A few years back I did my first ‘yarn bomb’ in Cape Town and it caught the attention and imagination of many people. The idea of yarn bombing is definitely not new. The magic was started in the United States and has now become very popular in the United Kingdom. The thinking behind it is slightly different for each artist or yarn bomber, but the common thread is to take the soft art of hand craft out of the home and into the streets. It’s a way of expressing your creativity in the public environment of the city and the true strength of it is in the sharp contrast created by the softness of knitting against the hardness/coldness of the city.
Craft has always been seen as a safe, granny sitting in a rocking chair-type of activity, but it has a nomadic and strongly revolutionary history.
Knitting and crochet was a technique that freed people from their homes and workrooms. They could make ‘fabric’ and clothing (how amazing) in a very mobile way. They were not stuck behind a heavy loom, but could create functional items while travelling, whenever wherever. To me this is amazing and inspirational. It’s a bit like what mobile has done for the world of computing.
Now more than ever I feel that we need to be freed again. Working most of the day in a cubicle or office environment, we have become detached from our city that’s just downstairs. We believe we work in order to build homes, lifestyles and economies, but we don’t use our own streets out of fear.
My goal is to change (in my own small a way) how we see Cape Town as a living city. This city is mine, yours and ours. Go outside, enjoy it, touch it, use it – support your city by truly being in it and contributing a bit of your own personality to its colourful landscape.
WHY YARN BOMBING?
1. It celebrates handmade and reintroduce the craft in a modern context:
Traditionally, hand craft has quite a stereotyped connected to it. It’s homely, inviting, loving and motherly. But now, there is a definitely a new appreciation and mindset surrounding craft emerging.
Handmade is back in the media and people are starting knitting groups and crochet circles again, which thankfully all helps to keep the techniques alive for future generations.
With my yarn graffiti I’m pushing craft out of its comfort zone and onto the streets, connecting it to its wildly interesting history of lace smugglers, rope knotting pirates and hardy Middle Eastern nomads knitting on camelback. Going back and capturing that energy around human-made/handmade, we will find its true modern spirit and its place in today’s city.
2. You get to meet other South Africans:
While doing yarn graffiti I’ve always enjoyed how many people stop and ask about what I’m doing and why. I love that the simple activity of wrapping a street pole with knitting gives people the excuse to chat to mer. These yarn projects always highlight the fact that South Africans want to connect with each other. We’re looking for ways to engage and to connect and the simple subject of knitting almost guarantees a safe and friendly interaction.
Yarn bombing allows you to realize yet again that the stranger walking next to you in St.Georges Mall, is just like you.
3. You meet the city in a new way:
From above cities are made up of a mix of concrete, steel and brick – boxes stacked and organized to from the grid that is functional by design. By wrapping yarn around the city, you soften the urban environment, making it more inviting for people to explore. People that don’t normally walk the city streets feel at ease to visit/touch/experience these spaces.
That’s when the true colour and vibrancy of the city reveals itself. Once you’re there, you see the galleries, the museums and the variety of specialist one-man shops. It’s like peering at what’s under the bed and saying; ‘See there’s no monsters here’.
It is also my way of celebrating and treating regular pedestrian and city users on their way to work. The more public spaces get used by the people, the safer these areas will become. It’s about having a quiet, safe, intimate moment with the city, not just rushing through it to the next meeting.
It stimulates the economy:
I believe that when you’ve explored the city, you will discover all sorts of people, business and shops that you never knew existed. Hopefully that’ll encourage you to support those awesome little shops, coffee spots and service. Just being aware and supporting the little guy makes you responsible for stimulating new and much needed growth of the South African economy and you’ll help someone pay their rent or contribute to their child’s school fees as opposed to just adding to some anonymous profit margin.
But why don’t you rather knit jerseys/blankets for the needy?
I know a lot of people suggest that I should rather knit for the homeless, instead of covering a statue or street pole. But I feel that I can contribute more by helping to get people excited about the city again and in return , a job or two could be created along the way. Public art creates interest and gives tourists and Capetonians something to ‘go and see’.
Doing your first yarn graffiti is a massive thrill…I promise. And while you’re there on the big, bad streets of the Mother City, grab yourself a coffee and sip it while walking down a part of it you have never explored before…