Yarn? In the Library?

In June of 2021, a few members who enjoy knitting or crocheting were inspired to try something new with their skills–yarn bombing. This is an art form, begun in 2005, that merges the disciplines of installation art, needlework, and street art. Think of it as yarn graffiti. Yarn bombers often attach their art to something plain or unattractive to improve its appearance—like a metal construction fence, a parking meter, or another nondescript pole. Yarn bombers have also adorned statues of people and animals with colorful sweaters, hats and scarves. In Denmark, an anti-war political statement was made when an army tank was draped in 4000 small pink squares sewn together to form a tank cozy.

Some yarn graffiti artists work stealthily, but not us. We do our yarn installations in and around the library, in broad daylight, and hope they bring attention to the library and to the Friends. We call our group Yarning with Friends.

Why get involved with yarn bombing? Because it’s art; it’s fun (both for us and people in and around the library); it’s surprising; and it makes people smile. And many people find knitting and crocheting to be great stress-relievers.

If you already knit or crochet, we invite you to join us. (Check us out on Instagram to see what we’ve been making.) But you can still participate even if you’re new to working with yarn; just join our monthly knit and crochet classes. See box at right or check our calendar.

If you have yarn to donate to the cause, let us know. Most of our projects will probably use acrylic, worsted weight (4) yarn in bright colors, but we would be grateful for any donations. The yarn doesn’t have to be full skeins, matching dye lots, or anything fancy. Leftover yarn from past projects is fine.

Project 1

Our first yarn bomb involved covering the lamp posts in front of the Modesto Library. In June and July, the founding members of the group, all Friends of the Modesto Library members, knitted and crocheted 36 colorful squares at home, sewed them together at a work session (below), then attached them to the lamp posts on July 21, 2021.

Project 2

Our second yarn bomb involved stringing garlands of autumn leaves around the interior of the Modesto Library. In August and September, the founding members of the group (all Friends of the Modesto Library members) and a couple of other volunteers, knitted and crocheted 274 leaves and dozens of acorns at home, began assembling them into garlands at a September 13 work session, and hung them in the library on September 27, 2021. Stop by and see them before Thanksgiving when our next project should be ready.

Visitors are greeted by garlands of leaves as they enter the library.
Look up as you enter the children’s library.
Leaves hang between shelves in the large print section.
The circulation desk is festooned with leaves.
Leaves hang between shelves in the teen area.
The new maker space has garlands of leaves and acorns hanging over the entrance.

Project 3

Our third yarn bomb found us knitting and crocheting 96 mostly green squares, sewing them together, then wrapping them around paper cones and a tomato cage to create trees. But what are holiday trees without decorations? So members of the group and a few other volunteers, knitted, crocheted, and tatted away for weeks, making quite an assortment of ornaments. The result is three beautiful trees decorated for the holidays. They began attracting attention and positive comments even as they were being assembled. If you’re in the library in December, we hope you’ll stop and take a look.

Lots of 8″ squares were sewn together to make blankets that formed the trees.
Each tree is topped with a star.
A closer look at the trees. Knitted and crocheted squares create a backdrop for a variety of ornaments, all handmade by Yarning with Friends participants.
Cande Brody puts some of the first decorations on the largest tree.
The names of the nine people who created this art appear on the sign at left. On the right, new lyrics to a familiar carol describe the ornaments.
Ellen Dambrosio, Denise Nordell, Cande Brody and Pam Pallios installed the group’s third yarn art project at the library–“square” holiday trees.

Project 4

Our fourth project was a yarn bombed chair created to celebrate the return of in-person Story Times. (Unfortunately, the date has since been pushed back again due to COVID concerns.) For this project, stitchers covered a plain wooden thrift store chair with yarn of all kinds: knitted, crocheted, twisted, braided and wrapped! We hope this playful, colorful chair will bring a smile to everyone who visits.

Clockwise L to R: Brianna Verdone, Cande Brody, Denise Nordell and Pam Pallios work on the chair in a Monday night class.
front of completed chair
The completed chair sits in front of Ryan’s Tree in the children’s room on Jan. 18, 2022, after we presented it to the staff of the children’s department.
The chair is still under construction in this picture.
Cande Brody attaches a strip of crocheted edging.
Even the back of the chair is decorated (that’s a tiny green sweater on the blue chair back). Notice the tag identifying the maker of the chair.

Project 5

Our fifth yarn bombing was again in the children’s room of the library. On Jan. 31, 2022, we suspended 164 hearts from Ryan’s Tree to celebrate Valentines Day and our love of the library. Knitted and crocheted hearts in many shades of pink, white, purple, red, and orange were hung from the branches on ribbons. We also hung 25 tatted hearts on small trees in the nonfiction section and 29 on a garland hanging over the entrance to the children’s room. No doubt about it, love is in the air!

