The Urban Dictionary describes yarn bombing as “A type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth, rather than paint or chalk. While yarn installations–called yarn bombs or knit bombs–may last for years, they are considered non-permanent, and, unlike graffiti, can be easily removed if necessary. The practice is believed to have originated in the U.S. with Texas knitters trying to find a creative way to use their leftover and unfinished knitting projects, but it has since spread worldwide. While other forms of graffiti may be expressive, decorative, territorial, socio-political commentary, advertising or vandalism, yarn bombing is almost exclusively about reclaiming and personalizing sterile or cold public places.”
Kaiti: “What do you do with all the leftover yarn scraps from your knitting projects?”
Jinx: “I go yarn bombing at night.”
On St Simons Island off the Georgia coast, we were once treated to this popular phenomenon in Postell Park, located in Pier Village. Headed up by local artist, Donna MacPherson, this one-of-a-kind exhibit was quite a success! Assisted by many friends as well as members of Glynn Visual Art Assoc., Donna, et all, installed a colorful and quirky display of yarn objects, including a snarky snake slithering over the bike rack in front of the library. Dreamcatchers. Pom poms hanging from moss draped tree branches. Crocheted and knitted art covers benches. Colorful discs hang from light poles. It was pretty amazing!!
Yarn bombing is everywhere and anywhere. It has become an international phenomenon spreading colorful and quirky cheer. Fiber artists, who usually prefer to work anonymously, target public places — trees, streetlight poles, park benches, bike racks and statues. The fun is often magnified by the guerrilla nature adopted by most. Overnight and unseen, artists transform urban ugly to can’t-help-but-smile patterns and textures. All of a sudden a bare tree is adorned with pom-poms. Plain, ordinary light poles are wrapped in cozy knitted sleeves, transforming them into must see intricate art. Unsightly pavement cracks are filled in with crocheted medallions and flowers. Bike racks become patchwork marvels of chain stitch and yarn doilies.
At Taranga Winery in South Australia fiber artists yarn bombed an old and gnarled grape vine, which was subsequently photographed and used as the cover art on a wine label. The Wine is a 2012 South Australian Shiraz. In Jacksonville, Florida the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens received an extra special dose of yarn love with the appearance of the African Elephant yarn bomb for their Zoo Lights event. Over 500 square foot squares of knitted and crocheted yarn was stitched together to present a beautiful patchwork covering for a life-size elephant statue. A project that took 4 months to create and 3 days to install. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a local 20-something artist who goes by the name, Knitteapolis, has a yarn-bombing installation at the Roseville skating center which will be on display through the winter holidays. In New York City a completely covered bike was spotted in SoHo and the Wall Street Charging Bull was decorated. Buffalo, Portland, Tanzania, Sweden and Copenhagen. It truly is everywhere.
When yarn bombs appear suddenly, it’s anyone’s guess who might have crafted it and where they came from. When did they do it? Were they made by old ladies in rocking chairs covered by afghans? Were they left there by art students joy riding through town leaving their youthful energy behind as if sprinkling fairy dust? Here! Then there! As if by magic, the human hand at play leaves its mark. Not forever. But just for now. So enjoy. Be in the moment. Look around you. Up high and down low. You don’t know where color and fun will be found until you look for it. See it. Spread the word. Spread the color. Be the cheer.
Now that the weather is clearing, perhaps this is a good time to organize your own show of creativity where you live. It’s fun, it’s inexpensive (you can put all those bits and scraps to use!) and it brings an unexpected smile to so many. Write and tell me (include a snapshot or two) about your yarn bombing adventure. Great or small, I’d love to hear from you.
All images by Nancy Kirkpatrick Photography