A group called Knitting for Change launched a project in summer 2013 that saw a wall covered with knitting graffiti. The wall stands by Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, John’s Place, Bohemia Road, Hastings, England. The wall was created during a series of workshops attended by members of the public, and it was embroidered with slogans including: “I Love Hastings”, “Walk a mile in my shoes before you judge me”, and “Be Somebody”. The workshops and the effort to cover the wall also proved a good way to introduce children to knitting, with the children in attendance learning to knit with needles or to finger knit for the first time. For more about this project, check out the video about the project on The Hastings Observer website, and see this Hastings Online article, which was written by one of the two women who launched the project.
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Monday, 12 August 2013
The largest and most ambitious yarn bomb in U.S. history was installed over the last two days. You're looking at the Andy Warhol Seventh Street Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the final completion of "Knit the Bridge", a project that has been months in the making and that has involved the efforts of over a thousand volunteers from all over Pennsylvania and even some from other states and abroad. The towers and entire railing of the bridge have been covered in tens of thousands of knitted and crocheted acrylic afghans. Some of the afghans were donated as a whole, while others were assembled from squares and panels that had been donated separately.
The Andy Warhol Bridge will remain covered in these blankets until September 7, at which time the afghans will be removed, cleaned and given to the homeless. For more details, see the video above or visit the Knit the Bridge project website.
Thursday, 6 June 2013
In March 2012, a mystery yarn bomber, or bombers, decorated a railing on a pier in Saltburn, Yorkshire with a a 3-dimensional scarf commemorating the 2012 Olympics.
Residents of Saltburn wondered if the it could be the same yarn bomber who'd previously added various knitted decorations to several locations in town since 2011, such as the selection of Royal Jubilee yarn bombs that appeared on the handrail near the top of the incline tramway.
Now the yarn bomber, or possibly a group of them, struck again in May, decorating the railing on the Saltburn pier with a second and even more elaborate yarn bomb, this time with an aquatic theme. The Saltburn residents seem universally delighted with the wit, skill, and invention of the yarn bombs, but curious as to who could be responsible.
Given the scale of the projects, I think it more likely that it's a group of people than just one, but who knows where and how they'll strike next, or if they'll ever be identified? Who knows what yarn bombs designs lurk in the hearts of knitters?
Monday, 22 April 2013
How do you make a large-scale yarn bomb or knitted art installation without having to do all the work yourself? By asking the public to help you out, of course. One weekend in June 2010, sculptor Dan Preston, jewellery designer Holly Packer, and some Superblue Design Ltd. employees took 7000 metres of rope, a giant circular knitting loom, and some large plastic balls to Jubilee Park at Canary Wharf, London, and enticed over 100 park visitors into knitting a 72 metre tube.
I'm wondering if I could try something similar the next time I'm behind schedule on knitting Christmas presents.
Sunday, 24 March 2013
This protestor, photographed outside the White House on March 11, hand-knitted a pie chart representing the allocation of the U.S. budget. It pains me to have to say this, but the pie chart's proportions aren't accurate: the U.S. spends about 20% of its total yearly budget on defense (plus another 3.5% on benefits to veterans), not more than half, as this chart indicates. And aesthetically, the execution of this project could have been better. But as a concept, this yarn bombing idea is kick ass, and this knitter made it happen and displayed it in front of the White House, instead of say, typing uselessly about it on some knitting blog.
But wait! There's more! This knitter also made herself an "Occupy Grandparents" afghan and a "Stop XL" hat that is likely a statement of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
I'm almost afraid to ask what she'd do with a cowl and fingerless glove design.
Photos via Jennifer Bendery.
Coming up: Look for the Knit Simple Spring 2013 review tomorrow morning!
Saturday, 16 March 2013
The police in Leicester, England have taken to yarn bombing in an effort to prevent crime. They've hung pom-poms in the trees in Bede Park and Great Central Way, Leicester, and hope that by making the area look more pleasant and fun that they can encourage more residents to feel safer, take more pride, and participate more actively in these areas.
Some residents are saying they don't understand how woollen balls are going to fix anything, but it seems to me that tactics like this are quite worth trying. For one thing, a project like this requires a very small investment of time and money, and certainly can't make matters worse, so why not try it? And there is some precedent and social science research that supports the belief that it might work, such as that associated with the broken windows theory.
