Knit that Shit!

November 18, 2009

The chilly weather always makes me want to put on my softest pajamas, sip hot cocoa, and start knitting my balls off! I’m not a very good knitter, though. At all. But I still like to do it. And I’m a big-time knitter appreciater. I love how two sticks and a string can make almost anything: knit sweaters, knit ties, knit socks, knit Teddy bears. And now, knit graffiti! Right now, I’m drooling over the art of KnittaPlease, a knit graffiti crew that does incredible work like this:

KnittaPlease bus

knitta please parking meters

Magda Sayeg is the lady that started the original knit graffiti crew, and I like how she works:

to redefine a craft that has been relegated to the stuffy attic of people’s brains and dismissed by a limited vision for knitting’s purpose, its function, its practitioners. Sayeg’s work repositions this granny pastime in public spaces, streets formerly dominated by a hard, masculine public art culture. The fuzzy tags invoke entirely different connotations, antagonizing expectations and initiating dialogue about community-driven art and intersections between art and craft.

To me, it’s all about finding the beauty in the under-appreciated. Know what I mean?



20 Responses to “Knit that Shit!”

  1. Emma Says:

    I can totally teach you to knit like that. It’s beautiful!

  2. vmt Says:

    So cool!
    I want to learn how to knit! the yarn aisle at Hobby Lobby is a mesmerizing place…

  3. Kate Says:

    Okay, call me an asshole, but after marveling at how beautiful some of those projects are (the bus, esp) I began to wonder who payed for all that yarn — that shit can be expensive! — and who had the time to DO all that knitting. Which then meant it bugged me to have it called graffiti — an artform that’s all about low expense in time and money. I mean, I don’t dismiss the gender analysis offered above. But there’s a class analysis to be made here, too.

  4. jafabrit Says:

    I can answer your question Kate, and no I wouldnt’ call you are arsehole, you bring up some pretty typical questions. some people sit and watch tv all night stuffing their faces with snacks, me I knit or sew, and during the day I work full time on my art. As for yarn, I recycle, or friends give me left over yarn they can’t use or have had in their cupboards for years. Sometimes I buy yarn, and the money spent is not much different than how much a can of spray paint costs, or a tube of acrylic or oil paint. I can buy a ball of yarn cheaper than some people pay for a starbucks coffee. Just a matter of priorities.
    all the best

  5. spring Says:

    emma: yes, please! when?
    jafabrit: thanks for the comment and nice blog, glad to meet you!

    and kate, always-makin’-me-think-kate:
    first of all, i would say that there needs to be more class analyses of art- all art forms- in the world. so, thanks for bringing it up! that said, i believe that ALL ART IS EXPENSIVE in one way or another. have you priced a digital camera lately? have you tried to produce a film? yikes! it gets crazy expensive…
    and i agree with jafabrit about yarn being just as expensive or inexpensive as spray paint. however, i think that knitting is actually more affordable and accessible since their aren’t laws against knitting needles and yarn but there are laws against spray paint ( you can’t buy it unless you are over 18 and you can’t take it on airplanes, for example). in the time department, you’ll just have to trust me that you can’t find time to sneak around multiple cans of spray paint with a kid on your back or many other responsibilities. also, paying fines for vandalism is something not many people can afford.
    but the threat and illegality is what some people (like my friend S) consider part of the message of graffiti. and that’s fine. i just happen to disagree. and i happen to think that part of what’s so brilliant and revolutionary about knittaplease is her playing within the laws and her bending and stretching and playing with the term “graffiti”. i think it is a challenge to authority that authority can’t even see! it’s a challenge to traditional structure and organization that people excuse or overlook because it has a “PG” reputation.
    i mean, it’s so much easier to challenge the status quo with sex or violence or breakin’ the law (and i do love that stuff, sometimes), but with knitting! (or roller-skating! or baking! or poetry! or teaching! or laughter! or a southern drawl!) it’s kinda what i’m all about 🙂 in fact, when i die, i want my tombstone to read: “she challenged authority with her twang”.
    in the interest of full disclosure, i had an argument about whether or not knitting should be considered graffiti (with my friend S) that came to tears PLUS i’m endlessly fascinated with graffiti and street art, so I’ve had some inspiration to think about this debate and can promise you more of my two cents to come…:)…

  6. jafabrit Says:

    People get so stuck on semantics, using the term knit graffiti is a sarcastic or fun play on words but looking at how graffiti is evolving beyond just a scratched painted image, why can’t yarnbombing be called graffiti, just as light can be called light graffiti etc. I don’t see any law that says tagging is confined to one medium or style, one class, one gender, culture or age group.

  7. Melody Says:

    Spring! This stuff is beautiful. And you are on my wavelength with this:

  8. Melody Says:

    Oops, what did I do? I meant to quote this:

    i mean, it’s so much easier to challenge the status quo with sex or violence or breakin’ the law (and i do love that stuff, sometimes), but with knitting! (or roller-skating! or baking! or poetry! or teaching! or laughter! or a southern drawl!) it’s kinda what i’m all about in fact, when i die, i want my tombstone to read: “she challenged authority with her twang”.

  9. KBee Says:

    Although colorful, unexpected, and sometimes useful, it seems wasteful. What happens when the yarn gets old and tattered, where does it go? Do they travel around the world picking up what will eventually be trash? I think a better use of this yarn would be knitting practical things for people who need them instead of challenging the status quo.

