'Yarn bombing' brings smiles in Exeter
EXETER - The graffiti knitting hanging on trees, signs and other places has brought smiles to the faces of downtown visitors and will soon seek to lift spirits in Newtown, Conn.
Volunteers from Womenade of Greater Squamscott will gather today to remove the colorful street art that has brightened up Water Street for the past month.
Once the displays of knitted and crocheted yarn sweaters, motifs and other pieces are washed, most will be packed up and shipped off to Newtown for a so-called "yarn bombing" on June 8 to mark International Yarn Bombing Day and help the community heal after December's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"We had such a great response here. Hopefully, they'll have as much fun down there," said Kari Lazerowich, a Stratham resident and member of Womenade of Greater Squamscott who spearheaded the local project.
Womenade launched its "yarn bombing" on April 1 as part of a surprise April Fools' Day prank. Nearly 50 local volunteers spent months knitting and crocheting colorful yarn pieces and ornaments to be wrapped around and hung on trees, lamp posts, benches and other areas, mostly in downtown Exeter.
The displays remained in place through April, and through the generosity of private and business sponsors and other donors, raised nearly $4,000 for Womenade of Greater Squamscott.
The organization founded in 2005 provides short-term financial assistance - without any red tape - to residents in Brentwood, East Kingston, Exeter, Kensington, Newfields and Stratham and other surrounding communities.
Lazerowich heard about "graffiti knitting" and "yarn bombing" a few years ago and thought it would be a perfect way to have some fun and benefit Womenade.
With plans to decorate downtown on April 1, Lazerowich talked to local yarn shops in the months before the "yarn bombing" and put out the call for any volunteers who could knit or crochet. Many responded, including residents from the Riverwoods at Exeter retirement community.
"We connected with the crafty crowd in the area and recruited them to work," she said.
The volunteers held knitting workshops at the Hampton Inn on Portsmouth Avenue through the winter and finished their work in time for April Fools' Day.
"It was such a great community event," said Judy O'Reilly, a Womenade board member from Exeter.
Like others, O'Reilly agreed that sending the yarn displays to Newtown was the right thing to do after their time in Exeter. Others from around New England and the country are also planning to send items for the Newtown "yarn bombing."
"It's one New England community reaching out to another community who is in all of our thoughts and prayers," she said. "We hope it lifts their hearts as it did in our town. It's affected so many people in so many ways."
For more information on Womenade of Greater Squamscott, visit the group's website, www.womenadenh.org. More information on the "yarn bombing" in Newtown can be found on a Facebook page called "Sandy Hook International Yarn Bombing Day Installation."