Yarn bombers celebrate coronation

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Heather Howarth tugged at King Charles III’s ears and tittered with satisfaction.

The other ladies who gather to knit and natter in her small English village thought they should be bigger. But when creating a crocheted likeness of the new king, she was determined not to cause offence.

“He might not like this one,” she said reaching out to give the king a fond pat. “But he’ll love his Grenadier Guards!”

Howarth and her friends in the village of Hurst, a stone’s throw from Reading, west of London, have fashioned a woolly coronation procession to rival the pomp and circumstance that will take place when Charles is crowned on May 6 at Westminster Abbey. Sheathing the 29 posts that circle the community pond with their knitted and crocheted creations, the women have recreated the cast of characters set to attend the big event.

There’s the king, of course, the queen consort and the Archbishop of Canterbury. And lots of Grenadier Guards.

The Hurst Hookers are part of phenomenon that has taken hold across Britain in recent years, with guerrilla knitters and crochet enthusiasts celebrating holidays and royal occasions by decorating the nation’s red pillar post boxes and other public spaces with their handiwork. There’s no money in it, and the creations are sometimes stolen. But they do it anyway because they have fun brightening their communities, even if no one asked them to.

“Yarn bombers” around the country have been hard at work for months creating everything from golden coaches to crenelated castles and jewel-encrusted crowns that will add fuzzy bits of colour to the coronation festivities.

But how to explain the Hurst Hookers?

This is a group that got started during the coronavirus pandemic, meeting every couple of weeks at the local cricket club when Britain’s intermittent lockdowns would permit. It’s bring your own gin and tonic, but there’s tea for anyone who wants it. When the 18 women aren’t meeting up for crocheting and community, they keep in touch via WhatsApp.

They began planning and creating their coronation scene in early September, soon after the queen died and Charles became king. By April, it was finally time to install it.

The “guerrilla” action began just after 5:30 p.m. on a recent Friday as the setting sun bathed the newly cleaned pond in a peaceful light.

Clad in jackets and sweaters on a chilly spring night, the women arrived with their creations tucked inside huge shopping bags emblazoned with supermarket logos, then swooped down on the posts surrounding the pond.

There was little stealth, but much determination.

First they pulled out the crocheted likenesses of Charles, wearing a crown and a cape fashioned from an old Christmas stocking, and Camilla, with a flash of unruly blonde hair. Then came the archbishop, whose spectacles rest on a bulbous woollen nose. And finally, the red-coated guardsmen.

Quick as you like, the figures were pulled down over the posts and firmly stapled in place, with the precisely embroidered medals, moustaches, sergeant stripes and other embellishments getting an extra staple or three.

Heather said they do it to show their support to King Charles III.

“We’re not the only ones. They all love him. They all love the royalty,” said Heather.

Video shot for AP by Kwiyeon Ha