Yarn Bombing

A colourful world of knitted or crocheted yarn

While other forms of graffiti may be expressive, decorative, territorial, socio-political commentary, advertising or vandalism, yarn bombing was initially almost exclusively about reclaiming and personalizing sterile or cold public places. It has since developed with groups graffiti knitting and crocheting worldwide, each with their own agendas and public graffiti knitting projects being run. 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.

The start of this movement has been attributed to Magda Sayeg, from Houston, who says she first got the idea in 2005 when she covered the door handle of her boutique with a custom-made cozy. Houston artist Bill Davenport was creating and exhibiting crochet-covered objects in Houston in the 1990s, and the Houston Press stated that “Bill Davenport could be called the grand old man of Houston crocheted sculpture”. Artist Shanon Schollian was knitting stump cozies in 2002 for clear cuts in Oregon. The Knit Knot Tree by the Jafagirls in Yellow Springs, Ohio gained international attention in 2008.



The movement moved on from simple “cozies” with the innovation of the “stitched story”. The concept has been attributed to Lauren O’Farrell — who creates her street art under the graffiti knitting name Deadly Knitshade —, from London, UK, who founded the city’s first graffiti knitting collective Knit the City. The “stitched story concept” uses handmade amigurumi creatures, characters and items to tell a narrative or show a theme. This was first recorded with the Knit the City collective’s Web of Woe installation in August 2009.

The Knit the City collective were also the first to use O’Farrell’s term “yarnstorming” to describe their graffiti knitting, as an alternative to the more popular term “yarnbombing”. Yarn bombing’s popularity has spread throughout the world. In Oklahoma City the Collected Thread store yarn bombed the Plaza District of the city on 9 September 2011 to celebrate their three-year anniversary as a functioning shop, and in Australia a group called the Twilight Taggers refer to themselves as “fibre artists”. Joann Matvichuk of Lethbridge, Alberta founded International Yarnbombing Day, which was first observed on 11 June 2011.



It’s hard to underestimate the impact some of the more unique contemporary knitting practices have had on the nation’s craft habits. As royal wedding fever hit the world in April, so too did Fiona Goble’s Knit Your Own Royal Wedding book, which sold a whopping 45,000 copies. And graffiti knitting — or guerrilla knitting, yarnbombing or yarnstorming, depending on who you’re talking to — has also seen a surge in popularity in the UK since Knit the City started decorating London’s streets with woolly delights back in 2009.

Clearly, the rise of the internet and handmade marketplaces, such as Etsy, have contributed to the rise in knitting’s popularity since early 2003. But, even if the Facebook or the fashion thing didn’t whet your appetite for a little knitting, surely the sight of a stitched-up Prince Philip or a yarn-covered statue would prompt even the most cold-hearted anti-knitter to reconsider their stance and pick up a set of needles.




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