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Entries in guerilla knitting (1)


Making the Ordinary Extraordinary


There appears to be a new contributing factor to the planet's recent global warming trend and it has more to do with fuzzy threads of wool and an 'underground' art movement than with the ozone layer. Hundreds in city streets worldwide are finding themselves victims to 'Guerilla Knitting' and so far the reactions seem to be positive and welcoming.

Innocently appearing out of no where, in places you would never expect to find them, city dwellers around the globe are being greeted by multicoloured knitted creations hugging the most banal items that one would never normally look at twice; the experience is similar to finding your grandmother's knitted tea cozy covering a park bench. The incongruity of such a sight is what is so disarming.

Just as spray-can graffiti is usually executed covertly at the location, so too is 'graffiti knitting' or 'yarn-bombing' and 'yarn-storming' as it has become known. A group of 'outlaw' knitters stealthily place pieces of their handiwork on public fixtures from fire hydrants to buildings, using anything from dainty knitted flowers to boldly covering entire telephone booths. However, unlike paint graffiti, which despite being its own art form is seen as an act of vandalism leaving most people annoyed, this form of street art leaves its mark as a colourful leg warmer on a lamp post, as scarves and mittens adorning a statue, as a crazy, cozy sweater worn by a tree on its branches, and the resulting reactions are that people tend to smile, leaving them appreciative of the whimsical and cheerful homey touch to their urban panorama.

And that is precisely the aim of these non-threatening, wool-needle wielding anarchists: to reclaim and personalize sterile public places by spreading some magic and injecting a little whimsy and warmth into our daily mundane urban scenes through this new form of street art.

The birth of 'Urban Knitting' is attributed to a former Texas clothes shop owner, Magda Sayeg, who in 2005 decided one day to cover the handle of her shop door with some knitting. As the story goes, people reacted with such delight to this little detail that it inspired Magda to go about town wrapping up several other everyday objects. She eventually closed up shop and started a group called 'KnittaPlease' whose logo is "We Knit Graffiti", and some examples of her crew's achievements are the knit-wrapping of an entire bus in Mexico and a small piece of the Great Wall of China. Magda was also recently asked to be part of and exhibit at 'Il Lusso Essenziale' (The Luxury of the Essential), which is a yearly festival in Rome celebrating the extraordinary in the everyday (just the very thing this Soul Scribbler revels in!), where she covered a Smart Car in her trademark handiwork. In the past five years KnittaPlease has travelled throughout the world from From North America to Australia to Europe to Asia, spreading a little magic and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Since then, dozens of inspired mavericks around the globe have formed similar underground Urban Knitting groups and the trend just continues to grow. Despite the edgy moniker like Guerilla Knitting or Yarnbombing, some of the groups have the cutest names like the Yarnachists, the Knitwits, Who Dunn Knit, Knit Happens, Knit The City, Masquerade and the Knitted Landscape. Who knew that a centuries old craft could ever be considered subversive?

What I find so intriguing about this street art are the reasons why the concept of Urban Knitting in general has become such a worldwide craze. Why are so many so inspired and willing to spend their time creating and installing these knitted pieces? Knitting conjures up images of hearth and home and can be a metaphor for caring, nurturing and the handmade; the physical act itself involves a unifying factor, a coming together. So what does the popularity of bringing this art form to our public streets echo about the era we live in? Given the global economic climate of the last few years, I wonder if society feels the need to be less commercial and more appreciative of savouring the pleasures of non-machine made objects around them? If it has a need to bring more creativity and spirituality into daily life? Or does Urban Knitting simply and subtly remind us of the importance of home and family and the comfort it ultimately provides, especially when times are difficult? What ever the reasons are, being able to make people smile is a gift, and the fact that hundreds of knit-wit mavericks are using creativity and daring to do so is just another confirmation that ART indeed lifts the soul, both for the inspirerer and the inspired.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this, especially if you have seen examples of Graffiti Knitting in person or are a member of a Yarn-bombing group.

For those creative souls of the 'purl one, knit two' faction out there, why not consider spreading some magic with your craft and remove some of that everyday dust Picasso alluded to by turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. I'm not suggesting you go out and sweater-up lamp posts but who wouldn't warmly smile at finding a sweet tiny scarf tied to their bicycle handlebars?

Hmm.. this Soul Scribbler is now wondering how long it takes to learn to knit? She suddenly sees visions of red and green mini scarves adorned with tiny jingle bells mysteriously appearing in her town this Christmas... but shhhh! You won't tell anyone, will you?