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ISU art professor's Intertwine project gains momentum, spawns spin-off efforts

February 04, 2016


Some of the knit and crocheted squares already submitted to the project.

AMES, Iowa — They're a kaleidoscope of patterns and colors. Nearly 300 12-inch-square knit and crocheted panels have been submitted to the Intertwine project from across Iowa as well as California, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

Participants thus far range in age from 8 to 88. "We have school groups, library groups and senior center groups in Ames and communities around the state," said Jennifer Drinkwater, Iowa State University assistant professor of art and visual culture and community art extension specialist.

"My whole extended family got together in Mississippi over Thanksgiving and people taught each other how to knit so they could contribute to the project. Two Iowa State students attended a knitting class we hosted before the holidays and are knitting squares as part of their volunteer service through their sorority. A fiber professor at the University of Louisville is having her class create squares as a service-learning opportunity this semester," she said.

Drinkwater launched "Intertwine" last August to bring together residents of Ames and Iowa to "yarn bomb" the façade of Design on Main, the ISU College of Design's satellite facility at 203-207 Main St. in downtown Ames. The knit and crocheted panels will be sewn into a "giant quilt" to cover the front of the 130-year-old, two-story building. Initially Drinkwater estimated 2,200 total squares would be needed, but she now says 1,000 will be sufficient.

"I was guessing at the beginning," she said with a laugh. "Since then I've had help taking measurements and creating a plan to install the 'quilt' on the building."

Knitting workshop at Design on Main.

Block parties and knitting clinics
To maintain interest in the project and keep the submissions coming in, Drinkwater hosts "block parties" every other Saturday at different locations around Ames in addition to Thursday fiber circles in opposite weeks at Design on Main. Information about these events is posted on the Intertwine Facebook page.

ISU Extension and Outreach offices have organized classes and events to involve youth and adults throughout the state in Intertwine.

Becky Rea, K-12 program coordinator for Allamakee County Extension, has partnered with the Allamakee Community School District's Community Connections 21st Century Learning Center to engage third- through eighth-graders in the project. Beginning Feb. 1, the group is meeting after school on Mondays during the learning center's Kids Club and 10th hour at East Elementary School in Waukon.

"We have volunteers from the community willing to come and teach us all the fundamentals of crocheting," Rea said. "I am hoping to include a service project after we complete our squares for Intertwine, such as crocheting and donating a blanket to the local hospital."

Youth learning to knit at the Warren County Extension knitting clinic.

ISU Extension and Outreach Warren County Executive Director Cortney Garrington has organized "Intertwine Days" at the county office, 909 E. Second Ave., Suite E, in Indianola. The next event will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 6, with snacks provided.

"This is a great time to get together and enjoy each other's company while knitting for a good cause," Garrington said. "We provide a knitting pattern and the Intertwine project has graciously lent us knitting needles, crochet hooks and yarn. We've received other donations locally."

The Warren County office also hosted a knitting clinic on Feb. 1 for youth from third through seventh grade.

Northcrest Community residents Helen Cady and Ruth Ornberg "put a sweater" on a column in the dining room.

A warm-up project
Residents of Northcrest Community in Ames completed a yarn-bombing project of their own to "warm up" for the Intertwine effort.

"We decided to 'put a sweater' on each of the four columns in our dining room," said Northcrest Community Independent Living Social Coordinator Ronnie Lindeman. She bought yarn in colors to match the carpeting and window treatments, and a dozen women went to work knitting 128 12-inch squares in a variety of stitches and patterns—32 squares per column.

"My goal as social coordinator is getting people active and having fun," Lindeman said. "There's been such camaraderie while working on this project. We'll leave the 'sweaters' up through the winter, then take one seam out of each and turn them into four lap blankets for residents of the healthcare center."

Northcrest Community social knitting group members: front row, from left, Mary Gee, Bernadine Mann, Ruth Ornberg; back row, from left, Peg Pearce, Audrey Bond, Jean Olson, Helen Cady, Marilyn Green, Miriam Patterson, Roberta Abraham, Anita Fincham.

The women have now formed a social knitting group to work on the Intertwine project. Starting Feb. 5, they'll meet in the dining room every other Friday at 1:30 p.m.

Building community
"What I like most about the whole project is people learning from each other. No one has to be an expert; we get together and see what other people are doing, experiment and try things out," Drinkwater said. "We're building community through this process."

Completed panels should be dropped off at Design on Main or mailed to arrive by April 1. (Some groups have set earlier deadlines in order to submit all their squares at the same time.) Details and entry forms are available on the Intertwine blog. The squares will be stitched together into 4-foot-by-8-foot segments for installation the second week of May. The façade installation will be displayed May 13 through June 1 in conjunction with an exhibition by central Iowa fiber artists in the Design on Main Gallery.

The segments then will be removed, professionally cleaned and refashioned into blankets for homeless and women's shelters in Ames.

Drinkwater received a nearly $10,000 Iowa Arts Council Art Project Grant, a $4,000 Burning Man Arts Global Art Grant and $1,200 in seed funding from the ISU College of Design to support the Intertwine project. Volunteer hours and donated materials are key to the project's success, she said. Contact Drinkwater, (515) 708-2825,, with questions.

Jennifer Drinkwater, Art and Visual Culture, (515) 708-2825,
Becky Rea, Extension and Outreach Allamakee County, (563) 568-6345,
Cortney Garrington, Extension and Outreach Warren County, (515) 961-6237,
Ronnie Lindeman, Northcrest Community, (515) 232-6760,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,