By Dale Larabee | SDUN Columnist
On June 11, a yarn bomb exploded at the Kensington-Normal Heights Branch Library in a multicolored cascade covering handrails, poles and trees. More than 24 knitters spent three hours creating a huge yarn-wrapped makeover, so visible from sidewalks and streets that one gawker said, “I didn’t know we had a library there.”
The overall community reaction: surprised. Pleasantly and happily surprised.
The yarn bomb was the brainchild of an avid group of knitting librarians: Kensington’s Lynne Russo and Rancho Bernardo’s Karen Reilly, along with Christina Wainwright and Leslie McNabb. While the group’s motto is “Get Cozy with a Good Book,” just take one look at our revitalized library and one can wager the ladies relaxed with knitting needles and yarn instead.
“The idea originated in the Netherlands in 2004 when the founders wished to transform cold, sterile public buildings,” Russo said.
“Into a knitted landscape,” Reilly added, finishing Russo’s thought.
“Knitted Landscape,” the ladies explained, was the name of a Scandinavian yarn-bombing collective whose group members would cover rocks with yarn and leave them in desolate areas to see who noticed.
“Very cool,” Reilly said, and I had to agree.
The two ladies talked to me outside the Kensington library surrounded by their handiwork. “Our goal is to bring art to the community with bright, easily removed graffiti,” Reilly said.
All the yarn is donated, and some supporters – all who enthusiastically help volunteer time and supplies, Russo said – mail in samples of their work.
The pair smiled and laughed through the interview, talking over each other or adding to what the other said. They were clearly proud of their team’s handiwork.
“The only public money we spent was to buy zip-ties to hold the yarn in place,” one said. When I looked confused, Reilly explained: “You know, those plastic things they use on suspects instead of handcuffs.”
I didn’t know, but remained silent fearing one of them would show me.
Russo said the library users not only borrow and return books, but also want to help maintain the knitted creations, including a recreation of the new San Diego Public Library logo, which was placed on a prominent tree in the park. Russo showed me where borrowers put down their books long enough to tighten loose ends or pull up areas that sagged.
“We picked Kensington as our first library because it is ideally positioned to show off our work,” Reilly said. “The Kensington theme was stripes, and we hope the yarn stays up for two months.” The yarn could well stay put longer.
What’s next? The San Carlos Library in January 2014, to help celebrate their 40th anniversary. “Rubies,” Reilly said of the anniversary.
So start saving red yarn, for all knitters will be invited to cast on at this anniversary bash.
—Dale Larabee is a 40-year resident of Kensington, who is an occasional writer for local newspapers.