In an attempt to unify a neighborhood, Kathy Newsom and volunteers knitted for three months in preparation for their Nov. 14 Knit the Bridge festival. (Daniel Wirtheim)
by Daniel Wirtheim
Above six lanes of Wendover Avenue traffic, volunteers stitched panels of yarn around the guardrails of the Walker Avenue bridge. They covered every space they could before moving to the telephone lines then to electrical boxes, street signs and trees.
The Walker Avenue bridge was closed and knitters were accompanied by an old-time band, a food truck and a lemonade stand at Knit the Bridge, a yarn-bombing that took place in Greensboro’s Lindley Park neighborhood on Nov. 14.
“You can’t say ‘bomb the bridge’ — then you’ll get arrested,” Stuart Grant said as she knitted a piece of material in Kathy Newsom’s home a day before the Knit the Bridge event. Newsom’s house has an entire room dedicated to the project, a colorful workshop with all the evidence of previous ventures like a model torso for which she’s knitted the internal organs. The roof rack of her Subaru is also covered in yarn and two large signs made for the yarn bomb hung in her front yard reading “Knit the Bridge” and “This is Knit.”
Newsom had proposed Knit the Bridge at a neighborhood association meeting. The members wrote a grant to the Community Foundation of of Greater Greensboro’s Building Stronger Neighborhoods program. Along with other proposals for a pop-up dog park and a pool splash party, Newsom suggested a yarn bomb.
“We were brainstorming what areas in this neighborhood are not so loved,” Newsom said. “We have the corner that everybody loves, but I hate that bridge. It’s a steep climb and the railing is really low.”
To embolden her mission, Newsom stressed the importance of the bridge’s locale on the neighborhood. Most residents believe that the center of commerce at the Elam Avenue and Walker Avenue corner is the center of the neighborhood, Newsom said. She explains that Lindley Park extends well beyond the Walker Avenue bridge, although some people feel the west side doesn’t get enough recognition.
“I’ll meet someone who lives across the bridge,” said Newsom, “and I’ll say, ‘Oh, you live in Lindley Park’ and they’ll say, ‘Yes, but…“ Newsom thought a yarn bomb might be the kind of event that connects the neighborhood.[pullquote]Head west from downtown on Walker Avenue toward the Greensboro Arboretum to see the yarn-bombed bridge.[/pullquote]
After the grant was awarded Newsom got to work, taking yarn to a farmer’s market with her daughter in search of recruits. Most people had never heard of a yarn bomb and the first attempts were miserable failures, Newsom said. She decided to make a “free” sign to go along with a large basket of yarns and needles. She encouraged neighbors to return with their progress, a kind of challenge which helped the knit-in movement catch on.
For three months knitters met once or twice a month in coffee shops and houses to knit rectangular panels that would be used to wrap the bridge’s guardrails and then be fastened together. They quickly filled that order and started looking for more objects with yarn-bomb potential. They moved onto connectors that held the railing up. Then came 6-foot tall wraps for telephone poles and more for stop signs, electrical boxes and trees.
“It was so empowering, because once you learn, you can teach the next person,” Newsom said. “Usually in a knitting circle you bring what you’re working on. But [at the knit-ins] everyone is working together, you’re just going to be giving it away.”
Video by Cheryl Green.
On the day of the festival banners hung from the railings that spelled out the mission statement: “All you knit is love,” “Knit the Bridge,” and “commuknity.” The knitters took their panels from bins and stitched them around the railing as the Zinc Kings played old-time music and an occasional vehicle honked from Wendover Avenue traffic below. Local food truck Bandito Burrito was there as well, along with Common Grounds Coffee (the Lindley Park shop which played host to the knit-ins), Tea Hugger (Greensboro-based tea makers) and Auntie Mae’s Lemonade. Young children ran in herds across the bridge, sometimes painting the ground and other times being lifted into trees to arrange a panel. The block party lasted for about three hours.
As the festivities died down and the street opened up to traffic, volunteers lit luminaries on either side of the bridge, letting them glow through the night and providing a reflective ambience in the post-yarn-bomb hangover.
The next day Leslie Catlett, who has lived in the east side of Lindley Park on and off since 1951 walked her dogs across the bridge on her way to the arboretum when she crossed paths with another neighborhood resident, Kristin Wampler, who lives on the west side of the bridge and took photographs of the knit patterns.
“Isnt’ it great?” Catlett asked her, saying that she loves it before adding: “Especially the one that says ‘commuknity.”