It was a short one paragraph item in the morning edition.

posted in: Machine Knitting, Yarnbombing | 4

My first official yarnbomb is up! I stitched it on to a bench in front of the Sunnyvale Public Library at the end of March, but this yarnbomb as been weeks in the making and years in the planning.

The Background

My interest in yarnbombing was piqued back in 2011 when I noticed a member of my craft group knitting a bunch of cold weather accessories in May. She told me she was planning to yarnbomb some Rodin Sculptures on the Stanford campus for International Yarmbombing Day. Her pieces turned out great by the way!

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Never having heard of yarnbombing before, I loved this idea. Yarnbombing is a form of removable yarn street art. It’s typically knitting but can also consist of crocheting, cross stitch, needlepoint, stringing yarn — really anything goes. It’s warm. Cozy. Cheerful. Welcoming. It brings a pop of color and whimsy to a public place. I absolutely wanted to join her and put up some pieces of my own. After failing to learn how to knit, I managed to put up some needlepoint medallions around Sunnyvale a few weeks after the “official” day. The idea of yarnbombing has stuck with me ever since.

Fast forward several years to this winter, and I finally put up another piece. In the interim, several things came together:

  • I found a Bond knitting machine at a thrift store! This came after several attempts at learning how to knit and finally accepting that hand knitting just isn’t for me.
  • I heard about a yarnbomber, Knits For Life, becoming the resident artist for the city of San Mateo and putting up an amazing Squid Tree. Totally inspirational!
  • I enrolled in Jesse Hemmons’ (aka ishknits) Skillshare class on Yarmbombing. The class gave me the push I needed to execute a yarnbomb, and this piece is my class project.

The Inspiration

My inspiration for this piece comes from a graffiti artist in Berkeley. I don’t know their name, and they stopped tagging before I ever lived there. This artist would spray paint labels on the sidewalk. I can’t explain why I loved them so much (and still do!) – they’re just words in a plain font – but I scoured the city for them.

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Every time I spotted one, I would stop, look around and try to find the reason for that label. Why “Blue Grass” or “Go Go Go” or “Tarzan and Jane on the Plain” and why there? Honestly, I think they were just random. But they made me really observe my surroundings in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise.

For my piece, I wanted to use labels, and letters, and decided upon the library as my target. I also was motivated to make something relevant and site-specific. My medallions were a blast to make and install but they were also arbitrary – I ziptied them wherever I could find a good place. That experience made me think a lot about the difference between “art” and “litter” in regards to street art. It’s important to me that I’m only putting amazing pieces out into the world – things that are thoughtful, well-constructed, meaningful or that add to a space. Things that are little more on the “art” side of the spectrum.

Libraries have books. I picked a book, and knitted the first line from it as well as some images that relate to the book’s title. I’m taking my Berkeley inspiration and adding some meaning for those who want to find it.

“It was a short one-paragraph item in the morning edition.”

The Creation & Installation

The library has some abnormally long benches that are the perfect shape for long lines of text. I had to find a suitable font for my chunky gauge knitting machine so that the letters would fit on the front of the bench slat. I ended up using a cross stitch font I developed earlier.

I measured, and made samples, and measured again. My biggest fear would be that I would spend all this time on the piece and in the end discover that it didn’t fit! In order to have some flexibility and deal with the metal supports holding the bench slats, I made 5 separate pieces. It would take longer to install on the day of, but it was worth it for the piece of mind.

I woke up around dawn on a Sunday morning and, accompanied by my trusty photographer and partner in crime, headed down to the library. This was an ideal time because not many people would be around, but it would be light enough to see what I was doing, and to get some good pictures in case it was quickly taken down. Turns out the library’s used book sale was that weekend which meant more exposure!

It took ~40 minutes to install completely. I was so nervous and sweated gallons, but it all went smoothly – two people dropped off books while I was there. Neither said anything barely looked over at me as they walked by.

The Future

I’ve gotten a bunch of positive feedback about the yarnbomb which is super encouraging! So glad people are enjoying it. The City of Sunnyvale even put up a Flickr album. Have you seen the yarnbomb in person? Let me know what you think!

The library community seems very receptive (and I love libraries) so my next target will be another local branch. Keep your eyes peeled. I have plans to use more fonts and also to try out some geometric patterns depending on the site.

4 Responses

  1. Lorna
    | Reply

    Ally, this post and the project are FABULOUS. I sympathize with so much of your process, from finding inspiration in random, anonymous street art, to wanting to make meaningful street art, to the heightened nerves of a big, unsolicited installation, to the joy in discovering that libraries love knitters. You are seriously rocking–and I can’t believe you live so close to me and Jill. Now we HAVE to collaborate.

    • Ally
      | Reply

      Thanks!! And that would be fun! You and your sister make such beautiful things. 🙂

  2. Andrea
    | Reply

    I finally remembered to look up the quote today when I got home from the library. I’ve enjoyed looking at your artwork for quite a few Mondays now (my daughter and I go to story time on Mondays when we can) and every time felt like I knew that line but couldn’t quite place it. I’ve actually never read that book, but coincidentally have another Murakami book at my bedside right now. Anyhow, I just wanted to say Thank You for making and sharing this cool piece of public art that made me think, pause to reflect on the beauty of language, and appreciate amazing first lines in literature. It’s even cooler now that I know it was a yarnbomb (a new concept to me!).

    • Ally
      | Reply

      Thanks for your kind words, Andrea! I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece. I’m a big fan of that Murakami book, and it’s sequel, “Dance Dance Dance”.

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