Meche Ek stood along Main Street in Kalispell last week, pointing out the intricacies of a yarn wrapped street sign. The normally dull metal pole was covered in an array of bright yarn flowers.
“(Yarn bombing) makes ugly stuff pretty,” said Ek, who works at Camas Creek Yarn.
“I love it,” said a passing jogger.
Unprovoked reactions like that keep Ek and her boss, Camas Creek owner Melanie Cross, planning and plotting more yarn bombing. Also known as guerrilla knitting or graffiti knitting, yarn bombing is a type of street art popular in urban areas. Knitters will cover an object – a tree, a pole, or even a military tank in one instance – with huge swaths of yarn stitched together. Unlike graffiti though, it can easily be removed. The earliest examples of yarn bombing were in Europe in the early 2000s.
Cross opened Camas Creek Yarn in 2007 as “a place where people would feel free to come in and ask for help.” Since then, a strong knitting community has organized around the shop. She said knitting is a healthy hobby that can even lessen the effects of arthritis.
One of Cross’s first yarn bombings was at Montana State University in Bozeman. Working with the school’s licensing director (who Camas Creek works with on the yarn shop’s collegiate knitting kits), Cross created an MSU sweater to cover the statue of a bobcat. Cross said it took her more than a month of sleepless nights to knit the massive cat sweater. Recently, the sweater returned to Kalispell so that Cross could update it with the school’s new logo.
Cross and Ek have yarn bombed trees at Tiebuckers Pub and Eatery in Somers and at the Hockaday Museum of Art, as well as street signs in downtown Kalispell.
“When I did the first one out there, I had people stopping me and asking me to do the whole town,” Ek said, adding that she enjoys each project. “If it wasn’t fun, if it was work, then I wouldn’t be doing it.”
But one yarn bombing got Cross and her store into a little trouble. Four years ago, Cross covered a street sign that pointed visitors to the Hockaday, with the museum and city’s permission. The yarn covering was so detailed, that it included the words on the sign and Cross said from a distance people couldn’t tell it was yarn. After a few weeks, a detective from the police department arrived to say that someone downtown had complained that it was unfair advertising for the store and Cross took it down. According to Cross, the detective said the complaint was one of the more interesting investigations he’s had to deal with.
For the most part, though, people around town have been supportive of the project.
“It adds texture and color and it shows community love,” Cross said.
Cross said she has plans for more yarn bombing projects, including covering a newspaper box that sits in front of her store. Although yarn bombing is more popular in urban areas, she said that people in Kalispell and the Flathead have welcomed the unique street art. Ek said it also inspires people to take on projects of their own.
“It makes people want to sit down and do something with their hands, that isn’t messing around on a cellphone,” she said. “It’s about getting back to the basics.”
For more information about Camas Creek Yarn, visit www.camuscreekyarn.com or call (406) 755-9276.
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