on parabolae

I started out the weekend thinking about parabolas.  I've (almost) finished the weekend looking at parabolas with my very patient husband.  According to google, the most common plural form of a parabola is 'parabolas.'  However, as I have been thinking about maths until my head drops sideways, I think the older and less common term 'parabolae' is a better fit, because it sounds a bit like a disease.

I present to you the following images:

1. Where the weekend started.  If I'd heard of a parabola before, I didn't remember.  My first kind & patient maths teacher told me it was like a breast, so I could visualise the shape I was then invited to consider lines skimming along and gradients being calculated.  I made some progress, and then it stuck in my head, the equivalent of poorly digested food (that's the fault of my brain, no one else's).

2. I didn't have paper when I tortured my second kind and patient maths teacher at some ungodly hour of Saturday morning, but I did find maths paper and ask more questions tonight and this is part of what I got.  That funny 'S' means something that I have forgotten.  I now have a theory about the origin of the phrase "it's all Greek to me."  But the image part, and the facts about what can be calculated from this parabola and the tangents and the gradient, I have made progress with.  I'm doing better with terms like 'rise over run' than I am with the equations.

Kind Maths Teacher #2 also showed me what can be done on the Desmos Graphing Calculator.  You can make it make ric rac!  Currently, I can not, but I haven't ruled out mastering this algebra-meets-graphs-meets-computer thing.  

3. Then I was thinking about symmetrical mathematical forms and the tension between using these as ideals and the realities of human bodies.  To be precise, I was thinking about the reality of women's bodies.  Madonna's conical bras probably deserve an academic paper for their comment on the presentation of an idealised, mathematically pure female form all by themselves.

4 & 5.  What do you notice about the cleavage of the fertility goddess and the watermelons?  I notice that they are both different shapes and sizes.  If you put a blouse on them, one side would fit differently to the other.

So, maths matters for pattern adjustments, because human bodies can be categorised as asymmetrical and irregular if big business is making your clothing based on pattern blocks developed for small and symmetrical women and telling you whether your size is worthy and acceptable.    If you control the tape measure and those numbers are empowering for you alone, then the tyranny of shop sizing dissipates.

For examples of sewists who knew about maths all along, see
Spatial skills and patterns
The Engineering of Sewing
Grading up a vintage pattern (look at the comments as well).

I have finished an entire dress this weekend and I'm pleased with it, but haven't worn it to get photos yet.


Rachael Ayres said…
Dressmaking AND parabolae in one weekend - indeed you ARE a goddess!
Sandra said…
Goddesses don't do housework, only gardening....

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