10 Impressive Yarnbombing Projects

LornaWatt via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
LornaWatt via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Yarnbombers make the world cozy and colorful, one tree, bench, or tank at a time.

1. THE REMEMBERING TREE

A tree wrapped in brightly colored yarn squares.
rodtuk via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Launched in December 2013, The Remembering Tree is an annual yarnbombing project in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, that raises funds for GAGA (Goodwill and Growth for Africa). Crocheted squares—half are made in the UK and half by impoverished women in South Africa "to help boost their income and gain new skills," according to GAGA's website—are sold as memorials to lost loved ones, then used to cover a tree overnight. A list of the names accompanies the display. The location of the tree is kept a secret; according to the town's website, "Although Stratford District Council are fully behind the ‘The Remembering Tree,’ and are aware of its location, we want to keep it a secret so that you can get a great sense of pleasure from the surprise." After six weeks, the squares are removed from the tree, washed, and sewn into blankets for those who need them in both Africa and the UK. You can find out more about The Remembering Tree on the project's Facebook page.

2. CHURCHILL MK 6 TANK

A tank covered in bright yarn.

At the annual Victorious Festival in Southsea, Portsmouth, UK, in 2014, more than 200 people donated crocheted squares to cover an entire World War II-era tank in yarn. The project's goal was to bring awareness of breast and testicular cancer to festival-goers. After the festival, the covering was divided into blanket-size pieces and donated to homeless shelters.

It's not the only time a tank has been covered in yarn: As part of a 2006 exhibition at Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center in Copenhagen, Danish artist Marianne Jørgensen covered a WWII M24 Chaffee tank (borrowed from the Danish Army) in 3500 pink squares knitted by volunteers. The piece was a protest against the war in Iraq.

3. ALBERT EINSTEIN

A statue of Albert Einstein wrapped in yarn.

On July 19, 2012, a true guerrilla work of art appeared in front of the National Academy of Science in Washington, D.C. A statue of Albert Einstein was completely covered in crocheted pink, purple, green, black and gray yarn. The work was attributed to New York City-based artist Olek, who tweeted an image of the finished product.

There were plenty of pictures taken of the yarn-covered Einstein, but the artwork was dismantled within hours.

4. SQUID TREE

A tree covered in bright blue yard and decorated to look like a squid.
LornaWatt via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Sisters Lorna and Jill Watt are fiber artists who bring color to San Francisco and other cities on a regular basis. In 2013, Lorna was an artist-in-residence for Downtown San Mateo, California. On one municipal cleanup day, she and Jill knitted a bright blue squid around a tree. It took 40 hours and 4 miles of yarn to complete the 15-foot-tall squid—which San Mateo residents loved.

5. BUTTMUNCHES

Two benches covered in bright yard and decorated to look like monsters.
LornaWatt via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The Watts created these knit-covered monster benches—which they called "Buttmunches"—outside the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Their choice of location was partially about the surroundings, and partially about nostalgia. "Our inspiration was to find a picturesque site in the city where both locals and tourists could enjoy our work," Lorna wrote on the sisters' website. "The Ferry Plaza is also sentimental to us since we have fond memories from the '80s of taking the ferry to the Embarcadero to have lunch with our grandfather who worked at PG&E. Our mother also worked near the Embarcadero, and we’ve been going there since we were kids."

The process of creating the bench coverings—which required 3 miles of yarn, 30 hours to create, and three hours to install—was filmed for the CCTV-America show Full Frame in 2014. "We knit the bodies, arms, legs, and mouths on the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine with Knit Picks Brava Sport and some value acrylic from the craft store," Lorna wrote. "We crocheted the hands, feet, eyes, teeth, horns, and other details using more value acrylic from our stash." You can see photos of people enjoying the benches here.

6. LIZARD’S MOUTH YARN BOMB

Rocks wrapped in yarn.

Stephen Duneier is a hedge fund manager and financial consultant, but he’s also an artist known as the Yarnbomber. His art installations in the mountains around Santa Barbara, California, are created to attract people to the great outdoors, and are not only permitted, but encouraged by the U.S. Forest Service. Duneier and his volunteer assistants cover trees and boulders with crocheted blankets, making them stand out from their surroundings. Each installation is only up for nine days, so finding one is like discovering a treasure for those willing to hike through the landscape.

7. THE COVERED CARAVAN

The Ladies Fancywork Society of Denver crocheted a complete cover for a travel trailer in 2013. "We joined hooks forces and we made it, several hours of crocheting plus 5 days of installation,"one of the bombers wrote on her website. "Most of the yarn is from leftovers, donations from other crocheters or knitters, our own donations."

8. ANDY WARHOL BRIDGE

The Andy Warhol bridge wrapped in yarn.
TheKarenD via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In August 2013, the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh was covered in knitted, woven, and crocheted blankets in honor of the 85th anniversary of the artist’s birth. Volunteers, under the direction of Pittsburgh artist Amanda Gross, spent 14 months making the panels to cover the 1061-foot-long bridge. The Knit the Bridge Project was conceived to highlight Pittsburgh as a city of bridges and steel, and to bring the community together to create accessible art. The bridge remained decorated for about three weeks. You can see more pictures at Pittsburgh magazine.

