If you see a city tree this winter, or a light post or railing wrapped up in handmade scarves or adorned with crocheted hats—it is a sure sign The Yarn Bomber, a.k.a. Angelia Reed, and her legion of anonymous knitters have been nearby.
It all started when Angelia spotted a story on Facebook about a woman in Canada who was leaving scarves on statues. The scarves were intended to be picked up by anyone who needed to stay warm. This, thought Angelia, this is something she could do, too! She chose a location and attempted to fill it with scarves, free for the taking for those who needed one.
“I tried, and I had like three scarves. I quickly realized that even if I knit scarves every day of the year I could not make enough to put out,” says Angelia, who then gave up on the idea. However, in the back of her mind she knew the idea could work. As a professional in the field of social services she knew there was a need. For her, “scarf bombing” a location is a way to get people the warm winter wear they need without having to go through qualifications, stigmatizations, and bureaucracy.
“Often it’s a small thing that can make a big change in people. People need to know that somebody cares about them. Sometimes that is what gives them the strength to get through one more day,” says Angelia.
A year later, the story of the Canadian dogooder made its way around Facebook again. This time Angelia shared the post and asked if anyone would be interested in helping her do the same here in Lancaster. The second incarnation of the effort to scarf bomb the city saw another slow start. Angelia and one other knitter had created a total of four scarves, which they proceeded to leave in Binns Park.
“After that, it started snowballing, mainly because knitters and crocheters love to make things for people who need them and will use them,” says Angelia.
Now with some momentum, she started The Wrap Up! Project, which scarf bombs areas in Lancaster and Columbia once a month from October through April. For the winter of 2018- 19, the effort is entering its fifth season of providing handmade items of various sizes and colors.
“When you are making something, you are giving your time and energy,” says Angelia, but the project also appreciates donations of yarn, gift cards, and cash.
The overhead costs of running The Wrap Up! Project are small, but costs are rising considering the group set out more than 3,700 items last winter. The biggest expenses are materials and a storage unit.
“When the project first started, I kept everything in bins in my living room,” says Angelia. “It got to the point where my family said, ‘You’ve got to get this stuff out of here.’” Angelia gained her love of knitting in her late teens from her great aunt and she returned to the craft with more seriousness in adulthood. To her surprise, she is yet to spot a Wrap Up! scarf being worn in public.
“When we are out scarf bombing, we meet people who are taking scarves or asking about what we do. Most of them can’t believe they are free,” says Angelia. “People thank us then, but with the anonymity of it, we don’t get a lot of follow-up.”
Angelia is looking to maintain the group’s presence in Lancaster City and Columbia and expand into major metropolitan areas— Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.— as the project grows. She says The Wrap Up! Project is always looking for volunteers, not just knitters. The final scarf bombing last season dropped over 300 items in Binns Park. The feat took only twelve minutes but enlisted about 30 people.
“It’s not a huge investment of time and it’s fun, because it kind of feels like vandalism, but it’s not,” says Angelia, and laughs. “You kind of feel like you are getting away with something.”
She is getting away with something—she is spreading unexpected kindness in an unusual manner. Let’s hope she gets away with it for a long time.