Riverside was bombed on Saturday.

Don’t worry, nothing got damaged. In fact, the place might even look a little snappier than usual. How’s that possible? Well, Riverside was yarnbombed.

“It’s a great way for people to see this community in a different way,” said Jane Archer, a Riverside resident and co-coordinator of the impromptu public art installation in the central business district. “People like surprises.”

On Saturday morning, a team of women climbed ladders and attached their creations to light poles on both sides of the tracks in downtown Riverside. It was the culmination of a three-month endeavor by some two dozen women and girls to create colorful, imaginative covers for about 25 light poles.

The yarnbomb was conceived as a way to promote the upcoming Riverside Arts Weekend, which will be held in Guthrie Park on May 17 and 18. 

“We all know what an art fair is,” said Helen Gallagher, the other co-coordinator of the project. “We have this great acronym — RAW — and we wanted to think of something that would complement it. Jane [Archer] brought up the yarnbomb, and right away, I thought, ‘That just sounds right.'”

Archer and Gallagher facilitated the gently subversive idea, putting out a call for knitters on social media, email and at the Riverside Public Library, which hosts a knitting club every Monday.

The response was swift and included serious knitters, recreational crochet enthusiasts and even a troop of Girl Scouts, who got introduced to the craft through the project.

“What I wanted,” said Archer, “was for this creativity to come out, and they really let it go.”

Among the most serious was Cristina Saldana, who created the pattern that everyone used to make the lamp post covers. She broke the pattern down into four sections, allowing knitters to complete either a whole cover or just a part.

The point of the pattern, said Saldana, was to make it easy for any level of knitter to participate.

“It’s perfect for beginners,” said Archer, “because you don’t have to do a fancy stitch.”

Saldana, who has been knitting since she was 6, said she had never participated in a yarnbomb, but was very curious when she received an email asking for knitters.

Her creations — she was responsible for more than one — were among the most sophisticated, with colorful yarn flowers applied to the cover.

“I cheated,” said Saldana. “I had a knitting machine for two years but had never used it.”

Gallagher said it takes about 10 hours for an experienced knitter to complete a cover, and many hours longer for beginners. Archer admitted she was still working on her cover, which she began three months ago.

Virginia Lattner and Betty Korabik, meanwhile, worked on three covers together. Their covers were crocheted and studded with applied crocheted flowers. One of the covers included a type of yarn that looks like grass.

“We thought it’d be very colorful and would add dimension to it,” Korabik said.

Part of the large response was due to the fact that knitters like Saldana had an opportunity to share their work with a wider audience. Like most knitters, Saldana created things for family members but has never sold her work or shared it publicly.

“It’s both public and anonymous at the same time,” said Saldana.

Gallagher said she hoped the yarnbomb would inspire others — perhaps on their own — to add to what’s already up, and maybe even take it in other directions.

“What I’d most like to see happen is for people to contribute to what’s already there,” said Gallagher. “We can’t be the ones to define what it means. Maybe someone will say, ‘I’m going to do that bench over there.'” 


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