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Published: 21 January 2019

It’s elemental for Macramé Jane

This year has been designated the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019) by UNESCO, marking 150 years since Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev devised the iconic chart.

Jane Stewart and Professor Dulcie Mulholland with artwork
Macrame Jane with Professor Dulcie Mulholland, Head of Chemistry, and the artwork on display

And a Surrey graduate is making her own contribution to the celebrations. Jane Stewart, who graduated in Biochemistry in 2007, has completed the whole table in macramé - a feat which has taken 350 hours and 200,000 knots.

During 2019 it will be exhibited at several UK universities and at science festivals, but started its year-long tour at Jane’s alma mater last month.

The IYPT2019 recognises the importance of the Periodic Table as one of the most influential achievements in modern science, reflecting the essence not only of chemistry, but also of physics, biology and other basic sciences disciplines.

Jane (aka Macrame Jane) was inspired to take on the project by her father Nevin, a retired industrial chemist, after a number of other successful macramé works, including Super Mario play blocks for her nephew. A keen crafter from an early age, Jane was given a friendship braiding kit at 11, setting her on the macramé path.

“It is very soothing, much like knitting,” said Jane. “Individual knots don't take much thought. I enjoy designing my own patterns to follow. I'm a scientist by training and the ordered craft form reminds me of lab experiments at university. Method repeat result.

“Macramé gives a sense of achievement. You get ‘in flow’ while you're working. Being creative keeps you busy and you can share the hobby with others, or work alone.”

In February the work will be displayed at the Northern Ireland Science Festival, followed by St Catharine’s College, Cambridge in March. In the summer it will feature at York Festival of Ideas and at a Royal Society of Chemistry family day in Aberdeen. The University of Surrey will also be taking it to a Royal Society of Chemistry event in London in July.

In September it will be exhibited at the University of Edinburgh (Nevin’s alma mater) and the University of Warwick. Jane also plans to take it into schools as part of her STEM ambassador role, promoting science to children.

Professor Dulcie Mulholland, Head of the Department of Chemistry, said: “The Periodic Table is one of the most important foundation stones in modern science. It reflects the essence not only of chemistry, but also of physics, biology and other basic sciences disciplines. It is fitting that the periodic table, which maps the fabric of all of the materials that surround us in the natural and human-made world, has been captured in this intricate series of knots.

“We’re honoured that Jane has allowed the creation to be unveiled at her own University, before heading off on its international travels.”

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