9. KNIT A RIVER

Knit A River at the National Theatre - Saturday 14th July 2007

From 2006 to 2007, the London-based I Knit partnered with WaterAid on Knit a River, a project meant to draw attention to the more than 1 billion people who lack access to clean water. "The sole purpose of the project was to create something to show off at WaterAid events as a means to grab public attention and to engage people with their vital work," I Knit says on its website. An estimated nearly 100,000 patches were knitted by volunteers worldwide. The knitted "river" made appearances at events across the UK, but the largest section was part of the 2007 Watch This Space Festival. According to I Knit's website, during that event the river was "draped like a waterfall from the roof of the National Theatre on London's South Bank," and made for "a spectacular sight!" You can see more photos here.

10. "FEELS GOOD TO BE YOU" CAMPAIGN

For its 2014 "Feels Good to Be You" ad campaign, 7Up recruited Austin-based urban knitter Magda Sayeg to yarnbomb both an entire square in Santiago, Chile, and a double-decker bus in London. According to DesignBoom, covering the bus required "20 suitcases full of vibrantly hued yarn."

Knitting, Sayeg said in a behind-the-scenes video about yarnbombing in Santiago, helps people "stop and smell the roses. You're desensitized by your surroundings, and then you add knitting, and you kinda look at it. You look at it differently."

This story originally ran in 2016.

Last Surviving Person of Interest in Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist to Be Released From Prison

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

Almost exactly 29 years ago, two men disguised as police officers weaseled their way into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and started removing prized artworks from the wall. They made off with 13 famous paintings and sculptures, representing a value of more than $500 million. It remains the largest property theft in U.S. history, but no one has ever been charged in connection with the heist.

Now, as Smithsonian reports, the last living person who may have first-hand knowledge about the heist will be released from prison this Sunday after serving 54 months for an unrelated crime. Robert (Bobby) Gentile, an 82-year-old mobster who was jailed for selling a gun to a known murderer, has been questioned by authorities in the past. In 2010, the wife of the late mobster Robert (Bobby) Guarente told investigators she had seen her husband give several of the artworks in question to Gentile—a good friend of Guarente’s—eight years prior.

A 2012 raid of Gentile’s home also revealed a list of black market prices for the stolen items. Previous testimony from other mob associates—coupled with the fact that Gentile had failed a polygraph test when he was questioned about the art heist—suggest Gentile might know more about the crime than he has let on. For his part, though, Gentile says he is innocent and knows nothing about the art or the heist.

The FBI announced in 2013 that it knew who was responsible for the museum heist, but would not reveal their names because they were dead. Still, the whereabouts of the artworks—including prized paintings by Rembrandt, Manet, Vermeer, and Degas—remain unknown. The museum is offering a $10 million reward to anyone who can provide information leading to “the recovery of all 13 works in good condition," according to the museum's website. A separate $100,000 reward will be provided for the return of an eagle finial that was used by Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.

[h/t Smithsonian]

9 Colors Named After People

Alice Roosevelt—for whom Alice Blue is named—in 1902
Alice Roosevelt—for whom Alice Blue is named—in 1902
Frances Benjamin Johnston, Library of Congress/Wikimedia // Public Domain

Throughout history, a variety of famous people have lent their names to shades of brilliant blue, shocking purple, grassy green, muddy brown, and other hues. While many of these figures are artists who were known for using or developing these hues, other color eponyms come from the scientists who invented them or those who loved to wear them. Consider this list the place where the history books meet the artist’s palette.

1. Alice Blue

A pale azure blue named for Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, who was known for wearing gowns of the color and thus sparking a trend for it. (She was also known for smoking in public and other forms of mischief-making, leading her father to declare: “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.”) Her ice-blue dresses inspired the song "Alice Blue Gown" by Joseph McCarthy and Harry Tierney, which premiered in the 1919 Broadway musical Irene. ("I once had a gown that was almost new / Oh, the daintiest thing, it was sweet Alice Blue / With little forget-me-nots placed here and there / When I had it on, I walked on air.")

2. Yves Klein Blue

Visitors look at 'Monochrome Blue, without title' (1960) by French artist Yves Klein
Visitors look at Monochrome Blue, without title (1960) by French artist Yves Klein
THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images

The artist Yves Klein was interested in art as transcendence, and he’s perhaps best known for painting monochromes in a brilliant ultramarine meant to suggest the infinity of sea and sky. (As Klein once explained, "Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions.") In 1960, he registered a formula for the color—known as IKB, or International Klein Blue—with the French government; the formula relied on ultramarine pigment mixed with a synthetic resin that wouldn't dilute the color.

During his “blue period,” Klein exhibited only blue paintings and objects, releasing a thousand and one blue balloons into the sky in Paris to celebrate one show, and serving gin, Cointreau, and blue-dye cocktails at another. Don’t copy that last idea, mixologists: everyone who drank them peed blue for days.

