London Guerilla Knitting: “My yarn is as bad ass as your spray can.”

Guerilla knitting. Street art that sings the same yarn-flavoured tune I do. Always had vague fluffy plans of releasing my knits into the city I am in all kinds of love with. Always admired those who have done it before me.

Never really dreamed I would be standing nervously in the shadow of St Paul’s cathedral, pockets full of stocking stitch and fat tapestry needles, on the lookout for ‘the filth’ patrolling the historic building front, while the American queen of knitting graffiti deftly wrapped a lonely zebra-crossing beacon in knitting I had frantically created with my sticks and string the night before.

Magda Sayek sat across the table from me in a lunchtime-loud London pub an hour earlier. At her feet was a handbag of Mary-Poppins proportions, stuffed full of pre-knit graffiti bits. Tubes and strips of every colour sprung from it like knitted vipers whenever it was unzipped.

Bag of woolly vipers

Bag of woolly vipers

Magda, who began Knitta Please much like Stitch and Bitch London, with a few knitters, a bit of wine, and delusions of knitting grandeur four years ago, was on a flying visit to the UK to be on a chat show. Yarn has wrapped itself around her life, as well as the street signs and lampposts of her city.

Madga  I can never resist a lonely cycle lock.

Madga " I can never resist a lonely cycle lock."

Knitting; so utterly inoffensive. I have used it to calm distrustful strangers on trains in spice-scented lands, and to reach across language barriers to produce ‘my grandmother does that too’ smiles. Knitting is sort of the solid (yet spongy) ground I can always stand on when things are at their shakiest. But here the purly beast at my side grows another, altogether more tangled, head.

Guerilla knitting spins the idea of grandmas, moth balls, and too-long sleeves in an unexpected direction that leaves passers by dipped in thoughts of art, graffiti, sweet little old ladies, and daring deeds.

S&B Londoners get their guerilla knit on

S&B Londoner's get their guerilla knit on

I asked Magda if paint graffiti artists ever felt she was stepping on their toes with her woolly street art. Magda shook her head and said emphatically “No way! I tell them ‘My yarn is as bad ass as your spray can.'”

Looking at what we did to London’s South Bank this chilly February morning it was clear Magda was preaching to the knitting choir.

When the adrenaline subsides and you stand back in the shadows to watch passers-by crack smiles and point excited fingers you can’t help feeling you just made the world a little more interesting through making it a woollier place.

My knitting, St Pauls, possibly disrupted traffic

My knitting, St Paul's, possibly disrupted traffic

Guerilla knitting. I can feel you tugging at my sleeve with your woolly fingers of knitted sneakiness. Not sure how long I can resist another outing. And, quite frankly, I am not sure that I want to resist.

31 Comments

  1. CarmenM
    February 21, 2009

    Hahaaaa, your words and pics have truly made a good day ever betterer… Ta so much this London yarn of such fine street knittery: you do yourself wondrous proud, guv.

    Reply
  2. Lindsey
    February 21, 2009

    I feel a londonist photo gallery coming on….

    Reply
  3. Flaneurbanite
    February 21, 2009

    This is SO cool! I never knew knitting could be a form of ‘graffiti’ – a subject I’ve been getting increasingly interested in since I did my photowalks around Shoreditch and Rivington Street last week (pictures on my blog). Can’t knit myself, but can watch others knit, mesmerised for hours:)

    Reply
  4. Summer
    February 22, 2009

    You should have seen the look on my husband’s face when I said ‘guerrilla knitting’ – that in itself broke a great smile. I didn’t know about knitting graffitti either, but it’s fascinating. Do the authorities give you hell? I’d expect knitting graffitti to take a little longer than spray.

    Reply
  5. tofty
    February 22, 2009

    ah gutted to have missed it, you guys did an awesome job, well done snb london! :)

    Reply
  6. Monkey
    February 22, 2009

    Aha, very educational ;)

    Reply
  7. BNM
    February 22, 2009

    A great idea. Why limit it to the South Bank though? Knitsbridge awaits!

    Reply
  8. barrelracer82
    February 22, 2009

    I love it! The pictures make me smile, I bet seeing it in person does wonders for the spirits of passerby. Winter can be a dreary time for some. God job!

    Reply
  9. Deadly Knitshade
    February 22, 2009

    Wow. Everyone has said such lovely stuff. I guess wrapping the world in yarn can make a difference.

    I’m sure there’ll be another outing if anyone wants to join me. Start knitting your balaclavas now… :)

    Reply
  10. Knit Nurse
    February 22, 2009

    Great to see it in familiar places!!!

