Click on the word "images" beneath the picture to see more photos of guerilla knitting in Germany.
It began in Houston, Texas in 2005 when Magda Sayeg put a knit cozy on the door handle of her boutique. The guerilla knitting group that was born of that first small gesture—Knitta—is credited with having started a trend that has since made its way across the world. Today you can find these unofficial, impromptu knit installations on trees, bikes, buses, walls, handrails, fences, and sign posts from Budapest to Berlin.
What is guerilla knitting?
The term guerilla knitting refers to knit or crocheted works of art placed in a public area. Also known as yarn bombing, yarn storming, knit graffiti, or knit hacking, this artistic medium is akin to graffiti in that it happens publically, without permission, and often anonymously.
But guerilla knitting is putting urban art in the hands of people—most often women of all ages—not stereotypically associated with graffiti or street art, and as a result the practice is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Grandma Graffiti.”
German textile artist Anna Maria Nitthaeck defines guerilla knitting as “a kind of art that is non destructive (other than the usual graffiti), it aims at reclaiming our environment (especially urban space) and it is also a symbol for a typical female craft.” She features a variety of urban knitting on her blog, Random Acts of Knitting.
The practice is, perhaps surprisingly, technically illegal in some areas. The British guerilla knitting group Knit the City was issued a “Stop and Search” notice by London police while working on a cozy that covered a phone booth. They were allowed to complete the project on the condition that it be removed after photographing. But for the most part urban knitting provides knitters with a medium that can be used in public without fear of legal ramifications. After all, if an installation becomes bothersome, it can be easily removed with a pair of scissors.
A political yarn
The motivations behind guerilla knitting are manifold. For example, the Dortmund-based guerilla knitters Strick & Liesel have created a series of yarn bombs protesting nuclear power. The group’s project “Fluffy Throw-Up” involves wrapping knit yellow-and-black radioactive signs around trees, sign posts, and other publically visible objects.
“It is definitely also art. But that isn’t the only purpose. We don’t just knit these things to beautify the city. Though we think that’s great. But it is simply a political statement in a pretty package,” the knitters told Jürgen Jehle of Horst und Edeltraut.
Strickistinnen Betina Aumair and Antonia Wenzl of Vienna, Austria also consider themselves knit activists and use their guerilla knitting pieces to address feminist issues and inspire conversation about traditional women’s roles. You can watch an Arte report about their guerilla knitting projects here. (In German.)
For many guerilla knitters—like the Munich Guerrilla Knitting Group responsible for yarn bombing Frankfurt’s famous bull and bear statues—it is an act of urban improvement. Amidst the grey steel and beige concrete of many German cities, a yarn bomb can bring a pleasant dash of color and whimsy.
Ute Lennartz-Lembeck, founder of the German guerilla knitting group B-Arbeiten, has become a kind of ambassador for guerilla knitting. She installs her pieces openly during the day, rather than attempting anonymity. She is best known for covering the tree in Velbert pictured above, and for doing small pieces featuring words like “Idee” (idea), “Raum” (space), and “Mut” (courage).
According to Lennartz-Lembeck, guerilla knitting is “…about words and art, putting art in an open space and not necessarily a museum.”
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