Now you see it… now you don't:  these knitted covers made by yarnbomber Streetcolor for the new bike racks outside the newly reopened North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library were removed almost as soon as they were installed. Photo: Streetcolor

One creative contribution to the newly reopened North Branch Library was not seen by the crowds of supporters who turned up on Saturday to celebrate the library’s return to service. Local “yarnbomber” Streetcolor had made some custom knitted coverings for the new circular bike racks outside the library — but they barely saw the light of day as they were quickly removed by librarians displeased with the rogue artistic action.

Streetcolor, who likes to remain anonymous and has created many stealth knitting installations around the Bay Area and beyond, said she spent a couple of months spinning and knitting the covers for the curvy bike racks. She put them up on Friday night. “Lots of locals stopped to take pictures and thank us,” she said. But, on the morning of the reopening on Saturday, when she drove by to take pictures, the yarn had been taken down, she said.

Yarnbombing, like any unauthorized street art in public spaces, is illegal, but the Berkeley community has generally welcomed installations in the city in the past — at least as expressed in the many hundreds of comments our stories on the subject have garnered. Not everyone loves it, however, and some have expressed concern about how the yarn fares long term, exposed as it is to the elements. Most installations are taken down after a few weeks.

In May last year, the knitting artist covered two squiggly bike racks opposite the central Berkeley library on Kittredge Street.

A librarian at the North Branch told Streecolor on Saturday she should have asked for permission first before putting up the knitting and the yarn was returned to her.

“Obviously yarnbombing would never have happened as a form of expression if we waited to be asked first,” said Streetcolor.

Berkeleyside contacted Donna Corbeil, Director of Library Services, who explained: “The Library felt it was important for the community to experience the completed project fully, without anything covered up or altered since it was the grand reopening.”

However, there’s a potentially happy ending to the story, as Corbeil added: “We explained to the woman that we would be glad to talk to her about putting it back up at a future date if she wished to.”

Never let it be said that Berkeley doesn’t love its libraries [04.09.12]
A yarn-bombed seat on the Berkeley-San Francisco BART [06.14.11]
Eighty feet of knitting added to downtown bike racks [05.03.11]
A squiggly bike rack gets a wooly makeover [03.15.11]

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...