#904 Celebrating acts of yarnarchy
Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti: Tenth Anniversary Edition
by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain
Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019 (first published 2009)
$24.95 / 9781551527918
Reviewed by Margot Fedoruk
Whether you are a knitter, crocheter, or wanna be Banksy, the tenth anniversary edition of Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti: Tenth Anniversary Edition, may be the book for you. Part history of the movement, part how-to, Yarn Bombing’s pages contain a tantalizing mix of patterns from simple projects to examples of more ambitious textile installations from across the globe. Vancouverites Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain have created a textile graffiti manifesto, which to them is “more than just grandiose fuzzy statements, yarn bombing is about being seen.”
The graffiti installations in this book are cheekily referred to as targets, which can be as simple as covering metal stop sign post with yarn to more grandiose political statements like Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight’s 5,000 Poppies that blanket the stairs of the Parliament house in Victoria, Australia in honour of Remembrance Day.
This new edition includes an updated preface by the authors and an extra chapter titled, “More Yarnarchy,”which includes new interviews with key players in the yarn bombing movement, including Magda Sayeg, a successful textile artist and founder of guerrilla knitting. “Craft doesn’t have to be precious and homey and Martha Stewart. It can be badass,” Sayeg says.
“Talk less, say more,” says Polish American artist, Olek, whose yarn-covered bull on Wall Street adorns the front cover of the book. Olek’s work pushes boundaries with her bold use of textiles; of note is a photograph of an entire house she covered in pink yarn.
While some textile artists like to use their art as a form of activism that may need to be interpreted by the observer, other artists incorporate text into their public work. One such artist is covert yarn bomber who goes by the name, ishknits. Ishknits uses words to raise awareness of understanding violence against women. “My work has been called kitschy and silly and unimportant and wasteful. But as women we hear this all the time. I don’t want that to stop anyone from expressing themselves,” ishknits says. She yarn bombed a Rocky statue standing close to the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the words, “Go See the Art.”
There are almost too many fun and unique installations in this book to mention although The Hare, a 61-metre long knitted pink wool bunny laying on the side of a hill in northern Italy will definitely knock your socks off. The Knitted Mile project by Robyn Love is also impressive — it is a 609.6 metre, yellow knitted divider running along the centre of a road in Dallas, Texas. Love describes her work as “an intervention, an interruption of the everyday environment created for cars and trucks ( and all that they imply) with this lovingly made, handmade element. For me, it is as much a poetic gesture as a political one.”
This book highlights the fact that yarn bombing creates a sense of community, not only among the yarn bombers themselves but with those who have the good luck to stumble upon a piece of yarn graffiti in the often cold hard surfaces of our modern urban environments. “[Unlike] a war, knitting signals home, care, closeness, and time for reflection. Ever since Denmark became involved in the war in Iraq, I have made different variations of pink tanks, and I intend to keep doing that until the war ends. For me, the tank is a symbol of stepping over other peoples’ borders. When it is covered in pink, it becomes completely unarmed, and it loses its authority. Pink becomes a contrast in both material and colour when combined with the tank,” says Danish artist Marianna Jorgensen.
Besides showcasing an impressive array of both large and small acts of yarnarchy, Chapter 3 offers up basic tagging information for beginners, such as how to make rectangular tags or how to wet block your projects with step by step photographs. Other chapters include a combination of practical and playful advice: “Things to take with you when you bomb: a city map, flashlights, duct tape, comfortable shoes you can run in, twist ties for attaching tags quickly, a change of clothes for your sneaky get away…night vision goggles.” There are also over 20 patterns for different skill levels, from how to make a fairly simple tree sweater to instructions for funky convertible biking gloves to wear when you are on your way to your next covert mission.
“While we think that wearing disguises to remain incognito can be fun, experienced bombers know that the best disguise is confidence. Generally, if you act like you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, most people will assume that your actions are perfectly normal.” ( Sage advice from the authors).
Yarn Bombing contains a glossary of terms and abbreviations at the back of the book. It also has many useful links to tutorials and websites such as the online social website Ravelry.com which is a knitting and crocheting forum that has over 8 million members. The index also marks the patterns ( offered in both crochet and knitted versions) in bold for ease of locating your favourite ones–such as the pattern for adorable monster feet to place on the bottom of mail boxes or signs.
Both authors have extensive backgrounds in the textile arts. Mandy Moore has a background in design and teaching. Moore has also worked as a technical editor and co-authored Yarn Bombing: The Art and Craft of Knit Graffiti (2009) with Leanne Prain. Prain, a Comox Valley native, is a writer and co-artistic director of The Imprint and serves as the President of the BC Chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada.
Whether you celebrate worldwide knit in public day (June 13th) or not, Yarn Bombing’s enthusiastic promotion of textile art as activism will be a source of inspiration even for those that have never picked up a hook or pair of knitting needles. And even if you can’t find the word yarnarchy in the dictionary — it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, you just have to open the pages of this book to discover pieces of our world tagged in glorious, colourful yarn.
Margot Fedoruk has a BA from the University of Winnipeg and is completing a Creative Writing degree at Vancouver Island University. She is the recent recipient of VIU’s Meadowlarks Award for fiction and last year’s Barry Broadfoot award for Creative nonfiction/ Journalism. Her writing can be found in Portal 2019, Portal 2020, Island Parent Magazine, and The Globe and Mail. She is currently working on a memoir, Cooking Tips for Desperate Fishwives: An Island Memoir (with recipes), about her adventures raising her children on Gabriola Island with an urchin diver. Editor’s note: Margot has interviewed Shelagh Rogers and reviewed books by sb. smith, Kim Clark, and Sari Cooper for The Ormsby Review.
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