200th Bike Rack, Bombed

You know that moment when Valencia is quiet? Early before all the shops open? I show up to work and there’s a woman out front knitting quietly on a little folding stool. A real live yarn bomber.

I wasn’t expecting her to be so open or charming. I thought yarn bombing was done anonymously in the shadows. I started asking questions and here’s what I learned.

Emily Stauffer (fogknits.com) has been doing this since 2010. As sweet as she is, she started out of snark. “All my friends kept sending me this yarn bombing story that had gone viral. It got kind of old saying ‘Yeah, I saw it. Thanks.’ So I decided to yarn bomb something so that I could say yeah, ‘I’ve done it. Thanks.’”

“5 years later, this is probably my 200th bike rack.”

Emily has bombed pansies in a garden, statues, fences, mail boxes and pink flamingos in a neighbors yard (the only time she’s yarn bombed on private property). But her favorite thing to bomb is bike racks.

“I’m so opposed to yarn bombing trees. Trees are beautiful. They don’t need improving. Let’s add some color to something that needs some help. An ugly fence. A steel bike rack.”

“It took me by surprise that the bike community appreciated it,” Emily said. “I used to just cover the very top of bike racks – the most visible part. But I kept noticing that people would slide the yarn down to one side. Eventually I figured out that bikers were doing that to protect their paint from getting scratched by the rack. Since realizing that knitting racks was actually functional, about 95% of my yarn bombing has been on racks.

Emily’s work tends to stay up anywhere from 24 hours (in the Castro) to a year.

When strips get boring, Emily throws in an Easter egg like this Charlie Brown stripe.

Do you recognize this pattern? Take your best guess in the comments below.

So how long does it take to yarn bomb 5 circular bike racks? Emily does most of the work in what she calls “found time.”

“10 minutes while waiting for the bus. Another 10 minutes because the bus was full and it just passed me by. 20 minutes on the bus. I don’t really sit at home and work on a project like this.” When pressed, Emily confesses, “I probably spent 60-70 hours on this one.”

I thanked her for her contribution and with a smile she corrected me, “my egregious act of vandalism.”


20 Responses to “200th Bike Rack, Bombed”

  1. Emo says:

    Pretty. Where can I see these? Are they located in front of a certain shop?

  2. motowaki says:

    good post!

  3. ABW says:

    This was a fun read.

    I really like it when I see something yarn bombed, and now I know who to thank for it!

  4. Macks says:

    Awesome! You rock Emily!

  5. dave says:

    Interesting that she mentioned doing her knitting during the found time after a full MUNI bus passes her by. She’s definitely not one of the Mission One Percenters. It’s ironic that a working class bus rider spends so much time beautifying Valencia when city busses aren’t even allowed on Valencia anymore but Google busses. are.

    • Maria says:

      You’re right Dave. Thank you Emily, you should get reimbursed by the Bike Coalition, the SF Arts Commission or MTA. I’m going to visit your work or Art after work.

    • Wheresmejumper says:

      You had to go there with the non-sequitur tech bashing. It is sad that you couldn’t find any inspiration in Emily’s story.

      • dave says:

        You’re right. It is sad. This is a great story, best I’ve seen on MM in a while, but I find something like the opposite of inspiration in it. There used to be a lot of people like Emily doing cool things all over the Mission and other neighborhoods. Maybe there still are. But now the city doesn’t have time or space for them. It’s like spotting a wild condor and trying to get excited about it while knowing the sky used to be full of them not too long ago.

        But I disagree about the non-sequiter tech bashing. I hadn’t really seen the Google buses in full glory before. I thought there were maybe five or six of them around the area, but I was on 24th and Valencia at 5:45pm last week, and they came roaring by one after the other on Valencia. I stopped counting after 12, but they kept coming. Is this what they ripped out the 26 line for?
        As an example of found time for knitting, Emily herself mentioned watching a MUNI bus pass her by because it was already full. So, the notion of declining MUNI and ascending tech busses is already there in the piece.

        • david says:

          people are still doing cool things…

          [some people are just bitter and unhappy and will always find something to complain about]

        • Truth says:

          MUNI is having capacity problems as it is, you really think having all those people in the private buses riding on MUNI instead would make things better for everyone? Have you ridden MUNI, BART, or Caltrain during rush hour lately?
          Where’s your outrage for the buses that transport art students all over the city? What about the ones that take hospital employees to work? How about all the biotech companies that have transportation? What about tour buses? Let’s force them all to ride on BART and MUNI and watch the city melt down because there are people who had the audacity to move here after you did.

          • Colonel Sanders says:

            Winner winner chicken dinner!

            PS: whatever happened to my awesome edible art project on Valencia Street?

          • Wheresmejumper says:

            During the economic downturn a lot of public departments/corporations used financial fear mongering to push through radical changes. Muni was one of those culprits. They “suspended” several major bus routes around the city calming they were underutilized. Since that time Valencia street has evolved into one of the city’s most popular destination spots, so by Muni’s own reasoning that should be justification for reinstating the 26 line. Maybe they’re too busy figuring out a way to appropriate that $6.8MM subsidy Google provided for the youth ride free program.

    • SFrentier says:

      You don’t know, she could be independently wealthy, and doing this for fun and fulfillment. Millionaires have a heart too.

  6. ELO says:

    Green bike lanes pattern!

  7. Doctor Popular says:

    Great write up, Jefferson. I love her work, but ever knew anything about the artist.