Yarn bombing a tree (Photo - commons.wikimedia.org).

      Yarn bombing a tree (Photo – commons.wikimedia.org).

      No, I don’t mean destroying the world with yarn, although that could make a funny science fiction film. I mean reclaiming and personalizing public and/or boring, dull spaces with yarn. Strictly speaking, yarn bombing is graffiti or street art that utilizes colorful knitted or crocheted yarn instead of paint or chalk. It is considered non-permanent (you can cut it off) and therefore easily removable (unlike paint).

      By Robin Southworth

      Yarn bombing has been around for decades, but the term “yarn bombing” was first coined in 2005 in Houston, Texas. The exact person or group is up for debate, but the idea was to make street art a bit more warm, fuzzy, and accessible, using left-over yarn from other knitting or crocheting projects. The first “project” called “yarn bombing” was a door knob “cozy”.

      Yarn bombing has popped up all over the world. Here in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco Bay area, Mexico City, New York City, Paris, London, El Salvador, greater Europe, and even China. Yarn bombing has been featured in Time magazine, which has a slideshow of examples from around the world. Los Angeles has it’s own yarn bombing group, which collaborates with local governments and museums to create public art and installations.

      The How

      Yarn bombing a bicycle (Photo - commons.wikimedia.org).

      Yarn bombing a bicycle (Photo – commons.wikimedia.org).

      The first time I saw a photo of a yarn bombing installation, I thought, “Awesome, but how did they attach it?” There are two ways. One, the old-fashioned way, is to sew the yarn in place. If you’ve ever seamed a garment together, you know that sewing something in place can take time, but it makes for a neater project. If the yarn bomber doesn’t have time, zip ties are used, those plastic strips that usually hold electric or computer cords together. They won’t make the project look so neat, but from a distance, no one will notice the ties.

      The Who

      It is a common practice to “tag” the art by tying a tag (usually laminated to protect it from the weather) to the art, giving the name of the project and the name of the group who did it, but not usually the names of the artists. Technically, yarn bombing is illegal. Only on rare occasions has anyone been aggressively prosecuted.

      The Why

      Yarn bombing elephant bench (Photo - geograph.org.uk).

      Yarn bombing elephant bench (Photo – geograph.org.uk).

      Some yarn bombing groups have their own agendas, making political statements with their art: yarn bombing a tank, a gun in a statue’s hand, or even a sweater on a Mr. Rogers statue. Themed work is not uncommon: pink yarn for Valentine’s Day; sparkly yarn for New Year’s, red and green for Christmas.

      ! There is even an International Yarn Bombing Day. June 11th. You now have six months to find and plan that yarn bombing project, even if it’s just a door knob cozy on your front door.

      Now go out there and get knitting!

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      1. Thierry Le Chevillier says:

        I am french and I have seen my mother knitting. Since 70 years I guess.
        For her children first, then for others.
        When I show her the first yarn bombing performance in our small city, She was upset, saying it was à losse of wool which could have been used to make clothes for a children in Madagascar.
        We dont understand why you losse your time, your money to put whool on trees instead of human bodies.
        Perhaps you live in a so rich country that you lisse your sense of humanity.
        Hope this message could help you to open your eyes.
        Thierry Le Chevillier

        • Robin Southworth says:

          I understand your concern with yarn bombing, Thierry. Most projects are done with yarn left over from other projects, yarn that, while beautiful and functional, does not have enough yardage to make another garment. Thank you for your comment.

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