Caught in the act

GEORGETOWN, Texas (3 November 2010) — Our roving investigative reporter has sent us definitive proof that squirrels and knitting don’t mix. The squirrel pictured above, who asked that her name be withheld, was caught in the broad daylight of Wednesday afternoon trying to remove a knitted cozy from a park bench here at Southwestern University. The bench cozy, along with other knitted graffiti, had been mounted on campus last month by students in the first-year seminar on knitting.

“Look, it’s getting cold here in central Texas,” said the squirrel. “Plus, I needed something to comfort me now that Rick Perry has been elected to a third term as governor. It’s hard out there right now.”

Two good things

1. As one of their final projects for my first-year college seminar on knitting, my students “yarn bombed” our campus. (Yarn bombing is when you knit or crochet up some stuff to adorn public spaces.) They did some wonderfully creative and happy-making work.

Among my favorite pieces: this bike that several students contributed to. Our campus has yellow bikes that anyone on campus can use, so the four bikes that are yarned up get a lot of exposure. Don’t you think the knitting adds a whole new layer of community to a community bike? You can view photos of our yarn bombing night here.

2. I am so close to finishing one of my three “due in October” sweater designs that I can taste it. Taste the victory, that is, not the yarn. I actually have tasted yarn and it’s not very tasty. The nearly finished garment is a women’s sweater for Yarn Forward magazine.  The second of three (a child’s hoodie for a book of kids’ designs) is also very nearly done — well more than half-way there.

The third (a men’s sweater for a local yarn store, knit in Jared Flood’s beautiful new Shelter yarn line) has not gotten past a healthy swatch, but I’m feeling cocky now. Cocky despite the fact that there has been an inordinate amount of ripping back going on over here. Most recent mistake? I got nearly all the way up the yoke of my second sweater when I realized that I’d forgotten to bind off the 10 stitches at the armpit of each sleeve. BLAAAAAAST! That meant ripping back the entire yoke. It would mess with my confidence if I weren’t too tired to feel anything but a bit numb.

Can bombs be ephemeral?

Yarn bombing on a stop sign across the street
from my son’s elementary school.

If you knit and you live in my fair — if blazing hot — city of Austin, then you have no doubt seen these wonderful knit graffiti banners.

They are the work of Magda Sayeg, the genius who founded the group Knitta, Please in Houston. They’re the group that by all accounts began the now worldwide phenomenon of yarn bombing or yarn tagging, which is basically the art of leaving knitted or crocheted items somewhere out in public where they become some amalgam of public art, guerrilla graffiti, and anti-antimacassar. People have swathed trees in intricate lace, left knit-covered rocks on the Great Wall of China, and clothed a Smart Car in a sweater. It’s seriously good fun.

But as I drove down Lamar Boulevard yesterday, ready to warm myself in the glow of yarn-covered traffic signs, I was struck dumb. The knitted covers for the signs — they had done gone.

It felt so… wrong, and got me thinking about the ephemeral quality of those yarn bombs. They are tossed out there to the world as a ray of humor, beauty, and good cheer. And they can disappear like that. People sometimes take them, though that happens less often than you would think. More often, someone decides that the piece has outlived its usefulness, and it’s removed.

Like this lovely little piece made by two of my students and strategically placed on campus in the dead of night. My college has a very pretty but rather sterile campus. This lamp post cozy made a wonderful comment on what warmth and community really meant. It got a fair amount of attention.

And then it was time to put the Christmas decorations up. Down it came.

I can’t quite put my finger on why this bothers me. Many yarn bombers say that’s just the nature of the beast. These pieces are made to be ephemera. No harm in them being just that.

I suppose it’s that some of these pieces are ravishingly beautiful. And even the ones that aren’t typically bring some much-needed color to a bland urban landscape. Maybe I just wish more people appreciated what a giving act the yarn bomber makes.

Time for another poll!