Slow news: Yarn work delights

  • View of the Bristol Public Library Main St. entrance flanked by yarn designs as the result of a yarn bombing event in July.

Old Story

It’s an old story by now, but a group of volunteers organized by former library employee Mary Klaneski, who since her retirement eight years ago owns and operates New England Yard and Spindle, knitted some fancy and colorful stuff that now decorates and, as Yard and Spindle’s online newsletter announcing the event said, embellishes objects and surfaces at the Bristol Public Library.

The effort began with a call from Library Director Debbie Prozzo, Klaneski said. Klaneski got right to it, seeking volunteers and holding regular monthly meetings. That was in April.

Outside each library entrance (or exit), the yarn work wraps trees and columns and statues. Inside, shelves and mantles are dotted with yarn of various sizes and designs.

The yarn work adds pizazz. Its presence is fun, mostly because, you don’t expect it. Because you don’t expect it, it delights the senses. It becomes a source of wonder.

Yarn bombing

The effort that brought the yarn work to the library has a name–yarn bombing, akin to photo bombing.

For the uninitiated, and I am assuming there are relatively few people reading this blog who are among the uninitiated, but I am still going to explain the photo bombing phenomenon: photo bombing refers to those moments when a person inserts herself or himself into a photo just as it is being taken. If these uninvited are really good about it, really sly, stealthy, no one is aware of their presence until the photo is produced–and surprise!

With yarn bombing, then, surprise!

The New England Yard and Spindle yarn bombing event took place July 18. Klaneski and a core group of 10 volunteers showed up by 6:30 a.m. to install the yarn work. Klaneski said volunteers began meeting monthly in April. About 18 people participated at one time or another.  There were not many instructions–only that pieces should be scarf-like and about 52 inches so that could wrap the columns, according to Klaneski. Most of the work was done by individuals at home.

Each time I drive by the library or stop in, the yarn work is a source of delight. I only inquired about them earlier this week when I stopped by to check out a few books and asked the reference librarian about them.

Health Benefits of Knitting

Just the other day, The New York Times re-ran an old piece on its app called, “The Health Benefits of Knitting,” by Jane E. Brody. The article ran originally in January 2016.

It turns out that Brody, a regular columnist, is a knitter and has been one since she was 15. She writes, “I take a yarn project with me everywhere, especially when I have to sit still and listen. As I’d discovered in college, when my hands are busy, my mind stays focused on the here and now.”

Not only that Brody shares that she learned from the Craft Yarn Council “a third of women ages 25 to 35 now knit or crochet.” She said that “swelling the ranks” are men and schoolchildren.

Knitting, she says, helps her “arthritic fingers remain dexterous.” Not only that, she lists a number of other health benefits, from helping “smokers give up the habit” to others cope with crises like cancer and family illnesses. Knitting and crocheting might even push back against diminishing brain function, she finds.

The one I like best: Brody reports Dr. Herbert Benson, “a pioneer in mind/body medicine and author of ‘The Relaxation Response,’ [who] says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga.”

‘Phone face’

This type of activity is the just the opposite of what many people experience daily. I call what they, and we, experience, “phone face,” a type of thought-opposing activity–you know what I am talking about, and like me, you are guilty of it: someone you are talking to has his face in his phone; someone talks to you while your face is in your phone.

Or, you have a minute to yourself, to catch your breathe, but you are inextricably drawn to your phone, checking emails, texts, games, FaceBook, Instagram. It is an unending, unnerving, anxiety-inducing activity.

I can relate to how yarn work helps combat “phone face” and an unexpected consequence of “phone face”: collective societal anxiety–yes, I believe that anxiety is just not something people experience but that whole societies experience, and that it is tied to an inability to control our technology. Yarn work, as Brody points out reduces anxiety through its focus, attention to detail and practice. Each of these helps restore a sense of control.

Old School

Which reminds me of something that I haven’t thought about in ages. Back in the day (help me if this still happening), I loved going to our neighborhood parks, Stocks on Middle St.. before then, Brackett Park off North Main. I started attending at 4 or 5.

One of the things that any kid could participate in, for a nominal fee, was making a potholder or a coin purse or a comb holder or a lanyard. The potholder was made from those colored stretchy loops. The wallet and comb holders were made from synthetic leather and long strips of plastic gimp. The lanyard, from the long strips of gimp alone.

Perfecting technique

As a kid, before sports occupied me, I spent hours perfecting my potholder-, coin purse-, wallet-, lanyard-making technique, really, becoming somewhat of a master of each form.

There was more. You could paint stuff: stained glass–rarely ever got to that because it cost the most; and plaster molds, the Native American chief in full headdress was the pinnacle–got to one of those once. At the end of the summer, all the parks submitted their best pieces and the park board members acted as judges.

I never won a prize, but I remember the peace, the calm, the focus that those activities imposed on me, and I am grateful because, I think, they have helped me understand how things get done–it all begins with the proper state of mind, focus, attention to detail, practice–all neural functions that combined ground us.

Frame of Mind

Today, frame of mind is everything, especially if one is attempting to contain the influences that try to distract us from what we need to do and to be. To attain that frame of mind, at different times, I turn to prayer, often times meditation, write daily, read often.

During the summer, of course, I garden. I don’t weed as often as I should, but when I do, I am right back in that interesting state of mind that refreshes and instigates new thinking, clear thinking, thoughtfulness.

And, of course, knitting does this, too, and thanks to our volunteer yarn workers and their bombing event at the library, the world, which is already pretty interesting, has gotten a little more interesting and welcoming and more grounded. It’s art, isn’t it!

One more thing: ‘Knitted Knockers’

New England Spindle and Yarn’s Klaneski said there is another activity that Spindle and Yarn’s volunteer knitters are involved with —the Knitted Knockers project. As the website says, “Knitted Knockers are special handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast.”  Volunteers work year round creating Knitted Knockers that are available for free. New England Spindle and Yarn is located at 801 Terryville Ave.

Follow up

If you have a creative outlet or know of someone who does, please take a moment to share. Send an email to dfortier@bristoledition.org. Photos are welcome. All stories are vetted before appearing on TBE.