Streetcolor was in a bookstore one day when she found Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, after reading through the whole book she decided to join the Yarn Bombing movement. Streetcolor started small and then ended up blogging not too long after she started Yarn Bombing. She was shocked at how easy it was to start and keep up a blog about her work and because she is a professional artist she decided that she’d turn Yarn Bombing into an art form. She is based in Berkeley, CA and has received a lot of attention from the media there. After covering the streets of Berkeley she decided to branch out and has been traveling farther and farther from her home and community to spread the joy that comes with seeing these knit pieces.
Streetcolor mentioned to me a sense of danger and excitement that comes with Yarn Bombing that she felt when she began Yarn Bombing and now feels when she branches out of her usual spots. This adrenaline rush can be a common for yarn bombers and while a lot of law enforcement does not give yarn bombers trouble many do not know how to react to and this could result in a ticket or many more questions. Her rules keep her from doing anything too crazy. She doesn’t want her pieces to create controversy so she never covers statues, and tries to pick spots where she won’t have to take her art down.
Streetcolor is hoping to receive more commissioned work, which Magda Sayeg does frequently and which seems to be the next step for many Yarn Bombers. Getting paid for your work seems to mean that you’re rising in the art world and this may reflect on Yarn Bombing’s role in the art world. Streetcolor says that there is a part of having work commissioned that takes the fun out of it, having to create what you are asked to, dealing with permits, and figuring out how much to charge, it makes things more stressful. But with the new commissions she makes sure she still does work for fun and her work has been paying off. Not too long ago she was included in an NPR special on knitting and continues to have stories published about her work.
Streetcolor’s view on the timelessness or timeliness of Yarn Bombing is that it is still in its beginning phase and that more people are going to start getting involved. “Right now there are a lot of internet fads that come and go,” Streetcolor said, “but graffiti and knitting have been around for thousands of years.” She also believes that the DIY movement will also help encourage more people to pick up knitting needles and get involved. This outlook on the future of Yarn Bombing seems promising and all of the Yarn Bombers that I interviewed seemed to agree that Yarn bombing is still growing much faster than it’s being forgotten.
I also interviewed Leanne Prain, co-author of the book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti published in 2009. Leanne started as most Yarn Bombers do as a knitter. She had gotten sick and a friend brought her a kids knitting book. From there she created a Stitch and Bitch where she and her friends could get together and drink and knit. From these skills and the discovery of Knit Graffiti on the Internet she became increasingly interested in knit graffiti. The book started out as a student project but ended up being noticed by Arsenal Pulp Press. Partnered with her co- author Mandy Moore the Yarn Bombing book was created.
Leanne went into Yarn Bombing as a curious person, not an expert and came out with a wonderful book and plenty of knowledge. She does Yarn Bomb and has noticed a lot of what other Yarn Bombers have. One trend she’s noticed is that People are doing more and more community projects, where people come together and knit or crochet. This trend seems natural considering that the public areas belong to the public, by getting together and creating something for their community it really does pull the neighborhood together. The other trend is that people have started to push the envelope to see what they can make of Yarn Bombing. The Bull that was Yarn Bombed on Wall Street is one example. These people who are taking on bigger projects are spreading the word about Yarn Bombing and Leanne says she expects to be surprised by what is to come.
One of the other Yarn Bombers that I interviewed wanted me to ask Leanne Prain how she feels about how people interpret and use the Yarn Bombing book and if the message had been diluted. Leanne responded to this question saying that she’s completely happy with the way it has been interpreted, that everyone has a different interpretation and that is the point of Yarn Bombing and art. She says that older people like the absurdity of Yarn Bombing, while the younger generations could become interested because of traditional graffiti and use it as a “jumping off point”. She says that “Every time I think I’ve seen it all someone surprises me, people are artistic and expressive and I appreciate the initiative.” This ability to interpret Yarn Bombing as a craft and the art pieces themselves is shared amongst many Yarn Bombers, they want people to interpret their work in their own way so that there is meaning, in the end this art form is there to make people happy.
