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Figuring Fibers

Carolyn Yackel and sarah-marie belcastro
American Mathematical Society
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Mckenzie West
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The text, Figuring Fibers, is a collection of articles that explore mathematics through fiber art and quilting. There are applications from the fields of Topology, Combinatorics, Abstract Algebra, and more. I would recommend this text for anyone interested in both mathematics and fiber art. Advanced undergraduate students may find this book to be an interesting addition to their typical coursework. Those who have already achieved their advanced degree may enjoy the perspective of mathematics and art existing harmoniously.
Each section includes at least one project along with a rigorous mathematical description. For example, the first article, more granny, less square, by Jacob Wildstrom, uses the mathematical concept of an \( L_{\infty} \) norm to view crocheted polygonal shapes as buffers extending from a central spine. The culminating project of the first article is a blanket compiled of Tetris-like shapes arranged to the maker’s desire. Other projects in the book include a scarf tiled by all possible Templeton squares (shapes with \( D_{4} \) symmetry), and a quilt the proves that the Borromean rings are hyperbolic. Every article contains a variety of figures and pictures that illustrate the mathematics and crafts.
In total Figuring Fibers includes eight mathematical articles. Two of the articles include a crochet project, four a knit project, and two a quilting project. These projects go beyond the simple idea of making a Möbius strip and rigorously dig into a variety of mathematical topics from elementary graph theory to the Chinese Remainder Theorem. Every one of the eight articles contains a variety of references to scholarly works in their respective fields.  This book is quite different from the previous collections edited by Carolyn Yackel and sarah-marie belcastro, Making Mathematics with Needlework and Crafting by Concepts, as those texts focus on teaching methods and include classroom activities. Figuring Fibers, on the other hand, contains a collection of a few specific projects illustrating higher level mathematics.

Whether you are looking for a mathematical text to motivate your inner artist or to inspire the mind of a creative student I would highly recommend this book. The mathematical arguments are sound and the patterns are well-written.

Happy crafting.
Mckenzie West is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. She has been knitting for ten years and crocheting for a few less.  Her mathematical research is in the field of computational number theory and arithmetic geometry.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.