Knitters create magical forest for Cranberry Community Days

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Some local hands might be a little achy, but what they created has brought smiles to many who attended Cranberry Community Days.

Janet Shaffer and a group of 16 women from St. Ferdinand Parish in Cranberry knitted and crocheted for months for a special project called yarn bombing.

Their goal was to “dress” trees in the park. Since October, they created colorful patterns to wrap around 10 tree trunks. In addition, they decorated a fence with handmade flowers, butterflies and bees.

Members of the Butler County Spinners & Weavers Guild contributed fabric wrappings for their trees.

“Everybody wanted to start real fast,” said Shaffer, ”and I needed something to do since I deal with death all the time.”

She and many of the others in her group are involved in God's Precious Preemies and Comfort Blankets, two church ministries that comfort those who are sick. Shaffer also helps to plan funerals at the church.

“This was fun and a change of pace,” she said.

The idea for the yarn bombing came from Bruce Mazzoni, chairman of the township's board of supervisors and treasurer of the Cranberry Township Community Chest, which hosts the annual July event.

There needed to be lots of research because the idea of “dressing” trees was very new to everyone, but the women learned as they went.

“It took us about eight or nine months,” Shaffer of Cranberry said.

“Now, maybe it would take a month or less since we know what we're doing.”

A few days before the summer festival began, the women were in the park to stitch the pieces onto the pre-selected trees.

Some used zip ties to secure their work. It took longer than Shaffer expected.

Many of the women climbed ladders to sew their panels into place. Nancy Somers' patriotic piece needed the expertise of a bucket truck operator.

The high-humidity slowed them a little, as did the rain showers, but after two days' work, the landscape was bright with colors.

“The fence was endless,” Shaffer said.

Each flower and creature needed to be secured individually, taking the women from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

She was pleased with the comments of passersby as they worked. Even a 10-year-old boy stopped by with his sitter to take pictures of the “plantings” to send to his mother and sister.

She and her group hope to participate next year, enhancing more trees. This year's pieces will be laundered and stored for the 2014 festivities.

Once Cranberry residents walk in a kind of magical forest, they just might want to design crafty colors of their own.

“I wish we had more. Next year, we will.”

Mazzoni, who has been at the park, said the trees are “awesome.”

“I had little to do with it other than the idea,” he said. “It was a great group of people who made this happen. Will we do it again? This is just the beginning!”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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