Knit stalker: 'Yarn bombing' puts public fixtures in stitches
Stealthy knitters are taking their craft from the couch to the streets.
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — Stealthy knitters are taking their craft from the couch to the streets. Whether you call it yarn bombing, guerrilla knitting or knit graffiti, most just call it fun.
Yarn bombers cover outdoor items with bands of knitting or crochet. Some bombers are hobbyists looking for a new challenge, while others are making a warm and fuzzy statement with their touchable street art.
One knitter in east Dallas has begun wrapping light poles, trees, yield signs, fire hydrants and other bland public spaces with her colorful yarn creations, all in the name of making people smile.
The culprit, who goes by the name K Witta and wishes to remain anonymous, has been yarn bombing for a few weeks now. Witta, a longtime knitter, has followed the movement since it began in Houston and Austin several years ago.
She recently found out about a yarn bombing event in Salt Lake City.
"I said, 'Austin can be cooler than Dallas, sure, but not Salt Lake City. Something has to be done."'
Witta was inspired by Austin-based textile artist Magda Sayeg, who started the group Knitta, Please in 2005. Sayeg, a former Houston fashion boutique owner, is widely known as the founder of knit bombing. She began by knitting the door handle of her store, and it exploded from there.
"There is something that catches people's attention when placing knitting in an urban environment," she says by phone. "It's like the perfect counterpoint to what exists already. As we increasingly become more industrial, we lack that human quality. It makes people kind of think for a moment. It's like stopping and smelling the flowers."
"It's interesting to me how strong the reaction is," Witta says. "I've only been doing it two weeks. Even the first yield sign I did, it was gone within the hour. I said 'Whoa, I'm getting a reaction."'
Sayeg also began with small items such as stop signs and fire hydrants, but now creates larger installations around the world. Be it a bus in Mexico City or statues in Bali, Sayeg tries to learn about the location itself and take cues from the culture, music or food. She says the bus was a turning point for her in how she saw things.
"It really broadened the exposure to yarn bombing and opened my eyes to the many possibilities that were out there. It made things seem limitless to me," Sayeg says.
"It also makes people ask questions. Is this political? Is this a message? That is part of what we call art. It's supposed to raise questions and make us question our own sensibilities."
Sayeg says yarn bombing doesn't always have to send a message. "It just inspires the household knitter to do something different, not so traditional," she says. "To see grandmas do it is so cool and renegade. For most it has nothing to do with their opinions on anything political. It just brings back nostalgic memories in this nontraditional way."
Knitters also love that yarn bombing is giving the craft some exposure. "I think it shows the craft in Dallas is gaining momentum," says Ceylan Gul, a local knitter who hand-dyes yarn with friend Maria Renna under the name Two if by Hand. "It brings awareness to the craft and kind of takes it out of the grandma knitting box, modernizes it a little bit and makes it fun for young people."
Witta knits or crochets her pieces at home; each piece usually takes a few nights. Then she covertly takes it to the location and finishes it off, binding it onto the structure.
Many yarn bombers bomb in secrecy, which Witta says just makes it more fun. "I guess I don't mind anybody knowing among my friends," she says, "but I don't want it to be about me. I want it to be about people smiling and enjoying it." She leaves a calling card with her pieces — "A Random Act of Art by K Witta."
Sayeg says yarn bombing started in secrecy for her out of caution. "The only reason we did it that way was because we weren't graffiti artists," she says. "We had no desire to be arrested. We were too skittish to believe that everyone liked what we did. Doing it at my shop was one thing. But going outside of that, unsanctioned, well that's another realm. I'm not so bold that I would want to be yelled at."
While in some cities yarn bombing could be considered vandalism or littering, in Dallas only painted graffiti is a punishable offense.
After a while Sayeg and her team just embraced being incognito and even took on code names. "We were taking knitting to the streets, gangsta style," she says. "It gives knitting this edge by doing it this way."
YARN BOMBING TIPS
Here are some tips from Twilight Taggers: 1. Start small: Start with something small like a small pole piece or a granny square and work with quick, basic patterns. Then move on to bigger projects.
2. Make your yarn bomb tight: Make your tags smaller than your object and stretch the piece so it hugs the object tightly and doesn't slide off.
3. Color and contrast: Go for lots of bright color or contrast with the structure you are bombing so that it gets noticed. Maybe a white lace bomb on a tree, or lots of color on a bland metal light pole.
4. Types of yarn: Don't buy expensive yarn for these projects. Use leftover yarns or cheaper yarns. Acrylic yarn typically lasts the longest against the outdoor elements.
5. To tag or not? Some yarn bombers leave a calling card. Cards and labels can be found at any stationery store. You might want to laminate them to protect them from the elements.
6. Take a photo! Be prepared to know that your bomb may not last a long time. Take several shots with varying angles.
SOURCES: Twilight Taggers, twilighttaggers.blogspot.com
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