In a real life example of the broken windows theory, after the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, Mayor-Commissioner Walter Washington ordered Washington, D.C. city maintenance crews to clean up the damage immediately on the theory that people who wake up to clean, cared-for neighbourhoods are more likely to leave them that way. There's no way to know whether or how much this helped the situation. It certainly wasn't a magical solution. The riots in Washington continued for four days and devastated the inner city area. However, Walter Washington went on to become the city's first elected mayor, which suggests that his methods of dealing with the violence at least earned him widespread respect and trust in the city he governed.
Another possible argument in favour of the pom-poms is that I think people tend to underestimate the cumulative power of small, purposeful, and intelligently made changes. Just hanging up pom-poms in some trees is not going to revolutionize Leicester. But I doubt those who are working to make Leicester safer are planning to stop there. There are other small, inexpensive measures that can be used to prevent crime. In Mansfield, England, the Layton Burroughs Residents Association installed bright pink lighting in an underpass to discourage loiterers. It seems to have helped. The teenagers who formerly hung out there saw the lighting as uncool and didn't care at all for the way it highlighted their acne. Some public transit stations, including Toronto's Kennedy subway station, have tried playing classical music over their PA systems to deter gangbangers from gathering there. Again, it's no cure-all, but it is considered effective.
I don't mean to suggest that aesthetic changes to an environment will solve all society's ills. They will be next to useless if not supported by other, more far-reaching measures. The idea of an aesthetic-only approach makes me think of a former friend of mine who was in an abusive relationship and a dead-end job she hated and who in her late thirties had no savings to speak of. She was making no progress at all in dealing with these issues, but she would spend a lot of time talking about how she wanted to get breast implants, or cut off half her hair and dye it blond, or about how much she needed to go shopping in a way that seemed to equate such actions with major life changes. She'd, say, buy a top with a wild print, because it "looked rebellious and she felt rebellious!" Given that this was a woman who was already very well-groomed and attractive, I wanted to snap at her that if she didn't like her life, why the hell didn't she make some meaningful changes instead of taking things out on her hair or buying more clothes she'd only stuff into her already packed closets and hardly ever wear? In her case focusing more on her appearance than she already did was a misdirection and waste of resources.
It is very important to maintain appearances at the societal as well as the individual level, but other measures such as sound fiscal management, effective policing and regulation, and improving access to social programs, medical care, education, and good housing, are even more important, and will go a long way towards improving the conditions that lead to crime. A holistic and balanced approach to problem-solving is best.
But for now, there are bright fluffy pom-poms in the trees in Leicester, and it will be interesting to see what effect they have, and what Leicester does next to improve itself.
Saturday, 15 December 2012
Yarn bombing, the practice of decorating or covering large objects in public spaces with knitted or crocheted items, seems to have begun in 2005 and has grown into a worldwide movement. With the growth in yarn bombing's popularity has come some criticism, the most common being that it's a waste of time and yarn. Yarn bombers are quick to point out that no one says an artist who is painting a park bench is wasting time and materials. True, although since the artist is probably using paint chemically engineered to withstand the elements, the bench art will last much longer than a tree trunk cozy. Then too, the bench artist has probably been commissioned by public officials to paint the bench, while the yarn bomber often hasn't, and could technically be considered a vandal, albeit one who does no lasting harm.
I'm a little bit conflicted as to how I feel about yarn bombing. I'm a very practical person, and everything I make has to meet something I call the "utility quotient", by which I mean that if I'm going to spend X number of hours making something, it has be an item that will last and be used for at least X number of hours, and preferably more. I've never been able to get into making Halloween costumes because I can only wear them once a year. I've never really liked cooking much because a meal takes the same 20 minutes to eat regardless of how much or how little time the cook spent preparing it. So I do not want to do any yarn bombing myself. But while I also don't want to condemn yarn bombing, I do think that like any hobby, it's best practiced with some restraint and self-awareness.
This topic hits something of a nerve with me because of the thinking I've been doing for the last year or so about leisure-type activities. The lengths to which North Americans go to pursue their hobbies alternately awes and appalls me. I used to volunteer with a woman who was into quilting, and she told me about a weekend road trip she was planning with a friend, which trip involved them driving from Toronto, Ontario, to somewhere in West Virginia for the sole purpose of looking at a quilt. A former co-worker of mine once drove over an hour to get to, and spent all one Sunday afternoon attending, a basset hound owners' picnic with her basset hound puppy. My father, who is a very talented woodworker, flew to Norway with my mother in the summer of 2011 to go on a woodworkers' cruise. There are video gamers who spend forty hours a week gaming, and this is on top of holding down a full-time job. And of course there are mountain climbers and deep sea divers who travel the world for the sake of finding new heights to climb and new depths to dive to.
