Since the beginning Kitty Spangler has been helping with Knit the Bridge by doing what she does best – generating enthusiasm, organizing details, and getting things done! Knit the Bridge just wouldn’t be without her expertise, energy, and presence. Take some time to get to know our Panel Technical Advisor in this Q&A…
What’s your history with Pittsburgh?
My mother grew up here (Oakmont) so I was a childhood visitor. I went to college in nearby Indiana PA and many of my friends were from here. I moved to Pittsburgh on 5 Dec. 1978, and it felt like home right away. My parents had been transferred here (Dad was a mechanical engineer with ALCOA) and so I had a place to land for the time being. I love the rich views, the rivers, bridges, tunnels, and cozy neighborhoods. As a painter this city is chock-full of visual stimuli. I like to say Pittsburgh is large enough that I can still get lost, and small enough that I run into people I know just about everywhere.
I learned to crochet within weeks of finding out about the Fiberart Guild’s plan to yarn-bomb a Pittsburgh bridge. I had never done it before and truly had not a clue that knitting and crochet were vastly different. I’d knitted a scarf in the 70’s for a boyfriend, and then made a square at a baseball game one summer at Stitch-and-Pitch, with much help from my friend, Jenny Tabrum. So, I was told crochet might be for me and late last June I was converted! I have no history with this craft so no real fears either. I started making rows and squares, then went “off-road” and made some paisleys, triangles, pentagons, and other random shapes that I would then have to work with other things to create an actual rectangle-shaped panel.
How did you come to be the Panel Technical Advisor/Director (or whatever complicated title we’ve come up for you)?
I guess I like to count things. I wanted to count all the panel segments on the Bridge (137 spaces on the northern walkway, and 149 along the southern). Maybe I’m a little OCD! So, I seem to have gravitated to the arty-part of this project, the large knit and crochet panels, along with the logistics and management, the collection and staging all of these parts. It’s like having an exhibit of my paintings: pre-planning, simplifying, tracking, trouble-shooting, and documentation. Most of the men in my family were engineers so my thinking is already geared toward figuring things out. My father made lists and graph paper drawings in order to build things. It’s in my genes.
I do like to learn new things (see history with crochet)! I laughed a lot to myself, and out loud, last summer while learning to crochet. It’s something about ‘old dogs and new tricks’. What a great way to learn: on a major installation like this! Some of my favorite sayings are “it’s only a bridge” and “the bridge doesn’t care” in regards to my stitch accuracy. I get to use my painter’s sense of color with pattern and design, scale and proportion. The tools, well, a hook and some yarn, are simple, and acrylic yarn is cheap! I like cheap. When I believe in something I can ‘sell’ it to just about anyone. And I have. I like to say I’m the head cheerleader for KTB.
What have been the challenges?
My first reaction was probably one of stupidity and awe: WHICH Bridge? By WHEN?? Seriously? Then it was, ok, how do we rally the troops? The challenges have been more personal than specific to the yarn bombing. I have a tendency to want to be in control and to do all of the work. So I have been learning to sit back, a bit, share tasks, and yarn, and try to do what I can without being totally consumed by the project. I am learning to listen and to collaborate.
How can folks help support your work with KtB?
My wish is to have every person and group who has made, or is making, a full 34 x 72″ panel, or panels, send me/us a picture of it so we could start planning their placement. We’re going pre-determine all locations and have to do some pre-assembly before the ground-level installation begins. (Yes, I know there are many panels in the works, and maybe not even begun, but a girl can dream!)
My other desire is to have 50-60 enthusiastic volunteers who will go to our training sessions, beforehand, to help with the grand installation. (TBA) We want to be careful, safe, efficient, and to meet insurance requirements.
What are some by-products of working on KTB and learning to crochet?
I’ve been trying to read crochet patterns, attempting to make some items for myself and others. I’ve crocheted some hats and fingerless gloves, in wool, and currently I’m trying to make a summer-weight cotton hoodie! There’s a two-toned vest I’d like to try, and it would be nice to make my own house slippers. Plus, I’ve met so many good people through this, gottento know the city and suburbs even better, and, I’ve reaffirmed my need for reincarnation because there are so many things to do in one lifetime! Oh, the places we could yarn bomb!