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Updated by Rose Garalde on Feb 14, 2021
Headline for Yarn Bombing: A Unique Art Movement Explained
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Yarn Bombing: A Unique Art Movement Explained

Since the inception of human culture and civilization, art and literature held a central place in shaping the ideas and actions of human societies. Even in the day of hunter-gatherers and cave colonies, men were fascinated by the words and images and the meanings they carry.

1

An Introduction To Yarn Bombing

In essence, yarn bombing is a combination of street art, graffiti, and activism. It relates to the apparently “cute” and soothing elements of knitting and crocheting, and make them stand head to head with the aggressive and revolutionary ideas of guerilla warfare and civil disobedience. The final statement comes lends elements from graffiti by seemingly “bombing” public objects and places with hand-knitted items and articles.

Yarm bombing or guerilla knitting uses both small and large elements from its surroundings and make them stand out to draw attention which otherwise they would not get. So, the most common places that get this induced attention are tree branches, public pipes, etc. Or the game takes place at a much higher scale and the bombers target things that already draw attention. By bombing, they grab all the momentum for the cause. The mammoth objects that get tagged can be buses, stairs, statues. There are even rare cases where a tank was yarn bombed!

It certainly deserves credit on being getting noticed.

The ultimate goal of the workers and yarn bombers working for the cause is to make a statement to make their voices heard in the policy-making halls. They tinker with the nature of things by making them look something else.

So, it is all good and effective, but if you know when did it start, read on to know more exciting things about this unique and fantastic art movement!

Of course, at first, the idea was solely to reclaim sterile everyday things and make them come close to us emotionally. It was like the idea of appreciating everything we have for what it is and the value it adds to our lives.

2

Magda Sayeg (Knitta Please)

Many things are discovered or come into existence by accidents, or go way beyond the expectations of the creators. The same goes true for this exotic art movement.

It started around 2005 in the US. A Houston-based woman, named Magda Sayeg, created her first yarn bomb artwork by putting some knitting on her doorknob. It was not her intention to make a political or even social statement by doing so. She only did it to amplify the importance of something that she saw every day without realizing its importance. Also, she wanted to give a warm and cozy feel to the door to welcome her guests and visitors.

Things would have been ended in some parallel universe, but this was not it here. Soon, this small and seemingly innocent gesture became an avalanche and got phenomenal notice and mentioning. This made her a celebrity and she started to receive positive feedback from people from all walks of life.

It is funny to note that Magda would be the first one to admit that she did not comprehend the influence and force of a “knitted” door handle. It turned out to be an art movement that changed the whole landscape of how art is conceived and performed. It changed her life, certainly, and the movement gained momentum and became international.

3

Knitta Please!

After that, she commenced a group of like-minded knitters. It was called “Knitta Please”. There was one thing they all had in common that make them stick to each other – beautifying public places.

If you are still wondering what was her intentions to knit the doorknob of her house, it was nothing but to personalize an urban article that saw every day and put it in another perspective by dressing it.

For some people, it seems natural and comprehensible, to dress things up to make them more functional or dress them, just for the sake of it. A tea-cozy is the prime example of dressing things up to enhance their functionality.

But there was another group that thought this absurd and non-sense. They concur with the idea of cozy and a tea-pot, but it was too much for them to have a doorknob knitted.

The answer that Magda gave them: Well, why not?

4

Development

After ball-rolling positive feedback from people in the neighborhood and abroad, it was only natural for Magda to take a step out of her house, and she did. After some time, she targeted a “STOP” signboard near her house and dress it in the yarn of beautiful patterns and vibrant colors.

It was supposed to be not a big deal, as she had thought.

In reality, it caused a public commotion. People started to stop on that “STOP” sign and wonder over the idea of putting knitting on a board. They even took pictured and shared with people all around the world. It was a unique thing but it asked all the right questions:

Who would put the yarn on a sign pole? Why would someone do that kind of thing? Is that a joke?

The more they thought about it, the more they got attracted to the idea and its execution.

This reaction and public response influenced Magda to do it on a big scale and she set out to make statements all over the place. This was the home ground of the movement that was later termed as “Yarn Bombing”.

Of course, there were many people that did not like the idea of dressing public places and property in yarn. They even thought that it was vandalism in disguise. Contrary to this, there were many people who liked that idea. Actually, there were a lot of people and that was all the movement needed to become explosive!

At that time, people knew Magda and her innocent gestures of knitting cute and harmless things around her. But there was something big brewing under the surface. At Knitta Please, there were many knitters that came closer for a single purpose – to make a statement. There, all knitters had their own “handles”. In a sense, they took inspiration from graffiti and hip-hop culture. Since both of these elements are related to state defiance and civil disobedience culture. This was evident from the names that the handles took. Some of the names included:

• Knotorious N.I.T

• SonOfaStitch

• P-Knitty

• PolyCotN

• AKrylik

And many more.