I'm not about to condemn any hobby as an outright waste of time. Practically any endeavour can become worthwhile if one brings a sufficient level of effort, intelligence and creativity to it. And lots of hobbies, though they may not be what you could call productive in themselves, yield benefits. They might be good physical exercise, be educational, keep the brain challenged and active, or give one the opportunity to make like-minded friends and become part of a community. Sometimes they can be developed into a money-making business, at which point they can be said to have stopped being a hobby. Or they can just be purely for fun, and that's just fine. Simple enjoyment is a worthwhile end in itself; one cannot and should not work all the time.
But I do get appalled when I see leisure time activities pursued to harmful excess. Though I won't condemn any particular activity, it's also fair to say that not all leisure activities are equally worthwhile. Some are flabby pleasures, activities that demand almost nothing from us and that will degrade us physically and mentally if we spend too much time on them. Spending the entire evening watching TV and loafing on the couch with a bag of chips is fine once in a while, but if you do it every night of your life, or even every other night, you won't like the long-term results. And on average, North Americans are doing almost exactly that; it's been estimated that the average Canadian spends 21 hours a week, or a quarter of their lives, watching TV.
Even the most worthwhile of hobbies can be problematic when indulged in to excess, if they are carried to the point that we neglect other, more important things, such as physical care of ourselves, relationships or livelihoods or other responsibilities, or life goals. Leisure time activities can become a black hole in which we can lose our way in life, our ambitions, our obligations, ourselves. I think often of a guy I knew in my early twenties who owed his ex-girlfriend $2000. She was on social assistance because she couldn't get work after an inter-provincial move, and he never sent her a penny, but somehow during the same time frame he had $1200 to spend on Laser Quest — he told me so himself. His playing Laser Quest in this context was both selfish and the means to suppress any awareness that he was being selfish; it was the snake eating its own tail. A few years later I met someone else who spent seven or eight hundred dollars a month and almost all her free time on ballroom dancing and clothes shopping, and then expected everyone she knew to listen to her feel sorry for herself because she didn't have a house or retirement savings, or the time to take courses to qualify herself for a better job than the one she had and hated, or even to clean her one-bedrooom apartment.
In this world, 35,000 children die of starvation of every day, and over a million people make their living from picking garbage dumps. Even in first world countries there are so many problems that need to be solved, and so many people who need a helping hand. And yet many of those who are comfortably circumstanced, who spend hundreds of dollars and a hundred hours or more a month on frivolous pursuits, claim they have "no time" to volunteer and "no money" to donate to charity, nor even the time to inform themselves on current events and to vote. It's no wonder the rest of the world resents North Americans the way they do.
After writing and considering all the above, it seems to me any hobby is fine if pursued with a certain mindfulness and sense of proportion. Things like TV-watching, internet surfing, crafting, sports, artistic pursuits, video games, recreational shopping, and reading trashy books are all very well (I wouldn't want to live in a world without them), but they do need to be kept in their place.
I see no reason why yarn bombing can't be just as worthwhile as many other more common leisure activities, or why it should get any less respect than, say, golf. Yarn bombing can be made to serve a larger purpose. As you can see from the photos of yarn bombing I've included in this post, yarn bombing can be a way of making a political statement, a way of getting people talking and thinking about an issue. Yarn bombing is an undeniable attention grabber. If you were to walk down the street and pass a bus covered in crochet, you would notice the decorated bus because would be impossible not to notice it. And then given all the people who will see the bus, at least a few will be bound to take a picture of it and put it on the net. It will get covered in the local news, and possibly be picked up by larger media outlets. In a noisy, busy world like this one, attention-getting stunts like yarn bombing can be very useful in terms of promoting events or raising awareness for causes. Yarn bombers who harness that power can hardly be said to be wasting their time and materials, especially when yarn bombing is only one, fun part of what they're doing with their lives.
(All photos taken from Time magazine's photo essay on yarn bombing, which can be viewed here.)