Thursday, April 7, 2011

Math! Only Knitted!! (And Crocheted)

One of the most revelatory aspects of putting together Astounding Knits!: 101 Spectacular Knitted Creations and Daring Feats was discovering the incredible diversity of objects and ideas conjured by the brains of knitting craftspeople, artists and scientists alike. But honestly, it was the math that really blew my mind (spoken like a true non-mathematician, I'm sure).

"Global Warming," 2008.

"The Day and the Night in Hyperbolic Space," 2007. Photos courtesy of Daina Taimina

The two crocheted marvels pictured above represent hyperbolic planes - surfaces that constantly curve away from themselves, like some lettuce leaves, and wood ear mushrooms - and were created by Cornell mathematics researcher Daina Taimina. Incredibly, the first example, which measures 28" x 28" x 28", is comprised of 3.5 miles of ribbon.  The second used 30 skeins of yarn and weighs in at 6 pounds. 
"Double Base." Photo courtesy of Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer.

English mathematicians Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer knit to visually teach students various rudiments of math. "Double Base" pictured above, represents the binary system's Base Two counting system. The duo - aka Woolly Thoughts - have also knit afghans representing multiplication tables and equi-angular spirals, and that seek to answer such questions as, "what makes a pattern?" 

Finally - from the department of "it's math, even if I don't remotely understand how it's done," comes this extreme- double-knit hat by Alasdair Post-Quinn. Post-Quinn, who knitting enthusiasts have followed for years on his Falling Blox blog, has discovered how to knit two patterns simultaneously on the same piece. You can find out how to do it yourself (maybe) when his book, Extreme Double-Knitting is published. (This site wouldn't let me type in the caption for the hat this morning, so here's what you need to know about the photo: "Falling Blocks Hat," photo courtesy of


  1. I was never the maths expert in my family but finally thru knitting/crochet I have been able to appreciate what the rest of my family find fascinating! There is a good lecture on TED all about the hyperbolic structures and crochet. Would look up the name but my Internet is not working at the moment....sorry :-). I wIll have to wait for it to work to check out that hat, my brother would love that!!

  2. Let me know! Interested to hear about it. Was it given by Daina Taimina (the woman who crocheted the hyperpolic planes on this page)? She's got a book out on the topic...