Knitting has had somewhat of a revival in recent years. Gone are the connotations of ugly Christmas jumpers, lovingly constructed by your great aunt Edna, nowadays its designer hand knits which take the catwalks by storm and models knit and purl backstage whilst they wait to have their hair and makeup done. A few years ago, a group of knitters in Texas decided to take their unwanted bits of sock and jumper to the street and adorn public spaces with this friendly and disposable form of graffiti. 'Yarnbombing' or 'Yarnstorming' (as it is sometimes known) was born.
Madga Saueg, aka 'PolyCotN' and her partner in crime 'Akrylic' were the Houston-based culprits who started the phenonenum back in 2005. Madga began covering things like door knobs and sign posts around the otherwise grey and drab town, the surprises of colour and texture caught people's eye and a yarnbombing collective known as 'Knitta Please' was established. Since then, Knitta Please have been busy making jumpers for trees, psychedelic covers for buses and even covering a stone in the Great Wall of China.
Yarnbombing has now hit the UK, meaning you are now just as likely to stumble across a nice bit of crotchet hanging from a lamp post as you are a piece of graffiti by Banksy or Robbo. One of the most prolific UK yarnbombing collectives is 'Knit The City', they plot and scheme their next knit invasion from a bunker in London, they assume pseudonyms such as 'Deadly Knitshade' and 'Shorn-a The Dead' and target touristy areas such as the bollards outside the Tate Modern and a phonebox outside Parliament Square. Their work is more carefully planned and intricate than their American counterparts.
Check out a BBC News piece here with an interview with Deadly Knitshade when Knit The City yarnbombed Covent Garden
Elsewhere in New Jersey, a guerrilla knitting gang who have been dubbed 'The Midnight Knitters' are causing a stir by covering trees and lamp posts in wool under the cover of the night. The police are actively on the hunt for the rogue knitters as they insist that altering public property without permission is strictly against the law. The culprits are managing to stay incognito, even with a website, Facebook page and a MySpace account set up in which they call themselves 'Salty Knits' and state that they are Knitters that got sick of knitting kitten mittens. The locals are keen for the artist's identities to remain a mystery but with public attention mounting, it's growing increasingly difficult to yarnbomb inconspicuously.
Yarnbombing is all about reclaiming sterile public places with something homely, colourful and friendly. It can be as temporary or as permanent as the authorities will allow, making it much more socially acceptable than tagging or graffiti. It might not have much of a purpose but anything which makes a Londoner smile is a worthy cause in my book.