    Reply
  11. Zina
    February 23, 2009

    This is great! I hardly have to post anything at all on my blog! ;)

    I sooooo wish I coulda made it, it looks like you guys had so much fun. I’m way too law abiding, though. I probably would have asked permission from the cops first. *rolling eyes*

    Reply
  12. sara
    February 24, 2009

    such a shame i didn’t know you were doing this last week and could have joined you as i had been using the skater graffitti park for my yarn bombs a few weeks back.
    looks great though.

    Reply
  13. grrl+dog
    February 25, 2009

    Not only do I adore your blog title, and your writing style, but these knit ups are as we say “totally fuck off!!”

    I reckon you could be charged with disrupting traffic with that one, and the huge shaggy rail cover is too much!

    I am blogging you as we speak!

    thanks for contacting me..

    love it love it love it.

    Reply
  14. eb
    February 25, 2009

    I’m so with grrl
    go Go GO GRRRRRRRRRRRL!

    xox – eb.

    Reply
  15. Rosie
    February 25, 2009

    Absolutely fantastic!! I felt so alone up here in the north(Leeds) so if you know anyone please let me know – My little contribution (see my blog post) seems a bit pathetic next to your Brilliant brilliant brilliant contribution to the movement !!

    Reply
  16. Shayla
    February 25, 2009

    I love your writing style.

    Reply
    • Deadly Knitshade
      February 25, 2009

      *blushes with guerilla knitting pride*

      Thanks for the grrrrrrrs and purrrrrrs of approval. Glad to be in such fine company. :)

      Reply
  17. Lady P
    March 3, 2009

    until just recently , I never knew that my knitting could become – subversive! two of us did a yarn bombing of a tree on our high street just in time to join in with grrl +dog’s global guerilla knit up challenge- it was exhilarating – all of our pals are still taking about it and we are ready for more!

    Reply
  18. Jafabrit
    March 3, 2009

    I agree, love the title of your blog, and LOVE the pics of your knits, I can’t decide which is my fave. anyway you guys ROCK!

    Reply
  19. Deadly Knitshade
    March 5, 2009

    Thanks very much everyone. Hope to do more guerrilla knits in the future. They’re quite addictive… :)

    Reply
  20. Lise
    March 9, 2009

    Hey, it seems that knitting is not so boring that I thought!

    Reply
  21. Susan
    March 16, 2009

    We have this kind of street art here in Seattle as well. It’s very entertaining.

    Reply
  22. Joffrey B.
    March 25, 2009

    I saw a picture of you with Luna Lovegood converse shoes.
    I was wondering if you had the identification number of the converse or if you knew where i could find some…

    I live in Canada and I have a friend at school who really is looking for them, because she’s a fan of luna…

    thanks

    Reply
    • Deadly Knitshade
      March 25, 2009

      My little Luna Lovegoods.

      The ID number is SKU 1u838. They’re Red Fruit converse. I’m not sure you can get them anymore. And you can’t have mine. :)

      Reply
  23. limo hire glasgow
    April 24, 2009

    Guerilla knitting is a novel idea to me but sounds interesting to learn. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    Reply
  24. Clare
    June 18, 2009

    Hi Deadly Knitshade,

    I’m writing a feature about guerrilla knitting for Knitting magazine and would really like to chat to you.
    I met Magda Sayeg just before she came to meet you guys to go tagging.
    Id would be great if you could drop me a line.

    Thanks,

    Clare

    Reply
  25. Anna Holland
    July 16, 2009

    Love it love it love it. Now perhaps my partner will agree to my decorating the Dutch Barge we live on, on the Thames, with some knitted ‘stuff’ perhaps on the cross-tree or wrapped around the tiller. I’ll post pics when I’ve done!

    Reply
  26. Busted
    February 5, 2010

    I love this so much I might start doing it at random. It may take years for anyone to notice the little knit objects in the Northeast U.S though

    Reply
  27. lucy gilmour
    September 14, 2010

    Hi There!
    Im currently an embroidery student at Manchester in the UK, and I am just about to start writing my disseration. I have chosen to write it on Guerilla Knitting. I plan to focus my work on knitting myself for my final year to begin with and this is why I am massively intersted in the Guerilla Knitting world! I was wondering if I could maybe have a chance to talk to you about your work and what inspires you etc.

    Reply
  28. lucy gilmour
    September 14, 2010

    Hi There!
    Im currently an embroidery student at Manchester in the UK, and I am just about to start writing my disseration. I have chosen to write it on Guerilla Knitting. I plan to focus my work on knitting myself for my final year to begin with and this is why I am massively intersted in the Guerilla Knitting world! I was wondering if I could maybe have a chance to talk to you about your work and what inspires you etc. I understand you will be busy working yourself, but maybe if you have a quick minute I could email you some questions about your work. Thankyou very much and keep up the amazing work! It always puts a smile on my face

    Reply

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