Students stitch school spirit into Meliora Weekend

Miriam Frost, Staff Photographer

Every campus visitor could tell that something funny was going on with the trees by Dandelion Square this past weekend. After all, they were wearing sweaters.

At UR, we’re more than familiar with graffiti, boasting our own rocks and tunnels perpetually covered in paint, but this was something different.

A recent phenomenon, “yarn bombing” has become a new way to publicly express oneself. It involves organized and colorful displays of crocheted or knitted fabric and lacks the negative connotations associated with graffiti as it is easily removed when necessary.

Avid knitter and sophomore Bonnie Nortz saw this as the perfect way to show her school spirit during Meliora Weekend.

The first instances of yarn bombing date back to 2004, but the movement is mostly attributed to blogger Magda Sayeg and her website, “Knitta Please.”  The art-form has reached international levels, evolving into a way to “warm” otherwise cold public places.

Last semester, Nortz proposed her idea to UR Facilities. They directed her to the Office of Alumni Relations, as her plan involved Meliora Weekend.

“When the term ‘yarn bombing’ is used, the first thing that comes to mind might be messy strands of yarn thrown all over lawns and trees,” Nortz said. “This is not an accurate description of a yarn bombing. Once [the Office of] Alumni Relations read my proposal, they liked it. It wasn’t as messy as they thought.”

The project was anything but a mess. Nortz started measuring the trees last semester and started her knitting in June, even though the proposal wasn’t officially approved until August.

“I knew it would happen eventually,” Nortz said. “It was just a matter of when.”

A variety of patterns and techniques were used for the sweaters. Nortz’s favorite is a yellow one with an intricate pattern resembling leaves and vines. It contains over 30,000 stitches.

The display also included knitted yellowjackets that hung from the trees which were stolen after a few days.
Overall, students seem to have enjoyed the handmade decorations.

“Three different groups of people came up to me saying how much they liked the yarn bombing,” Nortz said. “It made me happy, because it let me know that I accomplished my goal in this, which was really to show some school spirit and to make people smile.”

Nortz knitted most of the pieces herself, but there were six or seven others who helped with the project as well ­­— both with knitting and setting up the yarn bombing.

“We spent a while out in the cold,” sophomore Monica Roberts said. “But by the end we felt very proud of our achievement of having turned the area spanned by those six trees into what I would consider a piece of art.”

The knitting was the most time consuming part of the project, taking months to complete. The display itself took minutes to set up and will take seconds to take down.

The display has some longevity; because the yarn used is made of heavy acrylic, is doesn’t get ruined in the rain. Still, when the time comes to take it down, Nortz plans to recycle the yarn or turn the tree-sweaters into blankets.

“We’ll find a way to use it,” Nortz said. “It won’t go to waste.”

The yarn bombing was also the spark for a new club that Nortz is trying to start on campus: Society of Crocheting and Knitting Students, or SOCKS.

While the club’s focus will be teaching, Nortz also hopes to work with Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“When you’re learning to knit, you end up with a bunch of useless fabric squares in a drawer somewhere,” Nortz explained.

The club will turn these into quilts to donate to the hospital.

“This way, we can teach and promote interest while still helping the community.”

The Meliora Weekend display was a success overall and conveyed Nortz’s message well.

“Yarn is fun,” she said. “It’s not just something for old ladies.”

Esce is a member of the class of 2015.



You can contact Antoinette at aesce@u.rochester.edu.

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