Needles out: grandma graffiti on the rise

Crochet artist Olek, from New York Magazine’s story on Home Design

Street art has taken a dramatically more domestic turn of late with the recent influx of yarn bombing: knitters who take their hobby outside of the home and to the sidewalks and lampposts in cities all over the world. Also called grandma graffiti, yarn bombers take their needles to the streets under the cover of nightfall to wrap public property in their colorful crocheted creations. Technically, it’s still considered vandalism, but most yarn bombers say police “are more likely to laugh at them than issue a summons.”

The movement took off in a major way in 2009 after two Canadian knitters, Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain, published the book “Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti.” It was a huge hit with the growing DIY/crafting movement, and now more and more knitters and yarn hobbyists are heeding the book’s call to “take back the knit.” For most people this means stepping out at night, knitting a leg warmer around a lamppost or a tree, taking a picture or video and posting it online. But for some women (you didn’t think men would be caught dead brandishing a pair of knitting needles over a spray can, did you?) it’s become something much more significant.

Madga Sayeg, who started knitting cozies for things like door knobs and stop signs with a Houston-based group called Knitta Please back in 2005, recently had to close up her shop after the knitting commissions came rolling in. Last year Toyota hired her to knit a Prius for a promotional video. Then Smart car followed suit, flying her to Rome for a knitting project and now Mini Cooper is jumping on the bandwagon. Of course, not everyone is please with the craft explosion, and I don’t mean law enforcement. Olek, a well know knitter (ahem), artist, reviles the term yarn bombing. “I don’t yarn bomb,” she says. “I make art…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.”

See more of  yarn bombers at work in the NY Time slideshow