Local artist Emma Leith came along to the November session of the Bath Knitting & Crochet Guild to talk to us about ‘graffiti with wool’ and the phenomenon of yarnbombing.
Yarnbombing is a non-permanent form of graffiti, meaning it can be easily removed if necessary, and started as a way of reclaiming and transforming ugly street furniture and sad looking buildings into something bright and cheerful. Now the practice encompasses many different agendas across the world, some are very politically driven while others still embrace the original aim of ‘making the place a bit brighter’.
Lauren O’Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade) started the UK’s first graffiti knitting collective, Knit the City, very much with the aim of adding a bit of cheer and colour, although this quickly morphed into the telling of the London’s stories through their craft activities. Some of the collective’s first forays into yarnstorming (a phrase coined by Lauren) were the ‘Phone Box Cosy’ in Parliament Square (July 2009) and the ‘Web of Woe’ under Waterloo Station (August 2009).
While yarnbombing is usually knitted, any craft can be employed for the task and Emma works solely in crochet. She’s participated in various yarnbomb activities, some planned and some by stealth under cover of night!
Here you can see Emma in action, yarnbombing the town of Corsham in 2013.
Similar to Lauren, Emma has an aversion to the word yarnbomb, and likes to think of her work as lovebombing instead.
“In London, you can’t go throwing the word bombing around. Yarn storming sounds more creative than bombing, which is destructive. It’s a bit more kooky and eccentric.”
Whether you’re adding colour and fun to a drab building or leaving scarves tied around lampposts in winter for those less fortunate to help themselves to, love is the common denominator. Yarnbombing is a communal activity, literally and metaphorically tying people together.
Emma’s top tips for planning your own yarnbomb are:
- Once you put your yarnbombing out, let it go – it’s in the public domain now.
- Do get permission from the people whose building or space you are yarnbombing. Engage with them, work with them, make it a joint undertaking.
- Make sure you ‘get air in your crochet’, i.e. that there are quite big holes – this will help the piece survive in the wind and the rain.
- Consider the materials you’re using. Wool will retain water and become heavy, distorting the shape. Will the fibre you’re using biodegrade or become unsightly rubbish if it becomes loose?
- When making your pieces, consider the object they’ll be covering and ensure they are a tight fit once in place.
- One the activity is over, do take your yarnbombing down. There’s nothing worse than seeing a lurking pennant in a tree long after the activity is over.
Each year as part of Bath in Fashion, Emma creates a yarnbomb installation for the centre of Bath. The coming year is no different and Emma enlisted the help of our makers to begin her creation for 2016.
If you’d like to participate in the Bath in Fashion installation with Emma, instructions can be found on her website for the sculptural flowers and spiral crochet pieces that make up the central focus of her design.
Emma’s crochet group meets regularly on the first Wednesday of the month, 10.00 am to midday, at Carluccio’s in Bath and you can join them to make or drop off your creations. Alternatively, drop your crocheted flowers and spirals into the Fashion Museum reception and we’ll pass them onto Emma.
To finish off, I’ll leave you with this collection of photographs of yarnbombing around the world by TIME magazine. I particularly like the tank and the filled in potholes. Which photo is your favourite?