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Yarn Bomb Explodes on Mercer Island at Summer Celebration

A trend in urban art has landed on Mercer Island's street sign pole during Summer Celebration--a yarn bomb, courtesy of the Tuesday Knitters Group.

Island residents might not realize that this year during Mercer Island's annual festivities, but they likely walked right by a bit of illegal urban graffiti on the street sign at the corner of .

But this wasn’t some shocking paint job, it was a red-white and blue knitted tube that was sewn on to the pole by Carla Kepler, a member of the Tuesday Knitters Group (TKG) that meets at the . Each member of the group was assigned a piece of the ‘pole warmer’ in May, given a deadline of June 14, and Kepler spent the last few weeks putting the pieces together. She sewed them onto the pole at 8:30 p.m. on the Friday before Summer Celebration. Kepler said that they didn’t ask permission because they feared someone would say no to their 100-inch-long “innocent display of knitting.”

“We don’t like to use that word graffiti, because it has such bad connotations,” said Kepler. “We’re all law-abiding knitters, and we consider this public art.”

Knitting sweaters, hats and socks to cover inanimate objects is called “yarn bombing” and it’s become a national movement since it’s inception in 2005 with Texan knitter Magda Sayeg, who covered the door handle of her handcrafting boutique with a knitted pink cozy. People started getting out of their cars to look at it, and Sayeg decided to capitalize on its popularity by knitting a legwarmer for the stop sign down the street, and another for a local lamp post. Soon Sayeg’s knitting group was placing ‘grandma graffiti’ all over town, and via the Internet, others got the idea to do the same. Because of it’s inherent cheery and comfortable look, yarn bombs haven’t been as discouraged by most local law enforcement agencies, and have made Sayeg something of a knitting celebrity, who now creates sweaters for Toyota Prius, Smart Cars and Mini Coopers for as much as $20,000 a pop.

One member of the TGK, Megan Hand, saw the handiwork of Seattle’s Suzanne Tidwell in Occidental Park in Pioneer Square and decided that Mercer Island needed to get in on the trend.

“Megan showed us the things Suzanne had done, and showed us a YouTube Video of the Wall Street Bull yarn bombed in bright pink (and she said) 'We have to do this!'” Kepler said. “We all thought about it for a couple of months and then decided to debut our work at Summer Celebration.”

Kepler handed out “indestructible” acrylic yarn from her stash, and got the 14 other knitters in her group, from empty nesters and grandmas to a married couple and stay at home moms with kids in school, to get started on celebrating the joy of knitting a yarn bomb. The group hopes to leave the yarn bomb up until the end of the summer.

Kepler said that most of the people in TKG knit for family, charities or the military, and see their time together as restful and relaxing.

“The whole project was conceived as a fun way to share a love of knitting outside of our group,” she said. “But now that they’ve gotten (yarn bombing) under their skin, they want to do something more adventurous, like busses, cars or statues—so we’ll probably do something like that, but we don’t know where or when yet, which is what is what yarn bombing is about—the element of surprise!”

The Tuesday Knitting Group have gotten only positive comments about their Summer Celebration yarn bomb so far, noting that parents took photos of their children in front of it. They have hopes that this public display will make others want to sit down to knit from noon to 2 every Tuesday.

“People will watch us (at Starbucks) and they say “I used to knit” and the next thing you know, they’re sitting down next to us, working on something,” she said “knitters are a tribe of our own.”

To learn more about yarn bombing, check out these websites:

"Yarn Bombing" according to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarn_bombing

The Wall Street Bull gets yarn bombed:

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/01/wall_street_bull_yarnbombing.html

Yarnbombing as a national phenomenon:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/fashion/creating-graffiti-with-yarn.html

West Seattle’s Yarn Core, “Hardcore chicks with sharp sticks” (J-See’s first yarn bomb was a cozy on a bike rack in the Admiral District of West Seattle):

http://yarncore.com/2011/03/03/hello-world/

Carla Kepler July 12, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Nice article, DeAnn! I also want to give credit (or blame) to Nancy Kolton, Barby Cohen, and Laurie Lehman for helping to install by sewing the very top and bottom of the "art" onto the street sign pole. Carla
Megan Hand July 12, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Great job my knitting peeps! Thanks DeAnn for supporting the arts in our community.
Barbara Crawford July 12, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Happy to be a part of the MI Tuesday Knitters at Starbucks! Barbara
T. July 12, 2011 at 05:07 PM
"It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters." Mother Teresa Thank you to all of the MI Tuesday Knitters for extending their love through their creative action on behalf of our community. Your Yarn Bomb brought smiles and good cheer, a gift from your collective heart.
DeAnn Rossetti July 12, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Thanks for the kind comments, Carla and Megan--you gals really made some fantastic street art there, and I think now that Mercer Islanders have had a taste of your 'grandma graffiti' they will be eagerly anticipating the next installment! You know what would be fun? If someone put a sweater on Paul Allens compound guard house! Not that I am inspiring that kind of thing, of course. :)

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