Visual Arts

Arty Girl: Hyperbolic Crochet in Scottsdale

"Crochet Coral and Anemone Garden" with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg. Photos by Alyssa Gorelick.

Some blogs are easier than others.

This one has to do with math so forgive me if I botch some of the ideas here. Trust me, I'm trying.

Scottsdale Public Art Program is teaming up with the Institute for Figuring and calling for volunteers to create a Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef.

What the hell is that, you ask? Good question. The project looks like this:

This could be you.

And it revolves around some pretty heavy geometric concepts. Well, I think they're heavy anyway.

Let's break it down with the help of and other google-able information.

1. of or pertaining to a hyperbola.
2. derived from a hyperbola, as a hyperbolic function.

Right. Stay with me.

the set of points in a plane whose distances to two fixed points in the plane have a constant difference; a curve consisting of two distinct and similar branches, formed by the intersection of a plane with a right circular cone when the plane makes a greater angle with the base than does the generator of the cone. Equation: x^2/a^2-y^2/b^2 = +/-1.

Still not getting it? Me neither. Although, I know I was capable of grasping this at one point. I graduated high school, after all.

The Institute For Figuring wants to take all this confusing crap, repackage it, and send it out into the world so idiots like me can actually grasp the concept in a post high school world.

So, in order to explain hyperbolic, IFF is offering lessons in Scottsdale to learn how to crochet using this formula. The workshops happen almost every day from January through March and are taught by crochet expert Margaret Wertheim. No experience is necessary and crochet hooks and starter yarn is provided.

Basically, when a hyperbola and ball of yarn love each other very much, they make this:

The whole project aims to complete a 2,000 square foot hand-crocheted coral reef to be displayed alongside the IFF's world traveled Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library in April. The Scottsdale Reef will become a permanent fixture in the Scottsdale Public Art Collection.

And what's the point? I'll let the IFF answer that:

"The Institute For Figuring is crocheting a coral reef: a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world."

Ok, I think I get it now.

-- Lilia Menconi

For more information about IFF Hyperbolic Crochet Workshops or about the Scottsdale Public Art Program, visit

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Lilia Menconi
Contact: Lilia Menconi