“Yarningdale,” organized by Valerie Sherman and Mary Morgan Ryan, is up now through Oct. 2 at the Bloomingdale Trail‘s Humboldt Overlook. (1800 N. Humboldt Blvrd.)
Cicadas chirp. “The Spring (Instrumental)” by Chad Crouch plays.
Valerie Sherman: There’s a group in Logan Square that gets together called the Purly Birds. P-U-R-L-Y, like purly. But they’re early birds. They get together early. Mary reached out about this project. They would have their early knitting session, and then she would come here and run because of the marathon.
Mary Morgan Ryan: And then, one day, I was doing a really long run, and I was like, “This would be a great place to yarn bomb.”
Sherman: And she’s thinking, “How fun would it be to yarn bomb these big guys, these arches?”
Morgan Ryan: And so I had that idea, and so then one of my Purly Bird friends had a connection with Valerie. So I texted her and said, “You don’t know me, but I know that you yarn bomb. And I’m a rookie and I’d love to, you know, get connected.” And she said yes. And we met up here.
Sherman: And the Park District was like, “Let’s take it one step at a time. That will require a cherry picker and ladders and all that stuff.” It morphed into just inviting people from the neighborhood and Chicago to do these panels.
Morgan Ryan: So it’s been months in the making, and what I love about this is that it gives people like me, who’ve never done anything like this before, a safe way to launch. You know, we’re here as a community. Everybody’s supporting each other. And people are meeting each other, you know, they’re here installing and meeting each other for the first time, which was the whole point.
Glennys Gilliam [over the phone]: Frankly, I’ve never had the privilege of meeting Mary in person, but I met her as part of a Zoom knit during COVID. And it was a group of ladies, some of whom I used to knit with, and I had not met Mary. But this has just been a wonderful connection.
Gilliam: Um, it is what is referred to as shadow knitting or illusion knitting.
Morgan Ryan: Glennys, I can’t tell you how many people today have been so amazed by the technique. And we’ve got it installed to where, when you’re on the trail, it’s really apparent. You do catch the glimpse, you know, exactly as you intended.
Gilliam: Oh, thank you so much, that’s wonderful to hear.
Ann Cibulskis: I had seen, there’s an international thing called the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, which was started by a mathematician. She had these complex formulas for how to show a complex shape by a mathematical formula, and she realized that she could crochet them. Twenty-five years ago probably, there was a big exhibit at the Harold Washington Library where they had tables that were 8 feet wide and 40 feet long covered with 3-dimensional corals that were mostly crocheted, and I said, “I hate crocheting, but I can knit that.”
Amanda Star: I crochet and knit. I’m bi-stitch-ual. I just thought it would be a little easier to work on this grandiose, so I tend to do more crochet for structured pieces. It just turns out nicer with crochet. I wanted to do – the theme is connectivity – so immediately I thought about hands reaching out. But I wanted to focus more on intersectionality. No one is just their race or their gender or their sexuality or profession. You know, we have so many different facets, but we’re all similar. So that’s why I wanted to stitch ‘em all on with gold thread, which binds us all together.
Daniel Nuñez: My connections, I guess, are just like the colors of flags that represent who I am. So I’ve got the pride flag here. And I’d just recently come out as nonbinary, so I kinda wanted to share that with everyone, as well. And then, my last piece, I made just like my own rope in Mexican flag colors, ‘cuz I’m Mexican, as well.
Sara Pfannkuche: Mexico. Cuba. Puerto Rico, obviously. Looked at the census records to figure out the biggest populations in the last census. My family came to Chicago in the mid-1800s, and we’re Germans and we settled in Bucktown, which is part of Logan Square.
Lynn Bryan: I live in Logan Square. And I’ve been here like 20 years. And, about six or eight weeks ago, I read an article in Block Club Chicago that when Frank Baum wrote “The Wizard of Oz,” he was living on that block down there a corner south of here. The house isn’t still there, where he lived, but the people who own the house now made this tribute to him. So then, when somebody told me about this event, I was like, “Well, what would be good for, you know, something to show Logan Square,” and I was like, “I think I could knit a yellow brick road.”
