It all started with the children’s picture book, “Extra Yarn” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. It’s a story about a young girl named Annabelle who happens to find a box filled with multicolored yarn. She does what you might expect--knits a sweater for herself. But there is extra yarn, so she knits one for her dog, only to discover that there is still more yarn. She then knits sweaters for others--her classmates and teacher and even animals. Still--more yarn. She begins to cover her entire cold, drab town in rainbow knitwear--including buildings and trees and even a pickup truck. Before long, an archduke, who has heard about the magic box of never-ending yarn, arrives and offers Annabelle riches in exchange for the box. When she refuses, the archduke has it stolen. But it is for naught--he finds the box empty and angrily tosses it in the sea, where it eventually returns to Annabelle. This warm tale teaches a lesson and everyone can interpret it differently...but the moral is that good things happen to those who do good things.
As my good friend, Isabel Baker of The Book Vine for Children says, “This book begs to be extended!” She asked me to collaborate with her on ways that we could integrate this wonderful story into the classroom. Of course, there is knitting and crocheting and the sharing of things that are made of yarn (hats, sweaters, scarfs, blankets, etc.). Many art activities come to mind - gluing yarn on paper, painting with yarn and Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, cuttingyarn and sticking pieces on clear contact paper. And then I remembered one winter day at my house with some of the grandchildren and providing them with skeins of bright colorful yarn. And from the pictures below, you can obviously see the active, fun-filled, and collaborative “art” that they created on the stair railings.
I have come to learn that yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk. Often undercover and often at night, yarn bombing involves crafters and artists knitting works of art made of yarn onto civic structures and into the fabric of public spaces. Signs of the yarn bombing movement have shown up in cities across the world. Bombers have knit turtleneck sweaters for trees in Seattle and covered subway seats in Philadelphia. The third International Yarn Bombing Day was celebrated on June 8, 2013. On this day, yarn enthusiasts from around the globe shared their passion with the world by “tagging” their neighborhood--covering bike racks, trees, park benches to even just wrapping a pole or lamp post with yarn--creating a happy spring experience for the members of the community.
Isabel was presenting her very popular workshop, “The Best New Books For Preschoolers” at the recent NAEYC Professional Development Institute and wanted to extend this story. I thought, why not yarn bomb a stick--the oldest and possibly the best toy in the world--natural and free. So I collected 150 sticks from my neighborhood and brought them with me to the Institute taking place at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. I asked the attendees to pick a stick that “speaks to you,” (thank you Karen Lombard from Dayton Public Schools). After I read the story, “Extra Yarn,” I passed around little black boxes of yarn and, of course, the yarn bombing began and no one wanted to stop! Then I did this with my grandchildren at our family gathering in Lake Tahoe, reading the story, collecting sticks on our nature walks, and providing the magical box of yarn and the “yarn bombing” began and they didn’t want to stop! Look at what they did with their wrapped sticks: they made geometric shapes, “writing” the initials of their first and last name, to even making hearts. We love STICK YARN BOMBING!
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