How to Make Crochet Coral Reefs – Hyberbolic Crochet, where have you been all my life?!

Two Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Creatures I made while I was on vacation!
The Crochet Coral Reef project is so fantastic and on so many levels!  It’s beautiful, it’s ocean creatures (which I’m fascinated by), it’s craft, it’s art, it’s science, it’s creativity and infinite possibility.  I am drawn to it like a bee to honey.  Perhaps the best part is that it’s democratic!  The Crochet Coral Reef project was contributed to by many many different crafters from all over the world, and anyone can learn how to make these beautiful shapes.  All you need to provide is some yarn (a great project to use up some/all of that yarn stash!) and a crochet hook, and you’ll be swimming amongst the corals in no time! (Well, it does take a little bit of time.) 😉 Here’s a printable PDF with instructions for creating hyperbolic crochet from The Institute for Figuring.  These are the same instructions I used to learn how to make the two forms in the picture at the top of this post:

Never heard of hyperbolic planes?  I hadn’t either, until my math friend and wine expert, Landon, posted a link to hyperbolic beading on my Facebook profile and while I was trying to figure out what a hyperbolic plane was, I found HYPERBOLIC CROCHET!  It’s super easy to learn how to crochet a hyperbolic plane, and it can result in an infinite variety of wooly, crochet coral reef creatures.  Christine and Margaret Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring began a collaborative project using hyperbolic crochet to create giant, crocheted coral reefs that are currently on display at various museums around the world.  The way that so many interesting sea creatures grow is in the form of a hyperbolic plane.  Sea slugs are a great example, also lettuce, which is not a sea creature.  Hyperbolic planes were only a theoretical, impossible to recreate shape to mathemeticians until one fabulous math lady discovered that it was quite easy to create a hyperbolic plane by crocheting it!  I have fallen in love with crocheted hyperbolic planes and, using the above PDF instructions from the Institute for Figuring, taught myself how to make them while I was on vacation.  I thought it could be fun to fill a used fish tank or a terrarium with them, easier to take care of than a real coral reef!

The coral reef project is also about environmental activism, because Margaret Wertheim and her sister began the project to create awareness and make a statement about the vulnerability of coral reefs, especially in the face of global warming.  One of their crochet coral reef displays represents what a sun bleached coral reef would look like.  (See my earlier post Coral: Too Precious to Wear about a wonderful project for ocean conservation by SeaWeb.  There, you can sign the SeaWeb pledge not to buy real coral, as I did, and learn more about what’s going on with coral reef communities because of global warming.)
Here’s a video from TEDtalks of Margaret Wertheim talking about the Crochet Coral Reef Project, it’s really excellent! My favorite quotes from the video:

“couldn’t see not only the sea slugs around them, but the lettuce on their plate”  
“infinite taxonomy of crochet hypberbolic creatures”  
“ever evolving crochet taxonomic tree of life”  
“play tank” 

So, I guess math is useful and fun after all, huh?  I hope you found these crocheted coral creatures as lovely, fascinating and fun as I did.  Happy crocheting faithful readers!! 



This is a great crochet project that lots of wonderful people have participated in. Awesome.

Sharon Ishika Ghose

Thank you very much for sharing this. I have been looking for new things to crochet with my limited skills and this is delightful


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