Jan. 2 2013 12:00 AM

Yarn art project brings smiles to park visitors at MSU


Don’t panic now, but there’s a bomb in a park on the campus of Michigan State University. However, the woman who put it there, Lynn Hershberger, isn’t crazy about that word so she’s changed it — at least the spelling of it. She prefers bOMb.

“I say, if you focus on the middle two letters, you get something a lot more peaceful,” Hershberger says, referring to the sacred sound used in some Eastern prayers. “And our yarn bOMb isn’t meant to do anything else than put smiles on faces.”  

A yarn bomb (also called guerilla knitting or graffiti knitting) is the adornment of a location or an object with colorful knitting or crocheted art. Last fall, Hershberger rallied a group of artists to yarn bomb MSU’s Horticulture Gardens. 

“Some (yarn bombers) do it as a political statement, such as a woman in Poland who covered a tank with pink doilies,” Hershberger said. “In this case, it was simply about lifting spirits.” 

Heshberger and her crew were commissioned by the gardens’ director in September 2012 and given six weeks to pull it off. She put out a call on her blog and on Facebook for scarves, which were then donated by a group of local artists as well as knitters who mailed her their work from as far away as Toronto. She then had the scarves stitched together end-to-end so they could be wrapped around the trees “like big ACE bandages.” When everything was ready, she led a group who spent a weekend in late October on the back of a cherry picker to decorate the park. 

She has been going every weekend to tend to the art, which has taken on an added depth since the snow arrived last week. After all, a tree looks so much cozier facing the winter cold when it’s wrapped in a scarf. The yard bOMb also features pennants, dolls, bows and bells. 

“Knitting is an invisible community," Hershberger says. "And this yarn bOMb has made that community much more visible.” 

She says the installation will likely stay up until spring. She also says there are no definite plans for a sequel, but she’s confident she and her knitting buddies will strike again soon.

“It was too fun not to do it again,” Hershberger says. “I was there doing some maintenance recently, and some kids came over and started petting the tree. It was incredible.”