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The best thing about yarn bombing is that it's (usually) a surprise to the person experiencing it. Walking down the street, or coming around a corner, and seeing a trunk wrapped tight in colorful yarn is always fun. It's only when things get rainy and droopy that they get a bit messy and weird.
Using Google Trends as a baseline, it looks like the first mentions of "yarnbomb" or "yarn bomb" started in 2008 with a strong peak in 2013. That strikes true with my recollection — as fads go, it was a pretty great one, but you just don't see yarn bombs nearly as often as you used to.
That's why I was so pleased, the other day, after walking through the La Marzocco/KEXP place to see the intricate and lovely embroidery/yarn bomb on the trees in the courtyard there. What a great thing to see on my way out, hot coffee in hand, heading over towards the playground with my kid.
It made me wonder about the mysterious people who make these amazing treats of the city. So, instead of doing, you know, actual journalism, I decided to make some up.
The night guard Chester caught them, in the rail yards, doing something next to one of the trains. They bolted when they saw the guards coming, but Chester sent a couple round the other side to corral them, so they were penned in, no doubt. Four of them, in balaclavas. One guard came jogging up with a bag. "Found this." Chester looked inside expecting to find cans of spray paint, but, it turned out, all that was in it was colorful yarn. "What's the gag, here?"
He'd been working undercover nearly a year. Hanging out in yarn shops and craft places, going to knitting circles. Everybody was friendly, but nobody knew who was working those underground cells. Until he had his break, an acquaintance inviting him out to drinks one night after a lesson focusing on intarsia, and she asked him if he was willing to lend a hand on some large projects. "Something you might not be able to talk about," she said. He leaned in.
Every superhero has an origin story. Lupe's, as a girl: visiting her beloved grandmother in the hospital (she wasn't supposed to be there, she was sneaked in under her father's raincoat), and watching that strong, lovely, defiant, proud woman shiver in her bed, the drugs or the room or the gown or whatever. And then, that nurse who just came right in, needles in hand, casting off a woolen cap that she quickly finished with a thread and needle, then offered to Lupe's grandmother to pull over her head, over her thinning hair. And the look of relief on grandmother's face, that comfort, and suddenly Lupe knew that more than anything else she wanted to learn how to knit. And then her skin was punctured by a radioactive needle.
And so it was that the town was divided by two gangs. On one side, the Skein, and on the other Pink Angora. Their territory crossed in the university district, was tagged by yarn bombs in both of their colors. Hand knit clothes in those colors were banned from the yarn shops, because of fights breaking out. Metal detectors at the high schools scanned for metal needles. And it was in this environment that two young women, one from each gang, accidentally met each other, and without knowing the other's affiliation at first, totally fell for the other.
You never forget your first time. You work forever to make the pattern. You estimate the tree, maybe hit it with a tape to make sure you have the dimensions right. But it's not until you show up and stitch the thing on that you know if it's really going to fit or not. It's not until you're in the moment. It's not until you step back and see it hanging there that you know if you are happy, and if you're happy, you know it's gonna make someone else happy as well. Sometimes art is about big things. Sometimes art is about bringing small joys into other people's lives.