Bringing The Yarn Bomb To The Country

Feb 27 2012
Published by under Art, Poetry and Musings
[Editor’s Note: As I am facing numerous writing deadlines over the
second half of February, this seems like a good time to give a
retrospective glance to the first two years of
Art of the Rural.
Over these weeks I will feature a few new articles, but also many
favorites from the archives. Thanks again to everyone who has read and
contributed; what began as a labor of love has become a project far
larger, and far more rewarding, than I ever could have anticipated – and
I deeply appreciate the readership and participation of such a diverse
audience. In March we will offer new articles and series, and share some
new projects related to our mission.

Bringing The Yarn Bomb To The Country was originally published on June 9, 2011. International Yarn Bombing Day is set for June 9th this year.]
By Rachel Reynolds Luster, Contributing Editor


International Yarn Bombing Day
will occur for the first time this Saturday, June 11th. The event was
the brainchild of Joann Matvichuk, a “domestic goddess” who lives and
works in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her motivation is to encourage knitters
and crocheters to perform crafted graffiti on the same day, around the
world as a collective group.

For
those not familiar with the concept of yarn bombing, it’s a form of
graffiti and cultural activism that involves repurposing aspects of the
urban landscape by covering them with knitted and crocheted adornments.
The movement was started in 2005 by Texas artist Magda Sayeg.
At the time, Sayeg was the owner of a yarn shop in Houston and was
overcome with “a selfish desire to add color to my world.” In reaction
to the urban landscape and the lack of warmth she found there, she
knitted a cozy to cover the metal door handle of her shop. She then
knitted a sheath for the stop sign across the street. Passersby stopped
and noticed. They took pictures. She was encouraged by the reaction and
began covering items across the city. 

Sayeg and a group of fellow knitters
have since yarn bombed items across the world including parking meters
in Brooklyn, a bus in Mexico, and a twenty-six foot statue of a soldier
in Bali, neutering its violence, according to a 2010 article in The Guardian.
In that same article, Sayeg says, “In this world of technology,
over-development, fewer trees and more concrete, it is empowering to be
able to beautify your environment.” This is a powerful statement in
action. Sayeg, now in Austin, has spawned an international movement with
yarn bombing groups popping up not only across America but also in
Japan, Britain, Scandinavia, South Africa, and Australia.

Generally
done in cover of darkness, some of the participants wear masks and
relish the role of artistic vagrants. Like all unsanctioned street art,
yarn bombing is illegal, and Sayeg’s original group of knitters in
Houston crafted a terminology for their work based on the world of
hip-hop, creating names for themselves such as Notorious N.I.T. and
P-Knitty. The group as a whole was called Knitta Please or just Knitta. Further information on the history of the movement, Magda, and International Yarn Bombing can be found here.  




I’m
not really good at knitting, but I love to do it. I’ve crocheted for as
long as I remember. My great-grandmother taught me when I was 4 or 5 to
do a chain and basic single stitch. I remember getting a crocheted
potholder every Christmas from Nanny with a five dollar bill folded up
inside. While they were truly horrible potholders (acrylic yarn easily
melts), I still have an entire collection along with the many scarves
and pillows she made for me over the years. I keep them because they are
touchstones of my time with her and all that she shared with me. They
represent personal remembrances, a set of skills, and bright objects
that are both functional and decorative.

I
am also enamored with the idea of knitting or crocheting to affect
cultural change. Yarn bombing definitely falls into the category of
“craftivism,” a concept developed by Betsy Greer, whose website
is a resource for many in the DIY and feminist craft movements. I love
that those participating in yarn bombing, at least on one level, are
taking action to reclaim their urban landscape, one that they see as
cold and distant, by beautifying and changing it with a craft seen
mostly as domestic, predominately functional, and in many circles–I
would imagine especially in an urban context–irrelevant to modern
society. Participants are reclaiming public spaces as home. Still, I
have been contemplating what form such a movement would take in rural
America and what the motivations and implications might be.

 Photograph by DPA

First,
I believe that many of the rural yarn bombing projects would stay
around. Rather than temporary remnants of acts of activism, removed
promptly by city employees tasked with keeping the city clean, I think
rural examples would be adopted by many as decorative aspects of
community life and remain part of objects such as mailboxes or garden
swings where they were placed. I also believe that it might cause a
resurgence in rural textile craft and appreciation of it. If we factor
in, for example in my community, that there are many people, especially
women, raising fiber animals and creating yarn that could be used, the
implications become economic. These are just some of the possibilities
that come to mind, but I would like to encourage any of you who knit or
crochet to yarn bomb something, anything, in your rural communities on
June 11. Of course, I believe we should locally adapt our methodology
for such activities. If you’re going to yarn bomb something at someone’s
home, you might ask first. I think, probably, public spaces are fair
game. It doesn’t have to be large, could be something as simple as the
first door handle that Magda did at her shop in Houston. Yarn bomb your
local senior center, or better yet, get those folks involved!
In the spirit of engagement, I sent a note to Joann Matvichuk, organizer
of International Yarn Bombing Day, asking if she had communicated with
any groups or individuals planning on participating in the event from
rural America. She was kind enough to pose the question on the IYBD facebook page
and received dozens of responses of interest. Two responses in
particular struck me as relevant as we think about what the implications
might be for rural yarn bombing activities.


Corrine MacKrell: “I grew up rural. If I were going to yarn bomb at
home, I would personalize it like a gift. A camo scarf on or around the
garden gnome of a hunting family, flowers in her favorite color for the
lady down the road, etc.”


Shane Raymond: In the country we have to be more discrete and organic
with our tags. Since I know most of the people and their personalities I
can tailor my tags better as well. Overall I would say it’s much more
personal. Example, a colorful spider webs in the trees in deep state
land. The only people that will see them are middle-aged hunters.

I encourage you to join the conversation on the International Yarn Bombing Day’s Facebook page.
If you do a project, I’d love for you to share it with us. I’m
interested in your photographs and in learning how the projects are
perceived in your community. I’ll share my story too.

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