I live in Oak Park, Illinois. It’s a wonderful place to live if you’re of a certain mindset. Most people know Oak Park because it’s the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and the home of Ernest Hemingway. In recent years it’s become a community known for its diversity and acceptance. Bill and I always say that one of the things we love about Oak Park is that you can’t match up the kids with the parents at the public pool because there are so many mixed race and adoptive families and families with two mommies or daddies. There’s a lot of people with a lot of opinions in this village of 50,000, next to the City of Chicago. You’ve got to be open-minded to live here and that includes liking public art on the village trees.
In the neighborhood business district are trees with themed knit and crocheted sweaters. The sweaters are made and donated by residents and designed to reflect the nearby businesses. The sweaters stay up all year round. The Oak Park Women’s Exchange and the Art Council of Oak Park and Forest Park are the sponsors of the tree sweater project, which is formally known as Knit Knot Down the Block. Sponsors wisely sought and received approval from the village forester, which is important because there’s a vocal crowd who take the health of the trees seriously. What I particularly love about these tree sweaters are the details both in design and in the dedication of the crafter to knit numerous branch sweaters as well as the main one that goes around the trunk.
Stroll with me down Oak Park Avenue, won’t you, and I’ll give you a tour of my favorite tree sweaters.
The Oak Park Bakery is one of those charming family-owned bakeries that gives out free tea cookies to kids and there’s a long line for coffee cakes and doughnuts on Saturday morning. Their gooey cakes appear at many birthday and block parties. In a recent Chicago guidebook, we noticed that Oak Park had two mentions: the twentysome Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and the Oak Park Bakery. The bakery beat out Hemingway. Hmm…
Across the street is the Parent Teacher Store, which sells educational games and supplies for teachers and parents.
Just beyond the train station is Pan’s, an independent grocery store. You can always get a ripe avocado at Pan’s.
Across the street is a 24-hr. childcare center so they got a big doll on their sweater.
Keep traveling north and you’ll find Lalo’s, a popular Mexican restaurant that has really good margaritas and live music on the weekends.
A few doors down is Nola’s, which serves Cajun food and boasts a fabulous Mardi Gras harlequin on its tree sweater.
If you’re in the area and want to see the Knit Knot Down the Block project yourself, take the Blue Line L to Oak Park. The project is on both the north and south sides of the station.