Sally Ackerman, the self-proclaimed head knit-wit of Dallas Yarn Bombers, formed the group in 2011 with her friend Ronda Van Dyk, who owned The Shabby Sheep yarn shop. They were later commissioned to work on a project to promote the musical Hair on its tour stop at the Winspear Opera House. The Dallas Yarn Bombers have since grown in members and have worked on several projects throughout DFW. Notable projects include Klyde Warren Park's grand opening, and events with the Dallas Heritage Village, Dallas Theater Center and historic downtown Plano.
Most recently, the group’s creations have popped up along Dallas' Main Street, where tree trunks and bike racks can be seen dressed in fuzzy knit sweaters. This project came to fruition after the Yarn Bombers were contacted by Downtown Dallas Inc., a group that promotes downtown.
“Downtown Dallas Inc. reached out to us on Facebook,” Ackerman says. “I met up with (community activation coordinator) Juan Galvan, and he loved our ideas, so we just kind of walked the area and made some plans. He brought our ideas to the board and they agreed that they’d like for us to color the city.”
The yarn bombs in downtown Dallas come as part of an initiative to add color and art throughout the city. In recent years, street art has grown seemingly exponentially within downtown Dallas, with the addition of murals and sculptures. According to Ackerman, she was not given any set instructions for her yarn bomb contributions.
"When we’re putting yarn out in the world, what we really like is whimsy and surprise." — Sally Ackerman
“They just wanted it colored up in specific areas, just to brighten it up,” Ackerman says. “They gave me no criteria. They gave us full artistic control. They just told us where they wanted it, and that’s what makes it fun for me. I don’t like to take jobs where people have artistic expectations. When we’re putting yarn out in the world, what we really like is whimsy and surprise.”
While most street art usually has some sort of underlying political message, none is attached to the Yarn Bombers’ projects. Ackerman has made it a point to create works that people of all backgrounds and ages can enjoy.
“We’re not trying to spread a political agenda,” Ackerman says. “The message is ‘Be joyful.’ When you see a surprising thing like a yarn bomb on a tree or a bicycle rack, and it makes you smile or gives you a joyful reaction, then that’s wonderful.”
Ackerman admits that she scrolls through social media to see how people react to the yarn bombs.
“When we’re there setting up, we feel the joy all day long,” Ackerman says. “People talk to us, hug us and thank us, but we feel the love all over again when we see it on social media.”
While going about everyday adult life can be tough and draining, creating works of art has proved to be a form of self-care for Ackerman. She insists that channeling one’s inner child is the best way to create joyous feelings within themselves.
“With the yarn, we’re just playing with color,” Ackerman says. “I think everyone that has something that makes them laugh, that makes them feel joy in their hearts; whether it be art, dancing. Whatever makes you feel more joyful and youthful, do more of it.”