This fall, the trees around Bloomington’s downtown Square will be more than colorful—they will be “yarn bombed.” Mary Ann Gingles, owner of Yarns Unlimited, describes yarn bombing as an international phenomenon that occurs when anything, from a light pole to a World War II military tank, is covered in colorful knitting.

Gingles and Toby Strout, executive director of Middle Way House, a residence and service center for victims of domestic abuse, are using yarn bombing as a fundraiser called Knitting to Heal.

“We could wrap benches on the street, but I like the idea that a tree is alive and we are wrapping it with something we hand-made,” says Gingles.

In Knitting to Heal, several local businesses will each sponsor one of the trees around the downtown Square. The tree trunks will be wrapped in squares made of knitted or crocheted fabric sewn together as “sweaters.” Volunteers, including women who use Middle Way House services, have supplied all of the uniquely patterned squares.

“The representation of wrapping trees is like wrapping your arms around the victims,” says Gingles, and the beauty of the knitting “will counteract the ugliness” that the victims have encountered in their lives.

Last spring, with the help of numerous volunteers, Gingles tested the idea on one tree outside her shop on Walnut, just south of the Square. From her window, she enjoyed watching people admire the tree and even pose for pictures in front of it.

Gingles assures that the trees will not be harmed, because volunteers and sponsors are not allowed to use nails, staples, or anything else that might damage them. She also says the yarn will be removed before the spring heat sets in.

The sweaters will be installed during Gallery Walk on Friday, October 5, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Everyone is invited to vote on his or her favorite tree-sweater design. Go to the website for more information on the fundraiser and instructions on how to vote.

The sweaters “will be up during the Canopy of Lights,” says Gingles. “Which I think will be beautiful!”