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Yarnbombing Museums: Blow the Doors Down

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

Today’s guest post is by Streetcolor, a knitter and yarnbomber who has blogged for CFM before about the experience of creating art outside a museum’s authority. Now Streetcolor blogs about the experience of being invited inside…

Ten Reasons To Yarnbomb Your Museum

  1. Knitting makes people relax, they are tricked into thinking they are home.
  2. Yarnbombing is cheerful, people think they are going to have fun.
  3. Yarnbombing makes the museum building itself more of an experience.
  4. Yarnbombing makes sculpture different, thus new.
  5. Knitting is common and humble, it relaxes the elitism of art.
  6. Yarnbombing can be done by anyone, it includes everyone in the art process.
  7. Yarnbombing a museum questions where woman’s art belongs.
  8. Yarnbombing is an event, it’s news, it’s social.
  9. Yarnbombing a museum is low art becoming high art.
  10. Yarnbombing is a site specific installation disguised as a friendly gesture.
Yarnbombing is the term for making street art with knitting or crocheting.

I started yarnbombing museums because I like places that are saturated with art and also I wanted to challenge the assumption that art was only inside a museum and suggest that art could be outside on the street.

At first I only yarnbombed the outsides of museums. It was exciting, scary and satisfying to stand outside a museum in the dark and sew knitting to its street fixtures.

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Then, one day, that was no longer enough. I wanted to yarnbomb the outside AND the inside of a museum. I thought maybe I could yarnbomb the Oakland Museum of California, it was nearby, it was known for being experimental and I had a friend that worked there.

It turned out the Oakland Museum was perfect, they have a special program called The Oakland Standard devoted to innovative and fresh displays of art for the local community and they had already thought of doing a yarnbombing project.

I proposed to The Oakland Standard that we yarnbomb the front of the building, the banisters into the building and down into the gardens, two chairs and a bench in the entryway and a tree. I wanted to make really sure you noticed that the museum was covered in knitting.

My knitting is all handspun and hand-knit so this was a huge undertaking. I gathered a crew of super knitters and asked them to help.


In addition, I wanted to do a street show of yarnbombs from all over the world by many different yarnbombers, creating my own mobile museum encircling the traditional museum. I went on Facebook and asked the international yarnbombing community to send me some tags. I ended up putting up yarnbombs from Canada, several different states in the U.S. and one from South America. Later, The Oakland Standard suggested a knitting circle. We had a large group of community knitters and crocheters come and collaborate on a group yarnbomb for the installation, so we had three different levels of yarnbombing going on at the museum. I especially liked using the museum as a place to make art as well as view art.

The Reactions

The installation process went on for days, so I had a chance to watch people interacting with the knitting. The Oakland Museum of California has schools of children coming all the time, and lots of kids posed for pictures next to the yarnbombing. Several kids stopped and talked to me about wanting to be artists. My favorite moment was watching 20 ten-year-olds run up the stairs in a line, every single one dragging their hands along the knitted bannister. You don’t often get to fondle the art.

The employees of the museum especially liked seeing the color and ease of the wool against the concrete building. People sat on the knitted furniture very casually and occasionally gratefully with a sigh.

The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art Yarnbombing

Last December, a volunteer at The Sonoma Valley Museum wrote me and asked if I would do a yarnbomb to go with their Holiday show. I countered with the suggestion that I just yarnbomb the whole museum. After several months the educational director Margie Maynard contacted me again and asked me to make a yarnbomb for the museum to go along with their “Color” show. This was a very interesting challenge as we couldn’t put anything in the galleries or cafe or hang anything new on the outside of the building. We ended yarnbombing a table, two door handles and a large existing hanging sign. I also knit an (uncommissioned) streetlight right outside the building so that there could be streetart and art. This was put up May 5, 2012.

What does This All Mean?

People are amazingly accepting of yarnbombing—in part because they think it’s light entertainment: pretty and pretty silly. Knitting is familiar and comforting. It seems too available to be meaningful. But I think yarnbombing is only disguised as silliness—it’s really art. I call yarnbombing a museum “Parallel Art World,” because the art isn’t on the walls, or in the galleries, it all around you. It’s the knitting on the ordinary boring bits of life that you just don’t see making them jump and come alive.

All right that’s it. Except:

What about it? Have I got you interested in having someone yarnbomb your museum?

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  1. I love yarnbombing as it makes an area more colorful, awareness of knitting, and makes people interested in the arts. Also, it's fun, fun, fun!

  2. I' just learning about yarnbombing, but I saw blogs and magazine articles about atreet-fiber artists last fall and I live the way I see yarn making a "societal comeback" as it were AND I love seeing it as art, not just as functional within the home. I started knitting and crocheting again this year with the advent if my first grandchild and am proud to say I'm in some way responsible for at least eight new yarn-workers and the rejuvenation of at least two others.

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