CROCHETING THE BEAUTIFUL MATH OF CORAL
Last Friday’s episode of the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett featured an interview with Margaret Wertheim: The Grandeur and Limits of Science. If you love crocheting, fiber art, nature, environmental sustainability, and/or pondering the physics of the universe, I highly recommend it!
Many years ago I first learned about the crochet coral reef project from this Ted Talk:
In this video, science writer Margaret Wertheim explains how models of hyperbolic geometry are created using crochet. She and her twin sister Christine use this hyperbolic crochet technique to create museum exhibits of crocheted coral reefs. They founded the Institute for Figuring, which is “… is an educational organization dedicated to enhancing the public understanding of figures and figuring techniques. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring.” In 2015 they published their book (pictured at the top of this post) documenting the crochet coral reef project.
As soon as I saw this video I had to try out crocheting these models for myself. My love of creating something new and continuously asking “what if?” were fully engaged. The sky’s the limit with choosing colors, yarns, other materials, stitch count, rate of increase, where to place the hook, etc. Endless creativity. While I’m crocheting one piece, ideas for several more experiments present themselves. While doing this I often enter the joyful state of “flow“.
In Margaret Wertheim’s Ted Talk, I learned about how Dr. Daina Taimina, a math professor at Cornell, first discovered that hyperbolic geometry could be modeled using crochet. You can learn more about Dr. Taimina and see her gorgeous crochet models by going to these links:
Daina Taimina’s book: Crocheting Adventures With Hyperbolic Planes
In the gallery below are a few of the hyperbolic and free form crochet pieces I’ve made over the past few years. The piece in the first 2 pictures is in progress and will continue to grow in size. I started with 24 chains + 1 for a turning chain. Then I did 1 single crochet in each stitch (total of 24 stitches). Working back and forth in rows, I increased in every 8th stitch. My current plan is to keep adding rows until some magic moment when it feels “done”. For the other crochet pieces shown below, instructions can be found in other blog posts on this site. In the right hand side bar, click on the post category labeled “hyperbolic crochet” to see those posts.
Dr. Gabriele Meyer, a lecturer in the math department at UW Wisconsin, creates some of the most beautiful hyperbolic crochet pieces I’ve ever seen, turning many of them into lamps. Check out her gorgeous art pieces at this link. You can see more examples on my Hyperbolic Crochet Pinterest board.