Thursday, June 23, 2011

Yarn bombing: when domesticity and rebellion collide

Image taken from The New York Times

Who knew knitting could be so gangsta?  On June 11, crafters across the country and beyond "yarn bombed" objects in their neighborhoods, cities, streets and buildings. 

When my grandmother handed me a collection of her favorite knitting patterns, bound in a handmade book entitled "How to Knit," there were instructions for blankets, shawls, and socks but not bike rack cozies.  This movement has me thinking that I need to expand my knitting horizons.  Inspired by grandmothers and graffiti artists alike, yarn bombing combines knitting and crocheting skills with the urban practice of tagging.  Bombers weave spools of brightly colored yarn around anything in sight - a sign post, a bike rack, a bridge, a tree, even New York's Charging Bull

The art form is said to have originated around 2005 in Austin, TX when shop owner Magda Sayeg got bored one day and knitted a cozy around her door handle.  Magda now completes yarn bombing installations all over the world, as documented on her website, Knitta Please

The yarn bombing movement has lots of followers, and some have emerged as stars in their own right.  Brooklyn-based artist Agata Olek (known simply as 'Olek') is gaining notoriety for covering urban spaces with her wild-hued, camouflage patterns.  That's her work on the bull above.  Olek takes her craft further than most - even hiring a performer to ride the L train in a full-body knitted suit.  Knitting is personal for her, as she told one reporter that, "Life and art are inseparable."  That's as fine a manifesto as any to describe the motivation behind yarn bombing.  Here's a few images from her website. 

Personal sidenote:  Olek lives in South Slope, my old hood, so it was really cool to see old haunts re-fashioned by her.

Yarn bombs don't neccessarily have to be large-scale pieces.  Some of the most charming projects I've seen are tiny; one article shows a Parisian sidewalk crack that was given a pretty little red crochet cover.  Plenty of hobbyists do it on the regular at home, conjuring up a cheerful surprise for their fellow subway-riders, pedestrians and neighbors. 

I think I'll let Grandma in on the newest of knitting trends.  Who knows - maybe she'll want to start tagging the farm machinery. 


  1. I'm inspired! Time to get out my knitting sticks!

  2. Let's do it, B! Knitting weather is upon us.