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Join the international crochet coral colony! The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project (created and developed by Margaret and Christine Wertheim, of the Institute of Figuring in Los Angeles) fuses science with maths and fine art. The reef is constantly updated by an ever expanding group of participants from around the world. The Fitzwilliam’s reef grew during Endless Forms, eventually becoming part of the UK reef.

The Fitzwilliam reef started to grow in March at a community house in Kings Hedges. The reef has also had contributions from an after school crochet club at St. Laurence Primary School and the general public started work on it on 4th July at an event in the Museum. Some of the crocheted coral was displayed in the Museum.




            Photographs from the 4 July 2009 event at The Fitzwilliam Museum

What does crochet have to do with Darwin?

Darwin and Coral
Darwin’s first monograph was Coral Reefs (published in 1842). It was recognised by many of his contemporaries as a major scientific work and demonstrates Darwin’s masterful powers of deduction from observation.

To read Darwin’s The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs visit

Coral and Crochet

Like many things in nature, some corals grow hyperbolically. What this means is that, as they grow, they are continually increasing their surface area. It is possible to approximately replicate this process using crochet!

How? By steadily increasing the stitches in each row of your crochet, the surface area will grow and begin to ruffle like some of the lovely examples of crocheted corals illustrated here.

close-up-crochet  crochet-coral  reef-up-close

Get Involved

You can get involved by making your own piece of crocheted coral at home. Why not bring it to the museum for us to add to our growing reef and visit the Endless Forms exhibition at the same time? Or, take a photograph of your work and add it to our online crochet coral colony. To add your photograph, email it to [email protected]. To drop off crochet please bring it to the information desk at the main or courtyard entrance during opening hours (10-5 Tues-Sat, 12-5 Sun).

How to crochet a coral

Getting started

If you know someone who can crochet it might be a good idea to ask them to help you! If not, go to for guidance about learning how to crochet. Pay particular attention to the instructions about crocheting in the round.

The coral effect: To make your crochet look like coral you need to increase the number of stitches in every round. One way of doing this is to crochet two stitches into every stitch from the previous round. Before long your crochet should begin to ruffle and frill.