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  • Writer's pictureTisha Dolton

Stitch Group Creates Textile Art with a Purpose

Over the past decade, two seemingly unconnected events have become entwined by a vast army of crocheters. One event is the decline of the world's coral reefs due to climate change, pollution, and over fishing; the other is the discovery that hyperbolic geometry can be mapped through crochet.


Born of a need to create a working model for her class on non-Euclidean geometry at Cornell University, Dr. Daina Taimina discovered the feminine handicraft of crochet was the best way to model the complex concept of hyperbolic planes—a surface in which the space curves away from itself at every point.

Artists and sisters, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, then took Taimina’s work to a whole new level. By mutating the original hyperbolic crochet patterns—adding stitches to grow the crochet—they discovered that the crochet looked more organic, like coral. Using this blend of marine biology (science), hyperbolic planes (mathematics), and crochet (folk art) the Crochet Coral Reef environmental art project was born.

Last year, a local group of stitchers, visited the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College to view Radical Fibers: Threads Connecting Art and Science, and were blown away. It was too late to join the Saratoga Satellite Reef project, so Linda Pichler harnessed the collective power of the group to crochet their own coral reef, inspired by the worldwide Crochet Coral Reef project. They began to amass a collection of crocheted corals, fish, sponges, anemones, cephalopods, and jellyfish, and reached out to The Folklife Center to display and help curate the exhibit.

In June 2022, the exhibit began to take shape. I guided our guest curators through the process of creating the display. I then rounded out the exhibit with some infographics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), text panels, and signage.

Crochet Coral Reef is meant to bring attention to the climate change disaster that is wreaking havoc on our oceans—particularly with coral reefs. When corals are in distress they expel the beneficial algae and eventually turn white. Corals can survive these bleaching events, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality. This environmental art installation forces us to think about the consequences of our behavior on the planet.

Thank you to 518 Stitch n' Bitch

Linda Pichler, group coordinator

Kiley Adriance * Carol Sykes-Bowen * Phyllis Levine Brown * Patricia Carpenter

Cheryl Cross * Heather Davis * Crystal M Galusha * Hoa Hwang * Eva Lazer

Jeanne Lamb * Laurien McGinn * Ruth McLaughlin * Julie Miller * Lisa Monrian Miller

Olivia Miller * Sydney Miller * Karen Wood Rapp * Lorrie Carpenter Seabury

Tristen Seabury * Susan Sipowicz * Robin Traux * Nancy Volks

Muzeyyen Vargonen (in loving memory of her mother)

Background by Sue Wight and children of Amorak Youth

Chicken wire donate by Lowe’s #0641, Queensbury, NY

If you would like to stitch your own coral, please stop by The Folklife Center for a pattern, or click this link for the free lettuce coral pattern. Completed coral can be dropped off at The Folklife Center to be included in the community reef portion of the exhibit!

The Crochet Coral Reef: Whimsical Stitchery by Local Artists is on display in The Folklife Galleries at Crandall Public Library 251 Glens St. Glens Falls, NY 12801 thru December 31, 2022.


Tisha Dolton is Historian/Librarian at The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY and can be reached at Her areas of research are suffrage music, suffragists of Warren and Washington Counties, local minority populations, and hand embroidery/needlework.


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