Yarn bombs explode at Sawdust Festival

The Sawdust Festival became the first Laguna Beach site to be "yarn bombed."

Yarn bombs — colorful knitted or crocheted designs displayed on public and private property, sometimes without permission — adorn more than 20 trees on the festival grounds. The international craze, also called knit graffiti, is believed to have begun in Texas in 2005.

"A friend directed me to the yarn bombing website and I got very excited, and I thought all other art mediums are out in public — what a great idea for yarn," said needlework artist Michelle Boyd.

Before approaching Sawdust, Boyd met with two art commissioners to discuss possible inclusion in the city's Arts in Public Places program.

"But it was too much bureaucracy, so I went to Sawdust General Manager Tom Klingenmeier and he loved the idea," said Boyd, who prefers the term yarn art to yarn bombing.

Klingenmeier took the proposal to the Sawdust board, which gave it unanimous approval, Boyd said.

Students in Boyd's Twisted Stitchers class, many of whom had never before knitted or crocheted, spent the next three months creating the yarn bombs.

"We met after work at the Marine Room," Boyd said.

Boyd also enlisted the participants from the Susi Q Needlework Guild, conducted by Doña Harman and Lisa Triebwasser, two of the partners in the Strands and Stitches yarn and needlework shop on South Coast Highway.

"Michelle came into the class one Friday in May and asked if we would donate a yarn bomb," Harman said. "I knew what it was because Lisa wanted to yarn bomb the parking meters in front of our store — but we learned you can't go around yarn bombing indiscriminately. Besides, it would have been pretty obvious who did it.

"Michelle had permission from the Sawdust and had picked out specific trees. She gave us a list of the trees and their dimensions."

Coinciding with Boyd's request, guild member Dorothy Krill walked into the Susi Q class with a knitted piece she was working on. It became the starting point for the guild's donation.

"Marie Martini was conducting a class on knitting squares out of different colored yarns," Harman said. "At the end of the class they were attached to Dorothy's piece, which looked like kelp, to create little jelly fish."

Project participants included Harman, Martini, Susi Q Program Director Mariann Tracey, Krill, Jan Scherer and Mary Lewis.

"Their piece is lovely," Boyd said. "I was not sure there was a tree big enough and I thought I might have to divide it, but lo and behold I walked up to the tree in front of Healy House and I was able to put the entire piece on display."

It is the biggest tree on the grounds, Harman said.

The yarn bombs are not for sale, Boyd said.

"We just want people to enjoy them and be inspired," Boyd said.

The yarn artwork installed on the trees at the Sawdust Festival will remain on display through Monday.

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