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Yarn bombers turn a sleepy town into a knitted tropical paradise – with monkeys and flamingos in the trees – when Covid scuppers holiday plans

·5-min read

Forget Banksy, a group of 15 women dubbed ‘yarn bombers’ have covered a sleepy Irish town in tropical-themed ‘knitted graffiti’- giving locals a daily taste of the foreign holidays they have missed because of Covid.

Leading the charge is conference centre manager Monica Hannigan, 53, who has helped to transform Dunboyne, near Dublin, with everything from knitted pink flamingos and monkeys in the trees to ice cream cone bunting and mermaid bollard cosies.

She said: “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.”

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

Yarn bombing started in America as a term given to a kind of knitted graffiti and Monica is proud to bring her own version of the art form to Ireland.

The holiday-themed knits are so popular that the council is letting them stay up at least until the end of the month.

But it is not the yarn bombers’ first “guerrilla artwork” to adorn Dunboyne.

No section of the town centre was left uncovered (Collect/PA Real Life).
No section of the town centre was left uncovered (Collect/PA Real Life).

Monica, who is married to sales manager Gerry, 55, and has two kids, Ben, 23, and Alex, 22, 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, Spain, she was sure her compatriots could produce an even better display with an Irish twist.

First, she engaged a right-hand woman, GP Suzanne Milligan, 45, a married mum-of-two, who runs a local knitting group.

Monica posing with the knitted flamingo (Collect/PA Real Life).
Monica posing with the knitted flamingo (Collect/PA Real Life).

Amassing 15 knitters, aged from 40 to 60, and assigning them trees, bollards and lampposts to decorate, between January and St Patrick’s Day they spent 500 hours making everything from leprechauns to flags.

Leaving no pillar unadorned, Monica said: “It was all funded by ourselves and with donations and took a lot of work, but it was worth it.

“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.”

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

She added: “It was so popular there were traffic jams because of the people coming to see it. The community response was incredible.”

So, when Covid caused travel chaos, putting paid to many summer holidays, Monica and her pals got the needle again and started knitting – posting on their very own Facebook page to get the community’s ideas.

She said: “The ideas started flowing. I couldn’t believe the amazing things the knitters were creating.”

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).

Spending over 700 hours on the project, it was finally unveiled on June 16, 2021.

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

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

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).

She continued: “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.

“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.”

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).

Monica added: “The kids love it. I thought by now people would be sick of it, but the council have 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.”

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.

The women knitted a school of mermaids for their tropical yarn bomb (Collect/PA Real Life).
The women knitted a school of mermaids for their tropical yarn bomb (Collect/PA Real Life).

“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.”

It was needles at dawn for the knitters, who set about solving the crime, known locally as ‘pineapple gate.’

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).

Tracking down eyewitnesses, the trail led to a group of lads who, rather than getting into a tangle with the dextrous ladies, were suitably remorseful.

“Looking back on it I do laugh,” said 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 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).

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.”

The yarn bombers first knit was for St. Patrick’s day in March 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life).
The yarn bombers first knit was for St. Patrick’s day in March 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life).

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

Monica said: “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!”

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