Jessie Hemmons works on a Rittenhouse Square tree with boyfriend Jerry Kaba’s help. (Photo: Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel)

The magnolia tree on the north side of Rittenhouse Square looks as if it were plucked from a Dr. Seuss book. Its split trunk is wrapped in a whimsical sweater of pinks, blues, purples, and oranges.

The tree cozy is the work of Jessie Hemmons, 23, a graduate student in psychology at Chestnut Hill College and census worker – and a graffiti artist with a soft side.

Hemmons is part of a growing trend of rogue knitters who have taken their “yarnbombing” to the street to brighten the cityscape. She ties crocheted flowers to lampposts, wraps bike racks with rainbow-colored covers, and gave the Rocky statue a scarf.

Her motivation is simple.

“Times are tough,” Hemmons said. “People want to see something bright and pretty.”

Yesterday morning she put up her largest installation yet. Passersby stopped to watch and snap pictures as Hemmons began stitching about 15 feet of knitting – a 30-hour project – to a tree near 19th and Walnut Streets.

The yarnbombing trend made headlines this month when three women in West Cape May, known only by their tag name, Salty Knits, began putting up knitting under the cover of night in the borough’s Wilbraham Park and outside private businesses.


Chelsea Conaboy
Philadelphia Inquirer