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Spreading Joy with Yarn Art

Apr 24, 2013

With the tragic bombings and explosions we've experienced lately, I wanted to share something good with you: yarn "bombings." (I hate to even associate the word with our beloved yarn! I'm going to call this "public yarn art"; much better.)

The following article from Interweave Knits Spring 2013 highlights these works of public yarn art, and profiles one of the founders of the movement, Magda Saveg.

Making Public Yarn Art

When Magda Sayeg and her friend knit a cozy for the door handle of her clothing boutique in 2005, they were venting their frustration over their unfinished knitting projects. Passersby, who responded with wild enthusiasm, attributed the cozy to an anonymous and creative reclaiming of Houston's sterile landscape.

Over the next two years, Sayeg and her friend bore down and knit like crazy, forming a group called Knitta, Please (or simply Knitta) that swelled to a dozen members, all of whom adopted anonymous, craft-meets-hip-hop nicknames such as PolyCotN and AKrylik. Knitta worked together or in smaller subsets to knit graffiti for far-flung monuments such as the Great Wall of China and Notre Dame Cathedral. With the help of the Internet, their brand of soft, fuzzy, and easily removable street art took off.

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Untitled, by Knitta, September 2011, 320 square feet of knitting. I think this is fabulous! What a wonderful pick-me-up! Can you imagine coming across these stairs while going about your busy day? I hope I get to see something like this some day.
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When the group disbanded several years later—some went off to college, moved away, or simply didn't have time to commit—Sayeg took Knitta on as a solo pursuit. She got an Addi Express knitting machine so that she could produce material at a faster clip, and found a team of local knitters through a call for help on her Facebook page.

She started accepting commissions, working for public art organizations and for companies including Sunglass Hut and Smart Car, who paid her to wrap their products in yarn.

Today her work is a mix of craft, design, and commerce. After she's approached to do a project, she does a site visit and then works out a design through Photoshop. "Once the final design is approved, my manager and I translate the piece into a pattern that is then knitted," she explains. "It's only halfway done at this point. The installation process involves taking the knitted material and applying it to a specific object. Depending on size, this can take up to two weeks to properly complete."

Sayeg's dream project—covering an airplane in knitting—may take even longer.

—Sabrina Gschwantdtner, from Interweave Knits Spring 2013

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  I love you, R2D2! (Photo copyright Sarah Rudder)
 

Those stairs! I would weep with joy if I happened upon them—not to mention the photo ops. I love all the stitch patterns that are incorporated into the yarn art.

Speaking of photo ops, one of my other favorite pieces is the R2D2 that I shared with you on our Facebook page last year. Knitter Sarah Rudder created an R2D2 slipcover for a concrete street post in Bellingham, Washington. R2 brought so much joy to people! Check out the big hug he got from a little guy, at right. I love it.

By the way, I've seen those street posts in Bellingham, and I wish they could all be transformed into R2D2s! Start knitting Sarah; maybe you should contact Magda . . .

Interweave Knits shares so many glimpses into the world of knitting; subscribe now so you won't miss out on any of the upcoming issues!

Cheers,

P.S. Have you seen any public yarn art? Tell us about it in the comments!


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Comments

craftycats wrote
on Feb 7, 2014 3:44 PM

I participated in the "cover a DC3 in knitting" project in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada a couple of years ago.  While I fully believe in the importance of promoting knitting ad other crafts through public initiatives, I wouldn't have participated in this if it was only yarn bombing/public yarn art.  That the proceeds went  to a good cause - helping to keep the homeless warm in our long northern winters - made it worth doing.  

KarenT@15 wrote
on Jul 25, 2013 2:35 AM

COme see Portland Oregon's Bridges to Blankets projec, whicht began installation this past week, July 20, 2013. The public art, designed by Tyler Mackie, and executed by the wider Portland Oregon knitting community, will be on display to celebrate the 100th birthday of our beloved Broadway Bridge. IT will be up through part of August 2013, and able to viewing at the August 10, 2013 Broadway Bridge Party

We still need help paying for the fittings and engineering support, primarily. Please consider giving even a small amount to support public knitting art. Most importantly, once the installation is removed from public view, it will become about 150 blankets to warm our homeless community this winter. That makes your donation tax-deductible and good karma. please go to pdxbridgefestival.org/.../bridge-for-blankets,

to support our efforts at bridging our communities in Portland through fiber art. We are very close to completing this beautiful project. I got some fabulous photos of the rainbow colors billowing in the wind over the Williamette River. I'm happy to share the photos over email with anyone interested. Thanks for any positive energy you can send our way.

Karen Amann Talerico, Africa House Knitting Commmunity member, Portland Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization www.irco.org/who-we-are

KarenT@15 wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 10:46 PM

Here is Portland Oregon Tyler Mackie, a craft-based fiber artist, has begun a project, Bridge-for-Blankets, as both a public art installation of knitted squares to make a banner to decorate and celebrate our Broadway Bridge's Centennial birthday. She has a web page on Face Book and a fund raising cite on IndieGoGo. Basically it is project to bridge the knitting community with the larger community here in Portland and then use the fabric created to turn into small afghans for our local homeless community. It was irresistible for me to be involved in fiber art, community-building, and social justice.

