What a yarn: Sisters capture Winter Olympics in San Mateo store window display

If the Olympics awarded medals for themed knitted window displays, Nine Rubies Knitting yarn shop in San Mateo would be competing for the gold.

Dangling in the front window of the shop at 28 E. Third Ave. are figure skating squids wearing gold medals, an ice rink, matryoshka-doll-style judges and snowflakes. Each item was knit or crocheted by Peninsula sisters Lorna and Jill Watt, who were commissioned by the shop’s owner to design and create a winter-themed display.

The sisters decided to feature the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, because “we don’t really get a winter in California,” Lorna Watt said.

After they picked ice dancing as the sport to feature, Lorna Watt said she and her sister kept adding details to bring the window to life.

Nearly all the items were knit or crocheted by hand, according to Lorna Watt, and the sisters used a hand-operated machine to knit the ice rink.

The entire display consists of more than 3 miles of yarn, much of which, including the pink figure skating squid, was reused from a previous project.

Despite the recycling of yarns, it still took the sisters, who own knitting and crocheting design companies on the Peninsula, approximately 50 hours to make the displayed items.

Catching a glimpse of passers-by enjoying the display makes the hard work pay off, Lorna Watt said.

“My favorite time was when the window was covered in kids’ handprints,” she said. “Kids just make a beeline for it. People stop and take pictures. It brings people into the shop.”

The window display isn’t the first time the Watts have used yarn to capture the attention of Peninsula residents. They have been yarn-bombing around San Mateo for more than a year, bringing an international sensation to the Peninsula.

At first, the sisters transformed a broken payphone into a knitted iPhone. Then, knitted feet appeared over the bottoms of mailboxes. And in September, the sisters took on what may be their biggest project to date — an enormous teal squid that covered an entire tree and consisted of more than 4 miles of yarn.

That’s why they have to reuse their materials, Lorna Watt said.

The display will remain in the Nine Rubies store window until about a week after the Olympics end Feb. 23.

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