3. Titian Red

Visitors look at a painting by Renaissance master Titian in Rome
Visitors look at a painting by Renaissance master Titian in Rome
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

A person with red hair is sometimes said to be a Titian, after the great 16th century Venetian painter who was notably fond of painting redheads. (Examples of such paintings include Bacchus and Ariadne and Noli me Tangere, now in London's National Gallery.) In the 1960s, redheaded Barbie dolls were officially known as “Titians.” More loosely, the term has come to mean any orange-red color, although people seem to love to debate exactly what shades count.

4. Scheele's Green

Svenska Familj-Journalen, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Arsenic-based green pigments were all the rage in the 19th century, coloring everything from hosiery to hats to children’s toys. The first such pigment on the scene was Scheele’s Green, discovered by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1775. The vibrant yellow-green hue caught on, especially after it was discovered that arsenic also produced a variety of other greens, from deep emerald to pale peridot. Although Scheele and others knew how toxic these pigments were, that didn't stop the colors from being used for clothing, candles, papers, playing cards, book-bindings, and sometimes even food. In perhaps the most famous example of its use, arsenic green wallpaper graced Napoleon’s last bathroom while he suffered through his exile on St. Helena, and some think the fumes caused by his long baths may have been what killed him.

5. Isabelline

José Reynaldo da Fonseca, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

If true, this color's origin story has to be the most off-putting in history. Once used to describe the pale champagne color of certain horse coats and bird feathers, the term Isabella-colored or isabelline is said (by no less than Isaac D'Israeli's 1791 Curiosities of Literature) to come from Isabel of Austria, the devoted daughter of Philip II of Spain.

Supposedly, when Spain laid siege to the city of Ostend in 1601, Isabella vowed not to change her undergarments until the city was taken. She expected a speedy victory, but much to her dismay (and presumably that of everyone around her), the fighting continued for three years before Spain won.

The Oxford English Dictionary dismisses this origin story, noting that Isabella as a color is first noted in 1600, a year before the siege began. But linguist Michael Quinion notes that accounts in French, German, Spanish and Italian (where isabelline has a similar color meaning) refer to the earlier Queen Isabella of Castile (1451-1504) and the siege of Granada—which means the story might just be true, even if it's about a different Isabella and a different set of 7-month-old dirty underwear.

6. Fuchsia

Heinrich Füllmaurer, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Here's a more pleasant etymology: The vivid red-purple of fuchsia, the color, comes from fuchsia, the flower, which is in turn named for 16th-century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. (His last name, by the way, comes from the German word for "fox.") And if you think fuchsia and magenta are the same color, you're closer than you might think: Magenta was originally an aniline dye named fuchsine, named after the fuchsia flower. The name was changed in 1859, the year it was patented, in honor of the French victory at the Battle of Magenta. That apparently helped the dye become a stunning success.

7. Vandyke Brown

Anthony van Dyck, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep, warm, transparent brown was made with a high concentration of organic matter (basically: actual dirt), and was popular with the Old Masters. It was named for the innovative Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, who often used the color in his paintings, and who also lent his name to an early photographic printing process—which also produced a brown color, but did not actually involve dirt.

8. Perkin's Mauve

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Like so many scientific discoveries, the invention of synthetic dyes happened by accident. In 1856, chemistry student William Henry Perkin, then only 18, was trying to find a new way to make quinine (a popular treatment for malaria, and the ingredient that still gives tonic water its slightly bitter taste). The experiment didn't quite work as planned, but Perkin noticed some purple sludge left over in his flask after rinsing it with alcohol, and realized its potential.

His instincts were good: After Perkin patented his creation and began mass-producing it, the color swept England, becoming so popular that the magazine Punch condemned an outbreak of “the mauve measles.” The color was originally called aniline purple by Perkin, as well as Perkin's purple or Perkin’s violet. The mauve part of “Perkin’s mauve” came a few years later thanks to the French, who named it after their word for the mallow flower.

9. Hooker's Green

Thomas Herbert Maguire, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The warm, grassy "Hooker's Green" is named for botanical illustrator William Hooker (1779–1832), who created a special pigment just to convey the exact green of leaves.

Bonus: Mummy Brown

A close-up of an Egyptian mummy head
A close-up of an Egyptian mummy head
iStock.com/izanbar

OK, it’s not a color named after one person, but a color named after many people—many dead people. First made in the 16th and 17th centuries, but a special favorite of the 19th century painters, this rich brown pigment was created by mixing both human and feline mummy crumbles with white pitch and myrrh. (Although we tend to think of them as protected antiquities today, people in centuries past often considered mummies just another natural resource.)

In part because of its curious components, the pigment wasn’t the most stable in the world, and it fell out of favor once its origin story became better known. According to one biography, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones gave his tube of Mummy Brown a funeral in his garden when he discovered where it came from. The pigment was sold into the 20th century, although if you see the name “mummy brown” used today, rest assured it contains no actual corpses. Probably.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

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