Yarn bombing, guerrilla knitting, yarn storming, urban knitting, knit graffiti or my personal fave, ‘kniffiti’! All apply to the same creative art form of taking knitting to the streets, resulting in colourful street art using yarn and textiles, instead of paint.
I first came across yarn bombing when I was at University doing my Street Arts degree. Over the years, I’ve seen it from small and subtle to large and consuming, usually appearing anonymously or by way of promoted community projects… I love every bit of it!
Currently, Pallant House have their courtyard installation on show, ‘Yarnbombing: The Octopus’ Garden’. A project of drop-in workshops, in conjunction with Outside In and community group workshops around Chichester, creating a colourful knit and crochet display in their courtyard. From knitted squares and pom-pom’s, to knitted snails and octopus’, the courtyard’s thread and yarn installation is a display of creative fun and love with communal spirit.
I love how cosy the trees look in their ‘blankets’ and enjoyed spotting the different octopus’ and animals attached to the squares. My 20 month old nephew ran off with one of the owls, which we had to slyly get back off him to pop back in its pocket on the tree! I like that they’ve included the drainpipes in the installation, which are a colourful contrast to the brick work of the wall and suggest a much more urban ‘kniffiti’ style. Despite how ‘out of place’ it’s supposed to be on the trees, to me it seems beautifully fitting!
Kniffiti, or more commonly yarn bombing, is often used within art and protest. A statement of reclaiming the streets, using craft as a way of non-violent protest to voice opinion and often raising profiles through comedic and/or subversive styles. The 15ft Nike banner, seen in the Disobedient Objects exhibition last year at the V&A, was a five year project, collecting virtual signatures and hand knitted squares from over 40 countries. The squares making up the Nike swoosh serve as petitions for fair labour policies for Nike garment workers.
Likewise, yarn bombing is now recognised as a fun, creative and likeable way of campaign awareness in business. Magda Sayeg, considered the mother of yarn bombing, no longer has to use her alias name of PolycotN, due to the reputation of her work and the number of commissions for numerous installations and exhibitions she receives. In 2014, more than 8,000 volunteers sent in red kniited blood drops, having been asked to ‘knit one, save one’ for the NHS’s ‘Blood Doesn’t Grow on Trees’ campaign, to raise awareness with younger people of the need for blood donations.
Kniffiti isn’t just blurring the lines between art and life, but shaking up the way we see our world. Knit The City, whose book can be found in our Knitting Reference Library (KRL), are a group of ‘yarn stormers’ who do just that! “Our squishy street art does many things. It takes a woolly hold on forgotten public spaces and gives them soul. It treats the whole world as an art gallery. It encourages others to bring their own city to life in ways only they can imagine…After all a city without citizens is just an empty shell of a place with no life at all”
On display in our Welcome area is a selection of books connected to Kniffiti from the KRL, such as Yarn Bombing, Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting and Urban Knits:
Yarn Bombing the Octopus’ Garden at Pallant House can be seen until the 12th June 2016, so pick a sunny day soon and go enjoy a coffee in their colourful courtyard!
Robynne Willowby, May 2016