Langley’s local “yarn bombers” apparently ran afoul of the law, and new Police Chief Randy Heston found himself tangled in a bind in only his second week on the job.
“It was no big deal to me,” Heston said Friday. “In fact, I think they’re really beautiful. But they were on city property without permission.”
He was talking about the poles of two traffic signs on First Street — a disabled parking sign in front of the Dog House Tavern, and a restricted parking sign across the street.
Both poles had been wrapped with brightly colored yarn by “incogknitters” belonging to a clandestine group calling itself the Whidbey Island YARN Bombers Society.
On Thursday, Heston, with the law squarely on his side, instructed the city’s public works department to remove the yarn from the signs.
His action created a Facebook flurry of good-natured indignation, with even a few calls for a march on city hall.
“Trees and poles need sweaters too,” explained Langley resident
Sharen Heath, who said she was not a member of the yarn bombers, nor knew any members, but who seems to be familiar with the whole thing.
Heath said the local group, made up of craftswomen of many ages, is part of an international movement to change knitting’s utilitarian image to something surprising and unexpected.
She said the movement’s bible is a book called “Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti,” and that buses, motorcycles, trees, tanks, buildings and uncounted other items have been blitzed with yarn from Australia to China to Europe.
“It’s knitting’s answer to graffiti, but much more pleasing to the eye,” Heath said Friday.
She said she thinks the local “attacks” began about a month or so ago with a yarn cozy on a tree behind Useless Bay Coffee. Another appeared on a tree across Second Street at the South Whidbey Commons, and in other locations around town.
“A ball of yarn has become a dangerous weapon, I suppose,” Heath said with a sigh.
Heston said he interviewed Heath, and contacted a couple of South End craft stores to try to determine who was responsible for wrapping the two street signs, without result.
“I didn’t want to start off as chief by having city ordinances violated,” Heston said. “It was low-key and no big deal.”
He said he thinks wrapping things in the city with yarn for special occasions such as festivals would be great, with city permission.
But altering any kind of traffic sign is also a violation of state law, he added.
“I did my best,” Heston said.
Heath said the yarn bombers are a perfect fit for an artsy community such as Langley.
“They have a passion for art in surprising places,” she said of the group. “They just want to inspire people to smile. Smiles are a good thing for Langley.”