“You like crafts” said my friend Marc. “We must take you by some yarn bombing sites.”
Marc lives in a quiet Dallas suburb, not the kind of place you would normally expect to find the world’s newest, and cuddliest, street art movement. But it turned out I’d timed my visit perfectly. The weekend of A-Kon 22 was also the weekend of the first ever International Yarn Bombing Day. I’m not sure why June 11 was chosen, but the statement on the IYBD Facebook page says it’s all about “fiber artists of the world uniting on one day to bring color and beauty to our urban landscape.”
Yarn bombing, also known as guerrilla knitting or knit graffiti, is thought to have started in 2005 when a Houston woman, Magda Sayeg, decided to knit a cover for the door handle of her boutique. The passion for covering objects in textiles goes back to the Victorian era, when undressed legs were taboo even on furniture and the idea of caressing and ungloved handle with an ungloved hand bordered on indecency. Magda’s retro notion spread quickly, though not with complete support from the art knitting community: knit and crochet artist Olek, whose work is shown on the gallery circuit, said in an interview ” I don’t yarn bomb, I make art.”
To the untrained eye, the difference between Olek crocheting a yarn cover for Wall Street’s renowned Charging Bull, Sayeg and friends covering a Mexico City bus in pattern, and local people knitting tree-cosies in suburban Dallas doesn’t seem all that large. But while some see yarn bombing as a communal activity, a chance to get together, make craft and brighten up the community, others – including major corporations – view it as a lucrative new art form and a chance to lend some much needed softness to the image of big business. I love the idea of a street art movement that puts craft-crazy moms on the same level as “real” artists and “edgy” spraycan jockeys, but the galleries and curators are already selecting proper yart – yarn art – and herding its practicioners into their exclusive, expensive corrals.
The rest of us can still enjoy it on the street.
IYBD was the brainchild of a Canadian yarn bomber, and two of her compatriots have written the first yarn bombing book. Beautifying public spaces and making communal art is a worthy aim, and although getting rid of this graffiti involves no more than cutting a few threads, local authorities don’t seem to have a problem with it so far.