Yarn Bombing - Why?
Graffiti's come a long way, baby. Yes, it was always about making one's unique stamp on a faceless, authoritarian world. But now it's got all eco-consicous, and street art has taken on a new form in... yarn bombing. Or guerilla knitting. Or just making the world really, really cosy.
Graffiti's come a long way, baby. Yes, it was always about making one's unique stamp on a faceless, authoritarian world. But except for the hurried slapdash tagging round sink estates, it's also increasingly raising its game on aesthetics, bringing not just individuality but beauty to dull surroundings.
Lately, graffiti has evolved even further. As the world flops and flails around uselessly like a whale hanged for a crime it didn't commit (ooh! cheery!), urban activist street art has hit a new boss level: ECO CONSCIOUSNESS. Taking back their streets one artwork at a time, urban activists have folded eco-activism into their mission, so no-one can accuse them of 'making it all worse under the pretext of making it all better, innit, guv'.
Street art activism with an eco slant includes all sorts of things nowadays. You've got wheatpasting, which is standard flyposting but using organic glues that degrade naturally. You've got light graffiti artists who graffiti straight onto the city itself with sweetly innocent and utterly council-friendly light, their ephemeral work immortalised by a mate with a camera. We've got guerilla gardening, the art of planting yummy, beautiful things in inappropriate places (planting a pumpkin seed in a MacDonalds car park? Absolutely. Do it now).
Now we've also got yarn bombing. Never, never I say has art activism combined with crafting in such a revolutionary/woolly way. It's like Che Guevera sporting a tea cosy hat (looking good, Che).
What is yarn bombing?
Also known as yarnstorming, graffiti knitting or guerrilla knitting (yes, still looking at you Che!) yarn bombing is a genre of graffiti where displays are created via crocheted or knitted work rather than spraypaint or, er, light. Apparently it all kicked off in 2005 when a nice lady called Magda got the idea of covering the door handle of her boutique with its very own custom cosy.
Nowadays, people have loads of different kinds of guerrilla knitting agendas, whether they work alone or as part of a group. But yarn bombing originally had one clear, pure, beautiful aim: to reclaim cold and sterile places and turn them into pretty art spaces that would remind even the hardest urban heart of what it's like to feel cosy.
Okay, I can knit! What areas most benefit from guerilla knitting?
Lots of people really like knitting tree-socks (socks for trees), which is a little odd because trees are perfectly pretty in themselves and don't need beautifying. There's no denying that trees look darn good in a sock, though - and their tubey shape lends itself perfectly to some extreme knitting.
Anything tubey can do with being cosied up - lamposts and drainpipes in your area would definitely benefit from a bit of yarn bombing. Banisters, car antennae... if you can see it, you can probably knit for it. We're in love with the fine folk who altruistically knitted new covers for nastly old utilitarian train seats. Well done them!
Bike rails look lovely all knitted up, and draw the eye of pedestrians and motorists to the gloriously eco-friendly possibilites of the bike. It's worth mentioning that horizontal tubes are a bit easier to knit for than vertical ones, because your artwork will stay on more easily. A bike rail is easier in many ways to knit for than a lampost.
Also, long urban tubes make perfect group projects. Knitting a scarf for a lampost is much easier when a team of you are each doing sections that can then be sewn together.
Do not make it a knitted cosy to hide the salient details on your car number plate then conduct an armed robbery, because that would make you a violent criminal and we can't abide that sort of behaviour no matter how knitty your handiwork.
Yarn Bombing tips
We strongly recommend you google around for handy 'how to yarn bomb' techniques or sit at Punk Gramma's knee and get her to give you the skinny. Essentially, though, if you're new to yarn bombing, start small. Pick a local project you can achieve. Wool gets soggy and loose, especially in the rain, so make your yarn bomb a little too small for the area you're covering and stretch it round. You'll hear lots of discussion on the net about how to attach the yarn bomb (sew it? cable tie it? glue it?) so do your research and see which method will work best for you. And always take a photo! Get more wonderful yarn bomb tips from someone who knows what they're talking about.
Yarnbombing links and resources
If you're handy with a pair of knitting needles, have a google for Yarn bombing days, books, communities, patterns and festivals. Let us raise our needles to a new and far, far woolier world...
This knitted tank is very famous. Enjoy its pinkness.
Oh dear Godess! It's... a tree cosy! But also A SNAKE! This tree in Od, Sweden is what seedling want to be when they grow up.
Train seats by Streetcolor
Photo: Suzanne Tidwell of 2fibrefriends
Small can be beautiful - this lovely yarn bomb is by E.D. from Alberta
Buy HOOPLA - The Art of Unexpected Embroidery. It's all about the yarn bombing...