Random kindness, senseless beauty…

By skepticlawyer

… and knitting.

Yesterday, I was walking the dog in the Princes Street Gardens when I discovered this:

At first, I couldn’t quite believe it – that someone would go to the trouble of hanging beautifully knitted bunting and pom-poms in Jubilee colours from a random couple of trees. I let the dog off the lead (he is very obedient, and followed at my heels in any case) and walked over. It was then that I realised the pom-poms had a little paper tag attached, directing me to a website.

I was now in two minds, because I really wanted to find out about the sort of person who would voluntarily go around being a little ray of sunshine and then bugger off without bothering to observe the results of his or her handiwork, but taking one of the pom-poms felt like stealing, and I have the modern lawyer’s view that one can’t call oneself an officer of the court and then go around nicking stuff. Not for nothing is one of the oldest jokes in the Western world ‘what do you call twenty lawyers chained together at the bottom of the Tiber? A solution’ (1st century BC, that).

At that moment, a young couple pushing a pram walked past, and their baby noticed the pom-poms. The mother hesitated at first.

‘I think you’re meant to take them,’ she said.
‘Maybe you are.’

So I did take one (although I took the above photograph immediately afterwords, if only to confirm that I wasn’t seeing things). It is, of course, sans two pom-poms — the one I took, and the one the baby immediately started playing with in its pram (the father hung it over his child’s face, like a mobile).

The little card attached to the pom-pom led me to this website, and thereafter to this cultural phenomenon – ‘yarnbombing’, they call it, or ‘yarnstorming’, and people make them for all sorts of events, not just things like the Jubilee. Some of the designs are of staggering intricacy and beauty, and it seems to be in the nature of them that they are meant to just appear, make people smile, then disappear again (sometimes taken by members of the public, sometimes reclaimed by their creators). There are little cards attached — as on the one I found — with a website address, or a note. ‘Made you Look? Made you Smile?’ is one I liked. It reminded me of some of the reemergence of pagan ritual happening around Europe I wrote about last September: like the lovers’ lockets and ghost bikes, it has its own beauty.

I learned that the Jubilee pom-pom now sitting on my desk was made by ‘Shadow Stitch’, a self-described ‘boy knitter’ who focusses most of his attentions around Edinburgh.

Admittedly, I have a sense of whimsy (most of the time well-hidden), but this appeals to it. Call it guerrilla knitting, or whatever, but it made my day. I walked home in the glorious sunshine grinning from ear to ear, the dog following at my heels, wagging his tail as he went.


  1. Posted June 5, 2012 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    I have also seen it in deepest, darkest Yarraville.

  2. Posted June 5, 2012 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your kind words! This is exactly why I do this! I love hearing people’s feedback and reactions! Glad you like it! Spread the news- http://www.facebook.com/TheYarnventCalendar for my second annual Christmas yarnbomb project! I really want the people of Edinburgh to get involved!



  3. Posted June 5, 2012 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    A couple of years ago, when we were at home in Wellington for a holiday, I found a fence with some yarnbombing on it. I put photos on my blog, and in the standard one degree of separation that applies in New Zealand, one of my regular commenters popped up to say that another e-friend of ours had been involved in the project. The yarnbombers wove wool through a wire fence to create hearts – beautiful. There are some good photos of the project here: OutdoorKnit: Hearts on Vivian.

    I love the shots of pompoms hanging from trees, like glorious fruit.

  4. Posted June 5, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Feeling like I’ve been walking around town with my eyes shut, not seeing these (after everyone else’s observations). I found a couple more today (much older – they’d lost their tags), but still lovely and bright.

    I do like this idea of collective but uncoerced ritual. It strikes me as healthy in the best possible sense – so thank you Shadow_Stitch!

  5. Posted June 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    My own observation of this phenomenon dates back to early 2010.

  6. Posted June 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    That joke is quite offensive. I for one am very put out about it, and don’t want to have my blood pressure raised by reading stuff like that with my afternoon coffee!

    Twenty lawyers chained together at the bottom of the Tiber is a solution?

    No NO NO and NO!!!!

    Twenty lawyers chained together at the bottom of the Tiber is merely a “good start”.

  7. kvd
    Posted June 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    SATP this was from a chemistry text, and as such, entirely accurate 😉

  8. Posted June 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Marcellous, that’s awwwsum. I like the post layout, too.

  9. Posted June 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    kvd: I’ll pay that one!

  10. Posted June 6, 2012 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    I’m so pleased that you day has been changed by finding a woolly delight out in the wild. Even more so that it was produced by a fellow Boy Knitter (we stick together).

    I look forward to you being inspired enough to pick up some needles and give it a go yourself.

  11. Posted June 6, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Bit slow to comment here, although I did leave a comment on the Facebook entry. I think that the stitching up of the ones on bike racks must be very tedious, and I tips me hat to them. But the bunting is great fun, and the pompoms even better. Well done, Shadow_stitch.

  12. Posted June 10, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    ^^ Thanks for all the lovely comments. I’m glad you all like them! Let’s fill Edinburgh with yarny colourful goodness! 🙂

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