We love trying new things with yarn! How exciting when the new restaurant Seed + Salt in the San Francisco’s Marina district asked us to create a geometric string art wall for the dining room. They also commissioned us to yarnbomb a tree out front, which we wrote about here.
The piece is 9 x 8 feet and took about a day to design and a couple full days to install. We planned this design on paper first, carefully mapping the main elements to exact measurements and sketching some repeating elements to draw from on site. After installing the main elements, we filled in with our sketched repeating elements to make sure the colors and shapes filled the space in a clean but dynamic balance. We used Caron Simply Soft yarn and about 1500 escutcheon pins hammered at careful one- and six-inch intervals. What a crazy load of nails to hammer! A beam level and scaffold are essential tools for a job of this scale and height–we were glad the construction crew loaned us theirs.
As the light changes across this beautifully airy space, the neons glow and fade, while textured shadows push the shapes in and out of the wall. What a joy to watch! I know you’ll love seeing it in person as you munch on a sprouted nut loaf slathered in fresh lemon curd. When you do, tag us @knitsforlife and @thedappertoad in your #yarnbomb pics!
Our yarnbombs tend to become rain dances. Ever since our first yarnbomb, it has rained on our installations. That first was to be expected, as it was December. But it continued with a freak September downpour in 2013 on the Squid Tree, and has continued ever since. Perhaps a less auspicious explanation exists, like that similarly to everyone else, we like to knit in fall and winter. But I’m sticking with rain dance. (In which case we should yarnbomb in California more often!)
And so we’ve been waiting to install this yarnbomb since Black Friday 2014, over five weeks of drought-piercing rain, and so are overjoyed to see it born. It was commissioned by the beautiful new grab-n-go vegan restaurant Seed + Salt in the Marina district of San Francisco. This place is stellar, you’ve got to go. It’s the brainchild of owner Mo Clancy and chef Ariel Nadelberg, with creative direction from Lauren Godfrey, who’s worked on SF all-stars Bar Tartine and Tacolicious. As one Instagrammer said, go for the yarn and stay for the food. (Try the beet burger!)
We also installed a string art wall inside, which we wrote about here. We knit the tree yarnbomb with Caron Simply Soft yarn on our Brother KH-270 machine. It took about a day of active time to design and knit eight pieces from measurements, a day of inactive time to Scotch Guard and dry them, and four hours of seaming to install. You can find more details about the yarn and gauge on the Ravelry project page here.
People love to talk to us when we install! We had the usual questions: How long did it take? What’s this about? How do you knit it on there? Was the tree cold? Can I touch it? Does it hurt the tree? We explained that it was a fresh, playful, and cozy way to decorate the restaurant’s facade and should last well over a year with plenty of hugging and petting from passersby. And our work has received the seal of approval by an arborist. Since we left plenty of room at the bottom for dogs and Scotch Guarded against dirt, we think its biggest threat will be sunbleaching, but the neons and neutrals should weather well.
This time we also had some new comments, including that this design looks a bit like tape from across the street! (We usually hear that people think they’re painted on.) And as usual the grown-ups enjoyed it more than the kids. We find that kids, who are putting together the way the grown-ups say the world works, expect their own world to be silly but grown-ups to be serious. And so kids wanted to know why we were doing such a silly thing more than the adult passersby, who generally stopped in their tracks to rejoice that someone was literally sewing a colorful sweater onto a tree for fun.
Rain’s biggest threat to yarnbombs is that it rinses the dirt from the tree into the knitting, which then dries again with dark smudges. Our recent deluges rinsed this cute tree clean and now it’s ready to endure any weather with playful good cheer, just like you’ll do after eating a clean, fresh meal from Seed + Salt. Visit and tag us @knitsforlife and @thedappertoad in your #yarnbomb pics!
You’ve seen our epic yarnbomb of a 1950’s Chevy truck in Old Navy‘s San Francisco Flagship store (up til January 2015). Now get ready for the second epic yarnbomb: three yarnbombed bumper cars in Old Navy’s New York 34th St Flagship store.
How awesome is Old Navy to choose yarnbombing to celebrate #OldNavyStyle in a season full of fashionable knitwear for the people! We were so stoked that they asked us to do this second project on the same block with the Thanksgiving Day parade. It’s our little Miracle on 34th Street. Forget Santa’s lap–go snuggle your derrier into one of these vintage babies this Christmas. (And I know you want to but sorry, they don’t move around.) Be sure to tag us in your pics (@knitsforlife@thedappertoad@oldnavy) so we can see you!
For those of you who are interested in learning to step up your work to more ambitious yarnbombing projects, get your scroll on and I’ll tell you a bit about our process. It’s basically three steps: design, construction, and installation. But first, the pics!