  10. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by janinelaporte, Schmuttergold. Schmuttergold said: RT @knitthecity: Graffiti knittingness. […]

  11. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by schmuttergold: RT @knitthecity: Graffiti knittingness.

  12. jafabrit Says:

    KBee, perhaps this article can explain:

    Many of our pieces of yarnbombing are removed and parts saved and recylced for other projects like the traveling storybox or for charity.

  13. spring Says:

    thanks, melody. xoxo!

  14. Courtney Says:

    I love this post, the discussion, and the art here. I’ve been sitting on this for days–I kinda have a problem with the racial overtone of the name of the group “Knitta Please.” Personally, I don’t really have a problem with the class tensions. I just wasn’t sure who was doing the naming (white women? I thought about white women just because those are most of the knitters I know. Because those are most of the people I know. Because I am a white woman?) and who had the “right” (so to speak, but wrong word) to exchange a racial slur for a non-racial term.

    It unsettled me, and it still does. Even while at the same time I can see the humor and a fascination with the slippery-ness of identity politics. Fascinating!

  15. beamish Says:

    i’m with kbee on the potential trashiness/ litteriness/ clutteriness of old yarnbombs. hopefully it’s a general rule to clean up later what looks cool now… or maybe it transitions to a different artistic message as it ages… or maybe it gets gathered up and removed by custodians… but who are those people?

    as for kate’s economic critique, i agree that yarnbombing is cute and fun but carries with it latent class messages–like you must have some kind of leisure time to knit and/or crochet extensively and you must have the funds or the resources to acquire the needed yarn AND you and your loved ones must not be in immediate need of winter clothing (otherwise you’d be more likely to knit/crochet for yourself or others).

    not that i don’t totally want to crochet little sweaters for the trees outside my windows (because i think anthropomorphizing is adorable), but … can i also say that maybe i am over yarnbombing? i saw pics from brooklyn a few years ago that included a tree with a little sweater on, and i thought it was super entertaining then… now, perhaps not so much? or maybe i mean that that is why i am inclined now to not be the hugest fan ever and to see the downsides (wasteful) moreso or at least in addition to the upsides (graffiti is generally awesome).

  16. jafabrit Says:

    I have to profess I am totally confused about Courtney’s comment regarding “racial overtone” AND the social class thing? Is this just an AMerican view of crafts? Knitting has always been and still is around the world an easily accessible skill and one that all strata of society do.
    Most of the working class women I knew on the housing estate I grew up in England knitted or embroidered at night OR they knitted on their lunch breaks, or while waiting in the doctors office, or while waiting for the dinner to cook?

  17. spring Says:

    jafabrit- I actually never thought about this discussion being particularly American, but I suspect you are on to something… I’m going to have to think about this more. In the meantime, do you know about the group from the UK inspired by Knittaplease? I think they’re called Stitches and Hos?

    For now, I’ll just say that I think most fabric or yarn-centered arts and crafts are totally snobbed by most Americans, ESPECIALLY SERIOUS CRITICS LIKE MANY OF MY SMART FEMALE FRIENDS WHO HAVE COMMENTED ON THIS POST. Knitting and embroidery and quilting, to me, are all part of an important, subcultural art history that are only beginning to be discussed and studied and experimented with. I think it is one of the most exciting mediums of contemporary art (fuck performance art and video installations and painting with feces!) and by no means “over”. And by no means messy or trashy or wasteful- have you seen the giant orange “gates” that were strung through Central PArk by high-brow artists Christo and Jean-Claude? UGH!:
    Or have you looked into how much is wasted and trashed on a typical film shoot? UGH AGAIN!:

  18. jafagirls Says:

    OOOOOh, I have to share I secret lol! I liked the orange gates, that huge unexpected splash of orange. I like that for the same reason I like knit graffiti, it is the unexpected in public and puts the environment and the material into a new context.
    There is a lovely article here
    about knitting in turkey in which the author states “Turkish women – whether old or young, homemaker or banker – craft a lot”.

    when I first came to America I was astonished at the availability of craft kits (never had those in England) and how much people spent on them. I suspect that many in the USA are not exposed to textile arts and don’t generally have a good understanding of the history and cultural relevance. When you grow up knowing about the Bayeux Tapestry, and see ottoman work going back centuries you can see a skill that goes way beyond anything bought in a kit.

  19. jafabrit Says:

    in reference to latent class messages, I would argue that much of the reality tv showcase excess at its worst. Who is buying all the christmas yard decorations and stuff at wal mart? Who is wasting money on lottery tickets, on slot machines? who buys all the fast food?
    If a person has to worry about coats, well then they are poverty level, yes!
    From a cultural standpoint and an economic one.
    Have any of you lived in a state of poverty? knitting on a pole would have been the least of my concerns on the government housing estate I lived in in the 70’s. If anything yarnbombing would have added a bit cheer. Asparagus was a sign of luxury to me, we couldn’t afford to spend money on poncy food like that. I was reminded of my class by things like that, and how some could afford a telephone, kitchen gadgets,a colour tv, a car, nice clothes, department store make up, skin care products,a pair of tights, new shoes.
    My only comforts in life was being able to see art for free in the local museum, finding scraps to knit or sew with, and free reading material at the local library.
    I can’t remember ever spending time begrudging others who could afford the things we couldn’t or time they spent on art or crafts.

  20. […] love for knit graffiti knows no bounds, and you totally made my day feel less like a giant hungover […]

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