What is Yarn Bombing?

But where did yarn bombing all begin and what has it to do with Church Stretton? Read on, there’s a question at the end.

Houston artist Bill Davenport created and exhibited crochet-covered objects in Houston in the 1990s, and the Houston Press newspaper christened him ‘the grand old man of Houston crocheted sculpture’. In 2005 in Houston, Texas, shop owner, Magda Sayeg, unhappy with the bland, hard and colourless landscape around her, created a piece of knitted artwork when she put a ‘cosy’ on her shop door-knob. Three years later, in 2008, the Knit-Knot Tree in Yellow Springs, Ohio gained international attention.

Joann Matvichuk of Lethbridge, Alberta founded International Yarn Bombing Day, which was first celebrated on 11 June 2011. Three months later, on 9 September 2011 in Oklahoma City, the Collected Thread store decorated the Plaza District of the city with knitted and crocheted pieces to celebrate the third anniversary of their shop opening.

Yarn bombing began as a way of brightening sterile public spaces in a temporary and fun way. Knitters across the USA caught on quickly, and more and more towns became sites for original pieces of knitted and crocheted artwork. Crafts people used bits of colourful, leftover yarn to make small works of art, which were designed to make people smile and, perhaps, might have encouraged some of them to take up the crafts of knitting and crocheting for themselves.

Yarn Bombing

Advertising campaigns have capitalized on the yarn bombing trend. Knit-the-City, founded in London in 2009, is credited with being the first to go beyond the simple ‘cosies’ of early graffiti knitting to tell ‘stitched stories’, using knitted and crocheted amigurumi (the Japanese craft of creating small, stuffed, knitted toy creatures) figures in their public installations. This was the beginning of an astonishing range of shapes and colours commonplace round the world. Knit-the-City was also commissioned by Toyota to create an installation in London in 2013, and brands such as Valentino, and the American beer company that makes Miller Lite have also used yarn bombing in advertising.

Alyce McGovern, an Associate Professor in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences at University of New South Wales, Australia, says, as an introduction to her seminal book Craftivism and Yarn Bombing: A Criminological Exploration’, ‘As an urban craft movement that melds the skills of knitting or crochet with the act of graffiti, yarn bombing has the potential to contribute to criminological understandings of graffiti and street art, particularly on issues of gender ….’ Other social commentators agree with her in that yarn bombing might be subliminally connected with the feminist movement and a revival of the arts of knitting and crocheting, which are traditionally thought of as being female pursuits. Mind you, this theory seems to ignore the traditions of knitting among members of fishing boat crews, prisoners of war and other sections of creative and exclusively male communities up until the early/mid 20thC.

Quoting from a recent discussion with a village resident of Cosby, ‘It’s just fun. Loads of people here get involved, it’s brought the community together during this long pandemic chaos. It’s something that people can do at home but still be connected, and it’s raised a lot of money for charities.’ I won’t tell you what this person thought about Alyce McGovern’s theories on criminology, but there might well be a kernel of truth there.

Graffiti, even of the most artistic kind, is classed as a crime in some places, and even where it’s downgraded to a public nuisance issue it’s frowned on and actively discouraged – notwithstanding the huge values placed on Banksy’s skilful street art, however.

Then there’s the environmental issue. Whilst these installations, or sculptures or whatever you prefer to call them, liven up our street scenes – and are sometimes found in wilder places than urban areas, too – there is a downside. Most modern yarns are made of man-made fibres, or contain a significant amount of them and which are not biodegradable and, if the crafter fails to remove them after a short period of exhibition, weather depletion can cause them to become hazardous to the environment and its flora and fauna. Something to think about.

So here’s the question promised at the head of this article. Who is Church Stretton’s yarn bomber? The pictures accompanying this article were taken of the post-box outside the Sandford Nursing Home. When this intrepid reporter ventured to ask if a resident there if someone there had created these yarn sculptures, everyone denied responsibility. Mm. Do you, dear reader, know who it is? Perhaps it’s YOU!  If so, please let us know at editor@strettonfocus.co.uk or, if you don’t have the internet, pop a note in an envelope addressed to Stretton Focus and leave it at Wrights Estate Agent on Sandford Avenue for our usual collections. We’d love to hear from you, and thank you for brightening up our days.

Christine Williams