Leanne also mentioned that there is a sort of gender issue within the Yarn Bombing community. There are not many males who actually Yarn Bomb. Men tend to be really defensive when asked about knitting and it is seen as a more feminine art form. However, this cultural stigma does not have to stay around and as more closet male knitters reveal their work it will become more acceptable for males to participate. Leanne spoke about her seven-year-old nephew wanting to learn to yarn bomb. In fact she says that people of all ages have asked her about it and seem interested. The future of Yarn Bombing really depends on these people to pick up knitting needles and start creating art. In her mind the future of Yarn Bombing is a mystery and she is excited to see it unfold. For many future Yarn Bombers it will all start out by stumbling upon Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti.
I Interviewed Knitorious M.E.G. from K1-D2 in Richmond, VA, which started out and remains a group who comes together to knit and drink. I’ve recently learned, from an interview on Yarnbombing.com that their group runs like a television show, meeting once a week from September to June. At their peak they had nineteen members and plan to keep that their peak. Knitorious M.E.G. is the groups main Yarn Bomber and installs a piece every month herself. The group also did four projects last year, which Knitorious M.E.G. noted are easier to pull off because they “look like a group of girls out on the town.”
One aspect of Yarn Bombing is that it is considered graffiti by a lot of people including Knitorious M.E.G. and many police officers. This means that Yarn Bombers must be careful when tagging and realize that the art may be unwanted and illegal. Knitorious M.E.G. told me that while Richmond is very hard on graffiti, Yarn Bombing is removable and since no permanent damage is done the officers are ok with it. She still keeps her head down and works quickly to put a tag up, just in case.
Knitorious M.E.G agrees with Magda when it comes to who Yarn Bombing appeals to and said “I feel it speaks to all ages, I think young or old are kind of surprised to see knitting, especially in a graffiti/public context.” This continuity in what Yarn Bombers are observing shows that Yarn Bombing is an art that appeals to many ages in many places. She also agrees that that Yarn Bombing is still going to become more popular along with knitting in general. She believes that it takes time and dedication and that deters people from actually going out and doing it. However, when people find or make the time for it they might find they really enjoy it.
This interview was another good indication that Yarn Bombing will still rise in popularity. Knitorious M.E.G. and Magda Sayeg have been able to work in groups and as solo artists, documenting their works. Yarn Bombing is a form of street art that does display the artwork but also helps to unite a community and bring color to people’s days. This sense of community helps to drive Yarn Bombers to create more work and continue making tags. Knitorious M.E.G. said that she stays motivated by “Just thinking about the smiles that it will bring when it’s completed.” This idea that Yarn Bombing is not just for the artist or to color an industrialized world, but actually to bring happiness to communities seems like a pretty good cause to join instead of forget about.
Who are these mysterious Yarn Bombers, and are there enough to both quench the thirst of our Yarn Bombing consumers and to keep the knittfitti going? Through my research I’ve discovered that there are many Yarn Bombers, some known and getting press, and others who post their conquests in blogs or on a Facebook page. I interviewed four Yarn Bombers to help get some insight to what these people are doing and where they believe Yarn Bombing will be headed in the next few years.
Picture By Magda Sayeg
I’ll start with the founder, Magda Sayeg started off with a group called Knitta Please in 2005, which as mentioned before was originally a sort of joke and social experiment to see how people would react to knit pieces out in public. The group contained between four and twelve people through its life and when it was disbanded, in 2007, Magda continued doing solo projects. However, even Yarn Bombing artists need help sometimes and Magda isn’t afraid to ask for volunteers to aid her in some of her bigger projects. Magda’s assistant, Karen McClellan, informed me that 177 showed up for a meeting in January for a community project in Austin and that they often receive emails from enthusiastic people asking if they can help with projects.
Picture by Cesar Ortega
While Magda is working on bigger and more complicated projects others are taking note and noticing Yarn Bombing, when asked what age group Yarn Bombing draws in the most I received the answer “I don’t really think its exclusive, it obviously draws kids because of the texture and color. Older generations are drawn to it because they remember their mothers or whoever knitting. But I think the 20s/30s/40s has to be our biggest fan group. There’s been a huge movement toward DIY and craft in the last few years, a new appreciation for handmade items.” This observation is good news for the future of Yarn Bombing, it shows that this sort of art is relatable and crosses the generation gap that other art forms do not. Yarn Bombing can be seen as appealing, colorful, and in your face, while also being soft and harmless in nature.
