Published on August 16th, 2013 | by Serena


Yarnbombs – love them or hate them?

We heard two amazing yarnbombing stories this week.

Bringing smiles to sad faces

Dilly Tante – blogwriter and regular yarnbomber – put out a plea on her blog for yarnbombing assistance. Less than a week later, 100 crochet flowers arrived on her doorstep, all the way from Germany! On the 3rd of July, Dilly and her intrepid partners in yarnbombing crept out dedicated the whole evening to colourful crochet at… their local hospital.

hospital yarnbomb hospital yarnbomb2

The local press report that patients, relatives and staff have all been cheered by Dilly’s ‘explosion of colour‘, with the hospital’s Director of Estates and Facilities quoted: “I think all staff and visitors have enjoyed the yarn bombing that is currently brightening up the entrance of Cheltenham General Hospital” (it’s sort of his job to stop people ‘vandalising’ the site, so that’s pretty high praise!)

Mythical knitting

Mythagorie is combining knitting, street art and folk heritage to create a new method of local communication. Locals in Essen, Germany tell Mythagorie their message and choose up to 5 motifs from traditional German textiles – the Mythagorie site explains the historical meaning of each symbol. A few days later, the yarnbomb appears!

mythagorie1 mythagorie2 mythagorie4mythagorie3

But is it all good?

Opinions are pretty strongly divided in the yarn world. Arguments against yarnbombing include:

It’s not art, it’s vandalism

Just like graffiti, right? Some yarnbombs are beautifully sophisticated works of art – Agata Oleksiak (or ‘Olek’ as you might know her) exhibits worldwide, and is famous for works such as her crochet apartment and covering the Wall Street ‘Charging Bull’ with crochet.

crochet apartment2 charging-bull-crocheted-agata-olek-02


However, even though the bull crochet was installed without permission – and removed by a caretaker two hours later – Olek insists that her work is not yarnbombing. She told the New York Times: “I don’t yarn bomb, I make art. If someone calls my bull a yarn bomb, I get really upset. Lots of people have aunts or grandmas who paint. Do you want to see that work in the galleries? No. The street is an extension of the gallery. Not everyone’s work deserves to be in public.” Many side with Olek’s opinion that yarnbombing is not art – although perhaps not all would agree that her work falls outside this category…

Yarnbombers don’t tidy up after themselves

Here, it’s clear some are guilty. Colourful displays on lamposts look great the day they’re installed, but come back a couple of months later and you’ll find a soggy, filthy mess. Most yarnbombers, understandably, use the cheapest fibres, and that normally means acrylic – which, just like discarded plastic, will not decompose under the elements.

However, read just a little about yarnbombing online and it’s soon clear that most prominent ‘guerilla knitters’ encourage an ethos of returning to installations that have transformed from artwork to eyesore, and cleaning up the mess. Condemning all yarnbombing because of the people who don’t tidy up after themselves – isn’t that a bit like denouncing all dogwalkers, because not everybody cleans up after his dog?

That yarn/time could have been better spent in other ways

Personally, I find this the strangest argument against yarnbombing. Last night on getting home from work, I spent an hour on the sofa watching TV. Today I spent a whopping £2.50 on my breakfast. Could that time and money have been better spent altruistically, making the world a better place? Absolutely. Would anybody dream of telling me so, unprompted? I doubt it. I have spent most of my knitting time this year attempting to finish a cable scarf for my brother, in a particularly pricey yarn. Would my time be better spent knitting acrylic donations for premature babies, the homeless, and other worthy recipients? Perhaps. While we’re at it, it would probably be even cheaper – and less time-consuming – to buy a bunch of scarves and blankets from second-hand clothing stores, and send them straight to good causes; it would definitely be cheaper and easier to buy my brother a scarf! Why knit at all?

What’s your view?

You may have deduced by now that I for one am happy to live in a world with creations like this in it:

white tree crochet

But, I can see that not all yarnbombing is positive. We have moved away from viewing all graffiti as vandalism; the removal of a Banksy prompts international outrage. But most of us are clear, too, that spraying “Biffo woz ‘ere” on a wall would not normally fall under the term of ‘art’. Perhaps yarnbombing is at the other end of the respectability spectrum: many of us automatically assume a yarnbomb is a good thing, just as 50 years ago most of us would have assumed graffiti was bad. Maybe we need more discussion of the yarnbombs that have a negative impact, while at the same time championing the (in my opinion) wonderful people who work hard to bring a little yarn art into public spaces.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments field!

About the Author

Serena loves sunshine, strawberries and Great Danes. She has gone from non-knitter to yarn obsessive in under two years, and is determined to drag the rest of the world along with her.

Last updated: December 6th, 2013.

7 Responses to Yarnbombs – love them or hate them?

  1. nancy baker says:

    Down here, in the polite South, Yarn Bombing has turned into a polite ask for permission before you bomb. Which, to me means it is not yarn bombing. I think Yarn bombers should definitely clean up after themselves.

  2. Sheila says:

    Love yarn bombing, it brings a smile to most people as long as it’s removed when it gets tatty. I would yarn bomb if I could do something like the white piece above. Awesome.

  3. Elaine says:

    I think it’s great – the time and effort put into making some of these pieces is huge. On a recent trip to Folkestone, I was fascinated by the yarn bombs, they really cheered up the town centre. I do agree they need to be kept tidy though as one or two were on their last legs.

  4. Chris says:

    I personally wouldn’t do it, but I do think they cheer places up, like everyone smiles when they see balloons and posters put up outside for someone’s birthday. A temporary change to our everyday scene makes people think.

  5. HelenLepper says:

    Yes Yarn Bombing does make the area a much brighter place done well (like the white tree creation) but really I have seen some that has seen better days in which case it should be removed for new instalations. I agree with the ‘guerilla knitters’ because they do clear up after themselves.. I would yarn bomd If I could like the professionals.

  6. Amy says:

    I have to say I’m a fan! Its fun & whimsical yet doesn’t make a permanent mark in the way graffiti does. You take it off and all is forgiven 🙂

  7. joyce fox says:

    Is it not one of these situations where there will always be someone who enjoys moaning. I have to be honest and say that I personally could not bear to put all that work into the beautiful white tree bomb, but, I certainly appreciate the input, it’s lovely. If cleared up at a later date what is the problem? If bombers are happy to do so and be responsible later good on you for cheering the place and the people up.

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