1. Design includes a sketch and engineering. Old Navy did the sketch and we translated it into knitting and did the engineering. You translate the colorwork elements in the sketch (snowflakes, letters, etc.) into charts. We input the charts into our Brother KH-270 knitting machine. While it sounds easy and is certainly faster than hand-knitting, it’s still quite a laborious process of mostly prep. Read more details about charting in this post.
To engineer how you’ll construct the yarnbomb, you break down the overall design into panels to seam together. We conceived of a few ways to do it and chose the one with the best stitch alignment and seam location. One consideration is whether you’ll knit rectangular panels or custom shapes. We braved knitting rectangular ones to cut to shape on site. The fear of unraveling fabric is great within knitters, but a simple whip stitch around cut edges secured them nicely and we conquered in the end.
Once the panels are mapped out, you take measurements to get their dimensions. We did all our nail-biting over the fact that we didn’t fly out to take the measurements ourselves. Instead, Old Navy’s team sent tons of photos, we sent back diagrams of our required dimensions, and they took careful measurements. Since knitting is fairly forgiving, we could bring back-up panels, and we were on a 2-week timeline, we figured the risk was low enough that it would work out, and it did!
The final engineering step is to translate each panel’s dimensions to a stitch and row count based on a swatch of knitting in the same yarn, gauge, and tautness as the installation. Calculate thrice, knit once!
2. Construction, as every knitter knows, is the fun part. The Brother KH-270 knitting machine is like a cross between a circular knitting loom and a weaving loom. It has an input for the colorwork to tell the needles which color to select for each stitch, and a bed of needles over which you manually pass a carriage for each row. Each bumper car comprises 11 panels, so with the sign we had 34 panels to knit.
3. Installation is equal parts sewing and ingenuity. This step is also a huge consideration during the design stage. It seems every installation we do these days requires us to dream up a new installation technique. First there was the staple gun (no, it doesn’t hurt trees). Then there was fishing line and plastic canvas. Now we turned to decals, Velcro and hot glue. (Here’s a great deal on bulk Velcro tape.) First we applied a vinyl decal layer in places where the bumper car paint job might show through the knitting too much, muddling the color. Next we applied sticky-back hook Velcro tape around edges and center areas to hold the knit panels. Finally we hot glued around the borders a huge crochet chain, made on a jumbo 16 mm hook with yarn held triple. Sounds easy, but that’s a lot of layers for a lot of edging. Elsewhere the panels are mattress and Kitchener stitched together for the best-looking seams. Voila! It’s crazy that even though this project only used 1/4 as much yarn as the truck project, it took the same amount of time to install!
Technically, there’s a fourth step: sharing! We love photographing, posting, and tagging our work. But the best part about it is that we can see how much fun people have interacting with the #OldNavyStyle yarnbombs. Our friends in New York were the first to hop in for a ride!
Last month I told you about the new crochet pattern for our fun Snake Yarnbomb design. As fast as our little fingers could go, we’ve knitted and purled and sewn and photographed and typed to get you the knitting pattern version of the same popular design. With no further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the Knit Snake Yarnbomb!
This whimsical yarnbomb knitting pattern is a fun and easy way to brighten up your neighborhood. Brighten up your favorite bike rack at the library, your office, the grocery store, or anywhere people need a surprise and a smile.
The yarnbomb knitting pattern works up quickly by using yarn held double on size US 11 (8 mm) knitting needles.
The pattern is worked from the top down. You’ll make two lips, then join them and continue working the body. The mouth, eyes, optional fangs and forked tongue are worked separately, then sewn on.
You knit the body as a flat rectangle, which you’ll then sew onto the pole. We recommend installing in broad daylight so people can tell you how much they love your work–because we guarantee they will! Play around with colors and invent your own embellishments. Express your imagination!
Share your projects on Ravelry and tag them @knitsforlife on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to include hashtags like #yarnbomb, #yarnbombing, #streetart, and your city so people can discover who made it!
Earlier this summer my sister, Jill, and I moved into a new art studio space at the Claremont Art Studios in San Mateo, California. I’ve been meaning to share Jill’s great photos of our space for a while now, so here we go. If you still want more, we love studio visits! We have an open house every first friday of the month. Contact me to schedule a visit.
