Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crochet for Bridget: Save the Ocean

All crafts are sacred to Bridget, and I have always had a connection to Her through my artwork. I was weaving and spinning (mostly for my barbie dolls) way back in elementary school, and my 1974 sewing machine is one of the proudest purchases in my life (earned by babysitting back in the day, for 50 cents an hour!) Every craft project, from a pie in the kitchen, to sewing patches on jeans, to building an arbor for your garden, to knitting a shawl - all are sacred creations blessed by Bridget.

(I love the word craft itself. Craft encompasses meanings of skill, cunning, intelligence, going back to old high german "kreftig," and old english "craeftig." Crafts require intelligence and skill. Craft itself, of course, is another word for witching. . .)

Crochet, however, can do more than show your skill. Crochet can help save the ocean.

A Cornell mathematician was trying to use paper to demonstrate hyperbolic space to her advanced math students, and couldn't get paper to work. So as a crafter (intelligent and wily), Dr. Daina Taimina pulled out her crochet needles and found the perfect medium to demonstrate how in moving away from a point all the surrounding space expands exponentially. Turns out, crochet was perfect for this - as any crochet crafter can tell you from all of us knowing what happens when you add an extra stitch without noticing! Turns out all us crocheters were doing advanced math all this time.

Crochet is perfect for demonstrating hyperbolic space and hyperbolic organisms in the plant world (like lettuce, for example). Two women at the Institute for Figuring, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, realized that hyperbolic crochet was perfect to model the growth of coral reefs. Given how endangered reefs are at the moment from climate change and pollution, the two women realized this hyperbolic crochet was a wonderful way to show landlubbers what reefs are, and how they grow. Thus was born the crochet project: The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef. The two women started their reef in their living room; today it has grown around the world, with sub-reefs, museum displays, and a huge trash reef installation made from beach garbage and yarn. Like coral, and hyperbolic space, the reef project has also grown exponentially.

And you can participate. The basic reef pattern is here. The Institute for Figuring has its own online website for both crochet and hyperbolic plane information here. Pics of various crocheted hyperbolic coral here (way cool, too!)

And for newbies, some crochet links:

Learn to crochet

Learn to crochet videos

If you live near a JoAnn Fabric Store, there are often really good and cheap crochet classes and help available there (where I go when I'm stuck on a project!)

And remember how valuable crafts are next time you are scrapbooking or baking a cake or sewing for your kids. Crochet, that much maligned craft of doilies and granny squares, turns out pretty important. I think of my many crocheting great aunts, all of whom never went to college, and who always felt themselves uneducated, and who were unknowingly creating models of mathematical space on their front porches through long summer nights. So many of us have grandmothers and great aunts and great grandmothers who, without any college, created universes of hearth and home with their hands and needles, their spinning wheels and cooking pots, their loving hearts and crafty minds. The feminist belief that all women are thus witches stems from this truth.

So whatever your religion, go and honor the earth and Bridget. Try a little crocheted exponentially growing hyperspace. Let's keep creating this world, from great aunts' porches, to a saved coral sea.


  1. I work at a mental hospital for kids. When I first started working there, the recreational therapists at the time used to keep crochet materials for the kids, and they would crochet during their rec time. It gave them something to do with their hands and was very calming for them.

  2. Cool! Great work you do Chadly.

    So the kids are also getting some advanced math when they crochet. . . the repetitive motions increase serotonin, and with a little research they can be learning cool math, too!