Hyperbolic Crochet at Worldcon75

August 18, 2017 at 8:52 pm | Posted in Crochet | 4 Comments
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I’m a geek at heart. I read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and follow a few related places on the internet. But until a couple of weeks ago, I had never been to an SF  convention. I needed to remedy that omission, and I did it in style: Worldcon is the yearly convention of the World Science Fiction Society, and it takes place in a different city every year. This year’s Worldcon was going to take place in Helsinki, as Worldcon75. Since I love the Nordic Countries and haven’t been there for a while, this was my chance to combine two good things, and I took it.

After paying for my membership, progress reports started to trickle in, and in all of them there was a call for volunteers. Worldcons are a completely volunteer-run endeavour, so without people to help, nothing would happen. I generally enjoy being more than a passive consumer of things when possible, so the call for volunteers made me go look at the website, where the different areas they were looking for volunteers in were listed. Almost immediately, my eyes stopped in one place: Craft Corner? – sounds great, and I’m sure I can make myself useful there. A few emails later, I was discussing ideas of things to offer to people in the craft area of Worldcon with the lady responsible for the Craft Corner, and I want to talk about one of the ideas we actually implemented today.

What kind of craft might be of interest to geeks of all sorts? I’ve been fascinated by hyperbolic crochet for many years and had the opportunity to see the original Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef in London in 2008 – and even to create a small part for it! Thinking back to that I mentioned the idea to offer a community project making hyperbolic crochet pieces together. As opposed to a reef, where you need lots of people and many many hours to get anywhere even remotely impressive, I thought we could create a single big pseudosphere, with different people working on the piece throughout the five days of Worldcon. I was curious myself how big a piece we’d be able to create.

When I arrived for Move-In the day before Worldcon started, the area that was planned for this project was still just an empty bit of floor with a couple of dividing walls. We obviously needed some furniture. When asking where to get tables and chairs, the reply was: “How many do you need?” A table – and lots of chairs was my spontaneous answer. And both materialized just a few minutes later thanks to some of the lovely volunteers making the whole con possible. I made the perfect choice with that one … crafters don’t want to sit there all alone, they tend to form groups and chat while working. There were almost always people sitting on that table when I went by. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the workspace to share with you, simply because I forgot to take one with all the excitement of the con.

I had created an instruction sheet to be displayed at the workspace. The idea was to explain what this is all about as well as to give clear instructions for people on what to do. I think I mostly succeeded with that one. If you want to have a look, here it is: Hyperbolic_Crochet (link to PDF). There’s an error in the footnote, UK and US need to be the other way round, but I only noticed that on the last day. We had five laminated copies of this, and put two up on the dividing walls and taped the other three to the table.

So, what did we make from those instructions? Here you go:

Hyperbolic Crochet Community Project @Worldcon75

You’ll notice that’s more than one piece, in fact, there are four – the big piles of wool on the left and right, the one from colourful thread in the middle, and a start of a fourth one right below that one.

So, how did we get there? What worked, and what would I do differently if there’s a next time (and there might well be)?

  1. Workspace: A table and lots of chairs was perfect, as I already mentioned above. If circumstances allow, a bit more cozyness would have been nice, but we did just fine with a bunch of plastic folding chairs.
  2. Materials: We had a grabbag of unloved wool from somewhere, which all the big pieces are made from. While this worked, I’d prefer to get new yarn (any cheap acrylic or cotton would be perfect for this kind of project) in all the colours of the rainbow for several reasons:
    • While I tried to only keep similar-sized yarns in the bag for the project, this was approximate at best. All the yarn having the same properties would give a more consistent result. You can see how much cleaner the piece made from perle cotton looks. The perle cotton was actually intended for my tatting workshop (but that’s a whole other post), but whoever did the shopping seemed to have gotten a great deal and we had much more than we needed. Add a 2mm crochet hook I had with me, and there’s a good-looking project!
    • Not everybody who wanted to contribute was able to work with wool. While we had the cotton thread as an alternative, it would have been nice to have all the projects suitable for everyone who wanted to help.
    • Yarn of unknown origin can also bring other allergens with it. Our bag seemed in part to be infested with cat hair – not a good thing for a community project where you want to draw lots of people and not make anyone sick.
  3. Instructions: Those mostly worked fine. There were a few hiccups here and there, but the nice thing about hyperbolic crochet is, that as long as you don’t care about exactly modelling a specific mathematical object, it is fairly forgiving of minor hiccups. As long as you keep increasing at mostly the same rate, things will look good.
  4. Number of projects: As I wrote above, my original thought was to see just how big a piece we could make together. Given the sociable nature of crafters in general, I should have known beforehand that that wouldn’t really work. With the bonus project from the perle cotton, we already started at two and added an additional hook for the bigger yarns pretty soon, from which a third project developed, which was a good number, I think. There were additional projects trying to sprout on occasion, but since we didn’t have any more hooks to go around, things mostly kept concentrated to those three projects. So, next time get a few more hooks and actually try to do a small reef or something?
  5. What will you do with it? This was one of the most frequently asked questions by both contributors and onlookers. And it was a question I didn’t have an answer for. It wasn’t something that I had been thinking about beforehand, because I wasn’t even sure that this project would take off at all. I left the results with the people running the exhibits area of the con, and currently have no idea where they are.

All in all, I consider this project a success. The workspace quickly developed into a meeting space for craftspeople to come for a bit of downtime and a chat, and it gave me a go-to place as well. I’m not the best at going up to people and starting conversations – this way, loads of interesting people came to me! This is actually one of the ways that volunteering helps me to get more out of a big event like a Worldcon – you have things to do and automatically get into contact with other con-goers that way.

Since that blog post already has way too many words, I’m leaving you with another picture of that pretty hyperbolic pseudosphere made from perle cotton:

Hyperbolic Pseudosphere from Nr. 8 Perle Cotton

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4 Comments »

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  1. Wow, good for you – and in so many ways! The perle cotton bit is especially pretty but I love how the whole project worked so well. Excellent!

  2. A superr idea, and the perle cotton is best. How good to be part of the event. Hope you got chance to look round and to do some sight seeing too.

  3. I love this idea! You have really thought it through!

  4. Love the colours that you have used on the sea shells, they really compliment each other well.


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