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January 25, 2009

Cities Under Seige: Attack of the Yarnbombers!

Yarbomb_bus
Cozy bus by Magda Sayeg of Knitta Please, Mexico City


They're like Banksy or Poster Boy, and in some ways more akin to a small-scale Christo and Jeanne-Claude. But instead of spray paint and stencils, razors and miles of synthetic fabrics, the so-called 'Yarnbombers' use, well, yarn to add beauty to their environment while making a statement. "Yarnbombing is all about using the street for making art", says Sarah Hardacre, an artist from Manchester, in a story in the Telegraph.

There are yarnbombing groups all over the world, using their knitting and crochet skills to tag their targets. One is Denver's Ladies Fancywork Society, who prefer the term 'fancywork' to yarnbombing, and use 'putting skirts on the world' to describe their crochet guerilla activities. The Ladies use code names like Vivian, Jeanne Lois, and Lady Magdalena Pompelthwaite, and meet regularly for crochet and cupcakes. Here's one of Vivian's bicycle rack fancyworks:

LadiesfancyworkSociety_bike 

And there's the Yarnbombing blog that features projects from all over the world, and even gives standard measurements for street furniture such as telephone poles, park benches, dumpsters and pay phones found in Vancouver, where the blog is based, so bombers can get stitching without having to first venture out with a measuring tape. The two knitters behind the blog, Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain, have a book coming out in the fall called Yarn Bombing: The Art of Knit Graffiti. I sense this is just the beginning.

Now, this may be 'radical knitting' as it is played out, but the patterns and loud colours suggest a very 'granny' type of knitting and crochet, from what I've seen - kind of reminiscent of the 'cosy'. (I once saw a toilet bowl cleaner cosy in someone's bathroom. That's right, a bottle of bowl cleaner with a custom-made cosy over it, and my friend Tammy can back that up.) So if this is what the traditionalists are doing, I wonder what fashion's knitwear designers could conjure, those whose knits are radical by design?

But wait - is it not the granny style that makes it so compelling? It's funny, unexpected, vibrant, and what is typically perceived as benign and old-fashioned becomes a force to be reckoned with. Try ignoring a full knit-clad bus in clashing, bright colours.

I think this is just fantastic. I have yet to see a tag but I certainly hope to. Have you?

If you're a yarnbomber and want to share your work, give us an email. And if you're a knitter and want to find a network in your area, a quick google search should turn one up. Or start your own!

Fellow feltmakers, are the wheels turning? Oh, the possibilities...

Banksy_cozy
kpdalston's add-on to a Banksy, from Yarnbombing

Yarnbomb_streetsign2 
Knitted street sign in Vancouver by Lauren Marsden

Yarnbomb_redtree
A tree wrapped in red yarn in Bejing's art district, Factory 798
By Aaron Robertson via Yarnbombing

Yarnbomb_redtree_detail
Bejing tree detail, as above

Yarnbomb_tree
The Sweater Tree, Brooklyn. Unknown, via Yarnbombing

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Comments

OMG!!! the toilet bowl cleaner cosy! of course I remember. That had to be one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen. I'm having trouble remembering where we came across that? Both my grandmothers (and I think my mom may have had one at one time too) had toilet paper roll cosy's (because a fresh roll of unused toilet paper is so unsightly, it should be covered in yarn) but a bowl cleaner cosy takes it to a whole new level.

They were really committing themselves to that particular bowl cleaner, weren't they? Imagine it was discontinued and that gorgeous cozy not fitting its replacement and depriving all future bathroom users of its beauty!

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