by Jim Harris
Knitbombing, also called yarnbombing, seems to be a popular form of street art these days. A lot of places in Philly including spots in Chestnut Hill have been knitbombed, a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk. The yarn is generally put on trees or telephone poles, and unlike other forms of graffiti, can be easily removed if necessary.
Nonetheless, the practice is still technically illegal in some jurisdictions, though it is not exactly prosecuted vigorously. Thus, ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about read is conceivably true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Even though I, too, am innocent, I have not changed my own name; it’s Plato — Joe Plato, and this is my town, Chestnut Hill. I work here. I’m an aesthetics cop.
Tuesday, 7:45am: I got a call from headquarters. “Code Turquoise. Proceed to Morris Arboretum immediately.” I was greeted there by Sergeant Schultz, standing at the entrance.
“Before you go in there Joe,” he said, “I gotta warn you, it’s disturbingly gauche. Better center yourself.”
“OK,” I said. After meditating in the lotus position for a few minutes, I walked up and over the hill into a landscape that looked like an explosion in the Mummers Museum. Every living thing was covered with a shaggy blanket of tacky colors. The crime scene investigators were already busy collecting evidence. I walked over to the Chief Inspector.
“Holy mackerel, what is this?”
“It’s yarn, Joe. Wool, fleece, mohair, cotton, rayon and who knows what else. It looks like the work of the renegade knitbomber, Spindra. She calls herself a ‘fiber artist.’ She brags that she’s ‘reclaiming and personalizing public places.’ Says she’s not ‘defacing’ but ‘refacing’ our environment.”
He went on, “She used to run a little vintage shawl shop up on the Avenue until she took a ‘radical knitting’ course at Mt. Airy Learning Tree and dropped out of polite society. She’s obviously gone completely mad. Oh, stand back Joe, we’re bringing in Ivan, the crime dog.”
“THAT’S your crime dog, a Chihuahua? What do you expect to learn from him?”
“Nothing really. He just likes to sniff stuff. It makes him feel important, and we enjoy watching him.”
“Well you better watch him now because he’s contaminating the crime scene.”
“What? Oh no. Ivan, stop! Damn! Will someone bag that, please. And put Ivan back in the van. So anyway, Joe, in addition to this meadow, Spindra has also knitbombed the greenhouse, the lawn art and a Porta-Potty. I’ve never seen anything on this scale before.”
“Wow. She must have some big balls of yarn. Were there any witnesses?”
“No one was here except the gardener. She’s over there. Go easy on her, Joe. She’s obviously suffering emotionally.”
I walked over to a woman in a hemp headband and beige pants suit, kneeling over a yarnbombed mulberry bush, sobbing, “Why? Why?”
“Excuse me, ma’am. What can you tell me about all this?”
“You want to know what I think? I think that the person who did this should be…”
“Let me stop you for a minute. All we want are the facts. Just the facts, ma’am.”
“Oh. Okay, well I suspect that the…”
“I reiterate. We only want actual observations of happenings, occurrences, circumstances, acts, incidents or deeds that you yourself experienced directly through your own personal senses. We do not want conjecture, speculation or postulation of any kind.”
“All right then, I suppose…”
“Okay I’m going to say this one more time, and I want you to listen good. Do not guess, embellish, assume, presume, infer, estimate or extrapolate. Got it? Now, what did you see?”
“I didn’t see nuttin’.”
“Thanks. You’ve been a big help.”
I decided to go back to headquarters and type up my notes, but as I was walking by a giant oak, I heard a rustling in the branches above me. I looked up just in time to see the “gardener,” who had apparently been Spindra in disguise, hurtling down toward me with a blood curdling yell.
Yarn in hand, she knocked me to the ground. Before I knew it, I was encased in a crudely colored cocoon from which I could not emerge. As my attacker ran off, laughing maniacally, I managed to roll down a hill and into one of the Doric columns (also covered in yarn) on the Greek Revival Beaux Arts gazebo, where I came to an abrupt halt.
Immediately, Flora and Fauna, the Arboretum’s resident swans, jumped out of the nearby pond and began pecking me. Being trained in animal communication, I was eventually able to explain the situation to them and convince them to free me from my wooly web. Turns out they didn’t like their world being knitbombed either.
I’m on psychological leave right now, suffering from post-dramatic stress, but I’ll be back to work on the Hill soon, rooting out ostentation wherever it rears it’s ugly head.
Epilogue: Spindra was eventually captured by Park Rangers while trying to put pink leg warmers on the Teedyuscung statue in the Wissahickon. She is currently serving a two-year sentence at the State Correctional Facility where she spends her time knitting license plates out of steel wool.