Yarn Bombing: Take up your needles & KNIT!

I’ve had an avid interest in Street Art since Banksy’s first book Wall and Piece was published back in 2005.  Banksy’s prolific work and widespread publicity undoubtedly led to a greater appreciation of graffiti, and ultimately to its acceptance as a true form of Art which opened the way for other Artists.

From graffiti and stencil Artists my fascination broadened to include pavement Artists creating amazing 3D illusions (such as Kurt Wenner & Edgar Müller) and the hidden Street Art of Creatives like London-based Slinkachu, whose miniature street installations focus on the mini dramas of modified train set figures which he abandons and leaves to fend for themselves in vulnerable situations.  I completely LOVE his work.

Many of these disciplines have now moved from the street into art galleries and auction houses and the pages of books and have become familiar, accepted and respected.  Yet it wasn’t until relatively recently I became aware of “Yarn Bombing” (or YarnStorming as it’s often referred to in the UK) – the act of making and installing knitted and crocheted pieces in public places.The Telephone Box Cosy in Parliament Square above was Yarn Stormed by the brilliant sneaky stitching team behind Knit The City in London.  Take a bow ladies!  Why did they do it?…because they can…that’s why!  Thanks for making London a more colourful place & making us smile!  Founded in 2009 by Deadly Knitshade, we follow their antics on Twitter.  Oh if anyone knows who knitted the bobble hat for the bus stop please let us know and we’ll be happy to credit or link to them!  Email us at designteam@scarletopus.com

Also known as “Knit & Crochet graffiti”, this guerilla practice started in Texas back in 2005 (with a little red jumper on a tree), but has gradually spread to become an international movement with wonderfully woolly installations creeping their way around parking meters, benches and statues across the world.

I really started to take note of this emerging Street Art when the Charging Bull on Wall Street, NYC was given a nice jumper for Christmas 2010 by the Artist Olek:

The precision of the pieces she has created is amazing…wait until you see her putting the knitted pieces onto the bulls horns.  Perfect fits!  Olek gave this piece of Street Art to the people of New York as a gift, wishing everyone well for the year ahead….nice lady!

Then last month Olek put her fancy graffiti knitting techniques to good use again, this time creating a colourful piece of knitting for a black London taxi:

But my favoured source for keeping up-to-date on these joyful projects is Mandy Moore & Leanne Prain’s blog www.yarnbombing.com which provides comprehensive and passionate coverage of the work of Guerilla Knitters around the globe.

Allow me to introduce you to the lovely lasses:

As well as being a blogger, Leanne Prain is the co-author (with Mandy) of the bestselling book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet & Knit Graffiti”, and the author of “Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery” published this year.  She co-founded a stitch & bitch group called ‘Knitting & Beer’ in order to expand her skills while knitting at the pub.  The Genius!  She is a professional Graphic Designer and holds degrees in creative writing, art history, and publishing. She lives and knits in Vancouver.



Mandy Moore is the technical Editrix of popular online knitting magazine Knitty.com, and of various other knitting & crochet books and publications.  She blogs with Leanne at www.yarnbombing.com, co-authored the Yarn Bombing book, and also lives in Vancouver.

LOVING this shot of Mandy by Jeff Christenson.

Above: A selection of pages from Leanne & Mandy’s Yarn Bombing book

Unusually Yarn Bombing is a predominantly female-dominated Street Art, bringing a refreshing injection of colour, softness and femininity to the hard, grey, masculine aesthetic of our cities.  Mandy agrees that “the juxtaposition of soft, impermanent, handmade objects with the hard, impersonal urban landscape is striking, and inspires people in such a variety of ways!  Some crafters seem affronted by the idea of using your time and skill to make something, and then abandoning it to an uncertain fate; we feel that it offers unique opportunities for artistic expression!”

Mandy & Leanne have been fans of Yarn Bombing since they first heard about it, but it wasn’t until they began writing their book in 2009 that they started actively Yarn Bombing themselves – “We don’t do a lot of it, but it is so fun and rewarding when we do!”

Mandy & Leanne join other graffiti knitters to work on a special piece on International Yarn Bombing Day  – June 11th

Mandy explained to me there is no coherent Yarn Bombing manifesto or agenda.  Different groups and individual knitters do it for different reasons; to elevate the perception of needlecrafts, as an exciting secret hobby and Mandy believes “many bombers simply do it to delight themselves and others!”

I started talking to our Trend seminar audiences about Yarn Bombing this year and it never fails to make people smile!  Earlier this month a number of members of the UK Press waited to speak to me after one of our talks to say they loved the whole concept of Yarn Bombing and some of them wanted to take up their needles and start graffiti knitting themselves…Yey!

One of the great things about Yarn Bombing is you don’t have to be a highly skilled knitter to get involved…if you can knit a square then you can become a Graffiti Knitter this very week!

Although I’ve seen examples of extraordinarily complex, intricate and accurately executed pieces, there are also many fabulously simple projects which involve little more than a considerately placed tube of knitting or string of knitted flowers.  It seems to me that some of the most effective works are successful because of the knitters determination to realise a clever concept, their quirky attitude and generosity of spirit to make our cities & towns more colourful and interesting places to live.  They are quite simply random acts of knitting!

Yarn Bombed Cherry Tree

So why not take up your knitting & crochet needles and brighten up the town or city you live in.  Even if you can’t knit, there is plenty of time to learn and plan a cheeky cheerful project before next year’s International Yarn Bombing Day on June 11th.

    • To learn more about Yarn Bombing and follow updates on global projects visit www.yarnbombing.com
    • Mandy Moore & Leanne Prain’s fab bestselling book “Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti” (the definitive guidebook to covert textile Street Art, packed full of beautiful photographs, interviews and easy step-by-step instructions for knit & crochet installations) is available from www.arsenalpulp.com

    I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s posting as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together.
    • Be sure to check back next Monday for The Graduate: Part IV with Anthony when he’ll be looking at our Autumn/Winter 2011/12 trend, Defend & Destroy.

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2 thoughts on “Yarn Bombing: Take up your needles & KNIT!

  1. Ooo Paula you’re ahead of the curve! We were quoting from books on the subject and also the wikipedia info on Yarn Bombing … so maybe you could go in and do a bit of an Edit to update the knitting community and bloggers: http://bit.ly/1y8Xgl3
    Thanks for alerting us to your 80’s Blanket Coverage – LOVING that term!

  2. “Also known as “Knit &Crochet graffiti”, this guerrilla practice started in Texas back in 2005″…. Actually, I’m inclined to disagree with that statement! I was ‘yarn-bombing’ objects in public places in Lancashire/Merseyside as far back as 1984 (and still have the photos to prove it!) The work formed the basis of my BA(Hons) show …. I didn’t refer to it as ‘yarn bombing’ though: simply “blanket coverage”.

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