YARN BOMBING ADDS SPLASH OF COLOUR
Greerton is famous for gorgeous pink cherry blossoms that burst into life each spring – but the suburb’s bare tree trunks provide an equally spectacular sight in winter.
Yarn bombing made its first splash in Greerton in 2013 and is now an annual tradition. Almost 30 trees along Chadwick Rd and Cameron Rd are wrapped up in elaborate knitted and crocheted ‘sleeves’ in July and August as local textile artists let their imaginations run wild.
The eye-catching result brings joy to local residents and attracts visitors from all over the Bay of Plenty who are often amazed by what can be conjured from a simple ball of wool.
“People love it. I think it just brings real happiness in winter,” says Greerton retailer and original yarn bombing instigator, Belinda Sands.
“It's a really cool thing that Greerton has and it’s ours. A few other little towns tried to start doing it a couple of years after we did but it's just kept going in Greerton.”
Belinda has knitted all her life and noticed yarn bombing was becoming a big social media trend in Europe and the UK. She spoke to Greerton’s Mainstreet Manager at the time who jumped right on board to help organise a local version.
“I think a lot of people thought we were quite crazy but we just had the perfect cherry trees in Greerton that did their thing in spring but over winter looked quite bare. Their trunks were a good size and we thought it was an opportunity to bring good things to Greerton.”
Word quickly spread and the original knitting group soon multiplied into dozens of separate groups. Nowadays, individuals or groups take responsibility for one tree each, and a public vote is held to find an annual winner, with prize money donated to local charities.
One keen participant is Michelle Cliff and the Kiwi Coast Lions group from Te Puke. In 2019 they were runner’s up with their depiction of the Farmyard Idol children’s book, and this year they’ve created an amazing panoramic scene of Aotearoa.
The intricate knitted sleeve features a forest floor, winding river, the majestic Aoraki/Mount Cook and clear blue sky near the top of the tree, but it’s all the little characters that bring this creation to life. A kea in full flight is suspended from one tree branch, while a kiwi and fantail are nestled between ponga ferns and kowhai flowers. There’s even a trout jumping up out of the river.
“It’s been a really neat thing to do as a group of people,” Michelle explains. “About 15 of us all contributed. Some parts are easy but the sculptural creations that I’ve made are relatively difficult but I love it. I absolutely adore doing that.”
The kea alone took four days to make and Michelle estimates she’s spent about 100 hours on this year’s entry (with her fellow knitters collectively putting in another 100 hours!).
“I’ve been an avid knitter all my life and a textile creator for many years. Yarn bombing has just been another expression of that for me. You’re sculpting with wool and it’s very tactile.
“I am really appreciative of the Greerton business community for supporting this project. It's absolutely lovely to have this avenue for competition and just to display the creations.”
The yarn bombing theme for 2020 is ‘Aotearoa: What it means to me’. Other entries include a life-size rugby player, a giant jar of marmite, a manuka honey beehive, pukekos, favourite New Zealand lollies, and the iconic Edmonds ‘sure to rise’ factory.
Michelle says the Kiwi Coast Lions regularly knit garments for Middlemore Hospital, local op shops and community groups. But Greerton’s annual yarn bombing display is something different that they all look forward to.
“It’s really delightful and it’s art that’s right there for everybody to see, touch and enjoy.”