Isaiah Thompson, a seventh-grader at Schiller Classical Academy on the North Side, said his favorite activities are basketball and football, but recently he has become a knitter.
He's not the only one. Knitting fever is sweeping the region as 1,256 individuals have either knit or crocheted panels for Knit the Bridge, a project that aims to cover the Andy Warhol Bridge in colorful yarn from Aug. 10 through Sept. 7.
Allegheny County Council on Tuesday voted to allow Knit the Bridge, a project of the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, to yarn bomb one of the city's famous bridges. Yarn bombing is an art movement that blankets unconventional objects, such as trees, buses and bikes, in colorful patterns. If completed, this project would be the largest yarn bomb in the United States.
While the yarn bomb is still a month away, conversation about the project has already weaved its way throughout the city. Some residents have raised safety concerns, while others have pledged their whole-hearted support.
The Knit the Bridge team spent a long time preparing for the safety and logistics surrounding their vision, said Amanda Gross, a fiber artist from East Liberty who started the project.
"We've gone through a really long and comprehensive process to make sure that everything is so safe and secure," she said.
Industrial-strength cables will hold the blankets in place to secure them in high winds and inclement weather. The team is using acrylic yarn, which is not easily flammable, and conducted flame tests on the material. The blankets also are washable, so they will be cleaned before being distributed to homeless shelters, nursing homes and animal shelters at the end of the project. In addition, volunteers will be monitoring the fiber throughout its time on the bridge.
"We've crossed our T's and dotted our I's a number of times," Ms. Gross said.
Participation has reached even the most surprising nooks and crannies of Pittsburgh. In Allegheny County, 82 percent of the county's townships and neighborhoods are knitting panels, according to Knit the Bridge organizers.
Among these are teenage boys at the Allegheny Youth Development, an organization in Marshall-Shadeland that works with at-risk boys. This is where 13-year-old Isaiah began knitting with a group of his friends.
"I have to confess, it sounds like sort of a wacky project," said Brian Foltz, the executive director at Allegheny Youth Development. "But at the same time, I'm all for whatever helps these guys to stay focused."
Other panels were created by residents at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center. Raymond Robinson, the social services manager, said programs such as Knit the Bridge are important because they help those at the center stay involved in the community, which will cut down on recidivism.
Among other enthusiasts, Dianne Jungquist of Lawrence, Washington County, said she read about the project and hopes to get involved. Since her grown children have moved out of the house, she crochets every day.
She thinks that the Andy Warhol Bridge is the perfect location for the project. "I think he would be looking down and thinking, 'Oh my God, that's great. That's fantastic,' " Mrs. Jungquist said.
The project is also bringing together two factions of the fiber community -- knitters and crocheters. Slightly more crocheted blankets than knitted blankets will be displayed across the bridge.
Although there is an old division between crocheting and knitting, the gap is narrowing, said Kathy Zimmerman, owner of Kathy's Kreations in Ligonier.
Projects such as Knit the Bridge have, "brought all types of new people together," she said. "I've always felt both knitting and crocheting, it's almost like a sisterhood."
Although some people on commenting boards have questioned the practicality of the project, most generally support it.
"I think a lot of art can be ridiculous, that's part of it being art," Mr. Foltz said. "But I don't understand what the complaint is. It's not our tax dollars at work, it won't cause everybody a great inconvenience. I can't think of a good argument against it."
Those who want to get involved in the project can email email@example.com.
Monica Disare: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published June 25, 2013 4:00 AM