Crocheting and knitting as a form of street art


It surprises me how often something “old” becomes “new.”

A few weeks ago I was flipping channels while on the treadmill and stopped to see a feature on CBS This Morning about yarn bombing, a type of knitted or crocheted street art using colorful yarn or fabric rather than paint or chalk. Other names for this street art are yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, kniffiti, urban knitting or graffiti knitting.

Who knew a “grandma” activity would become trendy?

London Kaye, the featured artist on the CBS feature, said her type of street art wrapped yarn around things that are outside bringing a bit of warmth to the urban environment. She once yarn bombed a cliff in Italy, but more often the object is a fence or wall. However, a favorite piece is a waterspout near a building in which her yarn is crocheted to flow like water. At times she has worked on projects with companies, such as Miller beer and Starbucks.

To tell you the truth I was not aware of this street art… maybe because I live in a rural rather than an urban setting now; maybe because I am not into fabric or crafts and don’t usually watch the morning shows or afternoon talk shows.

So I took a crash course. A street artist named Jessie Hemmons wrote a blog post on titled “Yarn Bombing 101.” She instructs beginners to choose an object, making sure there is a place to secure the yarn. Next the artist makes a diagram and measures the object with a fabric measuring tape. For example, if yarn bombing a tree the width and height of the trunk would be measured. The third step is the creation of a design, which includes color choices and the pattern. Following the diagram the artist crochets or knits the work. The final step is the installation, which entails sewing the finished pieces onto the object. Hemmons reminds the artist to consider any tools needed to install the artwork, such as a ladder if the object is a tree.

A blogger named Bali gave instructions on a blogsite titled “Twilight Taggers.” She advised beginners to start small. Also to make tags (the artwork) smaller than the object so it hugs it tightly and doesn’t slide off. The tag can be sewed or cable ties can be used.

“If you have a piece that you need to run and dash-use cable ties. If you’re able to stand around for a bit then sewing is fine,” she writes.

According to Bali there are two types of yarn bombers, those who pre-plan and those who create first and find an object later. Some yarn bomb in daylight for all to see and others at night under the cover of darkness. Some leave a “calling card” while other street artists work anonymous.

Yarn bombers should always photograph their work, said Bali, because it can be removed. Also left out in the weather, yarn can fray and unravel. The work is not long lasting.

I looked at a few photos to get an idea of the scope of this graffiti knitting. In Copenhagen, Denmark a military tank was covered in a pink and purple design called a “tank blanket;” colorful crochet ran along the cracks of a street in Paris, France; in Mexico City an entire bus was yarn bombed; and a seat on a Philadelphia subway train was wrapped in the artwork of an anonymous yarn artist.

Apparently, there are clubs or groups of yarn bombers throughout the world. I noted the Denver Ladies Fancywork Society, Seattle Yarn Core and London Knit the City.

Now that I know, the next time I am in an urban setting I will look for kniffiti in the trees, along fences, on a light pole or bike rack.