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Tree Huggers remove sweaters from downtown Iowa City, plan for donations

BY HILLARY ROSENCRANTS | MARCH 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Knitted sweaters no longer adorn the trees of downtown Iowa City, but local knitters say the Tree Huggers that were displayed all winter will now provide warmth to those who need it.

Tree Huggers, a project of the Iowa City Downtown District and the Home Ec Workshop, hosted an event Sunday afternoon in the Sheraton Hotel’s Share Wine Lounge.

Those who participated in Tree Huggers, a project in which local knitters created cozy sweaters for trees downtown, were welcomed with cider and cookies as they removed their colorful creations from the trees in anticipation of spring.

Alisa Weinstein, a co-owner of Iowa City’s Home Ec, 207 N. Linn St., was pleased with the initial interest in the project. Despite the rainy weather, people still showed up to remove their sweaters, and will continue removing them throughout the week.

“A lot of people are still taking them down over the next couple of days,” Weinstein said. “I have a bunch to take down, but they’re too heavy to carry around today.”

Weinstein said 132 trees were covered and nearly 200 knitters contributed to the project. Both the Iowa City Downtown District and Total Tree Care sponsored Sunday’s event.

But what’s next for the Tree Huggers?

“Well, for next year, we’ll be knitting new ones. There’s a woman collecting this year’s sweaters for [Iowa City] Hospice,” said Ritu Jain, a board member of the Downtown District and owner of Textiles, 109 S. Dubuque St.

After a simple wash, the sweaters are ready to be shawls and blankets for the Iowa City Hospice.

But that’s not the only donation option for the sweaters.

“Scattergood School asked us if it could have 30 of them to put on campus for next fall, so we’re doing that also,” Jain said.

Jain said the special events committee initially came up with the idea based on photographs they’d seen of “knitting bombs” around the world.

Cecilia Norris, a local knitter who was involved in the project, wanted to help her daughter Carly, 9, learn how to knit, and Tree Huggers seemed like the perfect opportunity.

“I put our sweater up,” Norris said. “Carly had something going on that day, so the least she could do was help me take it down.”

The sweaters were all stitched on to the trees, so to remove them, all it took was a little snip.

And officials say there will likely be another “knitting bomb” in Iowa City next winter.

“I think we will definitely be doing this next year,” Jain said. “People are already asking if we’re going to do it again. We’ve gotten great reactions. I had a woman in shopping [at Textiles] who was from Rhode Island, and she said [Tree Huggers] made her feel like she was in a community that really cares about its town.”

No matter what, Jain said she is in it for the long haul.

“We’re hoping to grow this project for next year,” she said. “We’re also trying to think of other projects to get the town involved.”


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