Some of the hearts were tied together in groups of three.
Ellen Dambrosio reaches high into the limbs to hang a heart.
Lots of love for the library!
Twenty-five delicate tatted hearts made by Anne Britton adorn these trees.
A heart garland greets visitors to the children’s room.
Pam Pallios strings ribbons through hearts that were then suspended from the tree’s branches.
Denise Nordell is happy with her progress.
So many hearts! 164, to be specific!
Click or tap image to view a movie of the yarn-bombed tree.

Project 6

Project six was a large (8 x 10.5 foot) “yarn garden” which was hung in the lobby on April 8, 2022. What started as a seed of an idea–to make a few oversized flowers–blossomed into this oversized mural. Ten talented yarn artists spent 300-400 hours creating the yarn garden to show just how much they “Love ‘R’ Library.” Flowers are certainly a large part of the garden, but so are clouds, a rainbow, a tree, and many garden creatures. A sign hanging nearby encourages visitors to play “I Spy” in the garden, looking for butterflies, ladybugs, a snake, and much, much more.

This will likely remain on display through the summer. Can’t make it to the library? We’ve included additional photos of some of the many interesting and creative elements of the mural.

Project 7

With project seven, we came full circle to June 2021 when we installed our first group project–“sweaters” for the lampposts in front of the library (see Project 1 above). This year member Denise Nordell designed new sweaters–flag-themed–to adorn the lampposts. The library is on the parade route for this year’s Graffiti parade and Fourth of July parade, so lots of people will be able to enjoy them. And, of course, they’ll be on display for Flag Day.

This project included work by original Yarning with Friends members but also by students in our monthly knit/crochet classes. Many hands make light work, so we always welcome new crafters to the group. Let us know if you’re interested.

Project 8

The Stanislaus Library Foundation made a float for Modesto’s annual Fourth of July parade and invited the 13 Friends of the Library groups in Stanislaus County to ride on it and/or walk the parade route beside it. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a much-loved children’s book by Eric Carle, was the theme of the float. To tie in to the theme, Yarning with Friends members crocheted 250 caterpillar bookmarks to give to lucky parade-goers.

Project 9

The end of summer brings with it the beginning of a new school year. Yarning with Friends members celebrated this annual event by crocheting black panels and lots of colored pencils. The pencils were sewn to the panels, then wrapped around two thin poles behind the librarians’ desk in the children’s room. It’s a small project, but it adds a pop of color to the room.

Project 10

Yarning with Friends members, along with many of the students from the monthly knit/crochet class they teach, made over 60 pumpkins to display around the library in October of 2022. Children who found a pumpkin in the children’s room or on the main floor could take it to the children’s room where library staff gave them a Hungry Caterpillar bookmark to take home (see Project 8). Over 100 caterpillars were distributed the first two days! We’ll keep making more as fast as we can.

Project 11

Three Yarning with Friends members, along with four students from the monthly knit/crochet class they teach, created this mural. It’s made up of over 200 individual items combined to show the Wonders Under the Sea, as we dubbed it. The mural was hung in the library’s lobby Jan. 26, 2023, and will likely remain through April. Posted on the wall is an I Spy list, encouraging visitors to look closely and find certain items, including one that definitely does NOT belong under the sea!

Crocheted and knitted undersea plants and animals in a mural hanging in the library lobby.

Project 12

This Yarning with Friends project was very much a group effort. Not only did the core group of people work on it, but many of the people attending our monthly knit/crochet class, created fruit, vegetables, and flowers for this display. Over 200 individual items make up this farmers market display (though we kind of like to refer to it as the yarners market). This popular display was installed in the library’s lobby June 2, 2023, and remained into the fall.

wide angle view of entire yarners market

Project 13

Two Yarning with Friends members created this colorful and interactive child’s bookshelf. Children who open the three front-facing book covers find activities they can take home and do. Those who show their completed activity to library staff in the children’s room, will receive a small surprise. The butterflies above and below the bookshelf were made by people attending our monthly knit/crochet class. The yarn-bombed chair was our fourth project. The bookshelf was put on display in the library’s lobby November 4, 2023. Good timing, as Children’s Book Week is Nov. 6-12.

Project 14

A group of Yarning with Friends members spent months creating sweet treats for this display appropriately named “Yarn Yummies.” A three-tiered cake in the center is surrounded by individual pieces of cake, a variety of cookies, doughnuts, tarts, pastries, lollipops, cupcakes, and caramel apples. Everything looks good enough to eat! Note: Even the tablecloth was lovingly crocheted decades ago. Yarn Yummies went on display April 2, 2024, and has been well-received by library visitors.