Also known as "knit and crochet graffiti", this quirky and generous form of street art is catching on worldwide.
Trendspotting: Yarn bombing softens the city streets
I've been interested in street art since Banksy's first book, Wall and Piece, was published in 2005. Banksy's prolific work and the publicity surrounding it have led to a greater appreciation of graffiti and, ultimately, to its acceptance as a true art form.
His work also opened the way for other artists, from graffiti and stencil artists to those who create 3D illusions on pavements or hidden street art, such as the London-based Slinkachu, whose miniature installations focus on the dramas of modified train set figures.
Many of these disciplines have moved from the street into art galleries and auction houses, and have become familiar, accepted and respected. Others continue to emerge, such as "yarn bombing", the act of installing knitted and crocheted pieces in public places.
Also known as "knit and crochet graffiti", this guerrilla practice started in the US and gradually became an international movement, with wonderfully woolly installations creeping onto parking meters, benches and statues around the world. My favourite source for keeping up to date on these projects is Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain's blog www.yarnbombing.com, which provides comprehensive coverage of guerrilla knitting.
Unusually, yarn bombing is a predominantly female-dominated street art, bringing a refreshing injection of colour, softness and femininity to the hard, grey, masculine aesthetic of our cities. Moore says, "The juxtaposition of soft, impermanent, handmade objects with the hard, impersonal urban landscape is striking, and inspires people in a variety of ways. Some crafters seem affronted by the idea of using your time and skill to make something and then abandoning it to an uncertain fate. We feel that it offers unique opportunities for artistic expression."
Moore and Prain began yarn bombing in 2009, when they were writing their first book, Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. "We don't do a lot of it, but it is so fun and rewarding when we do."
There is no coherent yarn bombing manifesto or agenda. Different groups do it for different reasons, including elevating the perception of needlecraft as an exciting secret hobby. Moore believes "many bombers simply do it to delight themselves and others".
You don't have to be a highly skilled knitter to get involved, and although I have seen examples of extraordinarily complex pieces on trees and statues, there are also many fabulously simple projects that involve little more than a considerately placed tube of knitting. It seems to me that some of the most effective works are successful because of the knitter's determination to realise a clever concept as well as a quirky attitude and generosity of spirit, which make our cities more colourful and interesting places to live in.