Tree Huggers returns to Iowa City for second year


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With cold weather moving in, the trees of Iowa City have very little to worry about. They are being wrapped in their sweaters for the coming winter. The Tree Huggers Project has returned for its second year with added direction and is continuing to brighten downtown Iowa City by knitting sweaters for 135 trees.

The project was started in July last year in order to add a little color to the winter season, as well as bring the Iowa City community together. Knitters from the previous year came back to the project this year along with new members.

First-time knitter Jeri Smith explained Home Ec., a sponsor of the Tree Huggers project, provided the colors of yarn and the measurements of different trees, and this year, the knitters could pick out the size of the tree they wanted to cover. The specific tree was assigned to them after they chose a size, and the trees were given numbers so that the knitters could find them when it was time to put the sweaters on. “I saw it in the paper, and it sounded fun,” Smith said. “I don’t know a lot of the specifics, but I know that I like to knit.”

Another new aspect of the project included having some of the larger trees being divided into projects, so that groups could knit or crochet together, said knitter Michele Finnegan. Knitters were able to pick up their supplies on Sept. 30 after they registered for the project, and they had until Oct. 25 to finish their sweater. On Sunday afternoon, the knitters could take their creations downtown to their tree and stitch the sweater on.

The sweaters will remain on the trees until March, when they will then be auctioned off, and the proceeds will go to charity. Sue Pauleson, a knitter who completed three sweaters for this year’s project, said she learned of the Tree Huggers project through the Home Ec. newsletter.

“I’ve been knitting since I was 8, so I wanted to get involved in that aspect of our community,” Pauleson said. One of the things Pauleson said she enjoyed most about the project was it was a real conversation starter — when someone asked her what she was making while she knits. She would tell them “a sweater for a tree,” and the she said conversation would flow from there.

Not only does it spark up conversation, but the Iowa City community enjoys the tree decorations as much as the knitters do. As Pauleson sewed her creation onto a tree, she received help from a young girl, Evee Maloney, who had been downtown and saw her sewing up the tree. Other Iowa City citizens were also pleased with the return of the Tree Huggers, after their good reception last year.

“They’re very creative,” said Iowa City resident Polly Horton. “I think it brings a lot of attention to the arts downtown.” Those who had never seen the tree sweaters before were also impressed, including Shelby Leisinger, a student at the University of Iowa.

“I hadn’t seen [tree sweaters] before, so it’s a nice change,” Leisinger said. “I think it’s a nice decoration. It’s very festive.” The project has provided entertainment for citizens of downtown Iowa City, as well as for those who create them.

“It’s a nice way to get together with some friends and do something fun,” Pauleson said.

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