LOGAN SQUARE — Soon a portion of The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail will be covered in colorful yarn creations.
A few dozen knitters and crocheters are “yarn bombing” the trail to spread joy after a difficult pandemic year. Their yarn “sleeves” will be installed on fence panels and bike racks at the Humboldt Park overlook July 31. Anyone interested in joining the “Yarningdale” Trail effort can sign up on the group’s website.
The effort is being organized by longtime knitting and crochet enthusiasts Valerie Sherman and Mary Morgan Ryan.
The two formed a friendship last winter over their love of fiber arts: At the time, Sherman was routinely “yarn bombing” benches in the South Loop, where she lives. Meanwhile, Morgan Ryan, a resident of Oak Park, was looking to get into “yarn bombing.” While running on trail one day, Morgan Ryan came up with the idea of “yarn bombing” the popular walking and biking path. Sherman thought it was a great idea.
The duo worked with the Chicago Park District and the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail group to make the project a reality.
So far, about 40 people, a mix of crocheters, knitters and weavers, have signed onto the project. The theme is “connection,” which each person has interpreted in their own way, the organizers said; one person is making a yarn “sleeve” with different countries’ flags and another is making one with a yellow brick road to honor “Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum, who grew up in nearby Humboldt Park.
Sherman and Morgan Ryan are organizing the project to lift peoples’ spirits after a year of loss and hardship.
“We all need a little help right now,” Sherman said. “It’s a piece of joy when you might’ve walked by something a hundred times and not noticed it, but all of a sudden it’s bright purple and fuzzy.”
It’s all about “making the world a little more whimsical in a tough time,” she added.
As the project continues to take shape, the organizers are hoping to bring local groups and institutions on board. They’ve invited a group of fiber artists who live off the trail to make a yarn “sleeve,” and they’re hoping the YMCA at the Lawndale Avenue entrance/exit will get involved. The goal is to be inclusive of people who live, work and own businesses along the trail, they said.
“There’s issues around gentrification, how do we use public spaces,” Sherman said. “These are sensitive issues and we don’t want to come in as a bunch of outsiders and put some yarn up and leave. Mary and I don’t live there and want to be sensitive about that.”
The installation event on July 31 will be the first of its kind on trail, which debuted in 2015 and is home to several public art installations. If everything goes smoothly, Sherman and Morgan Ryan are hoping to host another event next year.
“I hope people walk by it and feel that it’s theirs, that it makes the world a little bit brighter and different, that it makes people stop for a second and think about their city [and] gives them a new perspective on the trail,” Sherman said.
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