Since the beginning (of Knit the Bridge) Jenny Tabrum has been an indispensible advisor on all things knit and crochet. She knows the material structure like no one else and has been gently nudging KtB in the best possible yarn bombing direction as a core member of the technical team and KtB crew. She’s also speedy with the granny square. Our bridge tower model in neon is thanks to Jenny’s expertise in crochet and neon colorways… Learn more about Jenny in this Q&A…
1. What is your history with Pittsburgh?
Growing up, my family were “corporate gypsies”. We moved from California to Georgia and Alabama, then North and South Carolina. I moved to Pittsburgh when I was in college and felt sure that my Southern blood would freeze in the winter and never thaw out. That was in the late 70’s – just in time to experience the closing of the steel mills. I had started working in the automotive industry and felt the pain in the city. I also saw the resolve of people to turn things around in their hometown. I got married here and had my children here. I’ve lived in Pittsburgh now longer than any other city I’ve lived in and I’m glad that I stayed for the rebirth. I’ve learned to love Black and Gold and even the weather!
I learned to knit when I was about 9 and then learned to sew in junior
high school. My first major knitting project was a rockin’ red, white
and blue mini-skirt. In the early 80’s I got a knitting machine and
discovered that I could create my own distinctive fabrics. I was in
love with the possibilities. After my daughter was born I took up
quilting and stitched quilts almost exclusively for about 15 years. I
enjoyed making my own fabrics from muslin and paints much more than
using store-bought yardage. 10 years ago I resumed knitting with a
I attended my first Fiber Arts International and was blown
away by the creativity and technical skills displayed. I decided to
focus on the technical aspects of knitting for the next few years.
Since then I have both allowed myself to teach and be taught. I have
since joined the Fiber Arts Guild of Pittsburgh where I am constantly
challenged by the work of the members.
3. What are you most excited about doing as part of the core Knit the Bridge team?
The people that I have met while working on this project have all
shared such a spirit of generosity and cooperation. KTB is just so
big – we all need each other in order to make it happen. Each
individual piece is being added to the larger mosaic and will be given
to the city as a whole. It’s also wonderful that the individual panels will continue to have a purpose after the bridge is de-installed. Panels will be cleaned then distributed throughout the region to shelters and service groups. The fact that the panels will have
another life has been a major selling point for the fiber artists that are contributing so much of their time and resources. I am also working on the knitting machine again, something I had put away for quite a few years.
The towers of the bridge will be worked
up using knitting machines and we hope to use the machines to create most of the railing borders also. By the time we are done, I expect to know this machine inside out and backwards! Lastly, I have been thrilled to have the opportunity to share my love
of needle arts with folks young and not so young and watch as they get it! Through the outreach portion of this project, we have taught knitting and crochet to hundreds of future needle-carrying yarn bombers!
4. What do you see as the challenges?
Going into the project, I would have said getting enough people to
participate. Not now! The last count that I heard, we have over 500
individuals registered to do something, whether its actually creating
a piece or panel, volunteering to organize or work on the
installation. We also have almost 1,000 likes on the Facebook page and
we are tweeting the message to even more.
Installing the work will be monumental task. Volunteers will be
needed for the installation and training will be required for those
that volunteer. If you really want to feel a part of the experience,
standing on the bridge with a panel flapping in the wind will do it
And now, getting everyone to turn in their panels as early as possible
so that we can get an accurate count is critical. The deadline for
panel submission is June 1st, but there is a lot of work that has to
happen after the panels are turned in. If you can get your panel in
earlier, please do. You may find that you have time to make another
square or two or work on one of the railing pieces. Check the blog
for drop-off spots to find one close to you. If nothing works, drop
an email to us and we will make some kind of arrangements to get your
work turned in.
Maintaining enthusiasm as we go into the summer. Folks may get busy as vacations begin and the weather gets warm but we need to continue spreading the word to fiber enthusiasts, friends and families about Knit the Bridge. As we get closer to the installation there will be plenty of press coverage plus the blog will keep everyone updated.
Please attend the Fiber Arts International exhibits and taking a friend. Not only will it be an engaging visit to local arts venues that need your support, but will help to raise the visibility of some very hard working artists and fiber arts in general.
Donate yarn and needles to the cause, assuming you aren’t using them yourselves. Bright colored yarns are appreciated for the walkway panels and black yarn is in great demand to complete the railings. We have thousands of yards to cover in black! Teams of knitters and crocheters will be probably be working on the railings up to the time of the installation.