by Maddy Costa. Sunday 10 October, 2010
It's a blustery Sunday afternoon on London Bridge and I'm exercising my right – or at least, the right of freemen in 11th-century London – to herd sheep across the Thames. They're not real sheep, thankfully. They're tiny knitted creatures, with spindly legs and multicoloured bodies, and snapping at their heels is a gnarly-looking wolf in sheep's clothing.
Confused? Welcome to the world of graffiti knitting, or yarn bombing as it's generally known. If you haven't encountered it before, you might just over the next few days, as knitters across Britain celebrate wool week by "tagging" lamp-posts with knitted doilies, wrapping public statues in scarves and sending knitted animals scurrying about city streets. I can't say exactly where, though, as it's all hush hush.
My introduction to yarn bombing came courtesy of Knit the City, a tight-knit (sorry) London-based crew with fanciful names: my accomplices today are Deadly Knitshade, the Fastener and Shorn-a the Dead. For their Knitmare Before Christmas project, they attacked the statue of a ballerina outside the Royal Opera House with figures inspired by The Nutcracker, while Web of Woe found them installing a 13ft spider's web, replete with trapped insects and fairies, in the "graffiti tunnel" beneath Waterloo station.
Knit the City was established in April 2009 by Lauren O'Farrell, whose first act was to rechristen her group's activities yarn storming. "In London, you can't go throwing the word bombing around," she says. "Yarn storming sounds more creative than bombing, which is destructive. It's a bit more kooky and eccentric." You might say the same of O'Farrell, who started knitting five years ago to distract herself from the treatment she was undergoing for cancer and, in March 2007, celebrated getting the all-clear by tying a 550ft scarf around the lions in Trafalgar Square....