Thanks to senior Bridget Meakin, the Oreo is finally ready to attend an ugly sweater party. As part of a project on social deviance for her sociology class, Meakin spent a month knitting approximately seventy squares of yarn to hang up on the Oreo and surrounding benches and handrails.
This practice, known as yarn bombing, was first recorded in May 2004 in Den Helder, Netherlands.
Since then, this form of street art has spread throughout the world and continues to challenge current notions of graffiti. Other terms for the activity include yarnstorming, guerilla knitting and graffiti knitting.
Meakin is currently enrolled in Dr. Jill McCorkel’s Sociology of Deviance class. The course seeks to analyze “deviant” behaviors and more general social control in the domains of business, drugs, sexuality and art. McCorkel’s assignment was simple—without breaking laws or causing harm to others, her students needed to break a social norm and analyze the effects.
“At first I was a little intimidated by the project because I am not a traditional student and don’t spend a lot of time on campus anymore,” Meakin says.
Ultimately, her long history of knitting and love of making things by hand helped her choose yarn bombing.
“When I was younger and rather rebellious, I dabbled with graffiti,” she says “So, when I first saw the concept of yarn bombing, I was smitten.”
Meakin set up three yarn bombs, one at the University and two in her current town, Exton. She started to knit before she received approval for her project, planning to carry out the yarn bomb regardless.
“It was something I had really wanted to try,” Meakin says.Meakin knitted every one of the 70 or so squares herself, but she was not alone in her endeavor.
“I had a lot of support from my amazing family and friends who put up with me knitting during any free time I had during that month,” she says.
Meakin estimates she used about 10 balls of yarn for the entire project; the Oreo installation alone took four balls of yarn to create.
On April 15, however, Meakin’s hard work paid off, and with the help of junior Benjamin Kramer, she installed her knitted squares on the Oreo, the benches in front of Café Nova and the handrails in front of Connelly.
While the yarn on the Oreo was taken down after approximately six hours the yarn on the benches and handrails remain.
“This is the first time I’ve had a student do a yarn bomb but I’m very glad she did,” McCorkel says. “Unlike traditional forms of graffiti, she did not do anything that would harm property or detract from the beauty of campus settings—rather, she added to it.”
McCorkel was not the only one to notice the beauty of the yarn bombing. Meakin observed an older woman walking through campus breaking away from her group to examine the installation.
“She walked over to the benches and ran her hands over the yarn and inspected the knitting technique,” Meakin says. “It was clearly the look a fellow knitter gives a project, and when she turned back to her group, she was smiling from ear to ear. It made the entire project worth doing to see her walk back to that group with an extra hop to her step.”
Student responses range from appreciation to confusion.
“They make the area look much more welcoming and warm, like students live there and care about the area,” freshman Ashley Van Havel says. “The color brightens the whole place up. As for how and why they are there, though, I’ve no idea.”
“All I can think of every time I see them is Hermione knitting elf hats for Dobby,” freshman Christine Albert says.
Passersby were not the only ones benefitting from the beauty of the installation; Meakin herself found the project to be extremely rewarding.
“I learned how much I love creating free works of art that people can experience and enjoy,” she says. “I’ve been a student at Villanova off and on since 2004, and this is by far the most fun I’ve had with a project in my long stint at Villanova.”
McCorkel also found the project praiseworthy, calling it “extremely creative, clever and beautiful.”
“I think it’s a great project, definitely one of the best ones I’ve had a student do,” she says. “Other students in class are fascinated by it and several have photographed it to show their friends.”
To Meakin, the time and effort she invested were well worth it. Yet the knowledge and experience she gained will not end when she hands in her final analysis.
“I am far from done with yarn bombing after this project is over,” Meakin says.