This and That

Random bits of my life

Periodic Table Sweater

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 5, 2009

Front of sweater:

Periodic Table Sweater

Back of sweater:

Periodic Table Sweater

I knitted this sweater in 1996 using Lion Brand Wool-Ease yarn in Hunter Green, Burgundy, and Wheat Sprinkles (the yarn was a gift, so I didn’t have a choice of colour). It started out as a rather unusual and charming (in my humble opinion) cabled sweater for my husband. When I showed it to Baruch, he tried to feign enthusiasm but I could sense that he was disappointed. I asked him what was wrong and he answered, “I was hoping for something …. different.”

“Like what?”


“No way.” He’s been asking me to make him something with pigs for years, as the pig is his favourite animal but this is Israel, after all. Can you imagine a nice orthodox man with a big kippah and tzitzis and beard walking around the Western Wall wearing a pig sweater? If he were over 6′ tall and a body-builder, I might have relented but he’s only 5’4″.

“Molecular structure diagrams?”

Baruch is a microbiologist in the pharmaceutical industry. I thought about it and studied his sketches. The angles of the lines and the hexagons looked like a charter’s nightmare and I decided, in the end, that I wouldn’t be able to translate them into knitting, not in the immediate future.

“How about the Periodic Table?”

I pondered for 2 minutes, then said, “That’s do-able.” He photocopied the periodic table from his highschool chemistry textbook and I charted the actinides and lanthanides. Halfway through the lanthanides, I realised that I didn’t need a chart after all and just knitted it directly from the photocopy. Any mistakes were corrected later with duplicate stitch.

The sleeves have fungi on one sleeve and bacteria on the other. His sweater was a hit at work and he was invited to give special showings in the chemistry labs.

Fungi sleeve:

Periodic Table Sweater

Bacteria sleeve:

Periodic Table Sweater

The sweater was knitted in the round. I machine-stitched and cut steeks for the armholes.


A chemist neighbour borrowed the sweater for his mother-in-law to copy. When I realised that we wouldn’t have the sweater back by winter, I offered to provide charts. Important note: This chart is out of date. If you want a current chart with the most recent elements, you’re on your own!

Front and back charts are 109 stitches x 112 rows. I cut the charts in half so that they could be printed easily.

  • Download Periodic Table Chart (pdf)
  • When my son was young, I briefly considered making a sweater for him of the square for gold (AU), with all the atomic number, atomic mass, etc., worked in intarsia.

    Books for Geeky Knitters

  • Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again
  • A Stitch of One’s Own – Book & Gift Set – This is not your Mother’s Knitting Kit
  • AntiCraft: Knitting, Beading and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister
  • Kilobyte Couture: Geek Chic Jewelry to Make from Easy-to-Find Computer Components

  • Share

    40 Responses to “Periodic Table Sweater”

    1. Angela said

      I love the periodic table sweater and I love hearing the story about its genesis! I had not realized that there was Bacteria AND fungi. It just makes me smile!

    2. Wow! That is a thing of beauty. The bacteria and fungi are fabulous bonus details.

    3. sethaurus said

      I would pay so very, very much money for such a sweater as this. Truly I would!

    4. […] Link Via Craftzine […]

    5. colinsco said

      So awesome. Now I want one.

    6. Jennifer said

      Wonderful! Are you on Ravelry? If not, you might consider joining–many Ravelers would love this sweater. You should check it out (

      • apinnick said

        I am on Ravelry but I’ve only gone there once. Is there a place to post a link? Or do I start a thread on a forum?

        • Margaret said

          You could post pictures/description of the sweater in your own Projects, and then share it with groups — there are several scientist groups on Ravelry, all of whom would be highly entertained by both the sweater and the story behind it I’m sure.

    7. this is the best sweater i have ever seen

    8. Evan said

      I knew you were cool Avital, but this is truly another level of cool.

    9. PeterK said

      I’m just being picky, but the Fluorine F seems to have turned into an extra Phosphorus P at the top of the halogens column.

