Geekly Weekly: Crocheted Hyperbolic Creatures

Some blog posts back, I mentioned that I always have to have a fiddly hobby, and described the evolution of bead creatures and their structurally related cousins, yarn creatures.

I didn’t describe how to make them, because while they’re fairly easy to make, the process is also fairly difficult to describe.

For one thing, it’s hard to draw. Even for somebody who can draw, which would be somebody other than me.

Topologically speaking, the creatures are flat — you can stretch any section of one onto a flat surface. But in the real world the whole thing can’t lie flat. Why this is so is discussed at the Crocheting the Lorenz Manifold website, in which Hinke M. Osinga & Bernd Krauskopf describe (and link to other sites about) crocheting a complicated surface that helped their students understand the Lorenz equations.

The creatures are much simpler, but the general idea is similar. The idea is to put more beads (or rows of stitches) on the circumference of the object than actually will fit.

The yarn creature is quicker to make and easier to write a pattern for. If you crochet, think of it as a granny square on steroids. If you don’t crochet, I’m afraid I’m not going to describe chain stitch, single crochet stitch, or double crochet stitch. (Never mind that those terms mean something different depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on, or so I’m told. There are lots of sites and books that will give you the basics. When you can make something flat — a granny square at least — come back and this article will make sense.)

The yarn creature pattern:

To make a spherical yarn creature, start out as if you were making a granny square, but put five sets of three double crochet stitches on the base instead of four. You can separate each set of three stitches with a chain stitch if you want to, but you don’t have to.

Now you have fifteen double crochets in a circle. This is your base circle.

Chain three, double crochet in adjacent space twice.

Now you have one set of three double crochet stitches in the same space between stitches.

Double crochet three times in next space.

Do this all the way around the base circle, and attach the last double crochet stitch to the first chain-three stitch.

Now you have a second circle of stitches: fifteen sets of three double-crochet stitches, or 45 stitches.

Depending on your yarn, your crochet hook size, and the tension with which you crochet, the creature is still probably pretty flat. Don’t be alarmed. It will ruffle up soon enough.

For the third circle, do exactly the same thing you did for the second circle. You end up with 45 sets of three double crochet stitches, or 135 stitches total. It may still be flattish, but more than likely it will have begun to frill.

Amusingly enough, it’s far easier to make something ruffly than it is to make something flat. Given a particular type of yarn, crochet hook, tension, and type of stitch, there’s only one way to make something that lies flat. Any deviation from this will end up being ruffly or cup-shaped. They’re circles in non-Euclidian geometries, but not in our world, where our perception of geometry is more or less plane geometry.

For the fourth circle, do exactly the same thing as you did for the previous circle. Now you have 135 sets of three double crochet stitches, or 405 double crochet stitches. Now the creature should be getting pretty seriously ruffled.

Note that each circle has three times as many stitches as the circle before.  Four circles (for a lightweight creature) or five (for one that’s denser) should suffice, though you can keep going until the creature is so dense that you can’t add any more layers.

Don’t feel constrained by the basic pattern. Play with it. Use single, double, triple crochets in combination on the successive rounds. Add popcorn stitch (they make great creature eyes). I’d love to see your creations.

And what about bead creatures? The idea is the same: put two or three times as many beads on each round as the previous one. Or try two-to-three or six-to-eight. Each different ratio gives a different surface, with a result anything from a flower to a sea anemone.

When you’re done, and you leave them around your living room, people will pick them up and play with them and then say, “What are they for?” They are for playing with.

They are not — particularly the bead creatures — for playing with among small children and pets. The yarn creatures have been known to survive some fairly serious being played with, but the bead creatures would not stand up to sharp claws and teeth, and I would not like to hear what happened if one found itself in a small person’s mouth.

— Vonda

I blog here as the spirit takes me.

Dreamsnake, Superluminal, and the Starfarers Quartet (Starfarers, Transition, Metaphase, Nautilus) are now available as ebooks at Book View Cafe

For print copies of The Moon and the Sun and my other SF novels, visit my website’s Basement Full of Books.




Geekly Weekly: Crocheted Hyperbolic Creatures — 5 Comments

  1. A woman I know is knitting a large representation of a quadratic equation. (Do not ask me which one!) When finished, it will be about the size of a medicine ball, only three dimensional, not flat. I am told that the math department of the local college is going to display it hanging at the head of a stair or something. It is not an item you can just keep at home on the coffee table. When she is working on it (in her lap, with a long circular needle and very fine yarn) it looks like she is being slowly devoured by something from outer space.

  2. Dear Vonda,

    I have just finished the serialized Starfarers – read week by nail-bitten week and all I can say is WOW!!!

    You and that deserve all the success you can or have had. I now need to wait for my PayPal account to fill up again so I can buy the next volumes in the series.

  3. Brenda, I think the idea of a knitting pattern as an equation is a kick. I crocheted a sierpinsky shawl and it came out really nice.

    Martha, thanks for the kind words on Starfarers. Transition begins next week. I’m glad you liked the first book and I appreciate your taking the time to let me know what you thought.


  4. Hi Vonda,

    In my web wanderings a couple days ago I was on the Nebula Awards site. So I just wanted to pop in here and say congratulations on being given the SFWA Service Award!