Ten reasons why the scarfbombing movement is fantastic

Photo in Bellevue, Washington from Scarf Bombardiers

In the heart of winter, a striking visual unfolds in public spaces: rows upon rows of handmade scarves, each bearing a message of warmth and care. This act, known as “scarf bombing,” transforms ordinary landscapes into vibrant tapestries of generosity.

Thank you to Marco for sharing The Washington Post article about this series.

Here’s my take on the nuances and impacts of this heartwarming project.

1. The row of scarves makes quite an impact

A single scarf might be overlooked as forgotten, but 14 scarves lined up together make this so much more intentional.

2. The lineup makes it look like someone can shop for a scarf

These scarves are not for sale. They are free for people who can’t afford them. This offers a scarf to someone who can’t buy one, and allows the recipient to feel like they are shopping.

3. The tiny cards attached to the scarves clarify intent

The tiny cards make it clear that someone can take the scarf. Often, someone puts something outside so someone else can take it. But people don’t know the intent when they see the item sitting out there. Is this meant to be taken? Did someone lose it? With 14 scarves on display, is this some of art display?

Adding a note goes a long way to explain that any of these scarves are meant to be taken. I learned that with my Alley Giveaway series.

4. The range of designs gives diginity

The variety of patterns and colors adds visual appeal and emphasizes the individuality of choice. Just because we give something to someone… they may not like it. Here, the recipient gets the dignity of being able to select their preference.

Some footnotes/alarms go off in my head as I write this. 1. We shouldn’t glorify shopping. How American of me to think that shopping makes you feel good. 2. Having a preference for something gives you dignity. Ugh. I know I need to be content with what I have, and not be so picky about things. Anyhow, more points about how this project is great...

5. Power of imagery. Art that can stand on its own.

The photo itself tells the story quickly. I almost started to comment on Marco’s Facebook post before clicking through to read the article. You get such an impact seeing the scarves lined up with the headline.

It’s like being in an art gallery or museum. The artwork should be able to stand on its own. And if you like, you can read the wall caption for the title.

When viewing art, you create your own interpretations based on the art itself. It’s been drilled into my head that an artwork needs to be able to speak on its own. And that’s what this image and headline does.

6. Using a hashtag instead of an artist name

Notice that these artworks have a hashtag #scarfbomjax. NOT the name of the artist. This project is meant for lots of people to participate in. The more people that participate, the more impact this art has.

The hashtag welcomes participation. It says “you can join in this project”. If it was an artist’s name, it’s all about the artist. And people would say, “Oh, that’s this artist’s job to supply more scarves.” With an artist’s name, it somewhat implies that this is done for the glory of the artist. “Oh, look how generous and thoughtful this artist is.” But nope, this artwork has no name. It’s just a hashtag.

Now, if we can only get Instagram to show the most recent artworks with a hashtag. If you can believe it, Instagram doesn’t show the most recent artworks with a hashtag. It only shows the most popular artworks. Ugh. Instagram will show ONLY the ten most popular items with a hashtag. You can’t even view more than that. You have to hack the URL to get it to show more than ten. I can’t stand how Instagram handles its display.

I need to take note of the hashtag thing. When I leave artwork in public spaces, I never include my name or alias. Maybe I should use a hashtag. I’ve always wanted the projects I do not to be MY projects, but be projects that ANYONE can do. Maybe including a hashtag will help with that.

7. It’s a unique hashtag

They could have used the hashtag #scarfbomb, but instead, they used #scarfbombjax. At first, I thought “Jax” was just a cool name to make it more unique. But looking up the Facebook group mentioned in the article, I see it’s for Jacksonville, Florida. That’s cool, too. The hashtag is unique to a particular area. So would there be a #scarfbombchi, #scarfbombNYC, and #scarfbombla?

This is great how they get around how Instagram doesn’t let you search with keywords and a location. Years ago, you were able to search for a particular area. But now Instagram has made their platform less usable by disabling lots of features that are helpful to letting the user have some control with their search. But now Instagram is all about forcing its algorithm on people. In other words, Instagram wants to control what you see. They don’t want you to have any control over what you want to see.

Photo by Joe In Hamilton, Ontario, Canada via Creative Commons

8. It fits a need

While it’s great that artists can express themselves, oftentimes, art does only that. It’s the artist expressing their angst. Sure, there’s room for that. But man, how incredible it is when artwork fills a need. The very visceral need of people in the cold without clothing to keep them warm.

“I try to put them where there’s foot traffic,” said Volpe, adding that the scarves are usually taken in less than 24 hours.

Washington Post
Photo by Wayne in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada via Creative Commons

9. People can contribute supplies

The initiative warmly opens its doors to contributions of all kinds, from yarn donations to the hands that weave the scarves. This inclusivity broadens the scope of participation, welcoming all who wish to contribute to the fabric of community support.

She started a Facebook group called Scarf Bombardiers, which has more than 1,700 members. People often donate yarn, and about 20 regular volunteers crochet scarves for strangers year-round.

To make all these scarfs, people can contribute yarn. If you aren’t a crocheter, you can still participate. Great to get more people involved.

Washington Post

10. Direct one-to-one giving

While the anonymity of scarf bombing has its charm, there’s also room for direct acts of kindness—offering a scarf personally. Such moments forge connections, reminding both giver and receiver of the shared humanity that binds us.

Volpe — who always keeps a bag of scarves in her car in case she spots someone in need — has enjoyed watching her project evolve over the years. In addition to providing some warmth, Volpe said, the handmade scarves serve as a needed reminder to people that “somebody cares about them.”

Washington Post

Scarf bombing is more than an artistic gesture; it’s a testament to the power of community and the profound impact of collective action. As it weaves through the fabric of cities, it leaves behind not just physical warmth, but a reminder of the caring threads that connect us all. May this reflection inspire more acts of kindness, spreading warmth one scarf at a time.

Photo by Eric Dahlstrom via Creative Commons

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