We love yarnbombing street art that transforms everyday objects into surprising characters. While we expected kids to love these crochet yarnbombs, we were surprised how much these characters took adults out of their daily doldrums by adding a little fun to their lives too. Now with this yarnbomb crochet pattern, you can help fill the world with whimsy and bring a smile to the faces in your neighborhood. Purchase this Snake Yarnbomb Crochet Pattern on Ravelry, Etsy, or Craftsy. This new snake yarnbomb crochet pattern includes instructions for a ridgeback or flat body. It also suggests how to adjust the pattern for extra small or large poles. We’ve found that most public works departments use poles of similar sizes, so these should fit most bike racks, meters, and signposts. If you want to learn more about how to make custom fitting yarnbombs, be sure to take Ishnknits’s excellent self-paced online yarnbombing course here. The snake yarnbomb crochet pattern is worked from the top down. You’ll make two lips, then join them and continue working the body. The mouth, eyes, optional fangs and forked tongue are worked separately, then sewn on. You crochet the body as a flat rectangle, which you’ll then sew onto the pole. We recommend installing in broad daylight so people can tell you how much they love your work–because we guarantee they will. Play around with colors and invent your own embellishments. Here are some other snake and worm yarnbombs we’ve crocheted and knit in all kinds of colors on all kinds of bike racks. You can get inspiration from our other crazy yarnbombs. But most importantly, express your imagination! Have you ever tried yarnbombing? Tell me about your yarnbombs and feel free to ask a question in a comment below. xxxo, Lorna & Jill
This past spring Jill and I turned a preschool gate into a knit and crochet banana forest with a cheeky amigurumi monkey stealing a banana. Our current yarnbomb installation is always our favorite, because we never want to let it go. Fortunately we’re learning to write things down when we improvise new designs, so we can make more for ourselves!
This amigurumi monkey crochet pattern was just too cute not to share, so we worked her up in two sizes: like a baby and a mother. This new crochet toy pattern is just one set of instructions, with guidelines on how to use it for a crochet monkey toy in a variety of sizes.
Any yarn weight works for this project. The small crochet monkey uses a small hook, yarn held single, and single crochet stitches throughout. The large crochet monkey uses a larger hook, yarn held double, and half double crochet stitches. You can use this simple trick on almost any pattern where gauge and fit aren’t critical.
Want an even smaller crochet monkey? Experiment with smaller hooks and thread or lace weight yarn for a miniature plushie.
Want a jumbo crochet monkey? Break out the jumbo hooks and bulky yarn held double for a play room pillow pal.
For our monkey yarnbomb gaps in the fabric were ok, so we went up a few hook sizes from what’s appropriate for the total yarn weight.
Hopefully by now we’ve hammered it into your head to take some judicious liberties with your amigurumi patterns for more creative results. In other words, have fun and be sure to get up to some monkey business!
Purchase my new Monkey Business crochet pattern now on Ravelry, Etsy, or Craftsy. I look forward to seeing your projects!
A few months ago I tried out my new Addi Express knitting machine on a few bike rack worm yarnbombs. The Very Hungry Caterpillar yarnbomb from the popular children’s book was so loved by patrons at the San Mateo Public Library, that when it recently got shaggy I knew I had to replace it. My sister Jill and our new intern, Magine, dreamed up a new installation to span all 6 bike racks with characters from kids books. That required we expand our search to include any tube-shaped character, and we found 5 more! So, pop quiz: how well do you know your kids lit? The answers are in the photo titles of this Flickr album. We used both knitting and crochet on each character, spending about a full week of work for 2-3 people. Yeah, call us crazy–it was for the kids! First, we machine knit a body on the Ultimate Sweater Machine. This machine has no electricity or pattern capabilities so it’s faster than hand knitting, but still quite a slog–kind of like churning out a novella on an old-timey type writer. Next we sketched out the elements of each character from images by breaking its main features down into basic shapes, just like in cartooning. We crocheted all the details and painstakingly sewed them together in the studio. This time we learned our lesson about working for hours in the sun and purchased some PVC pipes of the same diameter as the bike racks in order not to have to assemble all the details in the field. You don’t think about it at first, but the eyes for example must be placed where they’ll go on the tube when it’s fully stretched, and guesstimating that will quickly make you go either grey or bald. Pipe also works great for test swatches to calculate the number of rows and stitches in each body. Finally, we installed on a Friday evening after closing so the racks would be empty–which they almost never are. Yay for cyclists! Now comes the fun part! We can’t wait to see all the pictures of kids playing with the characters, and hope the library dreams up a fun contest for kids who guess them all or read all the books. The San Mateo Public Library is just off of 3rd Ave and El Camino in downtown San Mateo, California. I hope you get a chance to see them while they last. Be sure to tag your photos #knitsforlife so I can see your fun snapshots! xxxo, Lorna
When my sister, Jill, and I aren’t working on publishing new knitting and crochet patterns or a commissioned installation, we do what we love most: yarnbombing. If you haven’t checked out our new zine called Fuse that’s all about what yarnbombing it is and why/how people do it, get with the program here!
Ever since our big Squid Tree yarnbomb in San Mateo, we’ve wanted to design a new character-based yarnbomb in a great spot. We got the perfect chance when CCTV-America asked to film us installing a yarnbomb for their new show about creativity called Full Frame: introducing our newest monster bench yarnbomb we’re calling Buttmunches!
