Ishknits by Jessie Hemmons

Interventions with Yarn

Terminal F
ticketed passengers

Philadelphia artist Jessie Hemmons has crocheted since she was a teenager. Like most knitters, she made functional, wearable accessories such as hats and scarves. Until 2008, when she saw photos of artists who knitted around outdoor objects – from trees, street signs, and telephone poles to parking meters, public sculpture, and buses. If it’s in the public realm, anything can and has been knitted on.

Affectionately known as “yarn bombing,” this art form is similar to graffiti as many of the artists often work covertly at night and without permission. Yet, it is not harmful to the object and it is temporary. And unlike graffiti, this art form typically makes people smile because it is unexpected, recognizably harmless, and there is something about the nurturing nature of knitting and handcrafted objects that makes yarn bombing publicly acceptable. Noted Hemmons: “It’s like graffiti with grandma sweaters.”

In addition to knitting around bike racks, public telephones, and tree trunks, Hemmons is also drawn to “structures that are deteriorating or in a state of disrepair.” In these situations, Hemmons strives to beautify what is now in decay. She wants “to cover these crumbling structures in knitting, to reflect my hope for the neighborhood and those within it.” It is an artful gesture of comfort and humanity.

Although Hemmons still stitches her cozies for the street, her work has also been commissioned and she has been invited to knit for many prominent institutions and organizations including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Water Department, and Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program.

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Rittenhouse Tree, photo by Conrad Benner, Streetsdept.com


MFL, SEPTA  train, Philadelphia, photo by Conrad Benner, Streetsdept.com