Elegant Scarf Designs

Mathemaesthetics was founded in 1988 by Doug McKenna, a computer programmer and mathematical artist who delights in finding new recursive geometries. In addition to his work as a software developer--itself a form of mathematical art--McKenna has for over 30 years created works in his chosen medium of fractal tile designs, space-filling curves, and other recursive or self-referential geometries.

Most recently, he has converted some of these mathematical discoveries into fabric designs for silk scarves.

These unique scarves are great conversation pieces and make fantastic gifts for anyone interested in pattern, puzzles, fun, beauty, and elegance. With a certain Escher-like quality to them, these scarves' foreground and background patterns are identical and therefore indistinguishable. (In technical parlance, they are "self-negative".) In other words, is the design color on white? Or is it white on color? The answer is ... both (just rotate the scarf 180 degrees!).

For the mathematically curious, these designs are based on what are called "generalized Peano Curves", a certain type of fractal. But although McKenna uses mathematical principles and computer software to create these designs and to accurately lay them out, anyone can appreciate them as elegant, beautiful, and fun without needing to understand the underlying geometric principles or computer-aided construction techniques. As abstract patterns they are truly timeless.

The current line has been coordinated to work well with the latest fashion colors.

Each scarf is approximately 5-6 feet long by 1 foot wide, in medium weight chiffon. We are preparing a suite of five different patterns and colors, to suit different tastes.


McKenna Scarves are available in quantity at wholesale prices to museum stores or other fine retail outlets. Please contact us for our reseller pricing, suggested retail prices, packaging, availability, and ordering information.

Patterns and Colors

Based on one of many new mathematical patterns that McKenna has explored and catalogued, this scarf's design starts out as a specialized 9 by 9 tile design akin to his "Synaptica" print here. After smoothing all corners, the motif is precisely repeated in a very specialized (self-similar) way to connect with copies of itself in a literally seamless fashion, so that the border between foreground and background areas of the scarf is a single curved path. You could cut the scarf into two identical jigsaw-like pieces just by following this curve (but don't try it, the path may be easy to follow, but unraveled it would be over 400 feet long!!).


More to come ...