Tempestries
The tempestry collection (left) represent temperature ranges from 1950-2016, produced by Emily McNeil, Marissa Connelly, and other local knitters. Two tempestries on the closer wall are for Pullman, Washington, representing 1946 and 2016 (both by Emily McNeil). Photo: Courtesy of Tempestry Project.

Temperature graphs are showing up on people’s living room walls, as knitters across the country transform climate data into textile art.

In a so-called “tempestry,” each color represents a temperature, and each line, the daily high in a specific location. Put together three-hundred-and sixty-five of these lines, and you get a thin, striped tapestry that shows a full year’s changing seasons.

Tempestry colors
Tempestry yarn colors represent hot-to-cold temperatures. Photo: Courtesy of Tempestry Project.
Emily McNeil is co-founder of the Tempestry Project. She says knitters often create tempestries for personally meaningful locations and years, such as birth years.

But the goal of the project is not to look at each piece individually. It’s to see tempestries from the same place – but different years – side by side:

McNeil: “If you see a lot of them together, it’s a very visually striking representation of changing temperature over time.”

The group first exhibited a series of tempestries in Anacortes, Washington.

McNeil: “Some of the reactions were surprisingly intense. We had one woman look at this exhibit and get a little teary eyed.”

Whether shown in a gallery or hung at home, finished tempestries invite conversations about climate change.

McNeil: “It’s so tactile … just a very interactive way of looking at what’s happening around us.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Ariel Hansen is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a passion for science.

Filed under: