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Jen Pomp, who owns the Yellow Umbrella gift shop with her sister-in-law, Jennifer Pomp, crocheted this tree sweater, an example of "yarn bombing," in the flower bed across the street that she tends. The cowl around her neck is made from the same pink yarn in the sweater. Pioneer Photo/Laurie Swenson

More yarn bombing: Woman bundles downtown Bemidji tree in sweater

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Passersby on Third Street in downtown Bemidji have been noticing a tree sporting a multicolored crocheted sweater that looks just right for the dropping temperatures of fall.

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That is the work of Jen Pomp, co-owner of the Yellow Umbrella gift shop across the street from the flower bed she tends. She crocheted the tree sweater in a two-week period and installed it in sections in late June.

"I made it just to put smiles on people's faces and bring some conversation and a touch of handmade on the street," Pomp said.

She had read online articles on "yarn bombing" or "guerrilla knitting" occurring in large cities to bring color and beauty to urban landscapes of concrete and steels. She was immediately inspired.

"People will take city things and put a handmade fiber art touch," she said. "A lot of bigger cities will even organize it," having fiber artists create, for example, official parking meter covers.

The phenomenon started out like graffiti, Pomp said, adding that people would look at the knitted or crocheted item, smile, and wonder where it came from.

"Yarn bombs" have been found brightening up railing at a mall in Duluth, hugging Minneapolis sign posts, covering the "Charging Bull" sculpture in New York, as a vest for the "Rocky" sculpture in Philadelphia, filling sidewalk cracks in Paris and adorning bike racks in Melbourne. Toyota commissioned a sweater for a Prius. June 11 was International Yarn Bombing Day.

Pomp was asked in mid-June if she would be interested in tending the flower bed through the Bemidji Downtown Development Association's Adopt-a-Garden program.

"I love to garden and have been so busy with the store that I haven't been able to do much of it at home lately," she wrote in the Yellow Umbrella blog on June 16. "So what's better than a mini garden across the street? It will be nice to get some fresh air and play in the dirty throughout the week while I'm 'working."

After she took over the spot, she wondered, "How do I make this garden cool and different?"

"I found myself wanting to do something really special in this space that would sort of reflect the fun crafty creative feel that is Yellow Umbrella," she wrote in the blog. "And then it hit me ... MAKE A TREE SWEATER!"

After she got the idea, she called Linda Autrey, the volunteer coordinator of the Adopt-a-Garden program.

Pomp was nervous, she said: "Is she going to think I'm nuts?"

But Autrey encouraged her to go for it.

"I certainly know it wouldn't hurt the tree and it would add even more art to our streets," Autrey said. "I thought it was really neat."

Autrey has 43 groups of people who plant, weed and water the gardens all summer long. She has been coordinating the program for 12 years.

Pomp chose a yellow, orange, cream, pink and lemongrass green color scheme, using Lion Brand Thick & Quick yarn that is 80 percent acrylic and 20 percent wool and will hold up well against Minnesota weather.

She crocheted the tree sweater in sections - two sections for the trunk (above and below the branches) and sections for the four branches emerging from the trunk. She measured the diameter of each section, leaving a little room for growth, and, when finished, placed the sections on the tree and closed up the seams.

Occasionally, she would go out and do fittings, and people would ask what she was doing. Even more questions came while she was doing the seams.

Pomp noted that some people knit or crotchet right on the piece they're covering, but that takes considerable time on the site.

She said she is enjoying seeing pictures of the tree sweater on other people's Facebook pages. Pomp also likes that she can see the tree from the store, where she brings her 1-month-old daughter, Millie.

Pomp would love to see more yarn bombing in Bemidji, she said, adding that she would be glad to organize an outing where people could, for example, put sleeves on trees in Library Park or do a project during Art in the Park.

"I would like to be part of it," she said. "it would be so striking and so fun."

Pomp owns Yellow Umbrella with her sister-in-law. They share the same name, but her sister-in-law goes by Jennifer. Jen is married to Jon; Jennifer is married to his brother Andy.

Yellow Umbrella opened Dec. 5, 2009, in Nymore and moved to its current location on Third Street on June 3. The Nymore location is now Red Umbrella, an upscale thrift store. Pomp said Yellow Umbrella sells the yarn she used for the tree sweater. She and her sister-in-law use it to make cowls and hats for the store.

To see how the tree sweater came together, visit the Yellow Umbrella blog at http://yellowumbrellashop.blogspot.com and look in the June archives for three blog posts titled "Getting Creative."

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