International Yarn Bombing Day comes to a small town in West Yorkshire

Yarn Bombing, noun;

The action or activity of covering objects or structures in public places with decorative knitted or crocheted material, as a form of street art.

Online Oxford Dictionary

“Graffiti knitting: the art of the sneaky stitch. I knit, I venture into the city, I yarnstorm, I take far too many photos, I run away giggling”

Deadly Knitshade

Yarn Bombing has been around since the early 2000’s, springing up in different cities around the world under names like guerrilla knitting, yarn storming and urban knitting.  It varies in style, aesthetics and meaning but it’s attitude is always warm and fun, bringing beauty to urban spaces. What is common is a sense of community, belonging and working together to improve or reconnect with the places we live.

Magda Sayeg is attributed with inventing the movement in 2005, but there are reports of work being sited from 2002. She played with an idea for improving her environment whilst bored at work, first covering a door handle with colourful knit, then moving outside to traffic signs and beyond.  As her works became more ambitious and she travelled to other cities she noticed others had got there before her, realising that this was now an international movement.

In Magda’s TED talk she explains that for her covering an inanimate object with colourful knit brings it to life without obscuring its identity or function.  She was surprised how passers by became intrigued and drawn to the slightly crazy artworks. It perhaps makes us see our environment in a new way or draws our attention to things we pass by without ever noticing. What is for certain is that everyday pieces of street furniture and urban clutter are imbued with affection, colour and joy.  

International Yarn Bombing day was started by the Canadian fibre artist Joann Matvichuk in 2011.  Her aim being to bring together the various yarn activists across the globe. She did this via social media, namely Facebook, and as a consequence Yarn Bombing events are shared and liked within an international network, and occasionally spilling into mainstream news reports.  Over the years the day has grown in size and status as groups small and large take up the needle or hook and venture into their neighbourhood.

Last Sunday night (10 June) my local pub crochet group, Yarning About, yarn bombed our park for the first time. There was fervent stitching and giggling as we arranged our brightly coloured fabrics and objects. Set up in 2016, Yarning About is a freeform crochet group, that is to say we don’t use patterns or designs in our creative process.  Instead we follow our creative instincts resulting in vibrant, joyful, sometimes crazy pieces of work. We do it to be together and explore the creative medium of crochet which we found to be well suited to yarn bombing.

This long thought of granny hobby is now a cutting edge international movement made by communities for communities.  If anybody is interested in being part of an OCA wide yarn bombing event next June please get in touch

8 Comments

  1. standickinson 25 June 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Well, I live in that “… small town in West Yorkshire …” and passed the ‘bomb site’ 🙂 more than once – much appreciated, thanks Rebecca & friends.

    Reply
    1. becka fairley 3 July 2018 at 12:35 pm

      Maybe you would like to join us next year Stan Dickinson : )

      Reply
  2. Treehugger 28 June 2018 at 4:31 pm

    This looks very affectionate towards the trees and was obviously great fun to do and see, but I would just like to ask how long the artwork will be left in place? Hot on the heels of Gina’s thought-provoking article about using photography to raise awareness of issues around the legacy of plastic waste last week, I notice that the description of Magda’s original work refers to covering inanimate objects with knitting. I hope that if this Yorkshire park inspires other craftivists to add colourful girdles to trees, then with a green (crocheted) environmentalist hat on, they will use biodegradable yarns and/or loosen or remove the encircling wraps from the trees at the end of the season so the trees can continue to grow and expand in coming years. It’s just that if the yarn is intended to be left in place indefinitely, then lamp-posts and other street furniture are perhaps a friendlier target for spreading the fun whilst still fully engaging the local community.

    Reply
    1. bryaneccleshall 30 June 2018 at 5:27 pm

      Someone clad a bunch of trees on Sheffield Hallam University’s campus and left it up for months. The wool got west, faded, sagged and generally looked awful. For a lot longer than it looked good. I suspect the University took it down. A part of me wonders why we think trees don’t look good enough on their own.

      Reply
      1. becka fairley 3 July 2018 at 12:34 pm

        That is a shame Brian. Our plan was the work would be temporary, along the lines of a flash mob, and removed discreetly after a week. Yes trees are beautiful and don’t need our adornment but tree dressing has a long and playful history which we are a part of.

        Reply
    2. becka fairley 3 July 2018 at 12:26 pm

      Hello Treehugger, Thank you for you comment, these are valuable and pertinent questions. I hope they are asked of other creative practices including paintings that use acrylic paints, using polymers to create sculpture and digital hardware to create photographs. In answer to your questions the work was removed after a week, most of the fibres are ‘odds and ends’ and all the yarns will be turned back into balls of wool to be reused in another project. I can assure you the trees were not harmed in any way : )

      Reply
  3. jennyudale 28 June 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Lovely Rebecca , so good to get together with friends and be creative. I try to meet up regulary with a couple of creative friends, I have been learning macrame, while one friend embroiders and another is learning to weave, we chat and create…….

    Reply
    1. becka fairley 3 July 2018 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you for your comment Jenny. In my group I have members who when they joined apologetically explained they were not creative but with the right space and support they no longer feel this way and they have explained how this has fed in to other aspects of their life : ) : ) : )

      Reply

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