|Example of Yarn Bombing at the Blanton Art Museum, Austin, TX|
I first encountered yarn bombing in the Montrose area of Houston, TX. It was the winter of 2006 and it was cold (for Texas anyway). Before getting into my car I looked up to find a light pole covered in what looked like a yarn jacket. "Look, even the light pole is cold," I remarked with a laugh, and that was that. I will admit that I never gave it another thought until a few weekends ago when I encountered another instance of this type of yarn graffiti in Austin outside the Alamo Drafthouse. From that point on my interest was sparked and I had to know more about this strange form of graffiti.
A simple Internet search for yarn bombing does not result in many informational hits. Wikipedia defines yarn bombing as "a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk." However, my curiosity was unsatisfied so I began to delve deeper. That is when I found Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, a book written by Mandy Moore (no, not that Mandy Moore) and Leanne Prain, that not only details the history and purpose of yarn bombing but also is filled with beautiful full-color photographs of the art itself.
To my surprise, I learned the yarn bombing movement actually began in Houston, Texas in 2005 with a guerilla art group that refers to themselves as "Knitta Please." The book describes the very first instance of yarn bombing as a “rectangular strip [knit] out of blue and pink acrylic yarn” which was sewn to a door handle. Yarn bombing pioneer Magda Sayeg (AKA PolyCotN) describes this piece as the “alpha piece.” She goes on to say:
I started so simply. I sat in my clothing shop and I looked through the glass. I was just tired of it, and I needed something bright. I knitted the door handle for the front of my store. I got such a strong reaction that I knew that I wanted to do more. People came inside and said, "What is this? What artist did this?" So I called my friend and said, “This sounds kind of weird, but follow me through—I’d like to tag the stop-sign pole down the street.”With the help of her friend, now known as A Krylik, the two began tagging objects all around town sometimes leaving a label on such items with the slogans "Knitta please" or "Whaddup knitta?" Since, this crafty form of street graffiti has spread to become not only a national but also an international sensation. The Knitta crew has even traveled to the Great Wall of China to tag one of its’ bricks!
There are many reasons a person may feel compelled to participate in yarn bombing. Some reasons cited in the book include: "It’s fun and portable, it allows you to use knitting and crochet work for a purpose other than garment creation ('taking back the knit'), [and] it inspires joy and surprise, both in yourself and others." Sayeg herself talks about a desire for her fifteen minutes of fame.
There were things in my life that I thought would be my fifteen minutes of fame…I have a clothing shop, and I design clothes. And I thought that that was going to be my thing. But this simple, silly idea of making something pretty in my own world has taken me international and given me more than anything else in my life has.Though yarn bombing began with a quest for those much sought after "fifteen minutes," it has grown into a widespread trend and community. It has united people internationally in a vision to make the world a more fun and colorful place to live in. And for once, art is not taking itself so seriously.