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The Social Knitwork: Philly's yarn bomber in talks with Mural Arts

Jessie Hemmons embraces the city, literally. You've probably walked past this new form of public art and wondered who's behind the colorful knit webs that wrap trees, bike racks, and recently, subway seats on the Market-Frankford Line.

Hemmons is a yarn bomber, a growing network that subverts the old fashioned craft of knitting to put a feminist stamp on underground street art. When she's not riding her bike, Hemmons goes by the handle "ishknits" and spends hours working big needles and skeins of acrylic yarn on public transit. Hemmons, who's also a therapist for families facing drug and alcohol addiction, is not the first person to engage in yarn bombing nationally. The practice originated in Austin, when a failing yarn shop's overstock became fodder for public art. Hemmons says she is the only yarn bomber in Philadelphia, with 30 installations to date, including one commissioned by Urban Outfitters for the company's Navy Yard headquarters. She's also selling knits on etsy.

Consider the masculine spray of graffiti, as opposed to the warm womanly embrace of knitwork. "I am feminizing street art," says Hemmons, who is now entering talks with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. "My whole goal is to empower communities. The ideal yarn bomb would be to wrap an abandoned house." Public knitting is passive intervention, and a way for Hemmons to communicate that someone is paying attention to blighted neighborhoods.

Source: Jessie Hemmons, ishknits
Writer: Sue Spolan
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