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Have you ever looked down from a plane and felt inspired to knit from patterns in the ground below? The ripples of the Sierra Nevada as cables in a sweater? Agricultural fields along the St. Lawrence as a striped scarf? A stash-busting afghan that looks like the train cars stacked up outside of O’Hare? If so then you’ll understand my attraction, as a knitter, to the website Daily Overview.

This corner of the web is more than beautiful. The site is quite explicit that its goal to offer an altered frame of reference on our environment, to widen our horizons and offer an astronaut’s perspective from overhead. Daily Overview’s founder and visionary, Benjamin Grant, posts photographs that he researches and enhances from Google Earth: the Celtic knot of a Florida highway interchange, a clear blue swath of sea crowded with brightly colored container ships that is a shipping channel off Indonesia; tulip cultivation fields in the multi-hued flush of the Netherlands’ spring; Dallas/Fort Worth Airport from directly above, its runways resembling Morse Code or a Neolithic cave painting. Or something else again. What does it remind you of?

By Daily Overview, satellite imagery (c) DigitalGlobe.

Yet, as much as I make of Daily View’s visual appeal, it aspires to more than that. The website’s mission statement is clear: “We hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.”


Daily Overview’s depiction of crowded cities, vast refugee camps, mining wastes, and man-made islands is meant to give you pause. It is sobering, riveting, and ultimately sublime. The simple premise is that from a distance we can see clearly what we are doing here; that the size and scope of our footprint is humbling, horrifying, and inspiring.


For example,consider this image of another airport, this one in Beijing. The taxiways work with the limitations of the aircraft on the ground, leading them efficiently to and from the terminal. It immediately struck me as a pattern worth exploring for its many knitted cable possibilities. I spent several days graphing combinations and being unable to choose a clear favorite. To have something to show you, I whipped up the most simple of the charts I drew, using a Classic Elite yarn that has great stitch definition: Song, a 50/50 cotton wool blend.

If I dedicated myself to working through this to a garment, I might layer the repeat in some way, and pair it with another larger cable from my sketch pile. There’s so much potential just in this one image.



I also thought I’d work up something based on another picture that grabbed me, the Solar Concentrator outside of Seville, Spain. The geometry of the solar panels are easily imagined in color work, so I cast on and just started knitting. I used one of my favorite color work yarns for this swatch, Fresco by Classic Elite Yarns.

I confess that I winged this one. I just cast on and started knitting what I saw in the picture for a bit to observe how the pattern was progressing. I soon thought about the potential for the crown of a hat, or top-down mittens. I rearranged the colors for contrast, using the photograph as a jumping off point rather than something to literally transcribe.

After a few rounds, the math decided for me how the blue dots and increases should interact, and with a little trial and error the pattern taught me what it could and could not do. I threw in a garter ridge every few rounds for emphasis because I like how that stitch makes a nice smooth line when it comes to a single round of a color.

And as I knit, I thought about the photograph’s subject. I thought about the energy collected there. I looked up the coordinates posted with the photo to see it from space for myself. I found myself wondering what it sounded like on the ground among the panels, if it was hot, if there would ever be a solar collector powering my life, or my children’s. I checked the Internet on a tea break to see if those Tesla solar tiles are for sale yet.

I spent a day just knitting and ripping, and found my way to something I think would, with a little reworking, make a very respectable hat. And as a design, I think it would be best appreciated – get this ­– from overhead. Kid hat, perhaps?

There are many other images in the Daily Overview book that I have marked for experimentation, and I check the Daily Overview Instagram regularly for new ones. I thank Benjamin Grant for his thoughtful work, for the website, and for his permission to use the images here for the purpose of sharing my own way of considering them with you. If you don’t know the site, do click over and wander around a little. It will change your perspective and maybe inspire you in ways you haven’t yet imagined.




About The Author

As a blogger, writer, teacher, lecturer, designer, and catalyst in the knitting world, Julia Farwell-Clay has for the past ten years dug herself ever deeper into the world of textile traditions and personal decoration. She is the designer of all of the patterns in Modern Daily Knitting Field Guide No. 7: Ease, and  has been published as both a writer and a designer in Knitty, Interweave Knits, PomPom Quarterly, and Twist Collective, among others.


  • I scrolled through the website and found pictures that would translate into wax resist, knitting and painting possibilities. Thank you for posting this!

  • I’ve used Hubble images for color combinations in my dyeing and weaving. Nature is an inspiration, and a great well for contemplation.

  • Thanks for this stunning source of inspiration. I’ve bookmarked it for future use. Julie Gold’s song, From A Distance, is playing in my head as I look at the images (Nanci Griffith and Bette Midler sang it). Lovely.

  • Off down this rabbit hole! Fantastic.

  • I often look to nature for color combinations, there are beautiful bugs here on earth! Thank you for more stunning pictures! You can never have too much inspiration!

  • I love this and just shared it with my team. It’s like ctr-alt-del for the mind and the spirit.

  • I used the Hadron super collider for color inspiration for a Pi shawl. Thanks for showing this wonderful site.

  • I love this concept, and I resonate with it. A seashell picked up on the beach in North Carolina was the inspiration for a pair of socks for my son-in-law (who had proposed to my daughter on that very beach), and water tumbling over rocks in a mountain stream in the Columbia River gorge made me exclaim “That would be a beautiful cable-knit sweater!” I took a photograph, but that’s as far as I’ve gone. So much to knit, so little time!

  • This is just brilliant. I follow Daily Overview on Instagram and often marvel at how beautiful the most mundane, concrete structures become when seen from above, but it would never have crossed my mind to cast on. Now that I revisit the photos above, I am fantasizing about a lace interpretation of the Beijing airport runways. Thank you so much for the brilliant inspiration! Must order the book now.

  • I’ve been following daily Overview for a while now and have never failed to be intrigued, moved, or totally blown away by the images. I have been collecting a few… for quilt inspiration! An additional interesting overhead photo Instagram account is @anthonyquigley.

  • I can only echo the chorus of appreciation and amazement I just read. What an incredible book, what a way to look at cities, especially (for me), as well as other terrains. Thank you.

  • This is so cool! I too look at things and think “oh, that could be a knit design” but I don’t, y’know, actually DO IT!

  • I love Daily Overview and have often considered images I’ve seen there for color inspiration. Thank you for expanding my thoughts to include actual color work patterns and cables/stitch patterns.

  • Let me start with the knitters’ choices. Glamourie, from Alice and Jade Starmore: to be released in January (I think), but available now for pre-order on Amazon. Also from the Starmores, the 2013 edition of Tudor Roses. And . . . the original edition of Tudor Roses, both editions of Aran Knitting, The Celtic Collection . . . you get the idea.

    I’ll be back with non-knitting selections after I browse my living room.

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