When Street Art, Activism, and Knitting Collide

Taking a break from the digital theme of this blog to discuss one of my current passions: knitting!

Lately, I’ve been knitting a lot (just learned how to cable knit), so when I heard about Yarn Bombing, I was intrigued. When one thinks of the words street art and activism they often seem to go together; Knitting, however, is definitely not something one traditionally thinks of when paired with these two words. Street art often (but not always) conveys a socially minded message. For example, Banksy—anonymous graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateurcreates street art that critically examines our culture. His piece Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock critiques consumerism and how we typically base our lives around the things we buy. Although Banksy would probably dislike me saying so, his work is typical of graffiti art that has socially activist messages (he may have had a hand in making it famous though).

Banksy, Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.

Banksy, Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.

So, how do the words street art, activism, and knitting fit together?

There is a new movement taking off in the world of street art called Yarn Bombing.Yarn Bombing occurs when artists employ colourful and bold knitted or crocheted patterns in public spaces instead of commonly used materials, like paint or chalk. These yarn installations are considered non-permanent graffiti, and can be easily removed if necessary. The first yarn bomb was in the Netherlands in 2004, and has since spread to the United States and Canada, among other places in the world.

Yarn Bombed Trees

Yarn Bombed Trees

Like graffitti, Yarn Bombing can have a critical aspect. Initially, it began as a way to reclaim and personalize cold or sterile feeling public places, however it has grown to include other social agendas. Through whimsy, this art form challenges the notion that knitting is something that only our grandmothers do, and knitting becomes something that is cool and hip. It also adds creativity to a space. One yarn bomber, David Demchuck (Toronto), is quoted saying:

“Yarn bombing confronts people with creativity that’s not heavily disciplined or aestheticized. It can look perfect and polished or hazardous and insane — that’s part of its charm. It breaks down a lot of barriers that people have about creativity.”

This is especially true of the following images:

R2D2 Yarn Bomb on street corner

R2D2 Yarn Bomb on street corner

Yarn Bombed Tank

Yarn Bombed Tank

Yarn Bombing blurs the lines between the traditional notions of craft and art to provide a sense of fun or a socially poignant message. In the two images above, we can see these two different aspects of Yarn Bombing. The top image of a street post covered with a knitted R2D2 balaclava definitely shows the whimsical and fun parts of Yarn Bombing. On the other hand, the pink knitted covering on the tank definitely has a political message and seems to protest against the devastation of war. The pink hue of the covering adds a softness that undermines the harsh angles and qualities of the tank, and it is made in a way that reminds me of a baby’s blanket.

Ultimately, yarn bombing is playful and fun, and I’d call it Craftivism for sure! If you know how to knit, I challenge you to go yarn bomb something in your neighborhood–I know I will.

Check out this video to see Yarn Bombers in action:

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