Pfannkuche: What brings a lot of people together is Chicago. And, especially in this neighborhood and how it changed over time in the late 1800s to now and the changing ethnicities and all that, and yet, it wouldn’t be this neighborhood if we all weren’t here at some point. I can’t get everybody in, but a good hodgepodge to show that we’re all connected through Chicago.
Unknown: This was made though on different skin tones. Isn’t that amazing?
Mary Ellen Simmons: Yeah, so there’s an explanation. It’s based on that artwork. But I had seen it years ago, and I though that was a great idea: the connection and the skin tone. And then this stitch sort of connects top and bottom. Oh, and there’s a wasp.
Unknown: Yeah, attach your sign.
Simmons: We have to attach the explanation. Otherwise, I didn’t really think it would come across if there wasn’t an explanation.
Unknown: It doesn’t, yeah. Mine doesn’t. Mine looks like – it’s supposed to be yarn balls connected to each other. ‘Cuz the reason I know these people is through knitting and yarn and fiber. So I did, for me, something that connected me to these folks.
Simmons: I moved here last May and knew nobody. So the only reason that I connected to any people were Zoom meetings through the library, through their crocheting and knitting groups. So that’s how I got to know people for this.
Cibulskis: I moved to Logan Square to Fullerton and Central Park in 1991. And in 1993, I went to a meeting run by the Chicago Park District about the proposed Bloomingdale Trail. I mean, this was just a derelict railroad thing. But Logan Square and these neighborhoods that it goes through are very poorly resourced in terms of green space. So we liked the idea. Why have it be just an empty spot where only people who are brave enough, you know, to sneak in go? Why not have it as a space where everybody could go?
Cibulskis: I was not a yarn bomber. The first yarn bomb I did was in 2006, I think – in Logan Square actually, at the Logan Square “L” stop. There was a woman, an artist, and she had everybody knit pieces of, just knit various pieces, and she sewed them all together and sewed them onto – there used to be a lot of twisty crab apple trees at the stop there in the park. So that’s what started the bug for me. Once you wrap something outdoors with some knitting or crocheting that you’ve done, you really want to do it again.
Yesenia Juarez: I’ve done various yarn bombs around Little Village. Like, I’ve made a Wonder Woman logo. I made a Pikachu and a Poké Ball to put up by the school. Made some flowers to put on a fence. And then, covered a bike rack or two around the neighborhood, as well. And it’s funny ‘cuz now my neighbors will see them, and they’re like, “Was that you?” And I’m like, “Yes, that was me.”
Juarez: So my group and I, Little Village Busy Bees, we got together and were throwing ideas around. We’ve got our hive, you know, ‘cuz we have a very great community, in Little Village especially. It was really a team effort. We stayed up till like 4 in the morning last night having fun, eating pizza, wings. Yeah so, it was really great. It’s exciting. I love being a part of these yarn bombs that, like, show people in the community that, you know, there’s lots of different ways to contribute in a positive way. And that everybody has a potential to do it.
Katy Travelstead: I’ve never done anything in like a group setting like this with yarn. I’ve done other, like, street art with my own crocheting, but nothing like this big. My mom taught me, like, two basic stitches about six years ago, and then I just made up the rest from that. She calls it renegade crochet. So I have a hard – I’m trying now actually to learn patterns and proper stitching and how to read patterns, because it’s a whole other language, and um, so that’s been interesting.
Travelstead: It’s been called a snake, a puppy, a cat, and a ferret today. So I’m just calling it a creature. But it was inspired by a ’90s cartoon, “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.” And then the rainbows were because my daughter loves rainbows. So, yeah.
Sydney Oldham: It’s basically just a rainbow mandala that I did, and I don’t know, while I was doing it, I was watching “The Muppets” with my daughter, and she loves the song “Rainbow Connection,” and so we did this, kind of, to go with the theme.
Morgan Ryan: The idea was to build community by coming together and everybody install their own piece. There are other projects like this where you drop off and somebody else installs your work. But we really wanted this to have that community feel of meeting the person who’s installing next to you and that kind of thing.
Sherman: There’s just so many people here that didn’t even know each other before the pandemic. So in a time of lack of connection, we met each other and it’s been great. And we’ve not been bored. We’ve had a lot of feelings during the pandemic, but boredom is not one of them.
Featured photo: Jaley Bruursema
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