How to knit a holiday: Meet the yarn bombers who turned their town tropical

·5-min read
The community have fallen in love with the women's crafty creations (Collect/PA Real Life).
The community have fallen in love with the women's crafty creations (Collect/PA Real Life).

Most towns are horrified when graffiti springs up overnight. It's a different story, however, when the guerilla additions to buildings and street furniture are knitted in colourful wool. 

A group of 15 women known as ‘yarn bombers’ have covered a small Irish town in tropical-themed ‘knitted graffiti’- to give the locals of Dunboyne, near Dublin, a daily slice of far-flung fantasy fun. 

The woman behind the knit-athon is conference centre manager Monica Hannigan, 53, who has masterminded everything from knitted pink flamingos and monkeys in the trees to ice cream cone bunting and mermaid bollard cosies.

“We wanted to transform the streets with a tropical summer holiday theme, as the pandemic has stopped us all from going away to enjoy the sunshine," she says. 

Watch: Elderly Chinese couple have been knitting artwork for over 10 years

Monica with one of the tropical tree knits (Collect/PA Real Life).
Monica with one of the tropical tree knits (Collect/PA Real Life).

Read more: 'Yarn bombers' hit Bristol as bizarre 12ft knitted spider's web appears beneath underpass

'Yarn bombing' began in America with knitted 'graffiti' covering post boxes and tree trunks. Now Monica is proud that Ireland has its own troupe of keen knitters, and their creations are so popular the council is letting them stay up over the summer. 

Monica, who is married to sales manager Gerry, 55, and has two grown-up children, first issued a call to local knitters ahead of St Patrick’s Day in March.

Inspired by yarn-bombing Monica had seen in Malaga and Marbella, she felt driven to do the same for Dunboyne, initially approaching GP Suzanne Milligan, 45, who runs a local knitting group.

Between them, the women found 15 knitters, aged from 40 to 60, and assigned them trees, bollards and lampposts to decorate. 

Monica with a knitted monkey in the yarn bombed town centre (Collect/PA Real Life).
Monica with a knitted monkey in the yarn bombed town centre (Collect/PA Real Life).

In just two months, they spent 500 hours making everything from leprechauns to flags.

“It was all funded by ourselves and with donations and took a lot of work, but it was worth it," says Monica.

“It was amazing. I walked down the day after we installed the knits and there were 40 or 50 people taking photos. I couldn’t believe it. It was so popular there were traffic jams because of the people coming to see it. The community response was incredible.”

The yarn bomb includes a giant knitted flamingo pictured here (Collect/PA Real Life).
The yarn bomb includes a giant knitted flamingo pictured here (Collect/PA Real Life).

Read more: Knitting for beginners: Everything you need to know

When it seemed clear that summer holidays would remain affected by the pandemic, Monica and her knitters set up a Facebook page to generate ideas to cheer the town up via the power of wool. 

"The ideas started flowing. I couldn’t believe the amazing things the knitters were creating,” she says. 

The project took the group 700 hours, and it was finally unveiled on 16 June 2021.

Monica said: “I was blown away once it was all set up. We knitted ice creams and mermaids and a huge pineapple.

The group of 15 women created a giant knitted pineapple as their show stopper (Collect/PA Real Life).
The group of 15 women created a giant knitted pineapple as their show stopper (Collect/PA Real Life).

“We’ve got a knitted monkey and a flamingo in the trees and we’ve hung knitted bunting all around the centre.”

“We roped in the men from the Men’s Shed, a group who give their time freely for the community, to do all the heavy lifting and ladder climbing. I think it really helped to give them something to focus on in lockdown.

“They made the Tiki signs and props too."

And it wasn't all Club Tropicana, she adds. 

“We also made knitted worry worms. The pandemic has been hard for a lot of the town and we wanted to make something to help people with anxiety.

“The kids love it. I thought by now people would be sick of it, but the council has asked if it can stay up until at least the end of July. It’s truly fantastic to see how much everyone enjoys it.

“They were delighted with it, the whole community was.”

The women spent over 700 hours crafting their knits (Collect/PA Real Life).
The women spent over 700 hours crafting their knits (Collect/PA Real Life).

But things started to unravel when, in the dead of night, at approximately 1am, hooligans stole the prized giant pineapple displayed in a local garden and destroyed it.

“It was awful,” said Monica. “The women had put so many hours into that pineapple. It was just beautiful. We displayed it in a local garden by the main yarn bomb so everyone could enjoy it.

“It was the talk of the town. But one morning the owner of the garden reported our pineapple was missing and just hours later it was found vandalised in a plant pot, but we were able to fix it.”

Tracking down eyewitnesses, the trail led to a group of lads who were suitably remorseful.

“Looking back on it, I do laugh,” says Monica. “But at the time, it was very upsetting for all of us.

“People were sending memes of the knitted pineapple on top of the Dublin Spire!”

The women completely decorated the town centre (Collect/PA Real Life).
The women completely decorated the town centre (Collect/PA Real Life).

She continued: “But we found the perpetrators, a group of 20 lads who had seen it as mischievous fun, not vandalism, at the time.

“It was all OK in the end. We managed to fix the patches and put it back on display and it looks beautiful.

“We’re now planning to take the pineapple apart and turn it into blankets for our local hospice.”

Meanwhile, the yarn bombers now have plans to create another big knit to celebrate Christmas.

Monica says, “It’s going to be tricky because people won’t see as much of it as it gets dark so early. But we’re working just as hard to make it as spectacular as the tropical display.

“As well as being a challenge, doing this is great fun and the amazing support from our community shows that everyone loves a good yarn!”

Watch: Multitasking at its finest! Woman gets her daily workout done while knitting

life edit
life edit
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting