Students involved in Operation Merino have yarn bombed trees, posts and other objects around campus. PHOTO: Natalia balcerzak

Walking in a woven wonderland

In Communities /

By Natalia Balcerzak

A group of yarn bombers gather on campus in the early hours of the morning. Armed with balls of wool and knitting needles, they work quickly to transform Ryerson into a woven wonderland before the first wave of students make their way to class.

The group identifies themselves as Operation Merino (merino being the Spanish word for wool from a special sheep breed). These students are experimenting by introducing a new form of graffiti art to campus.

“We found people were generally pretty interested, [but] we had a few funny looks as we were literally giving a tree a knitted sweater,” said Melanie Hall, a fourth-year theatre production student who is one of the knitting artists.

Yarn bombing is becoming a popular way to personalize urban settings. Although no one knows exactly where it originated, people living in cities across the globe have started to take part in the fad by covering areas with “knitfiti.” But knit-fanatics make it clear that they take no remorse in decorating the streets with explosions of fuzzy colour.

Operation Merino has made its mark on campus. What started as a school project last semester has continued to hold its charm through the winter months.

Hall was initially introduced to knitting by her grandmother. Her reacquired hobby turned out to be a valuable asset in her communications and new media class.

Students were placed in groups of eight and asked to think of a noticeable way to engage with the people around them. Yarn bombing seemed like the ideal ploy.

Initiating the project within only a week, they yarn bombed posts, staircases and many trees.

“It’s something that you walk past several times a day, so we tried to make it relatively bright to capture your attention,” Hall said. “You turn something ordinary into [something] beautiful.”

Using social media to promote themselves, their class campaign turned into a success. Other students began posting photos on Instagram and talking about the knits on Twitter and Facebook.

Members who weren’t knitting experts got to work on their advertising skills. Kyrill Lazarov, a third-year business management student with a passion for videography, led the promotional video.

“Our goal was to see how we can communicate with others,” Lazarov said.

Although group members spent countless hours knitting different pieces, not all of the creations had the chance to be admired. A tree dressed up in red-and-white stripes to resemble Where’s Waldo?

was one of Hall’s most timeconsuming crafts. In less than half a day, it disappeared. The group also knitted moustaches and hung them by the Ted Rogers School of Management, but soon after they were put up, some went missing.

Despite the mysterious losses, Hall said she’s glad that yarn bombing is making people happy and hopes that the project inspires

others to start knitting too.

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