A Ripping Good Yarn!

Step aside, graffiti artists. Here come the knitters

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Michel Jean Sicot

A leg warmer by Magda Sayeg in Paris

With the exception of Madame Defarge, the vengeful knitter of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, needlework has never been the most revolutionary of pursuits. Slow, laborious and meditative, it's everything contemporary culture is not. But recently knitting — and its even squarer cousin, crocheting — has gotten something of a rebellious name around town. That name is yarn bombing.

Yarn bombers take their craft to the streets, stitching cozies for bike racks, stop signs and sculptures. They knit covers for sidewalk cracks, subway seats, even entire buses. Initially, like graffiti artists, they tagged their quarry in the dead of night, posting photos online and sometimes forming loose-knit (sorry) collectives to preserve their anonymity.

But civic authorities have mostly welcomed the practice (as have yarn stores). And perhaps because our fingers want more out of life than just pressing keys and screens, yarn bombing has taken off around the world. The center may be Texas, where in 2005 a Houston dress-shop owner, Magda Sayeg, knit a cover for her store's door handle on a slow day. Today Sayeg, now based in Austin, fields invitations to yarn-bomb cities and corporate headquarters. Some Canadian knitters have declared June 11 the first International Yarn Bombing Day, encouraging all to go forth and vandalize — perhaps with a nice angora three-ply.