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Photographs from Keep Cardiff Cosy

Meet the Guerilla Knitters

Swap the spray can for needles and wool because here’s a new twist on street art sweeping the globe.

“People don’t notice regular street art anymore,” the girls says as she pulls her hood tight around her, threading her needle ready to stitch the patch around the lamppost. “You’re just too used to seeing it. But this is something different. It makes you take notice.”

What she’s talking about is knit graffiti – also known as ‘guerrilla knitting’ or ‘yarn bombing’. Since photos began appearing online a few years ago of knitted ‘tags’ attached to trees and lampposts similar work has sprung up all over the world, as charted on blogs such as Yarn Bombing and Knitta. And as the art evolves ever more ambitious pieces are surfacing– leg warmers were added to a Paris statue, bobble hats appeared on figures in a Banksy piece, and in Mexico an entire bus was covered in a multi-coloured blanket.

“I do it for many reasons, but the main ones are about challenging stereotypes,” says Knitsch, a yarn bomber from New Zealand who keeps a blog of her work. “We show the boys with the spray cans that graffiti isn’t what it used to be. Graffiti is art, and so is craft – something that has a rep for not being ‘art’ either.”

Both knitting and graffiti have received makeovers in recent years. Around the same time that Banksy was changing the public perception of graffiti from vandalism to art Debbie Stoller, editor of US magazine Bust, began publishing kitsch, quirky knit and crochet patterns. Such was the demand that she authored the Stitch’n’Bitch knitting guide, which subsequently became a global phenomenon. “The perception of knitting being boring is well outdated,” says Knitsch. “I knit because it challenges me, makes me think, and allows me to create beautiful fabric.”

Dazed Digital caught up with a Grainy, a member of all-female South Wales knit graffiti collective Keep Cardiff Cosy, to learn about the group’s work and the art of guerrilla knitting

Dazed Digital: How did you discover knit graffiti?
Grainy: I’ve been knitting for a few years now ever since a friend taught me – I love it, it lets be creative and I find it really relaxing. I’m in a craft group, all female and aged between 21 and 29, who meet up regularly to knit and stitch together.
Most knitters spend time online looking at things other people make, getting ideas and inspiration, and a few of us had seen the knitted tags. We thought it would be cool to have a go ourselves

DD: How many of you are involved?
Grainy: There’s always between five and seven of us who’ll make the tags together one evening, then we all go out separately into our parts of town to plant them, as it were. We cover a lot more ground that way!

DD: What are your favourite objects to tag?
Grainy: I usually just tagged trees and lamposts, they’re easier to attach small pieces to. I’d love to make a really big piece though, such as a giant sign or a big knitted jumper for a statue.

DD: What kind of materials do you use?
Grainy: We use lots of recycled materials. Someone brought along a bag of their grandma’s old wool the other day, and we unravel old jumpers and scarves We’ve tried lots of other stuff too – we’ve ripped up plastic bags to make yarn, and the other day I tried knitting with old VHS tape. It was horrible to knit with though, it just kept squeaking the whole time - very annoying!

DD: What inspires your tags?
Grainy: I never really have a plan when I knit them, it’s more of an organic process – I just sit down, start knitting and see what it turns into!
We often create group tags – everyone knits a small piece, and we sew them together to make bigger tags.

DD: What would you like people to take from your work?
Grainy: People don’t notice regular street art these days, it’s just become part of the landscape. This is something, and it makes people take notice. It changes people’s perception of graffiti – it can be something that’s pretty and elegant too. It also changes people’s perception of knitting, it shows it not just grannies who do it, there’s loads of young knitters out there too.
We set up an email address on some of the tags and include little ‘messages of inspiration’ for the people who find them. All the emails we’ve have been really positive – it’s street art that people can react to positively and take pleasure from.