      • apinnick said

        You’re right! I guess no one noticed before because it’s on the back of the sweater. Maybe I still have some of the yarn around and can repair it. Thanks!

    10. Kamal said

      Stumbled upon this from Really geeky cool sweater!

    11. Rebel said

      He is one lucky man! Nice work. =)

    12. […] qui né sans les yeux, une chance sur 100 000, ca fait pas des masses, courage tiote mère. Un pull pour nos amis scitifiques et physiciens avec le tableau periodique et le nom des bacteries sur les […]

    13. NerdMom said

      I love this!! Can I use a couple of your pics to post about this over on my blog?

      • apinnick said

        You’re more than welcome to use the photos! I’d appreciate it if you include a link to my original blog posting. Thanks!

    14. […] Link Via Craftzine […]

    15. Joe MacQuade said

      I would like see you get this machine made and make a million from chemists and their students . Good perhaps for CHEM WEEK 2010.

    16. Bob Buntrock said

      Too bad any more sweaters can’t be done by Oct. The theme for National Chemistry Week 2009 (NCW; Oct. 18-24) is “It’s elemental” and is centered on the Periodic Table.

    17. Ardeana Hamlin said

      Hello, I write a column about knitting and needlework for the Bangor Daily News in Bangor, Maine, USA. A friend sent me a link to your blog where I saw the photo of your fabulous Periodic Table sweater. I’d like to use a photo of the sweater in an upcoming column. Would it be possible for you to e-mail a photo or would you giveme permission to use one from your blog. Thanks and happy knitting, Ardeana

      • apinnick said

        I would be happy for you to use the pictures from my blog, if that’s easiest. Please link back to my blog. Thank-you!


    18. Helen said

      Hi, My son wonders if he would be allowed to wear a jersey like this to a chemistry exam…

    19. […] Table Sweater knit­ted and pho­tographed by apin­nick. A list of fungi adorn the one sleeve, bac­te­ria the other. This is a much nicer sweater than […]

    20. […] Table Sweater Goes Viral September 15, 2009 — apinnick My Periodic Table sweater has taken on a life of its own. It’s fascinating to see its lifecycle on the Web. By the way, […]

    21. […] Periodic Table Sweater « This and That via Craft […]

    22. Dusty Hunt said

      That is the coolest sweater ever 😀

    23. Dusty Hunt said

      PS My blog is about knitting and stuff: May I link to your pattern and post the pic so I can blather on about what a great sweater this is? (Obviously, I’ll tell them who it’s from, along with any other copyright notice stuff you’d like included.)

    24. Dusty Hunt said

      FYI, here is the post:
      Thanks again for posting this, and for letting me link to it 🙂

    25. Becki said

      Oh dear LORD!

      It is actually amazing! What I would give to have this little number in my life!

      Incredibly impressive.

    26. […] featured a variety of different science projects that were knitted or crocheted, including the periodic table sweater above (made in Wool-Ease by Avital P.) that we tweeted about last summer and a mobius strip cowl. I […]

    27. Lilita said

      Wow! The Periodic Table pattern is very interesting! I found it is something my grandson has to have! I have the appropriate yarns (almost the same three colors) already; I’m going to start it tonight !!!

    28. Avital, I love this sweater…..I left you a comment after your comment on your blog just to say that I met my husband in freshman chem. We were lab partners! He was a physics major and I was a bio major, minored in chem. The rest was history…very geeky history. Thanks for sharing your sweater!!!!

    29. Jane said

      that is great!! equally up there Tom Lehrer’s elements song…

    30. JENNIFER said

      that is the most awesome sweater EVER! My daughter is taking chemistry in her junior year of high school and I WISH I could knit this for her! She is a beautiful geek, wears a tshirt that says “captain nerdy” proudly. cracks me up! anyway, great idea and great work!

      • Avital Pinnick said

        Maybe she could knit it! The chart isn’t all that difficult to follow if she has a basic sweater pattern.

    31. Ross said

      You are my hero! This is awesome!

      Great work and congrats from Phoenix, USA.

    32. jtorgler said

      I can see why this sweater was such an enormous hit… absolutely incredible!

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