Chilly Ottawa warmed by a “yarn bomb”

Say the word “knitting” and what comes to mind? My sweet cousin, your great-aunt. Placid, reliable, salt-of-the-earth types, right?

Well, not so fast, buddy! It turns out those who wield knitting needles can get pretty radical – in a nice, helpful way.

A yarn-bombed tree in Parc Jacques-Cartier, Ottawa in 2010. Photo: Angie Rusland, spins & needles, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

A yarn-bombed tree in Parc Jacques-Cartier, Ottawa in 2010. Photo: Angie Rusland, spins & needles, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

As was widely reported on my side of the border, Ottawa got yarn-bombed last Monday. Here’s what went down, according to CTV. Unnamed parties left:

“…14 scarves wrapped around the necks of the statues of The Valiants Memorial on Wellington Street, outfitting Canada’s historical war heroes such with brightly coloured knits.

Laura Secord’s received had a purple and turquoise scarf, knotted under her bonnet. The bust of Sir Isaac Brock was draped in red.

A mysterious Good Samaritan has been outfitting Ottawa statues with scarves as temperatures drop across the region.

The scarves were accompanied by notes that read “I am not lost! If you are stuck out in the cold, take this scarf to keep warm.”

Temperatures in the capital were about -20 degrees Celsius on Monday. Environment Canada has issued a wind chill warning for the city Tuesday, when Ottawa is expecting highs of -20 degrees and lows of -28 degrees overnight. In these temperatures, exposed skin is at risk of frostbite.

Comments on the news reports were largely appreciative. Here’s one from the CTV story from “Graciemom”:

This is a kind gesture from a member of the yarn community. I am going to freely steal this idea myself. I don’t care who or if it gets recognized or if the people who take the scarves or hats are homeless or just having a bad day and need the gift.

Yarn bombing isn’t new, and it’s often more about art than charity. But leaving scarves for anyone in need is also part of that scene. Read more about “Chase the Chill” here. Just last month 200 scarves were distributed in Winnipeg in a similar manner. CBC says the woman behind that effort, Val Paulley, got the idea from a knitter in the U.S.

Meanwhile, as word about the Ottawa scarf drop spread, the notable knitters were outed – by a friend. As recounted in the Ottawa Citizen:

The identity of the kind-hearted yarn bombers remained a mystery until a picture of the scene landed on the Facebook page of Alexis Cawadias-McGeadie, a former University of Ottawa student now living in Glasgow, Scotland.

Cawadias-McGeadie knew who was behind the bombing and emailed the Citizen pictures of the knitters in the act of planting the wool.

“My friends said, ‘Hey, look what we’re doing on Facebook,’ and the next thing I knew, it had gone totally viral,” Cawadias-McGeadie said Tuesday.

She said two former Ottawa classmates, Michelyn St. Pierre and Tanya Simoneau, and a couple of their friends, Donna Miller and Anne Dance, committed the random act of kindness.

“They’ve been knitting for years: they’re just a bunch of really nice women,” Cawadias-McGeadie said. “They just decided to do this once the temperatures dropped. I don’t think they thought anything would actually come of it.”

Well, it did cause a stir! I’d call the whole affair nothing short of heartwarming. Yay for knitters!

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2 Comments on “Chilly Ottawa warmed by a “yarn bomb””

  1. Anita says:

    I wish we could take that cliche of the placid, grandmotherly knitters, put it on a shelf and keep it there. I’m a knitter who knows several knitters and belongs to a social network of knitters that’s going to pass the 4 million mark in the very near future, and I can tell you that we are not a meek, tame group of people. How about mittens with skulls on them, a hat that looks like your brain, or sweaters with deer in the act of procreation? Knitted representations of the pelts of endangered large cat species, an anatomically correct lotus plant, or a knit model of a dissected frog? Then there are the mathematicians who use knit and crochet to create three dimensional models of their equations. I love this story and you skewer the cliche early on in the article, but you used the cliche so you could skewer it. Do you really think that most people think that knitters are mild little old ladies any more?

  2. Lucy Martin says:

    Hi Anita, you raise a good point, the cliche is outdated. I’ll claim my own age and the small sample size of knitters I know as an excuse, but I should catch up with reality. Knitting has always been creative, probably now more than ever.

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