What’s with the tree sweaters in Grinnell and Iowa City? Yarn bombing?

Some extra hands to help

During a recent visit to Grinnell, we were struck by the tree branches sporting colorfully hand-knitted sweaters on the campus’s “Peace Grove.”

A tree branch with sweater (or sock?) on the Grinnell College campusOn a cold winter day, the trees  looked bundled up and warm.


It took me a few minutes to remember where I’d last seen – and been intrigued by – trees wearing sweaters. It was in nearby Iowa City, of course. According to a recent story in Patch, the Iowa City sweaters are a public art project dating back to Nov. 2012 – the handiwork of dozens of volunteer knitters who hand knit “tree-huggers.”

Stitching a long sweater
Apparently this started downtown and spread to other parts of Iowa City – and maybe an hour west to Grinnell? Apparently it’s part of a new “yarn bombing” trend where people knit sweaters to decorate trees in public areas. (Seems like the wrong term for such a peaceful activity.) Here’s more from wikipedia: Yarn bombing, yarnbombing, yarnstorming, guerrilla knitting, urban knitting or graffiti knitting is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk.

History (from wikipedia)

Yarn bombing examples have been recorded as early as May 2004 in Den Helder, Netherlands. In the U.S., in 2005 Texas knitters used their leftover and unfinished knitting projects, but it has since spread worldwide with custom pieces being created by artists.[1][3][2]

The start of this movement has been attributed to Magda Sayeg, 37, from Houston, who says she first got the idea in 2005 when she covered the door handle of her boutique with a custom made cozy.[4] Though artist Shanon Schollian was knitting stump cozies in 2002 for clear cuts in Oregon[5]. The Knit Knot Tree by the Jafagirls in Yellow Springs, Ohio gained international attention in 2008.

Yarn bombing’s popularity has spread throughout the world. In Oklahoma City the Collected Thread store yarn bombed the Plaza District of the city on September 9, 2011 to celebrate their three-year anniversary as a functioning shop.[10] and in Australia a group called the Twilight Taggers refer to themselves as ‘fibre artists’.[11] Joann Matvichuk of Lethbridge, Alberta founded International Yarnbombing Day, which was first observed on June 11, 2011.[12]

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Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa, Iowa City

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