Yarnbombing – The Word

The term ” yarnbomb ” comes out of graffiti , ” bomb ” means putting up a bunch of tags in one area . When people ask me what I’m doing  I say “Yarnbombing ” And often they quickly nod , they’ve heard of it . But I don’t think what I’m doing is graffiti really. It’s street art  made with knitting.

The Russian and I put up this rack on Sunday. We met at 2.oo and it was extremely bright and hot . I had forgotten we are so close to the Equinox ,  it was like sitting in a bowl of bright light for 4 hours. Some of you might recognize this rack-we put up a piece on this same rack 3 months ago . Someone had taken down part of the old piece and just left  one little strip . This is a strange story .  I had noticed that lots of my yarnbombs were coming down all at once -5 or 6 at a time , entire installations.  I thought the city was spring cleaning . This was nerve racking . This bike rack got only partly taken down which  suggested it wasn’t the city . I count on Berkeley’s tolerance to do my bigger stuff , so it would be bad if the city decided that there would be no more yarnbombing .

After some time I got an e-mail from an anonymous knitter saying that they were taking down my pieces and sewing a blanket with them as a commentary on public and private art . They showed me the blanket with my yarnbombs all cut up and sewn together .  I was so pained to recognize  so much of my work all cut up. I wrote back and asked them not to do this-I wanted to make something myself with the old pieces.  So all that made me want to put up another new piece on this same rack . Plus I just really like this rack .

So back to the word yarnbombing . This word is getting used for lots of different things –  for big legal public commissions , for gallery artists who crochet and knit , for knitting put up at big craft stores  , for knitting done for big corporations , for knitting in peoples’ gardens -I even saw someone describe a knitted dolls’ dress as a yarnbomb . All of this is good  and interesting and exciting but  I don’t think it’s exactly yarnbombing.

To me the word yarnbombing means knitting that is put up subversively-you don’t have permission , it’s done for free as a gift , it’s out on the street for everyone to see , it’s art without walls , art that’s not for sale , art just for pleasure .

   A funny Muni link about the Bart Seat here.

Another small spinartiste  yarnbombing  interview  here

Yarnbombing Bart and Power

  I’ve gotten interested in how art gives us this power in  the outside world . When I first put up yarnbombing on a street I was startled by how   the street changed , the domestic  colorful knitting made the street look new .  A lot of people stopped and fiddled around with the knitting for a moment , they would get in a more cheerful state .  I thought you had to go through layers of permission to change a city-with yarnbombing you don’t.  Yarnbombing didn’t hurt anything so I continued on with my strange new power.

I wanted to knit a seat cover for the sorry seats on Bart . We are famous here in the Bay Area for our disheveled  Bart Seats .  Man , I would have loved to knit the whole train – it would have been so graffitish –  but I’m going to need some help for that .  I began riding around on the train to get my measurements.

It’s interesting to watch people on Bart , everyone is trying to stay private with their books and newspapers , ipods and knitting , looking out the window, dozing .  Everyone is trying to make things a little more pleasant for themselves .We know we have this power to make our own lives a little happier. I wanted to suggest that we have a power to make the whole train better.

Have you seen the pictures of people bringing their own chairs on Bart ? Someone had even brought a padded armchair. I thought it would be fresh if we all made art covers and put them on the seats instead of waiting patiently and numbly for Bart to meditate itself to a solution . I would love to make one hundred covers.

So I have been riding around on Bart sitting on my nice clean knitted cover .   I fold it up and carry it off  when I get home . You can make any situation better with a little art.

Some links  Eastbay Express  here

Berkeley Patch here

Yarnbomber site here

Yarnbombing On International Yarnbombing Day – A Torrent of Knitting

I was standing on the Bart platform at 10.30 waiting for the train to come so I  could yarnbomb it. The night was balmy and  dark , everything looked vivid , bright and shiny. I was in that jittery ,  hyper acute state I get in before I yarnbomb . This is  state I treasure and also dread. I had knit a slipcover for a Bart seat for International Yarnbombing Day.

I had been riding the Bart train to no where a lot lately , measuring the seats repeatedly , making little drawings, taking pictures , draping bits of knitting here and there  . A  knitted cover for a Bart seat had seemed like a brilliant idea 4 weeks ago-such a witty comment on the collapsing state of the Bart seats .  How hard could it be ?

I had been knitting furiously all day and all month  .  I had knit relentlessly all through our vacation much to my partners surprise  . I had knit all the pieces when I noticed they were all curling up into little snails . Knitting curling at the edges  ! I knew about this but I had forgotten because I sew everything I   knit onto poles. So I had to very determinedly knit flat borders all around each piece .  And figure how the heck to make round corners.

