Knit the Bridge

The Business and Popularity of Knitting

Jan 14, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Whether its mittens, afghans or sweaters, knitting has made a comeback in recent years. Young and old are spinning yarns and contributor Rebecca Harris, has been looking at the business of knitting.

She finds that while many think of knitting as something for the old, an increasing number of young people are taking the time to learn to spin yarn as a means of building communities.

Many of the stores that sell yarn and supplies have a large part in this trend. 

Rebecca Harris

Temporary art installations are all the rage—while they’re around. This past summer Pittsburgh has seen a host of exhibits including the “yarn-bombing” of the Andy Warhol Bridge and, of course, the Rubber Duck Project.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the economic impact of these visiting art projects.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The 588 knitted and crocheted panels that adorned Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Bridge for the Knit the Bridge project have come down, been professionally laundered and are now being distributed to various agencies in the region.

“Homeless shelters and different womens’ shelters, there’s a juvenile shelter in Westmoreland County that some are going to and then also animal shelters, Humane Society and some nursing homes,” said Amanda Gross, lead artist for the Knit the Bridge Project.

On Tuesday, Gross delivered 60 blankets to the Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Dennis and Marilyn Funtal inched their way along the Andy Warhol Bridge Monday morning, stopping with every step to admire the 580 hand-stitched afghan panels that currently envelop the structure.

“Quite unusual,” Dennis Funtal said, “just like the City of Pittsburgh’s always been — unusual.”

The retired Brookline couple made a point to venture downtown Monday to see what's been called the largest “yarn bomb” in the United States. “Yarn bombing” is a form of street art, which unlike graffiti can be easily removed and doesn’t damage public property.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

If a "yarn bomb" can be compared to a foot race, this one was a marathon.

Over the weekend scores of volunteers beset the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh, affixing hundreds of pre-made, brightly colored yarn panels to the steel span.

But it was all months in the making, with hundreds of knitting and crocheting artists from across the region getting involved in the grassroots Knit the Bridge project.

Among those hanging panels on the bridge over the weekend was Pam Volz of Mt. Lebanon.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

After participating in the successful yarn bombing of an area downtown, Amanda Gross had the idea to do something larger. As a result, Gross and the Fiber Arts Guild of Pittsburgh are graduating from trees and telephone poles to knitting the Andy Warhol bridge this weekend.

“It was just a really positive experience,” observes Gross. “So I thought, why not do a bridge?”

Yarn bombing is part of the guerilla art movement, and the process amounts to a temporary, impermanent form of graffiti.

The Andy Warhol Bridge will be closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic starting at 6 p.m. Thursday for sidewalk and deck repairs, according to the Allegheny County Department of Public Works. The bridge will remain closed through 6 a.m. on Monday.

The installation of the Knit the Bridge project is also planned for this weekend. The project is expected to be the largest “yarn bomb” ever in the United States. Installation will begin Saturday morning and be completed by Sunday evening.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Sixteen-year-old Diondre Harris was clowning around with his friends last Saturday at an end-of-year cookout at the Marshall-Shadeland office of Allegheny Youth Development.

The boys were eating hot dogs, talking about the NBA playoffs and sharing their report cards. AYD held the event to celebrate all that the few dozen teenage boys who take part in the program did over the course of the last school year.

Photo of test install courtesy Amanda Gross

Starting August 10, one of Pittsburgh’s famous steel bridges will be getting a makeover when the largest “yarn bomb” ever in the United States blankets the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Amanda Gross, outreach coordinator for Fiberart International, is the lead artist of a project called Knit the Bridge, in which she and 1,267 volunteers from all over Allegheny County have spent the last year knitting panels to cover the bridge.