A transmission from deep inside Yarnbombers’ headquarters
July 5, 2013
Like a lot of things in life, I learned about yarn bombing by happenstance. It started when I overheard an innocuous comment about it at a recent cocktail party, although I thought nothing of it at the time.
A day or two later, while standing in line at the grocery store, I happened to eavesdrop on two women behind me innocently chatting about a child sleep disorder when one abruptly asked the other, "Did you hear about the yarn bombing in London?"
It wasn't until I was strolling the Street Fair Art Festival in Grass Valley recently that I would meet not one but four radical members of the Nevada County Yarnbombers. My life would change forever.
They seemed like a loosely knit group of women just enjoying each other's company on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They sat openly at a table at a local winery tasting room right on the beaten path as festival-goers unknowingly walked by.
As I approached their table, I noticed one was knitting an oddly shaped cloth.
"What is that?" I asked.
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"It started as a scarf, but after a miss-knit or two, well, I call it a neck blanket" she responded.
They looked like any group of girlfriends, sipping their glasses of wine, laughing, then gazing suspiciously into the crowd. They were different, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
I engaged in friendly conversation with them.
"So, what are you girls up to?" I asked in a coy manner, trying to mask my conspicuous curiosity.
It was with a dose of apprehension that I decided to accept their invitation to attend a meeting of the Nevada County Yarnbombers.
Yarnbombers are akin to graffiti artists in their anonymous and clandestine expression of their art, often in an attempt to make a public statement. Instead of covering an object in paint or chalk, they use yarn. There are hundreds of web sites with photos of everything conceivable being fitted in knitted and crocheted covers. From buildings to buses and from statues to stop signs — nothing is sacred.
We met at a local coffee shop on that rainy day in June. They welcomed me with guarded hospitality. I sat down surrounded by three Yarnbomber members who were casually knitting and crocheting.
"Do you want to knit?" one of them asked me.
"Naw, I'd hate to get hooked."
Due to the covert nature of yarn bombing, the members have aliases or fictitious names to ensure their anonymity. Karma, VeronicaBetty, Lady Quinoa and Miss Purl were among the most extremist members to whom I spoke. Lady Quinoa told me she refuses to knit or crochet, and as a card-carrying Yarnbomber, she sees it as an ultimate act of defiance. I know, kind of kooky, but I understood perfectly.
Most members seem to be local artists by hobby or trade, and collectively, their ideas are ambitious and know no boundaries. They carry a common love for the community and for the arts, and all seem to have a visceral sense of adventure.
I asked if yarn bombing our county courthouse was too big of an endeavor.
"That's just perfect. A courthouse cozy!" VeronicaBetty said with a devilish grin.
They conversed about getting the community involved by soliciting folks to send "granny squares," which are small crocheted pieces of knitted yarn and look like small-sized potholders. The squares are then stitched together to make larger pieces that will be used to drape or "bomb" various objects.
They appeared captivated with the notion of ending the divisiveness between Nevada City and Grass Valley. They discussed creating a giant welcome mat that would be placed at the border between the two cities. It would read "Welcome" in both directions as a sign of solidarity.
"Take down that wall!" exclaimed Karma.
I showed them a recent article from The Union about employees at our local Ben Franklin yarn bombing the pillars on their storefront.
"If you yarn bomb your own building, is that considered a suicide bombing?" I inquired.
"We would consider that "vanity bombing," answered Miss Purl.
The Yarnbombers are plotting several strikes within the next few months, including grand plans to yarn bomb a building. When the knitted cover is eventually removed, they plan to use the pieces to create blankets for Hospitality House. The Nevada County Yarnbombers are rebels with heart.
After 40 minutes of banter, they grew uneasy with my presence. Karma began to fidget, while VeronicaBetty looked around me like I was a pole in her sight line. I had worn out my welcome and suddenly felt isolated. I thanked them as I rose from my chair to leave. They continued to talk among themselves, ignoring my presence.
As I drove away, I felt a sudden urge to find a hobby and do something rebellious. I tried to imagine the courthouse covered in newspaper.
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