Check out the sites and please consider making a donation and sharing with your friends and family members. Bridge-for-Blankets has already begun to have an impact here. I'm working with our Immigrant and Refugees Community Organizations Older Adult Knitting Group on making squares for the art/afghans.

I think this addressing some of the issues, especially the one about being a 'waste of yarn.' I think that giving the final afghans to someone experiencing homelessness is worthwhile use of good superwash wool. It avoid petroleum-based fibers like acrylic, yet will be easy care for the recipients.

Thank  you for the thoughtful discussion. I hope this adds to it.

Karen Amann Talerico

karen.talerico@comcast.net

Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crisis.

               Elizabeth Zimmermann

TEMA61 wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 9:01 PM

Someone said this is a waste of good yarn but I disagree.  Sure it's not going to actually cover someone this winter but think of what coming across this sort of thing in your daily grind?  What joy it would bring...!  Just looking at it, all glorious and beautiful.....  All sorts of people will smile and have a better day just because it is there... no matter how long it stays there.

As a piece of art, it takes simple knitting to a high art form and that's got to be worth something.

Besides, I wonder how many people, not yet knitters will be brought from the dark side to the light of knitting by it's very presence....

If nothing else, it will start a conversation.. what is art and what is craft..

For me, art is the upshot of craft... it takes one to do the other... and this piece certainly illustrates this to me.

Bravo!

TEMA

TEMA61 wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 9:01 PM

Someone said this is a waste of good yarn but I disagree.  Sure it's not going to actually cover someone this winter but think of what coming across this sort of thing in your daily grind?  What joy it would bring...!  Just looking at it, all glorious and beautiful.....  All sorts of people will smile and have a better day just because it is there... no matter how long it stays there.

As a piece of art, it takes simple knitting to a high art form and that's got to be worth something.

Besides, I wonder how many people, not yet knitters will be brought from the dark side to the light of knitting by it's very presence....

If nothing else, it will start a conversation.. what is art and what is craft..

For me, art is the upshot of craft... it takes one to do the other... and this piece certainly illustrates this to me.

Bravo!

TEMA

TEMA61 wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 9:01 PM

Someone said this is a waste of good yarn but I disagree.  Sure it's not going to actually cover someone this winter but think of what coming across this sort of thing in your daily grind?  What joy it would bring...!  Just looking at it, all glorious and beautiful.....  All sorts of people will smile and have a better day just because it is there... no matter how long it stays there.

As a piece of art, it takes simple knitting to a high art form and that's got to be worth something.

Besides, I wonder how many people, not yet knitters will be brought from the dark side to the light of knitting by it's very presence....

If nothing else, it will start a conversation.. what is art and what is craft..

For me, art is the upshot of craft... it takes one to do the other... and this piece certainly illustrates this to me.

Bravo!

TEMA

TEMA61 wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 9:01 PM

Someone said this is a waste of good yarn but I disagree.  Sure it's not going to actually cover someone this winter but think of what coming across this sort of thing in your daily grind?  What joy it would bring...!  Just looking at it, all glorious and beautiful.....  All sorts of people will smile and have a better day just because it is there... no matter how long it stays there.

As a piece of art, it takes simple knitting to a high art form and that's got to be worth something.

Besides, I wonder how many people, not yet knitters will be brought from the dark side to the light of knitting by it's very presence....

If nothing else, it will start a conversation.. what is art and what is craft..

For me, art is the upshot of craft... it takes one to do the other... and this piece certainly illustrates this to me.

Bravo!

TEMA

Thoem wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 6:10 PM

I agree with hamimono and knittabitta.  That much time, yarn and creativity could go toward warm and/or fashionable clothing or accessories for lucky recipients.

Thoem wrote
on Apr 29, 2013 6:10 PM

I agree with hamimono and knittabitta.  That much time, yarn and creativity could go toward warm and/or fashionable clothing or accessories for lucky recipients.

hamimono wrote
on Apr 28, 2013 9:17 PM

Not a fan. As a longtime knitter, this kind of stuff makes me sad.

a) huge waste of good yarn . . . maybe this is the answer for why cheap acrylic yarn exists but I never get the point of such projects . . .

b) these  public wrapping projects are usually ugly and poorly knit/attached/executed. I'm generally so aesthetically offended that I can't get past that to think about what the artistic concept might be .  

c) expanding b,) even acrylic yarn is not made to weather in the elements so the first rain/snow/wind/extended sunshine makes what was ugly to begin with into an actual eyesore.Perhaps if these projects very temporary it is OK but so much work goes into their installation that they generally outstay their welcome . . .

