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A Yarn about Yarnstorming,* and Guerrilla Knitting

Lovely Legs - the Guerilla Knitters strike again!

While we were enjoying our morning tea on Friday and looking across at the former Christmas tree, I remembered that in its last incarnation, Hobart’s Guerrilla Knitters had covered it in knitted stars and hearts. Obviously they were still going because a tree on the way to the Square had also been kitted out in vibrant colours and I had seen the same thing in Geeveston recently.  It’s not just a Tasmanian phenomenon either. There are excellent examples of what can only be termed yarn sculpture in Guilford in Western Australia and also in Hurstbridge, Victoria, where a full steam train has been created on a fence at the Station in memory of the days when apple orchards were the reason for its existence. For more amazing examples of yarn art see Wiki , Pinterest or some of Lori Zimmer's collection.

The Guerrilla Knitters have been busy in Geeveston too

Not surprisingly Geeveston's Yarn and Craft store also boasts yarn embellishments including the sign

This had me wondering about how it started what it meant. The story goes that while there had been at least one fibre artist in Houston, Texas in the 1990s, the idea caught on in 2015 after another Houston resident Magda Sayeg, decorated the door handle of her boutique with a knitted “cosy.”  

 It was her personal revolt against what she thought was an excessive amount of steel and concrete. The result was much admired and photographed and soon spread to other parts of the USA and then Europe, and especially London where full scale community groups such as Knit the City evolved. By 2011 there was an International Yarn Bombers Day and Australia had its own “Twilight Taggers.”  Mainstream recognition soon followed with commissions and large public installations.

For many, yarn art – knitted or crocheted,  is just that –another kind of public art, or a different medium of personal expression or a novel way to “humanise and soften” impersonal public spaces. Some however, see it as a vehicle for political, social and cultural expression with mildly subversive undertones. See for example The Knitting Nannas Against Gas

Textile artist Lori Zimmer  regards it as a subtle feminist revolt against the overwhelmingly male world of Street Art and as elevating what is more usually seen as women’s work. It’s “a new message and a new art form,” says Lori.

While part of me says that the material and effort should perhaps go into crocheting hats and scarves for the homeless, I also appreciate the element of surprise which makes us look again at places we take for granted. In Maddy Costa’s words, guerrilla knitting does indeed liberate us “from the forces of drabness.” My other concern is its fragility and transience.  I fear that it will soon fade and decay like some bright flower, but at least if real wool is used it could be regarded as renewable and biodegradable.Steiner adherents would say that change and decline are valuable life lessons.

*Yes, it used be called Yarn Bombing, but according to Maddy Costa the “B” word has fallen out of favour, especially in London