Betty Wood cosied up- excuse the pun- for an interview with London’s kitschiest street artists, the Knit the City group of guerrilla yarn stormers. Yarn Corporals Lady Loop, The Fastener and Deadly Knitshade answered questions on the re-emergence of knitting in the public eye, creating non-traditional street art through one of crafts’ most traditional mediums, as well as sharing some of the highlights of their adventures…including a close stitch with the law.
First off, how did you all get involved in Yarn Storming? A lot of people think of knitting as an activity their Gran might get up to on a Sunday afternoon, rather than a group of twenty-something year old women.
Lady Loop: I don’t think knitting has fallen off the popularity scale really, it’s just that it’s so established that no-one bothers writing about it any more. As for getting involved, we all sort of found each other.
The Fastener: I agree with Lady Loop, people think its not been popular recently. If you go along to any of the knitting groups across the country I’m sure you’d think otherwise. Knitting is huge and is gaining popularity every day. So much so that London seems to gain a new yarn shop every year. I got involved in yarnstorming after seeing and hearing about Knit The City’s phone cosy. I wanted to get involved, but KTC’s doors weren’t open (you have to be asked!) and so I just went out and did my own stuff. I was thrilled that they all loved what I was doing and invited me to join the Yarn Corps!
Deadly Knitshade: I got involved in yarnstorming when a sinister hooded being beckoned me into London’s underground shadows with a shining pair of knitting needles. More than that I cannot tell you.
How have people responded to the yarn-storming that’s gone on so far? Have you seen a positive reaction, or do people just think you are all crazy?
LL: We’ve had a great reaction, most people love what we are doing to the urban landscape. Few people would rather see grey concrete than cute knitted creatures. However, I’m sure some people think we are a little crazy – but they’re probably the boring ones.
TF: A bit of both, but erring on the side of smiliness. We do good works, I think.
The police response to their avante-garde knitting projects has been similarly jolly. After their ‘Knit the Phonebox’ project in July 2007 saw them knit a full-size cosy for Parliament square’s most famous red box, the ladies were issued with tickets citing a ‘stop and search’ warning by local constabulary members. The search grounds were that they were ‘seen decorating telephone box for photography session.’ Although they escaped without serious punishment (and the officer with a few cheeky snaps for his wife,) the incident served to reiterate the ambiguous legal stance of this form of graffiti.
But this certainly didn’t deter the efforts of the group, who have since gone on to produce yarn storms featuring pirates at the Camden Crawl and a Nutcracker inspired ‘Knitmare before Xmas’ to name but a few. And given the elaborate and spectacular nature of their instillations, it’s important to remember that they yarn storm out of “a love of craft and sense of fun”, not for monetary gain or publicity:
Are any of you professional artists (or creative types), or has this grown out of a simple love of craft-making and a sense of fun?
LL: Just a love of craft and sense of fun for me.
TF: I do make things for a living as well, but my graffiti has grown purely out of a love of creating to my own guidelines and deadlines and letting it loose on the city, regardless of whether people like it not. Thankfully they like it!
DK: We were all hatched as crafty folk, I think. The love and crafty fun is there for us all. Always has been.
Are there any ultimate goals or secret agendas to your work? And has recent media attention changed your attitude about what can be achieved through kitsch street-art?
LL: What we all love about KTC is that there are no politics or unseen reasons for what we do. We just do it because we love it. I don’t particularly want to achieve anything other than enjoyment, and being able to continue what we are doing in a way that we want to do it.
TF: You only have to stand back and watch people seeing a yarnstorm for the first time to see the point. There’s gold in them there yarnstorms.
DK: Sometimes it’s ok just to want to make people break out in stupid grins. There’s a bit of history in there, a nod at handmade skills on the upswing, a sense of humour and a shove in the direction of freedom of the city in the city. In short we love it and other people seem to too. Win-win. Today sheep on traffic-riddled bridge, tomorrow yarnstorming in space.
Finally, what plot are you currently hatching? I’ve seen ‘Wall of Wonderland’, your Alice in Wonderland inspired knit-off at Waterloo… what’s next?
LL: I reckon we all need to get over the John Smedley and London Bridge storm before we attempt anything else …
TF: You all ask and you all get the same answer. If we told you we’d have to kill you.
DK: If we told you, you wouldn’t be surprised when you saw it! Also we’d have to kill you.
So that just about wraps it up, Knit the City are not only keeping thousands of sheep in gainful employment, they’re also now our favourite heroes (superpowers or not). Check out their blog at www.knitthecity.com for more information on their latest projects.
IMAGES © LAUREN O’FARRELL