Picture by Insight 51
What does Magda see for the future of Yarn Bombing? She and her associates see this as only the beginning. “Magda is continuing to develop and evolve her work, and we only see the international movement getting stronger.” Karen McClellan says, “There are groups in every major city in the US and dozens of international cities.” This confidence from one of the leaders of the Yarn Bombing movement serves as a good sign of things to come in the Yarn Bombing world. With dedicated people and volunteers jumping at the chance to help out Magda seems to be proof that Knit Graffiti is still on the rise. Though, she is only one of many Yarn Bombers who shared her opinion with me.
This past quarter I have been researching whether Yarn Bombing will grow in popularity or become a faint memory in the upcoming years. This question took me on a journey that would thrill and inspire me. The first question I must answer is what is Yarn Bombing. Magda Sayeg from Houston, Texas started this form of street art in 2005, originally it was a joke to see how pedestrians would react to knit works being put outside, but the trend took off. This original act of knit graffiti spurred a reaction that made people take notice; Tina Fey even mentioned it in an SNL skit. Now you can Google “Yarn Bombing” and thousands of results will come up including blogs, pictures and newspaper articles.
I created a survey to find out if people actually know about the street art phenomena called Yarn Bombing and found that fifty-six percent of those who took the survey had not even heard of Yarn Bombing before. Most people deduced that Yarn Bombing has to do with yarn but a lot of people brought violent connotations to their perceived definitions. Once people were given the true definition of Yarn Bombing, (A form of street art where people take knit or crocheted materials and place them in public areas. Common places for Yarn Bomb tags are sign poles, bike racks, benches, railings and statues.), they not only thought of it as more interesting but also as something they would like to see.
This absence of prior knowledge about what Yarn Bombing is very important to the question “Will Yarn Bombing grow in popularity or become a faint memory?”. A lack of knowledge on the topic means that there is still a large market to tap and inform, but it also means that if people are not informed faster than they lose interest the art will be forgotten. The survey I created had promising results in category; while many had never heard of Yarn Bombing there was a large interest in actually seeing knit pieces up and in their neighborhoods. Most of the people who reacted positively to the aspect of knit graffiti also said they had no interest in actually becoming a Yarn Bomber. This means that while people are still learning about Yarn Bombing they mostly will become consumers and not producers of street art. This is true in most art forms, suggesting that there are consumers out there, but are there producers?
So, my boyfriend says that when I decide that I like something I don’t like it I love it. It’s true. I love Yarn Bombing. My second installment in my experiment was put up today. So far I have only received positive reactions but, we’ll see if they’re still up tomorrow. I intend to continue tagging my campus until I receive a real reaction, maybe that will never happen. I think I’ll be doing surveys soon to see how aware students are of Yarn Bombing now and after I start bombing more often. I hope that my work will have a warm welcome and that people will enjoy the color I’m putting on campus. If I get in trouble I’ll know to stop. In the mean time I think that this Yarn Bombing is catching on, some people are starting to get interested.
All This talk of Yarn Bombing had me wanting to try it out myself, I’ve been knitting a lot recently but never actually got around to Yarn Bombing. I was talking to my little brother on the phone about this blog and he kept asking “Have you done anything, what have you tagged?” It made me feel silly, I’ve been writing about all of this, knitting in my spare time and have not actually experienced what I’ve been writing about.
Tonight I decided was the night I’d do my first tag. Someplace where not a lot of people go and where I wouldn’t have to immediately have to explain myself. I took what I had knitted already and walked to the back of the building and knitted it up. The whole time I was going through what I’d say if anyone caught me…. “Oh, yeah this is a social experiment I’m doing for my research and resources class. You don’t like it? You want me to take it down? Ok, but can I interview you about this, this is exactly the reaction I need for my paper?” So while thinking of the worst and how I’d manage to keep out of trouble I finished my work without any interruption. My first tag, done! I even put a paper calling card on it directing people to modernknitting.wordpress.com. I feel more like a Yarn Bomber already. I got the rush, I made a place more beautiful where it’s dark and dreary and I didn’t get in trouble. I’m just glad I don’t have to explain myself to anyone.
My First Tag
After this my intention is to put more Yarn creations up around campus and see how people react. I may even do a survey, I’m not sure yet. But, after putting up my first tag I got a taste of why people do this and I like it. I haven’t even seen anyone’s reaction yet. Once again I think this is something that is just in its beginning stages and will probably go through a lot more before it becomes a fad of the past…. but I’ll keep researching to see what I can find.
My First Tag