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‘Yarnstormers’ beautify valley with knitting creations

They’ve gathered supplies, recruited members and planned their attacks. They’ve covered hand railings, chairs, bulletin boards and even a bridge. Now they’re working tenaciously each week toward a new goal: a senior center lobby.

The Yarnstormers, a knitting and crocheting club at the West Flamingo Senior Center, 6255 W. Flamingo Road, is back to tagging the community with their yarn creations.

Since January, the club has created many yarn flowers that adorn the center’s lobby wall and hallway, which they expect to have completed by the end of the year.

“I read about yarnstorming online,” said crocheter Mary Wehr-Clevenger, “but to be part of it is so exciting.”

Yarnstorming is the art of knitting and crocheting cozies to adorn landscapes. Most groups have stuck with railings, signposts, bike stands and tree trunks, but automobiles, bridges and statues have also been “stormed” around the world, according to the center’s recreation program supervisor, Diane Bush.

In fact, the club is known for wrapping the handrails outside the center in knitted, multicolored granny squares. Members even stepped up their game last year and covered the pedestrian bridge that leads into Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, 3186 S. Maryland Parkway, with knitted and crocheted circles to represent a sunrise.

“Many people had their doubts about finishing the bridge, even people in the group,” Bush said, “but we pulled it together and got it done.”

The artwork stayed on the bridge for six months as a temporary public art exhibit. When it was taken down, all the yarn was given back to the senior center.

Those circles are now being recycled into flowers for the center’s mural.

“Some people thought the project was a waste of materials, but we got it all back,” Bush said. “Nothing got thrown away.”

For example, Wehr-Clevenger, 63, used a circle from the bridge and turned it into an intricate crocheted sunflower, complete with green leaves.

“This is all legal, too,” Wehr-Clevenger said while admiring the wall, “unlike graffiti.”

In fact, Bush is diligent in getting permission from local agencies to cover structures, even if it is “just yarn.”

“I got permission from the county to add to the (senior center),” Bush said. “I wanted to let them know what I was doing. It’s just a nice thing to do.”

Most of the yarn used in the club’s projects is donated by people in the community. Bush said a lot of people donate materials when family members die because they don’t want to throw it out.

In fact, one woman donated so much fabric and yarn that the center was able to offer a quilting class starting this month.

“It’s nice they think of us, and we appreciate it,” Bush said, “because we can always use some more yarn.”

The club hosted a Yarn-a-Thon event Aug. 10 to get the community involved in the yarnstorming project.

Members of the senior center brought their grandchildren, and community members signed up from all over the valley.

“We wanted to get people to the center, and a lot of members expressed interest in bringing their grandchildren,” Bush said. “It’s a fun way to spend time with everyone.”

The event offered knitting and crocheting lessons, a yoga stretching room and a chance to be part of the mural.

Joanne Dahl, 70, has been a member at the center for 12 years and was asked to teach visitors how to knit.

“I’ve been knitting since I was 12 years old, so about 58 years,” she said. “Is that long enough to be an instructor?”

Cleo Comiske, 76, learned how to knit for the first time at the event and promises to keep it up as her new hobby.

“They tell us to engage socially and mentally in activities,” Comiske said. “I’ve been told to keep learning new things every day.”

In addition to the storming projects, the Yarnstormers also knit and crochet hats for homeless teenagers, helmet liners for servicemen and blankets for premature babies and military wives. Dahl knits Afghan baby blankets. At one point, she said she had more than 100 completed.

“They take me about a week to make, which is actually pretty good,” Dahl said. “It’s just too bad everyone only wants the pink or blue. No one wants the orange or the green.”

While the club consists of about 30 women, men are encouraged to join.

“We used to have a male needle point artist, but he moved, and we haven’t had any since,” Bush said. “Men are always welcomed. I’m sure the ladies wouldn’t mind.”

In addition to sewing and quilting, the senior center offers other arts and crafts, computer classes, dance and music lessons, workshops, fitness classes, table games and sports.

Some classes have a fee depending on the materials and instructors needed. Members must be at least 50 to join. Call 702-455-7742 for a schedule.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.

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