  As I sat knitting and spinning all day for the last month trying to get this yarnbomb made by June 11 I often thought how ridiculous it was to be doing this . But I knew at a very young age that almost everything we do is just something someone made up to do – almost every thing we do is to entertain ourselves. We are all just trying to have  a good and happy life.

I like to yarnbomb.

So here it was Sat. June 11 and I had to get this yarnbomb on that train before midnight  .  Having to knit and sew seams so fast was making me much more confident and aggressive . This is an excellent reason to take on big projects. And there – I was done !

So we are back at the Bart station and the train comes along and I get on. I open up my little purple backpack and pull out this  big voluptuous piece of knitting .  Half way through knitting the slipcover I had realized  that I really liked it and wanted to keep it . Usually it is a mark of yarnbombing flair and confidence that you put up a piece and let it be taken down immediately if the fates decree .  But I couldn’t stand the idea of the knitting being up for only an hour and being thrown away.  So I had made a slipcover that I could put on and remove .  I took it out of my bag and slipped it on the seat.

” That’s a good idea  ” said the woman next to me. ” The seats are dirty ! ”

‘I know ” I said ” This is my little artistic comment on the problem ”

Everyone else very politely ignored us. I too k pictures and then folded the  cover back up to use in future yarnbombing adventures.

I want to mention that I was inspired to do this by Ish knits yarnbombing  The Blue Line in Philadelphia .  I like the idea of artists commenting on each others work .  I also want to thank The Russian and Brenda Loreman for helping me knit this.

I was in Time magazine this week here.

You should also see all the amazing yarnbombing that was done all over the world here.

Yarnbombing and Art – Phase 4

One morning a woman in Alberta , Canada  named Joann Matvichuk got out of bed and announced “June 11 shall be International Yarnbombing Day. ”

And knitters all over the world murmured ” Ok- Good. We’ll get right on it ” and started knitting yarnbombs. Really , all over the world . This is fascinating , provocative and a little surreal.

I am one years old today- I started yarnbombing a year ago -June 2010. Like all one year olds , I am reflecting deeply on the meaning of life and I have some thoughts on the meaning of yarnbombing as an art . I went to art school and  I have theories.

Yarnbombing Phase 1.       ” Wow knitting looks great outside ! ” phase.

The first yarnbomb I made was 12 inches long and was yellow stripes. I thought it looked fantastic and looked out my door every 10 minutes to admire it. Knitting on a pole-How astonishing ! Why didn’t I ever think of that before !

Yarnbombing Phase 2.   ”   Yarnbombing Everywhere as a Celebration of Place . ”

I got the hang of spending all my time thinking about yarnbombing and knitted non stop .  I looked at all my favorite places in Berkeley and went around decorating them with knitting. It was like a knitted map of how I travel to the same gardens, shops,and bakeries. I loved seeing my knitting all over town , loved the cheerful personal look of the knitted street and loved that everyone was accepting me doing this.Yarnbombing Phase 3       ” Knitting can be Fancy ”

I loved knitted color on a pole and the  protected , soothing, relaxing sensation that I got looking at the wool.   I wanted to get more dimensional and show off some knitting tricks.  We began knitting in ruffles , loops , pleats , gathers ,bobbles and a very few cables. { By we I mean The Russian , my assistant was  too. } This was a long phase, poles look so good in ruffles -the foundation of the fashion industry! We were blitzing certain favorite Berkeley areas-putting up 5 or 6 pieces at a time. This was also the phase when newspapers and blogs started mentioning us. This is totally addicting. As if the yarnbombing wasn’t addicting enough already.

A lot if this was fueled by a long standing passion for knitting and spinning-I handspin all the yarn to get the 7o colors I want. I think a lot of yarnbombers need to knit a lot and yarnbombing gives a limitless scope. It also gives a yarnbomber an audience for knitting that is brand new and often enthusiastic. Who would have thought so many people would  like knit graffiti ?

I went to Paris twice in phase 3 and yarnbombed that glorious city. I’d never imagined a city that was a work of art and so devoted to leisure. The whole city had the exciting and peaceful quality that I loved in my knitted installations.

And finally-in phase 3 I started Facebooking and blogging and entered that world of steady , constant, shallow pleasure.

Yarnbombing Phase 4     “Yarnbombing  As Art  ”

Somebody decided that Berkeley needed bike racks on every corner and bike racks appeared everywhere. I thought it would be better if they were knitted , especially the long waving racks. The long curved shapes had more surface to cover with color and pattern. They looked like sculpture to me when they were done. I loved looking at them and wanted to camp at their base to study them . The really big racks had a presence that charged the street up. I started to think about what makes something art and I felt that the racks had   qualities of art-they were beautiful , challenging , powerful  and the knitting made them charming and inoffensive .

Yarnbombing is Art With Out Walls , a  preoccupation of art for the last 80 years.