Yarn for Pride, led by our Community Activation Manager Macaila / Fiáin, was a project to celebrate Bike Month and Pride Month – but it became so much more. This beautiful project yarned communities together. An array of knitters and crocheters from various communities across Tāmaki Makaurau made colourful decorative covers for the bike parking on Karangahape road, bringing joy to the wider community, especially as many other events were canceled due to Omicron. The dream is for this to become a self sustaining tradition.
Yarnbomb, verb: cover (an object or structure in a public place) with decorative knitted or crocheted material, as a form of street art. (Thanks Google!)
I’ve always admired yarnbombings, they make me smile. Last year a colourful tree decorated by Central City Knitting gave me so much joy during lockdown. I knew I wanted to bring that joy to others – and what better way to do this, than to celebrate both bikes and Pride?
To see how much support I might have for my idea, I posted in the ‘Rainbow Riders Tāmaki Makaurau’ Facebook group asking if any other rainbow bike people were into knitting or crochet – it turned out yes, quite a few!
Members from many of our other bike burbs also got involved and made pieces. We had contributions from people who lived as far South as Waiuku, as far North as Whangaparaoa, and as far West as Kumeū; and some of these were sent in the mail from strangers. A huge thank you to everyone who got involved and helped out!
When you think of someone who knits or crochets it’s quite a different image than when you think of someone who bikes – I like that this project challenges that stereotypical image. People who choose to bike are a diverse cross section of society, and it will be even more diverse if we create a network of safe bike paths in Tāmaki Makaurau.
We chose to decorate the bike parking because they’re easy, enabling as many people to get involved as possible, and we chose Karangahape road because it has a history for the LGBTQI+ community, and because of the new cycleway.
To make a bike stand cover you only need to know how to make a scarf (a long rectangle), which means beginners can make them too. The bike parking on Karangahape road is 16.5 Cm (6.5 Inches) wide and 260 Cm (103 Inches) long, with a few that are shorter at 198 Cm (78 Inches) long. It’s best to make the scarf 14 Cm (5.5 Inches) wide though, because they stretch once they’re on.
I successfully applied for Creative Communities Scheme funding for the project, which enabled me to get (sustainably grown) cotton yarn for people to use, spare crochet hooks, and marketing. It was important to me that the yarn I provided was biodegradable, though some people did use their own acrylic yarn, which is typically better for yarnbombing because the colour doesn’t fade from it as fast. I got a public space permit through Auckland Council to have the yarnbombs on the bike parking from February until mid March, so the pieces were up legally and wouldn’t get taken down by the Council.
We had a series of small get-togethers, mostly in parks, over December and January, teaching people to crochet, and chatting while we made a start on the covers.
Many people made their own LGBTQI+ flag; there are rainbow flags, trans flags, lesbian flags, pan flags, a nonbinary flag, and a demiboy flag. There’s also a small intersex flag.
Many people also made random interesting and fun ones; there’s a caterpillar, a strawberry with angel wings, a bee, and some that are fun bright colours. There’s something for everyone.
When we started to put them up on the bike parking it felt very vulnerable – here I am, doing something odd and unique, bringing attention to myself and my queerness. We were putting them up in small groups, often in twos, as a way to socially distance due to Omicron, and I was a little worried that we might get harassed. But what we experienced was the exact opposite.
So many people stopped to tell us how beautiful they were, that they looked cool, and to thank us. People who bike were stoked that the covers protected their bikes from being scratched by the stands, our rainbow community were stoked to see themselves represented and embraced, and others were happy to see something bright, colourful, and artistic pop up along Karangahape rd.
We gave away crochet hooks and spare yarn (thanks Creative Communities!) to some of the people who stopped to talk to us, so that they could add something too. Someone who was deaf stopped to talk to us, and she was really happy when Christopher began to sign with her. She left with a crochet hook and some yarn, beaming.
While putting them up, I overheard people telling each other which ones were their favourites. Someone excitedly told me “those are my colours!” and thanked us for doing this for Pride Month. Many people took photos of us – I wonder where they will end up!
One time a youth yelled to us “oh my god I LOVE YOU”, and someone else thanked us repeatedly, at least ten times. Many people told us that it made their day brighter, and that it brightens the streetspace.
Several of our street whānau offered to keep an eye on the decorations, and to talk to people if they tried to remove or damage them. It means a lot to me that they appreciated them, and felt that sense of ownership, because the street space is their home, and the pieces were an addition to that space.
The local businesses have been very supportive. The Karangahape Road Business Association operated as a drop off point for completed pieces, one of the cafes offered us free coffee, and a clothes shop helped me when I got something gross and sticky on my leg from the ground. A shopkeeper from a liquor store said to me “Thank you so much for what you are doing here. I see kids go by all the time and they are so happy and excited when they see this.”
All in all, we have 29 pieces decorating Karangahape road. This wasn’t quite enough to do the whole road, so we skipped a few bike stands along the way, and didn’t do any past Kevin’s Arcade. Really the whole project is a gift of love – love to our rainbow community, love to our bike community, and love to the community around Karangahape road; the yarn is a gift of love to everyone after the stress the last couple of years has been.
The other day one of the shops whose bike parking didn’t get a cover asked me where theirs was and I cheekily replied “you’ll have to make one!” and then “we’ll do it again next year, so maybe you’ll get one next year.”
My vision is that it will catch on, that every year people will feel inspired to make a scarf and put it up on the Karangahape road bike parking for Pride Month and Bike Month (February). That there will be an easy place for people to pick up yarn, so that money isn’t a barrier to getting involved. That it will become a natural part of the celebrations, a self sustaining tradition, a joyful gift to everyone.
From Monday the 14th of March we will take them down – so make a trip to Karangahape Road for an art ride, or an art walk, while they’re still there!
Check out our interview on RNZ.
Take a virtual art cycle along Karangahape road here.
Email me if you want to help for next year! email@example.com