"Yarn bombing," as it's name implies, is public vandalism. Cities end up having to spend taxpayer's money paying workers to remove them. I don't think the artists take proper responsibility for that. "I want to inflict my cheap crap on everyone and I'm too broke and lame to have a proper gallery installation of my vision, so I'll just I'll just sneak out at night and deface public property and harm trees."

sjdemont wrote
on Apr 27, 2013 3:49 PM

wichita state university was yarn bombed last year. there are a lot of statues and people got very creative. i posted pictures here: http://tinyurl.com/c93t9qn

i enjoy yarn art. i think it reminds the public there are still knitters and crocheters in our high tech society, and it's never too late to learn.

Birdie2011 wrote
on Apr 27, 2013 12:29 PM

I agree with headlemk plus many of these art installations do make the items reusable after the exhibit is over and are often donated to charity.

Often times walking around San Francisco you will come across some sort of public art or installation. The Yarn Art scattered throughout the city on sign poles or trees or covering other public areas always makes me stop and laugh. Uplifts my mood and changes my whole day. I think it's great.

mazbarth wrote
on Apr 27, 2013 10:54 AM

I've seen this done in a very small town in Germany which happened to be the birthplace of Martin Luther!  They covered the handrails around town so they are not so cold to hold on to when you need to cross over the bridges or climb up the hills.  If I knew how to post pictures up here I would show how cute it makes the town! :)

NancyQOE wrote
on Apr 25, 2013 5:38 PM

I live in Redmond, WA and about a year ago, a woman (I'm sorry, I can't remember her name...) put sweaters on the trees in a downtown park!  They looked sort of like "leggings."  They were of beautifully colored stripes.  She left them up for several months and many people took photos--they were even featured on a local TV program!

ewilk wrote
on Apr 25, 2013 3:06 PM

Our local Art Museum in Manchester, NH is set to do an event in the next couple of weeks.  I can't wait to see it!

Sunita saran wrote
on Apr 25, 2013 12:04 AM

Saw some pillars dressed up in knitted covers at Devonport a short drive out of Auckland ,took some photos though they haven't done justice to the knitting .

Thought I would share this with you ,they looked very festive along the corridor with cafeterias of all kinds

DeniseN wrote
on Apr 24, 2013 1:27 PM

Love this! While living in Europe last year I had the privilege, yes, privilege of coming across some yarn bombings in various cities. Such a fun surprise coming upon something so inspiring!

KathyAnneW wrote
on Apr 24, 2013 1:09 PM

I Love whenever I encounter this yarn art! ...whether via face-to-face experience or reading about it via the internet/magazines, etc. This brings love and joy and color to the world, and most often the concept of collaboration, as the art is often the work of more than one person. Another phrase vs yarn "bombing" is yarn graffiti. I have created some yarn graffiti for the stand to my mailbox and love it when someone notices and expresses surprise and pleasure. Too often in this world of ours we are racing along... stuck to our technology... whatever... just not taking time to savor.

knittabitta wrote
on Apr 24, 2013 10:34 AM

Every time I see one of these public yarn arts or "Yarn bombing" , I cringe to think how much wasted time and yarn goes into one of these events.  Why not knit clothes for orphans, children in homeless shelters or blankets for the homeless?  I just can't get excited about these public projects.  The Untitled by Knitta is going to be subjected to the elements and soon won't be as colorful as it is now.  But some poor little girl or boy who is cold and underclothes would wear a colorful sweater for a time and then probably pass it down to someone else.  If you aren't interested in knitting for the needy, then sell what you make and donate the money.  But don't ask me to show enthusiasm for someone who, first of all used an Addi Express knitting machine to generate fabric and then calls it art.

Suzanne@56 wrote
on Apr 24, 2013 10:13 AM

I live in Los Angeles, where the Yarn Bombers are quite active! They are working on a massive public art project to cover the facade of the Museum of Craft and Folk Art with granny squares. They've had smaller projects all over the city.

http://bit.ly/12I6mFV

Northof60 wrote
on Apr 24, 2013 10:09 AM

"Sayeg's dream project - covering an airplane in knitting"  Yukoners beat her to it in August 2012 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.  A vintage DC-3 had been made into a giant weather vane years ago and resides by the airport.  check this link for pictures and CBC news story of the yarn-bombed DC-3

www.cbc.ca/news/offbeat/story/2012/08/.../north-yarn-bomb-yukon.html

the individual pieces were made as blankets and given to homeless folks after the event.

headlemk wrote
on Apr 24, 2013 9:23 AM

There were trees yarn-bombed in the downtown park in Colorado Springs in 2010. It was beautiful. I have pictures.

I wish there was some way to explain the beauty of this to those who pooh-pooh it and say very snobbishly "this yarn could have been used for charity instead of being wasted to the elements".

My most recent response was "Do you wish paint was used for charitable purposes instead of in a beautiful painting such as a Rembrandt?  It's someone's artistic expression and their expression shouldn't be denigrated. The beauty is in the onlooker's eyes. I may not like all types of art, but someone likes it and the artist expressed themselves. Please don't put them in a box."

tristram wrote
on Apr 24, 2013 7:21 AM

I have seen some knitted covers for traffic bollards in Düsseldorf in Germany.

Helen in France