A New Knitted Art Sweeps Berkeley Streets, One Pole at a Time

By Zoe Salnave

It’s the new trend in the art world sweeping the nation — or at least in the art-respecting streets of Berkeley and Oakland. Put away your spray cans and graffiti pens and dust off your knitting needles. Yarn bombing is taking over a cold metal street pole near you.

Yarn bombing is an up-and-coming art form that is catching the attention of many closeted knitters. Yarn bombing isn’t as violent as it sounds; it is the peaceful act of creating large pieces of knitting to sew together over structures that yarn bombers perceived to be in need of a colorful cozy.

“I think it is sort of trendy,” says local anonymous yarn bomber, Streetcolor. Streetcolor’s works of woolen art can be seen all around Berkeley, enveloping boring old street poles in colorful knitted sleeves. Streetcolor adds that even though yarn bombing is an emerging trend, “at the same time it is a part of a very long tradition of street art and also a new development in knitting which has been used for almost everything people want.”

The knitted pieces of street attire are becoming more and more recognized and understood. Streetcolor adds that people understand this form of public art when they know about the yarn bombing movement. “People can digest things better if they can link it to something they have heard of already. So when they see knitting on a pole they don’t think “What is that?” They think “Oh! Yarn bombing!”

If you dare to Google yarn bombers, you will be presented with blogs of knitting fiends who show off their works. The usual victims, or should I say warmed objects, consist of chilly looking street-side statues and poles sporting fashionable scarves in an assortment of colors.

The most recent attention-grabbing piece of knitted artwork is a lovely draping sweater that hangs over the “T” of the “Here There” sculpture on the border of Berkeley and Oakland on Adeline Street.

The BerkeleySide blog states that the motive for carrying out “Operation Yarn Bombing” was that “the knitters [interpreted the “Here There” sculpture (un-cozy-ed of course)] as a derogatory remark about Oakland.”

More knitting can be seen on the “Berkeley Big People” sculptures that adorn the far corners of the pedestrian overpass of Interstate-80 near the marina. The night-knitters reeked havoc on the statues and suited the book and kite of the structures with lovely knitting and brought color to a simple bronze structure.

This new form of street art seems to really be attracting people’s attention. More anonymous knitters are striking out in the late hours of night to cover bland been-there-seen-that structures. The knitting needles of anonymous members of the movement such as “Streetcolor”, “The Russian”, “KnittaPlease”, and more, are sparking flames as the yarn bombers movement continues to grow and gain more participants.

Streetcolor sends encouragement saying that, “I have been an artist all my life and worked in many mediums. I believe in art, in making lots of art, in looking at lots of art, in thinking about [art] all the time. If you think you might be an artist; go go go for it!”

And who knows, maybe a few yarn bombers will take on a new mission and our beloved, but cold cement Peace Wall will soon be covered in a warm wool cozy in the dark of night.