Project” in the notes field.
Photos courtesy of the Tempestry Project