If you've noticed some extra bursts of local color throughout town this summer, you may have the Westwood Yarn Bomb Squad to thank. TThe Westwood Yarn Bomb Squad sits under Celebrate Westwood's newly formed ArtsHub. Formed in 2018 to organize Westwood's 125th Anniversary Year festivities, Celebrate Westwood is a non-profit organization that has made a strong and positive impact with programming in support of small businesses, arts, and the community.
Now, the Yarn Bomb Squad is an independent non-profit organization.
Yarn Bombing has grown in popularity over the years as a guerilla or street art form known for beautifying forgotten or overlooked outdoor spaces with colorful textured art. Using knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber does not damage property and is removable.
A freelance art director and graphic designer, Heather O'Hara grew up crafting. "I come from a long line of artists and seamstresses," she says. "My mother taught me to crochet and knit. Admittedly, I hadn't picked up knitting needles or a crochet hook in years, but I was inspired to start again after reading about Magda Sayeg in Ingrid Fetell Lee's book, Joyful."
With the notion that this would be an accessible way to spark color and joy in town, Heather reached out to Lauren Letizia at Celebrate Westwood, who was equally inspired—and the Westwood Yarn Bomb Squad became a reality. Nicole Sandt, another neighbor, was tasked with publicizing the initiative. Coincidentally, these three ladies all live on the same street in Westwood.
The Yarn Bomb Squad is one of the many arts-focused initiatives of Celebrate Westwood," says Lauren. Celebrate Westwood was responsible for 2019's Community Quilt, "Music on the Avenue," "Arts in the Park," and other creative community outreaches.
By now, most residents have seen the whimsical summer garden at Irvington and Broadway in Westwood.
"It's a simple initiative that I hope will make people smile and create a little unexpected happiness," says Heather. "You never know what someone is going through, and if we can surprise and delight through this effort, then we will be successful."
Everyone is invited to join in—regardless of whether you are a Martha Stewart type or have two left thumbs. "We are super lucky to have some well-seasoned knitters and crocheters in our community," notes Heather.
Hundreds of individual pieces—from a Westwood heart centerpiece to pom-pom confetti, a large handwoven "Stop for Art" sign, textile versions of summer snacks, fuzzy bumble bees and butterflies, flowers, suns, and more--were donated by residents of Westwood and the greater Pascack Valley, or created at knitting/crocheting meetups hosted by the Westwood Public Library. It is a delight to take in and a true celebration of art created across generations.
Coming out of Covid, everyone is craving community connections. "This is a fun, common, and inclusive ground for all to get involved," says Heather. "No matter your skill level, age, or background, you can participate—even if that's making simple pom poms, which are simple to create and instantly gratifying. Volunteers met at the library throughout the spring and summer to knit and crochet. "No matter what your age or background, you can do this. The energy and communal intention behind the Yarn Bomb Squad set it apart from other community-based initiatives.
"We've received donations from Girl Scouts, Rainbow Girls, the volunteer Ambulance Corps, and even my aunt's knitting group in Nevada," says Heather.
The installation will stay in place through September.
"You never know what someone is going through, and if we can surprise and delight through this effort, then we will be successful."