Case Study

Community Yarn Bombing

yarn bombing

Kirklees has a fantastic history of yarn bombing, and this has been pivotal to WOVEN in Kirklees, from the community yarn bombing of 2019 through to the flag ship Big Rainbow Knit in 2021

For WOVEN2023 we focussed back on community yarn bombing. From the feedback in 2021 we knew how much people loved travelling around Kirklees spotting the amazing yarn bombs, so we made it easier not to miss any and created a map guiding people on a journey of community, fun, inspiration and yarn! 

As the overall theme of WOVEN23 was sustainability, we put out the challenge as to how we could make yarn bombing more sustainable, and communities embraced the challenge with themes of nature, using natural dying and re-purposed yarns and fabrics.  

We kick started the challenge with a Night on the Knit event, and despite the snow, we had a great evening where we discussed and debated the merits of yarn bombing and how sustainable it can be. Topics included acrylic yarn for its bright colours and longevity vs natural wool which has less of an impact on the planet, how long yarn bombs should stay up for and the positive impact that yarn bombing can have in bringing people together and brightening a community area. 

I learnt from the workshop that anyone can do it, you don’t have to be able to knit or crochet, it can be anything, needle felting or just tying bits of fabric on railings’ 

From here we put a call out to Kirklees communities to put their community yarn bombs on the map. And what fantastic yarn bombs happened, from pillar boxes to toilet blocks to recreations  village recreations. Thanks to communities across Kirklees, including Linthwaite, Birkby, Slaithwaite, Flockton, Outlane and Hill Tree park. 

People loved to create and see them, and the yarn bombers got such lovely feedback

‘It brightens up the village – everyone says it makes them smile’

It makes a place look more loved’

Alongside the community enjoyment of the finished pieces, the creation of the yarn bombs brings people together, they were:

 ‘joining in, feeling part of a larger community’

 ‘working with a common purpose’ 

and that community cohesion and the wellbeing it brings cannot be underestimated. 

As the communities created the pieces, they kept in mind the sustainability of the yarn bombs and what would happen afterwards. In Slaithwaite the array of knitted hats were either raffled off as part of community fundraising, or cleaned and donated to those who might need them. Flockton Village will remain as a displayed art piece, and others will be saved and re used in future  installations. 

And the stories in the work created carry very real messages for the future

‘If we don’t look after what we’ve got, then we’’ll just be left with knitted bees and lady birds, the real ones will be gone’

In many of the areas that have committed to a WOVEN yarn bomb the community has gone on to develop a stitching social group. WOVEN can’t take  credit for any of this but we want to celebrate the commitment and community spirit of these special groups.

Set up your own Stitch Social and keep the good work going!

So what is yarn bombing? 

Yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk. It is also called wool bombing, yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, kniffiti, urban knitting, or graffiti knitting.

Yarn bombing was initially almost exclusively about reclaiming and personalising sterile or cold public places. It has since developed with groups graffiti knitting and crocheting worldwide, each with their own agendas and public graffiti knitting projects being run.

The first known yarn bomb was by Magda Sayeg, and was a knitted cover on the door knob of her boutique.

The great thing about yarn bombing is that everyone can take part, whether you’re part of a group or acting solo and no matter where in the world you are. It doesn’t even matter if you are living in the city, or in a small village!

The only thing you need to yarn bomb (except the yarn and needles or hook) is some creative inspiration and the need to make the world around you a more beautiful place.  

How do I get involved?
If you are feeling inspired, have a think about the following…

Who can I do this with?
Are you part of a local group? Do you know anyone who has done it before? Do you want to fly solo?

Where can I do it?
Anywhere from the front of your own house, the village green, through to covering a giant building 

Do I need to tell anyone/get permission?
It’s always better to get permission from your local authority, or the landownerYou will also need to consider public safety.

What will I use?
Think about types of yarn and fabric. Do you have a stash that you can use, or are there any previous yarn bombs that can be re-used?

How will I attach and make sure its secure?
Your yarn bombing needs to be secure so that it doesn’t blow away, or cause an obstruction. Think about ties and stitching.

How will it impact on the environment?
As much as people love to see colourful yarn bombing, it has come under criticism for its potential environmental impact. You will need to consider types of yarn, how it will be attached and where, and what will happen to it afterwards.

For a more detailed guide on steps to yarn bombing check out Emma Leith 

Top tips and considerations for sustainable yarn bombing…

  • Do you have any previous yarn bombing that can be used again? 
  • Where possible use natural fibres, acrylic yarns are plastic and won’t disintegrate or break down with the wear and tear of weather, same with using plastic tags to hold the yarn bombing in place. Natural yarns will break down and eventually disintegrate. 
  • How long will you be leaving the yarn bombing up? Will it look as good once weathered and damaged? Will it become more of an eyesore than a thing of beauty?
  • Think about where you will yarn bomb, especially if using acrylic yarns, as the insects may be poisoned and there has been criticism of trees being damaged and growth affected. 
  • What will happen to the yarn bomb when you take it down? Always start with the end in mind.
  • After the Big Rainbow Knit the squares were laundered, made into blankets and distributed to various charities. We know of local councillors whose spare bedroom is full of bunting that comes out again every year.

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