Photograph by Pam Forsythe

Photograph by Pam Forsythe

Knitters and crocheters ‘Yarn Along’ at Morris Arboretum
The Reporter
By Tara Lynn Johnson
Published 03/02/2016

It’ll be “knit one, pearl two” in Philadelphia to help create an original yarn piece for an upcoming exhibit. The Morris Arboretum hosts a “Yarn Along” on March 5 and invites anyone who enjoys working with needles and hooks and their creative spirit to participate.

The work will become part of “Wrapped Up: Yarnbombing at Morris Arboretum,” a collection of knitted and crocheted yarn pieces that will adorn Morris’s buildings, bridges, and trees. The exhibit’s set to debut on March 26 (and will be displayed for six months, weather permitting). Fiber artist Melissa Maddonni Haims, who grew up in Jeffersonville, but now lives in Chestnut Hill, is the creator of “Wrapped Up” and will lead the “Yarn Along” event. She’s really looking forward to working with fellow knitters and crocheters on pieces for a community bridge in the garden, she said in an email interview.

Haims has been working with yarn for about 10 years. She began with small collage pieces and moved on to large soft sculptures and installations over time. Though fiber arts encompasses a number of techniques, like weaving, embroidery, fabric dying, and embellishment, she said, Haims works mostly with knitted and crocheted yarns. She said learning to knit and crochet is fairly easy.

“It’s really just a repetitive motion that you have to get used to in order to feel comfortable and confident,” she said. “You have to really want to learn and find someone who can teach you where you are.”

After learning the motions, there’s so much to enjoy about the art form, she said.

“Yarns feel good. Yarn holds smell and holds memories, quite literally,” she said.

Yarn can be made from many things, not just sheep wool, she said.

“I make it from post-industrial, pre-consumer waste from a fabric manufacturer, from Madagascar grasses, from plastic bags,” she said. “There are endless possibilities. I’ve even knitted with dental floss, although that was really hard.”

She loves that it’s portable.

“I can bring my work anywhere — and I bring it everywhere,” she said.

That would have been difficult when she was a painter. Her love of sewing evolved out of her making her own canvases out of found fabrics and bedsheets.

“When those fabrics became more important than what I was putting on them, I realized I needed to change course,” she said. “I started quilting with fabric samples from corporate interior design firms, which lead to an exploration of alternative materials, in general. Eventually, after many years of working with fibers and yarns together, I moved onto soft sculpture with yarn. I like to pile textures and words and colors on top of each other.”

And now she’s putting yarn art on trees and more. She hopes that a lot of people will come out to the “Yarn Along” event to help create even more. She’s also looking forward to adding to a sense of community, coming together as artists of all experience levels.

“We really need to bring people into the studio and bring ourselves out of the studio,” she said. “Connecting to people in both ways allows us to meet each other where we are and then we can get to know each other.”