Well, ok, my name isn’t really Deadly Knitshade, but as a street artist life is much more fun, when you leap from the shadows to add your art to somewhere unexpected, if you have a good name to go with it. The street art hall of fame isn’t peopled by Beryls and Craigs, after all. It’s all Banksies and Invaders.
I really am a graffiti knitter though. A dyed-in-wool street artist who goes out into the city and creates woolly yarnstorms wherever she goes. So what on earth is graffiti knitting and why on earth would anyone want to spend their time making something that they then just abandon on the city streets?
Graffiti knitting and crochet, yarnstorming or yarnbombing is the art of making a piece with knitting or crochet, placing it on an object in public, and running away giggling. It’s squishy street art, much the same as the spray can kind, but removable and much more tactile. It’s street art you can touch and take home. Yarnstorming has risen in popularity since I first started in 2007. Back then I was lone UK graffiti knitter in London, who discovered only two other groups doing the same thing: the feisty fibre-flinging Knitta Please in Texas, USA and the wild and woolly Knitted Landscape in the Netherlands.
In 2009 I formed Knit the City, the UK’s first graffiti knitting collective: a team of woolly warriors intent on releasing our crafty conjurations into the streets of London for more than just the novelty. We got bored of cosies pretty quickly and pioneered the style of ‘Stitched Story’ graffiti knitting, adding a theme and sense of humour to our woolly work.
Knit the City are responsible for the telephone box cosy that appeared in London’s CCTV-covered Parliament Square in 2009, the first ever live yarnstorm tweeted on Twitter (@knitthecity), letting people worldwide witness the woolly wonder firsthand; a string of handmade hearts hung from Eros (actually he’s Anteros but we won’t quibble) in chaotic Piccadilly Circus in 2010; an 8-metre giant knitted squid draped lovingly across the lap of the Charles Darwin statue in the Natural History Museum in 2011, and most recently, as a two-person team with The Fastener (the other half of the Knit the City duo), a flurry of fibre-based flowers sprouting from the concrete in buzzing Brixton. Why do we do it? Because we can. Street art is about freedom. It’s about creating art that can be shared by anyone, and creating it anywhere. The world is your art gallery and anything can be your canvas.
Graffiti knitting has grown from the humble handmade cosies of the early years, and it’s washing across every corner of the UK in woolly waves too. Today you can expect to come across a lamppost cosy or squishy addition to public spaces anywhere on our fair isle, from purlers in Penzance to knitting ninjas in Norwich. I was thrilled to find a tiny bright red crocheted heart hanging from a doorknob in the quaint streets of Cambridge this weekend, that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Sneaky stitchers are everywhere.
And it’s not about simply stumbling across something unexpectedly woolly anymore. It’s about spinning a yarn, making something magical and taking your handmade and sharing it with the city. In the hands of a graffiti knitter, a ball of yarn can do so much more than a simple pair of socks. Above all, graffiti knitting’s handmade heartbeat exists to encourage everyone to take what they love and share it with a wider audience. So only one question remains: when are you going to join the fun?