The best part of yarnbombing to us is seeing what happens to it once we give it to the public. Jill considers it a social experiment to discover how people interact with our yarnbombs, whether they steward, steal, destroy, or hug them. These Buttmunches generate so much love so far we can’t stop stalking them on Instagram! Here are few highlights:
Our inspiration was to find a picturesque site in the city where both locals and tourists could enjoy our work. We love the way the waterfront is transforming into a new, vibrant heart of the city and wanted to show it some love. The Ferry Plaza is also sentimental to us since we have fond memories from the 80’s of taking the ferry to the Embarcadero to have lunch with our grandfather who worked at PG&E. Our mother also worked near the Embarcadero, and we’ve been going there since we were kids. I usually walk around areas on Google Street View looking for objects to transform into silly things with yarn. We think it a noble endeavor to make grown-ups smile. The benches had a gorgeous backdrop on all sides, and the idea of giving them a local bite, as it were, just came to me. Some objects shout at us, others need intense psychotherapy to coax it out.
We started yarnbombing guerrilla style, but our laborious yarnbombs are easy to steal or damage, so we prefer to get permission and confirmation that the site will enjoy it and become a kind of steward of the work. Many artists are forced to create guerrilla style public art because they have no other recourse. This becomes the distinction between public art and street art: one is welcomed, while the other refuses to be forced out by economics or government. Cities like Oakland and San Mateo are not only becoming new art hubs because of rising big-city rents. They’re attracting artists with welcoming attitudes in local government and business. We asked to do a free public art installation all over SF, but got turned down again and again. The company who manages Ferry Building also manages a property in San Mateo that we’ve worked with, so we suspected they’d be amenable to an installation, and they were!
Buttmunch went up on April 16. The whole thing stitched up about 3 miles of yarn, took 30 hours to construct, and 3 hours to install. We knit the bodies, arms, legs, and mouths on the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine with Knit Picks Brava Sport and some value acrylic from the craft store. We crocheted the hands, feet, eyes, teeth, horns, and other details using more value acrylic from our stash. If you can believe it from looking at our yarn wall, we actually needed to buy orange for this project!
One of the things we love about our new art studio to work in is having so much SPACE! Even though we measure and calculate gauge again and again, there’s always a nagging worry about how a yarnbomb will fit. This time, we just pinned it on the wall in the right proportions and were able to sew the deets on just like we were in the field. It rocked so hard we’re psyched to start another project!
When they get badly damaged or soiled we’ll remove them and surprise people with something new. Until then, we hope you get a chance to see them in person. Be sure to tag us @knitsforlife and @thedappertoad so we can share in the fun!
I wanted to share one of the things Jill and I worked on lately. We have an EPIC project going up next week, but in the mean time I’ve managed to squeeze in another fun job.
Downtown San Mateo’s local yarn shop, Nine Rubies, is wonderfully supportive of local crafters and yarnbombing, so it’s no surprise they recruited us to spruce up the huge front window for the holidays.
If you’re in the Bay Area, Nine Rubies just might convince you to get out of the house on Black Friday: they’re offering 40% off everything! Check out the details on their Facebook page here.
You might recognize the pom-poms from Jill’s pop-up art gallery installation:
We cut the pom poms off and strung them on green i-cord to make a Christmas tree, which we’re calling a “pom tree.” Ha ha, get it?
If you choose to make your own “pom tree,” I recommend getting a pom-pom maker to speed the process and just start busting through your stash. Jill and I ignored color, trusting randomness to do a good job of making a colorful assortment–and it did. Each pom pom takes about 5 minutes to make, and it takes about 100 to make good impact, so plan accordingly. I’d say a skein of Red Heart Super Saver yarn makes about 3-4 big pom-poms. You can save money with Caron One Pound Yarn.
I knit a faux i-cord on my Elna knitting machine–it’s actually a 7 stitch x 14,000 row rectangle, which rolls in on itself when pulled tight. I knit 1,000 rows in just 10 minutes! That’s way faster than those hand crank i-cord machines you can buy at craft stores. Here’s a video of me at the Elna knitting machine cranking out the faux i-cord.
We anchored the i-cord between a hook on the ceiling and bricks on the floor, yarnbombed in red and white knit stripes. The yarnbombed bricks jumble in with other candy colored presents under the tree and some toy samples from the shop.
I knit this chevron wrapping paper on my Elna knitting machine with a punch card, baker’s twine for white, and tiny size 10 crochet thread for red. It took forever and my machine jammed, so for the larger presents I switched to Knit Picks’ Brava Sport acrylic yarn on the Bond Ultimate Knitting Machine.
Don’t you think it would be fun to sew knit wrapping paper on all your Christmas gifts? Just imagine the confusion when your family ponders how to open them.
Such fun! I hope people enjoy the window and that it brings lots of passers-by into the shop.
Stay tuned for our huge new yarnbomb installation going up the first week of December. You can follow our progress on my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.