Two summers ago I volunteered at an albergue (hostel) in Moratinos, midpoint on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. My friend is the owner of an albergue and my role was to help out with anything needed by the pilgrims on their quest to cross Spain on foot or by bike to reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where it is believed the remains of the apostle Saint James can be found.
Moratinos is a very small village with many of its residents proud of their roots and surroundings. Pilgrims traveling on the Camino de Santiago walk through this small village via a road that brings them directly to the plaza mayor. Often, the plaza mayor is a centrally located area that served as a gathering place for the locals. Almost every little town, city, and metropolis has some form of a Plaza Mayor.
An American friend of mine who settled in Moratinos with her husband contacted me a few weeks before my arrival to share with me the latest village project. The local residents of Moratinos wanted to do something to embellish the town’s central area. Together, they came up with a series of mini projects including a rock display spelling out the village name, the maintenance of many beautiful flower beds, and a rather unusual way to add colour and life, yarn bombing the trees of the plaza mayor.
My friend asked about the origin and purpose of yarn bombing as this was quite new to her. According to Wikipedia “Yarn bombing, yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, kniffiti, urban knitting or graffiti knitting is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk.”
It is believed that an artist from Houston, Bill Davenport created crochet-covered objects around his home in the 1990s, thus earning the credit for yarn bombing’s beginnings. In 2005, a Houston shop owner, Magda Saveg, covered the door handles of her shop with her handknitted cozies. She is widely considered the innovator of the modern day movement.
When I was 10, I asked my aunt to teach me to knit, although I never graduated past the simple knit and purl stitches. I did, however, put my limited skills to good use by knitting scarves for myself, and little hats to match my mother’s hundreds of pairs of mittens she lovingly made for the local Snow Suit Fund, an organization supporting families in need.
When I heard that Moratinos women were yarn bombing the plaza’s trees, I quickly bought some yarn and knitting needles ahead of my one month stay. Upon my arrival, I quickly set out to peruse the plaza and gaze upon the progress of the project. I was overwhelmed by the work already completed! The Moratinos knitters had been busy.
I noticed that several of the trees were still bare, so I set my sight on a fairly large tree adjacent to the church. I quickly wrote a note asking if I could “adopt” this particular tree. The next day, someone had answered YES and my personal project had begun.
Every evening, the local knitters would meet and chat while knitting pieces for the project. I was tickled pink to be part of this group, and often shared stories of Canada and my travels with my new friends. It was a special way to truly get to know the people of Moratinos, and to take part in their project. After all, spending a month in a small village certainly would allow me to connect with the locals. As they say, “when in Rome”!
It took me more than three weeks to complete my first tree sleeve, and I was excited to add my finished creation to the many already installed in the plaza. I had a week left before my departure, so I bought more wool and set my aim to cover one of the smaller skinnier trees.
I am so happy to have taken part of this local project, and it was quite evident that the goal of embellishing the plaza was achieved as pilgrims would all stop and take photos or talk to the locals about the project. Congratulations to the crafters of Moratinos for a very successful project!
Have you taken part of a local project during your travels? I would greatly appreciate reading your stories in the comment area!