Hyperbolic Crochet: It isn’t Just for Math Geeks!

Have you ever thought about the numbers behind crochet? I never did until I came across an example of hyperbolic crochet.

Hyperbolic crochet wasn’t invented by accident. It served an educational purpose way before we were ever using it to adorn accessories and mimic sea coral.

Math nerds will get a kick out of the numbers behind hyperbolic crochet, but you don’t need to be a math genius to try this fun technique! Check out the history and numbers behind hyperbolic crochet, plus a few ways you can use it in your crochet.

Photo via Craftsy member FlowerMoon

What is hyperbolic crochet?

You’ve probably seen hyperbolic crochet and you just didn’t know it had a proper name. Though it appears to be worked in the round, hyperbolic crochet is actually worked in rows, beginning with a few chain stitches. Simple enough, right? The crocheter then increases the number of stitches in every row. The number of stitches you choose to increase in each row will determine how quickly your hyperbolic crochet grows.

You can use any kind of crochet stitch you’d like for the hyperbolic project. Of course, single crochet stitches will give you a tighter stitch while double crochet, half double crochet, and treble crochet will give you more open stitches. If you want your hyperbolic crochet to have a lot of structure, go for the single crochet.

History of hyperbolic crochet

As I said earlier, hyperbolic crochet wasn’t invented by accident. According to the Institute for Figuring, hyperbolic crochet came about in the late 1990s when Cornell University mathematician Daina Taimina was trying to make a physical model of hyperbolic space. One quality of hyperbolic space is that as you move away from a point, the space around it expands exponentially. One of the first models of hyperbolic space was made of paper, but it was fragile and difficult to make, so Dr. Taimina translated the same concept over to crochet.

Why crochet, you ask? Dr. Taimina, who grew up crafting, first tried knitting the hyperbolic model. But she found that the increased stitches didn’t work as well with knitting needles as it did with a crochet hook. The crochet model gives us something that holds its shape — and it’s not so bad on the eyes, either!

If your inner math nerd is curious, you can read more about the history of hyperbolic crochet, plus see examples of different rates of increased stitches.

Photo via Craftsy member timaryart

What to make with hyperbolic crochet

Use it as an embellishment

The great thing about hyperbolic crochet is that you can make it as large or small as you’d like. That’s a real advantage when you’re trying to find the perfect embellishment. Check out the carnation lariat scarf pictured above. The hyperbolic crochet attached to each end of the scarf gives it a unique silhouette, but if you’re not crazy about the size of the hyperbolic carnations, you can reduce the number of rows and make the embellishments smaller.

Stitch a toy

Hyperbolic crochet knows how to have a little fun. Use it to make crazy toys, like the crochet brain toy pictured at the top of this post. It’s also super handy for amigurumi. The hyperbolic crochet can become a head for a crazy character or even a part of their outfit.

Photo via Craftsy member sophiegelfi

Crochet a scarf

The hyperbolic crochet scarf above is crocheted using dozens of little hyperbolic planes. The result is a ruffled effect that makes the perfect fashion accessory. Designer sophiegelfi also suggests crocheting the last row in each hyperbolic plane with a fuzzy mohair or other textured yarn, just to give it a varied texture.

Make a scene

No, I’m not talking about embarrassing yourself at a dinner party. Hyperbolic crochet makes amazing textures, so it’s perfect for crocheting scenes and landscapes. (Yarnbombing, anyone?) Last year, Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City used hyperbolic crochet to create a coral reef for their Under the Sea window display.

If hyperbolic crochet has inspired you to try even more improvising, you need to check out one of Craftsy’s newest classes, Freeform Crochet with Myra Wood. Toss those patterns out the window as you let your crochet hook lead you!

Have you ever tried hyperbolic crochet? What did you make?

Cindy Clark

I found the article interesting, but confusing. I was living in Okinawa from 1970-1974, & the grandmothers used to do this to make flowers. They were kind enough to teach me & I have made vases full of them over the years.