It started with one tree. I would just yarn bomb one tree. Just the trunk, in fact. While crocheting and listening to Aretha Franklin on Pandora, I decided to name that piece Aretha. As my plan evolved, I decided to also yarn bomb two more big trees and stuck with A for the first letter. Those became Amelia Earhart and Anna May Wong. (My sister-in-law knitted Amelia- one of the only knit pieces in the project.)
But then I just kept on going. I decided to also cover the smaller pear trees, the benches and the lampposts. To keep track of my work I continued to name each piece after a notable woman. And it became a way to honor women for National Women’s History Month, while creating yarn pieces that could become blankets for women living in shelters.
If I’ve learned anything in this process, it’s that there are many, many great women who have made history, many who are currently making history, and not nearly enough crap to cover in yarn.
My 7-year-old Pearl named several after women she’s studied in school. My process was a little random, and often about my personal history.
Here’s the breakdown:
Aretha Franklin because respect.
Amelia Earhart because I’m obsessed with flight (both the science of and the emotional tendency to take) and also because, why the hell haven’t they found her yet?!
Anna May Wong because under-rated Asian-American actress and why hasn’t anyone made a bio-pic yet?! OK, fine, I’ll do it. In fact I was doing it. I was enrolled in a screenwriting class when I got pregnant with my first. Nausea kicked in around act two and it’s been shelved ever since. My love for Anna May Wong now manifests in a tree sweater.
Michelle Obama because Pearl said so. We love our first lady and we love broccoli too.
Judy Blume Pearl originally wanted this tree named JK Rowling, but we stuck to American women just to narrow it down. She’s a little young now, but I keep telling her Judy’s one of those writers who will feel like a friend.
Sojourner Truth because Ain’t I a woman. Damn, woman. Yes. Yes, you are.
Helen Keller Little known fact: I used to live in Helen Keller’s house! At least that’s what they tell me. It was one of several homes in which she lived throughout her life. And when we lived in it, it had been divided into apartments. And we only lived in it for like a month. But still, I lived in Helen Keller’s house!
Jane Goodall because chimps. Chimps! (We forgot she wasn’t American. Oops!)
Sacajawea: Because awesome working mom!
Gloria Steinem because OMG equal rights for women already!!!
Sally Ride because first American woman in space.
Rosa Parks because my daughter is obsessed. So am I. And last night I stumbled upon the following quote:
“When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination to cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”
Cher because growing up I thought her name was Chair, because that’s how my Thai-American mother pronounced it. So Cher’s a bench.
Maya Angelou Lemme just say that the only thing greater than the poem Phenomenal Woman is listening to your 7-year-old read it aloud to you. Highly recommend doing this with your own kids.
Annie Oakley because cowgirls.
Elenor Roosevelt because horrible childhood, yet incredible and meaningful and productive adulthood.
Golda Meir because grew up in Milwaukee and then, Prime Minister of Israel.
Harriet Tubman because bravery and badassery.
Susan B Anthony because bravery and badassery.
Maria Tallchief because we also love tutus!
Tina and Amy So much because, but for brevity’s sake, because BFF’s. And support and love and building each other up. Hollering at all my amazing girlfriends right here. You know who you are.
Ellen because the woman just keeps lighting other peoples’ candles.
Clara Barton. She used to be Sylvia Plath but since this yarn bomb is something I talk about with my young kids, and they often ask, “Is she still alive?” and if not, “How did she die?” I just can’t go there. So I changed to her Clara Barton. Because Red Cross. I still don’t know how Clara Barton died, but if I have to google it, I’m pretty sure suicide had nothing to do with it.
Julia Louis Dreyfus I’ve always been a fan. Then Veep happened. And because of the belly-laughter produced by this television program I managed to get through a very difficult time without anti-depressants. Also, because I saw her at the farmer’s market once and she had bedhead… which is the usual way *I* wear MY hair!
Carol Burnett because so much funny. And because of the confused look on my daughters’ faces when they catch me singing “Little Girls” from Annie.
Sonia Sotomayor because judgey women.
Lucille Ball because we love her too.
Connie Chung because she was like, the only Asian American woman that I knew other than my mom. OK, I didn’t know her, she was on TV, but close enough.
Oprah because she’s so famous, the one time I had the opportunity to look at her, I was blinded by a paparazzo’s flash.
Barbra Streisand because the woman can sing.
Jane Fonda because workout videos with my mom.
Martha Stewart because it is also National Craft Month! And because mashed potatoes with Snoop Dogg.
Annie Leibowitz because ladies behind the camera.
Billie Jean King because female athletes. Shouting out to my cousin Zyre Austin here too. About to make history in skiing.
Julia Child because one time my grandmother saw her in an airport, ran over and gave her an unsolicited hug. I wasn’t there when it happened, but my grandmother was 4” 9 and whenever I think about this it makes me smile.
Margaret Sanger because Planned Parenthood.
Grace Hopper because computer scientist– her work led to the creation of the first “high-level” computer programming language (COBOL). And computers, how we love thee.
Dorothy Parker because wisecracking women.
Jamie Lee Curtis One morning I found myself exhausted with a newborn and a three-year-old. Imagine that. It was early morning and I took us to the beach for some fresh air. I plopped down in the sand and breastfed the little one while the big one played close-by. I was pretty much at the end of my rope. So here comes Jamie Lee Curtis out for a morning stroll, looking chipper and well-rested. And she’s looking at me and she’s smiling. Maybe she saw the image of peace, love and motherhood. (HA!) Looking back at her, I saw a woman walking alone on the beach. And it looked like the greatest thing ever.
And as much as I wanted to be her in that moment, I still felt a tinge of that knowing. The knowing that these times are fleeting. And it won’t be this hard forever.
That is my Jamie Lee Curtis moment.
And those are the women who popped out of my mind and onto my yarn bomb plans.
Stay tuned for the installation pics!
And if you’d like to be involved in the process of transforming these pieces into blankets for the Downtown Women’s Center please let me know! It’s fun to give back, but it’s also fun to climb trees.
Happy National Women’s History Month, Everyone!