Mention the word 'graffiti' and images of random scribbles painted or scrawled on fences, bridges and buildings is the first thing that comes to mind. However, graffiti knitting that is currently taking over cities worldwide, is being touted as a carefully orchestrated craft that enhances the public property it is wrapped around.
Graffiti knitting often known as yarn bombing was 'invented' accidently in 2005, by Texas resident Madga Sayeg. As an attempt to add some color to her drab steel and concrete surroundings, she knitted a colorful door handle for her shop. She liked it so much that she decided to add some color to the stop-sign pole across the road by covering it with a knitted sheath. To her surprise, people began to get out of their cars, to take pictures of her unusual decor.
Encouraged, she began a movement dubbed Knitta Please and started to enhance all kinds of things - Parking meters in Brooklyn, a bus in Mexico, some trees in Washington D.C. - With her knitted artifacts.
Her work resonated with so many people world-wide that it has led to a global movement of secret graffiti knitters, all dedicated to enhancing their city's mundane items like lampposts, mailboxes and traffic signs, with their knitted wonders.
Amongst the most famous and notorious of these guerrilla knitters group, that do their magic only in the dark of the night, is London-based Knit the City. Started in April 2009, by Lauren O'Farrell as a way to distract herself from Cancer treatment, it is a close group of knitters who call themselves names like Deadly Knitshade, the Fastner and Shorn-a-the Dead.
The group most famous yarn bombs include, tying a 550ft. scarf around the lions in London's Trafalgar Square, decorating the ballerina statue outside the Royal Opera House with Nutcracker inspired figures and, planting a 13ft. spider's Web of Woe, complete with trapped insects and fairies in a tunnel beneath London's famous Waterloo station. More recently, the group placed a herd of colorful sheep and a gnarly-looking fox in sheep's clothing, on the banks of the River Thames.
Other famous graffiti knitting groups included Boston's South End Knitters Club and Liverpool's ArtYarn, who adorn their cities in similar ways. In the Netherlands, the knitting artists have even taken to the woods to demonstrate their knitting prowess.
Why do it? Because these artists find traditional knitting quite boring and tedious - In fact most have never knitted a sweater or scarf for themsleves. Graffiti knitting is not just quicker, it is also more fun because of the reactions it draws from the general public.
And, while it is 'technically' illegal, not one of these knitting 'vandals' have gotten into trouble with the authorities yet - Maybe we should change the name to knitting art - But then it would not be as fun, nor seem as radical, would it?
Resources: boston.com, guardian.co.uk,knitthecity.com