It Gets Better: A Yarn Bomber's Tale of Hope - OC87 Recovery Diaries

It Gets Better: A Yarn Bomber’s Tale of Hope


For Nicole Nikolich, who has wrestled with anxiety and depression throughout her life, crocheting has been an essential part of positive mental health and wellness.

At a particularly low period in her life, Nicole found herself at a loss for how to quiet the racing thoughts in her mind. She remembers clearly the day she stumbled upon a television news report about yarn bombing, and everything kind of clicked. Her path was revealed. She picked up a crochet needle, taught herself how to crochet (credit due to YouTube University), and hasn’t looked back.

What became a necessary tactic for survival has transformed into a career in full bloom and living color. In addition to creating striking works that fill our streets with beauty, life, humor and thoughtful messages about hope, mental health and change, Nicole teaches, takes on commissions, and dreams of other wonderful uses for crochet that are far, far away from your grandmother’s afghans or your sister’s ponchos!

And while we benefit as viewers of her work, she benefits from the very process of creating.

“My mind is constantly racing with thoughts, not always negative, but just thoughts constantly. I’ve tried meditating before and I really enjoy that, but I find it hard harder to get in the zone with meditating for long periods of time.

“With crochet, it is a lot of counting, repetition, numbers. You have to actually focus, and you’re moving your hands. While my mind still does wander, if I find it wandering, I can literally come back to counting, and so I’ll just count ‘one, two, three,’ and this cycle kind of continues over and over again, and you can be just like counting, counting. While it sounds maybe a little bit boring, for someone like me when my mind is never stopping, it is like a little bit like a moment of clarity.”

Her passion for crochet has evolved into a force for artistic and political expression. Nicole is a self-confessed “craftivist” who uses her art form to promote issues about equality, LGBTQ issues and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.  She is a proud member of the vibrant Philadelphia street art community, and has found support by her craftivist colleagues. “In Philadelphia, the streets are like an outdoor museum if you really stop and take the time and look around,” she says.

Nicole finds joy in her work, crocheting her creations privately at home and then enjoying time with the public on installation day. She also has a great laugh and a terrific sense of humor. And she can crochet anywhere!

“Crocheting has absolutely been successful in just calming me down, bringing me back to the present moment. It’s my work practice, it’s my spiritual practice, it’s my medication. It’s like all of these things in one that you wouldn’t think when you just see some yarn, which is really cool.”

We’re so happy to share this colorful film with you. We hope you are inspired by It Gets Better: A Yarn Bomber’s Tale of Hope and that you can “be in the moment” with Nicole as she creates and beautifies our world.

Photo Courtesy of Nicole Nikolich, Eric Dale, and Conrad Benner/


EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

See Related Recovery Stories: Anxiety, Depression, Mental Health Short Films

Glenn is an award-winning director who loves to create compelling documentary story experiences of all lengths for screens of all sizes. He is an avid reader, studied literature in college, and his passion for stories with strong characters and interesting narratives stems from those years. His career as a visual storyteller began at WHYY (the public television station in Philadelphia) where he worked for 15 years before becoming an independent filmmaker. In addition to his PBS documentaries about arts and culture, he has directed films about justice and human rights, and now, mental health. He was emboldened to undertake his current documentary project, Hollywood Beauty Salon, a colorful feature-length documentary about surviving mental illness and finding the courage for recovery, after his transformative experience directing OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, along with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston.