Watch out for yarn-bombs!
Guerilla knitters aim to yarn-storm City Plaza
At least once a week since mid-July, Maia Illa and her army of knitters have gotten together to make bombs—yarn bombs, to be exact—that they will put to use in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, when they will decorate lampposts, signal lights and tree guards along the perimeter of Chico’s City Plaza with their colorful creations.
It’s all perfectly legal—the city has given the yarn-bombers permission to yarn-storm the park as part of the upcoming Stonewall Chico Pride Weekend, which aims to “strengthen and unite the LGBTIQQA community and allies through public events, social gatherings and educational opportunities” and “seeks to improve the lives of everyone by increasing visibility of LGBTIQQA people and making the North State community a safer place for all.” LGBTIQQA, for the uninitiated, stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Ally.
After sewing together the large lengths and swatches of soft, fuzzy, multicolored yarnwork into long quilt-like creations, the yarn-bombers will wrap them around posts and railings in the park to make a vibrant, eye-catching (and nondamaging) statement.
“It’s been called ‘graffiti with Grandma’s sweaters’ before, because it’s street art,” offered Illa—she’s an “ally”—of the practice of yarn-bombing (which also goes by the names “guerrilla knitting” and “graffiti knitting”). The Seattle Fibre Bombers is one of a number of groups worldwide that are devoted to radical knitting.
On a recent Monday evening, fresh off of a Thursday-night knitting extravaganza held at RayRay Gallery, Chico’s guerrilla knitters were hard at work at the east Chico home of Laurie Bennett-Cook. Bennett-Cook’s brother, Jon Bennett, diligently knitted row after row of his blue, pink and yellow yarn-bomb—a length of knitted fabric that will join with other knit swatches to make, in effect, a cheery, patchwork, knitted “jacket” to cover one of the designated city-plaza surfaces. Needles clicking, Bennett chatted with the group about how much fun their recent knitting party at The Maltese Bar & Tap Room had been.
“Yes,” agreed Illa, who, besides being the newest member of Stonewall’s board of directors, works as a mental-health counselor for teens. “It was nice doing it in that setting because people could ask us what we were doing and we could explain the project.”
Most of the knitters (and crocheters) involved didn’t know how to knit or crochet before they got on board with the Stonewall-sponsored project—Illa included, she said.
“At first, I was really nervous that we wouldn’t have enough [yarn-bombs], but now we’ll have enough and more,” said Illa, citing the high level of participation in the volunteer effort, as well as a number of donations of pieces of knitted and crocheted fabric from Chicoans who maybe didn’t finish a project and wanted to put their work-so-far to good use.
“I’m really looking forward to the festival,” Illa said, “because the morning-of [Saturday] is when we’re putting up all the yarn, and that’s really exciting for me, and the rest of the volunteers.”
The festival, which kicks off on Friday night with the Rainbow Show Pride Kick-Off Concert at the Chico Women’s Club—is a “nice opportunity to show incoming students and returning students the atmosphere in Chico. We purposely scheduled Pride to be when students are returning.”