By Sue Pascoe
Michelle Villemaire draws attention to National Woman’s History Month in a unique way— with yarnbombing. This is her third year of honoring women rebels, poets, doctors, astronauts, teachers, slaves, scientists and politicians by beautifying a landscape with knitted yarn pieces.
With Villemarie leading the way, trees, benches, lamp poles and even bicycles were decorated on the Village Green on March 10. The installation will remain up for 10 days.
“Michelle is the creative dynamo that makes it happen,” said Palisadian Cindy Simon, co-founder of Dollies Making a Difference. “I love working with people like her!”
Village Green board member Marge Gold, who helped with the installation, said the reaction of the community was fascinating.
“It brings people out and everyone is so delighted,” Gold said. “People smile. School kids, like the high school kids who came today, seem engaged and interested. It feels to me that is what community is about.”
The Village Green board realized that before Villemaire could start, she needed liability insurance. Jim Kirtley, executive director of the Palisades-Malibu YMCA, took the creative Palisadian under the Y’s insurance umbrella.
On Friday morning, Villemaire was high up on a ladder, above Antioch and Swarthmore, tying yarn around a large tree. Former YMCA employee Rashad Rhodes held the ladder.
Villemaire said she fully trusted Rhodes holding the ladder, even though almost everyone walking by the Green stopped to chat with the popular Rhodes.
“The YMCA enthusiastically sponsored me to do this yarnbomb,” said Villemaire, “and as an official volunteer I proudly represent my favorite nonprofit.”
The self-described “Air Force brat” said she was born in Massachusetts but spent much of her childhood in Saudi Arabia.
This year, Villemaire assembled a group of women from across the country. “Some crocheted, some knitted, and some helped install,” she said.
The list includes: Penchan Villemaire, Luann Abrahams,Marge Gold, Cindy Simon, Mary Pantazopoulos Quill, Kathleen Keefe, Trish Kennefick O’Kane, Lyn Abke Ruswinkle, Alyssa Lee, Laura and Rona Nix, Eshia Ramsey, Jennifer Shiao Page, Bex Steen Dumler, Kara Renie Fleck, Alice Pfeiffer Nix, Aurora Brown, Heather Brewer, Natasha C. Nicholes, Janeane Davis, Beverly O’Neal, Oanh-Oanh Nguyen, Loren Kaplan, Sylvia Gonzalez Conti, Chris Martinez, Terri Lewis Lyman, Karyn Newbill Helmig, and students from PaliHi and Pali Elementary.
“Lion Brand Yarn made a hefty donation of yarn for the second year in a row,” Villemaire said, and the The National Women’s History Museum offered support. “Stories from their online exhibit can be found on laminated cards throughout the yarnbomb installation, and InstaMail (on Via de la Paz) gave me 20 percent off on the lamination.”
Villemaire said that once the installation is dismantled, the yarn pieces will be upcycled into blankets for women and families transitioning out of homelessness. Past recipients of the blankets have been The Downtown Women’s Center and The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Cindy Simon watched as passers-by stopped during the installation. “People wander by, then turn into the Village Green,” she said. “They smile. They may touch the bench and wonder if they should sit down or not . . . then they do. They kinda look around and take it all in, the explosion of color. They then continue on their way, but with a little sparkle of joyfulness in their step that wasn’t there before.”
Villemaire, who has a popular family blog, has lived in the Palisades for seven years with husband Jonathan Abrahams, a television writer, and their two daughters Pearl, 9, and Vivi, 6. Visit homemademimi.com/yarnbomb for more information.