Boulder yarn bombersCaught in the act: Yarn bombers cozy up a bike kiosk.Photo: R-U-ENGAGEDIt seems like it used to be just Grannies who felt the uncontrollable urge to knit cozies for every conceivable object. (See, for instance, this memorable little number.) But now a new generation is feeling the time-honored call.

Just before Labor Day, 11 bike-share kiosks in Boulder, Colo., acquired adorable wraps. Some sported superhero color schemes, others au courant color blocking a la Sarah Jessica Parker, and still another slimming vertical stripes.

“It was really exciting,” said Kevin Crouse, customer service person for Boulder B-cycle, who had no idea what was coming when he headed into work the day after Labor Day. “The stations are gray and red, but it was really cool to see them in Technicolor.”

Claiming responsibility for the heist was a group called R-U-ENGAGED, whose website features a rogue’s gallery of the culprits, including an unidentified guy carrying a fuzzy microphone, a man giving a be-cozied kiosk a sincere hug, and someone named “Robnoxious.” A few more clues as to the identity of the perpetrators can be gleaned from the YouTube video below.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Grist relies on the support of generous readers like you. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched!

Reached by phone, ringleaders Jason and Christina Fitzgerald admitted responsibility and were pleased by the success of their heist, with one exception: someone pinched the cozies — all 11 of them, leaving nary a clipped zip tie or stray bungee.

“They were all gone — every last one of them,” Jason said. The immaculate removal led his wife to speculate that it wasn’t done maliciously, he said. “It seems like a lot of time and energy to spend hating something.”

The yarn-bombers’ aim was to bring a little “soft and fuzzy” PR to an organization they felt was working for good in the community. B-cycle makes cute red cruiser bikes available for short-haul intra-city trips for a low daily, weekly, or yearly fee to promote exercise, sustainability, and cut down on auto traffic and emissions.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

R-U-ENGAGED solicited colorful one-by-one foot squares of knitted or crocheted fabric via Facebook. They duly arrived from about 75 crafters across the United States and as far away as Australia. The Boulder cell then hand-seamed about 180 of the panels into kiosk sweaters.

They deployed their cozies in broad daylight on the Sunday before Labor Day. Three hours later, it was dark, all 11 kiosks were ensnuggled and equipped with a scavenger hunt game designed to help bystanders explore the B-cycle network, and the urban artists were all tucking into celebratory beers.

Compulsive knitter Christina Fitzgerald said she was originally inspired by the seminal yarn stylings of the now-defunct Houston-based knitting collective Knitta Please and its mastermind Magda Sayeg. The Boulder crew also drew inspiration from the Denver-based Ladies Fancywork Society, which shackled the giant bear peering into Denver’s Pepsi Center with a knit blue ball and chain back in April.

Jason Fitzgerald describes yarn bombing as “this very symbolically nurturing act of wrapping something in yarn or a warm blanket but taking it out onto the streets and putting it in this gritty urban context … It’s unusual, it’s whimsical, it’s definitely graffiti, but it’s so antithetical to graffiti.”

For Jason, the most unexpected aspect of the yarn bombing was a rush of media attention on social networks. This led to a somewhat disconcerting experience one morning while he was riding an exercycle at the YMCA. He noticed a group of four women out of the corner of his eye, staring at him and talking amongst themselves. “Are you the boy that did that yarn thing?” asked one. “You’re him, aren’t you?” He admitted he was. “We loved it,” they said.

“Great,” Fitzgerald thought. “I’ve been outed at the YMCA at 10:30 on Wednesday morning by a group of senior citizens at hand weights class.”

The Boulder conspirators had planned to take down the cozies and reassemble them into eight-by-eight foot blankets to be donated to the Boulder County Homeless Shelter and South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. On the evening of Sept. 11, Jason Fitzgerald tweeted that the cozies would come down the next day. According to witnesses, at least four of the cozies were still in place around 7 p.m.

On the morning of Sept. 12, they were gone. R-U-ENGAGED2 tweeted, “We’ll put our heads down on the desk, you put back the @Boulder_Bcycle #yarnbomb, no questions asked. #boulder

No one obliged.

Crouse says the surprise yarn-bombing helped raise B-cycle’s profile, and he was sorry to see the cozies gone. Perhaps, he says, this isn’t the end: “My genuine personal hope is there’s a larger merry prank at hand.”