They took their time and started slowly. At first, there were a few poles. Then, a few trees dressed tastefully in knitting. Even after that, they worked around “normal” objects and tried to give them a new and unique look. Seemingly, it was all about giving them a constructive character and positive vibe that people had not seen and appreciated before.

Knitta Please grew silently and explored new objects and places to bomb. From the start, it was Magda’s passion to try a new thing every next time. She was on a spree to know – What could be bombed?

5

Knitted Sneakers

Initially, they stuck to hip-hop conventions, because it was one of the inspirations behind making yarn bombing a full-fledged movement. One of the most remarkable acts by Knitta Please was to hang a pair of knitted snickers over telephone lines. In the hood language, it was a sign of aggression and showed who the boss is around the neighborhood. Although in this case, the message was opposite to that of the gangs. It was about compassion towards fellow beings.

Gradually, these guerilla knitters grew bold. As the days went by, they always managed to find a bigger thing than the last one to dress it in knitting. Once, they even found a bus to yarn bomb in Mexico City! As discussed earlier, the movement was all about making a statement and they got better with each attempt at doing so.

For Magda, this was one of the many things. This gave a new perspective to her and other people and changed her life. The reason was the name she earned because of her artwork.

6

Beyond Magda

In a sense, “the knitted bus” was a game-changer for her and the yarn bombing practice. She confessed that after the incident in Mexico City, yarn bombing went international and stopped belonging to her, although she would always be remembered as the founder of this movement.

It was like the dominos game. A piece fell and it starts a chain reaction that compelled other pieces to fall. For this art movement, it was a frenzy. The more people saw new things wrapped in colorful yarn, with intricate patterns and vibrant colors, the more they were drawn to it. It also inspired knitters from around the world to come up with their own versions.

In her search to yarn bomb public places and things, Magda proved her point that anything in the public sphere can be yarn bombed and used to make a statement. It could be a part of a building, a statue, a tank, or anything that comes to mind!

Her idea of dressing seemingly lifeless things in the grey and dead urban environment gave a new perspective to people. Through her pieces, she dressed things and make them give out positive vibes of inclusivity and hospitality. Objects and places were her canvas and a yarn ball was her brush and she painted masterpieces all around the world and inspired others to follow in her footsteps.

The movement proved that art can be created everywhere using any material. All you need to have is a lively imagination!

7

The Movement Goes On

After the start, the message got out in the world and examined by millions of people. This urged other artists and knitters to step up and come up with their own pieces and iterations of yarn bombing. All in all, it was a chain reaction.

Following the footsteps of Magda, many artists created their craft by honing their skills on yarn bombing. One artist Agata Oleksiak, also known as Olek, followed her passion for knitting and took great inspiration from the works of Magda. But she took a different path and explored the ideals of sexuality, feminism, etc.

If you still have no idea who she is, you might have known her work from the news. In December 2010, she covered the famous “Charging Bull” near Wall Street with her crochet. Again, that was one of the most effective statements made by an artist using her art!

She also shared her fascination with colors with the world through vibrant pieces and crochets, loaded with details and conceptual exploration. She brilliantly pushed the limits of art itself and blended elements from different fields, including fashion art, craft, public art, etc.

Another one of these well-known artists is London Kaye.

From the age of thirteen, she started knitting. But her take on the art was pretty much conventional. Then one day, she saw a girl with a crocheted bag and that changed her ways to look at the objects and her vocation. That day, knitting became her obsession!

The first step in her yarn bombing life was putting a knitted scarf on a tree. She was excited about the reaction people gave to her work and she knew there is so much to explore in this field. It was a new turn in her life that changed everything.

She was in awe when people gave positive feedback to her pieces. According to London, it was the inspiration that she needs to keep on creating as long as she is capable to do so.

The main tool she keeps close to her in the workshop is a needle printed by a 3-D printer. Kaye believes that yarn is a phenomenal material to create art because of the flexibility it offers the artist and the pieces. This stretching and manipulation of shapes and patterns open new avenues for a variety of possibilities.

From humble beginnings of knitting water pipes and tree branches, London went on to work for many companies by creating yarn pieces for them.

One of the most famous pieces knitted by her was a 25 foot by 50-foot billboard of Miller Lite Beer. It became the main attraction in the already ultra-trendy Times Square, New York.

Another example of her yarn bombing work was some knitting work on the metro train in New York on Valentine’s Day. It also grabbed people’s attention and their reaction was lovely, as could be expected from a message related to Valentine’s Day. Reportedly, they were happy and took pictures with the work and said complimentary things about the artist, coming up with unique ideas.

Like Magda for guerilla knitters, Kaye became an inspiration to many people to pick up needles and start knitting. There was no set rule to this, you can work on anything you want. Kaye also sent out invitations to other knitters in New York to bring different pieces of knitting and yarn work. The intention behind this was to have some common project to work on with others.

The result of this call came out in the form of a big crochet piece. It was created by the whole team and hung on the fences in the city. The piece showed that people can come close to create exciting things that will definitely bring the community closer to create an environment that is defined by mutual respect and love.

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