Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Yarn bombing the capital

O-Town Bombers return to Nuit Blanche

From left to right, bombers Lexi Botham, Christina Acres, Justy Dennis, Jeannette Thompson and Jasmine Vesque. Credit: Zara Ansar

No doubt when you think about crochet, you imagine your granny — or somebody’s granny — industriously hooking socks and tea cozies, little booties and maybe those weird dolls that hide the toilet paper. You probably picture a relatively benign old lady engaged in a solitary pastime whose main effect is making your feet a little warmer and sheep a little colder. The very idea that the word “bombing” could even appear in the same sentence with “yarn” or “crochet” seems utterly ludicrous.

Enter the O-Town Bombers, a group of local yarnophiles who are bringing crocheting out of the closet and into the streets. It’s street art at its fuzziest, interrupting the urban landscape with an ever-changing tapestry of colour. 

“I just think that yarn bombing’s taking off because it’s a new spin on an old art,” says Justy Dennis, the group’s founder and head of operations. The Bombers officially came together last year when Dennis began recruiting help to cover a Para Transpo bus for Nuit Blanche. Now they’re back with another large-scale project for 2013. 

“We are making a forest of neon supernova trees,” says bomber Lexi Botham. 

Apart from their unconventional public projects, part of the group’s appeal is the camaraderie that comes from doing something you love with others who love it, too. 

“[Crocheting] is something that I’ve always done, but I’ve never had any peers that did it, or very few, because it was never en vogue,” says bomber Christina Acres, who was introduced to the Bombers through her wife, Jeannette Thompson. “And then about a year and a half ago, I started to realize how popular it was becoming in pop culture.”

The Bombers have experienced some bumps along the way, including a recent run-in with the RCMP. They had decorated a corner of Major’s Hill Park for International Yarn Bombing Day in June when they were told to take it down or be charged with mischief. “The RCMP officer was very tongue-in-cheek. He really thought it was unnecessary but had to do what he was told to do,” Acres says.

“In the years since the early days of yarn bombing, more and more groups like ourselves are realizing that in order to do our art, we kind of have to bridge the gap between us as street artists and the actual governments and local authorities,” Jasmine Vesque says. 

To that end, the Bombers have been working with Councillor Diane Holmes to undertake an ongoing project in Dundonald Park. “We have carte blanche for the park, and we’ll be responsible for taking it down when it starts looking ratty,” Dennis says. 

For this year’s Nuit Blanche project, the Bombers will be covering 24 trees on George Street. The centre tree will be white, and the surrounding trees will radiate out in different colours to create the effect of a supernova. 

“This year we have a much harder challenge because we have a different pattern around a different medium,” Vesque says. They have had to take into consideration the living trees’ need for air and sunlight when designing their patterns. 

The installation will remain up only for the night of Nuit Blanche, and the Bombers will remove all of the work the next morning. “It’s about six months [of work] for 10 hours,” Botham says.

After the yarn comes down, the panels will be reassembled into blankets and donated to HighJinx, a socially conscious thrift store that works with the homeless population. 

Above all, the Bombers strive to be an inclusive group. They have about 18 official members, representing a diverse group of ages, backgrounds, sexualities, (dis)abilities and lived experiences. Their Sunday meetings are open to all, and they’re happy to teach newcomers how to crochet. “You just have to be okay with our language,” Botham says, chuckling. 

“Sometimes we’re not all ladies,” Acres adds. In short, this may not be your granny’s knitting circle. But if it is, that’s even better.