Text by Polly Story-Lebl (US) and photos by Polly Story-Lebl (US) and Franci Hibbert (ZA)
A few years back, I noticed some knitted sweaters wrapped around the light posts on the bridge here in Prague. It was cute and I thought it was just something the city did to brighten up the dreary days. It wasn’t until recently I found out a few renegade knitters armed with creativity and left-over yarn were responsible when I met my first real person that does this “yarn-bombing” as she called it. It turns out, this is a phenomenon also known as guerrilla knitting, fiber artists, and twilight taggers. I found out that the practice may have started in Texas, with knitters using up leftover or failed knitting projects around 15 years ago. Like many cool things, it soon spread across the states and to other parts of the world. They not only tagged lamp posts but other various things like trees, fences, gates, statues, etc. I guess one could think of it as knitted graffiti, although I much prefer this type over permanent paint graffiti which is 90% crap.
Recently, I was able to catch up with my dear friend, Franci Hibbert, and asked her a few questions about her own experience as a yarn-bomber. Franci had joined a local knitting group in Prague and found that she had a few ‘failed’ projects and was wondering what to do when she came across a photo on the internet that gave her the initial inspiration. It’s a gorgeous photo of a tree wrapped in yarn from the bottom up to the branches.
About a year ago she decided to try it herself on a tree near her flat in front of one of her favorite restaurants called La Bottega Gastronomica, near the TV tower. The days were grey and colorless and she felt compelled to have something nice to look at when she was outside. She later covered the metal railing surrounding the tree she had tagged. It gives her great joy to sit in the restaurant and watch people walk by and smile and touch it. She had also planned to put something nice on a tree in front of the Per Te restaurant but when she arrived, the tree had unfortunately been cut down.
I asked her if anyone had complained about this type of urban art and she said everyone loved it, including the owners of the restaurant. Although she was pretty peeved when she saw the tree she covered in front of her house had gone missing (see photo).
Franci read that some people think the yarn may not be great for the health of the tree in terms of insects, so she plans to take it down when the weather warms, wash it, and put it back in the cold seasons. She is also planning to focus more on covering non-living subjects rather than the trees. She even knitted a cute sweater for a broken plant holder rather than throwing it away, which is a great idea.
Franci knits throughout the winter (not in summer) and is able to get leftover yarn from friends. The best for yarn-bombing is the thick type, in case you wonder who to donate leftover yarn from your own projects (hint, hint). I offered to go with her when she was installing, but after she told me that one night she went out at 3:00 am to add to her designs, I decided I’d probably pass on that.
Franci’s only goal with this hobby is to enjoy knitting and try to make the world a little bit prettier. She enjoys putting her art up in front of the places she visits the most, including our post-pilates hang out called Olive Point on Americka street. In fact, we met there recently to case the area and see where the new knitted material might go. We realized the tree was just too tall and thick, so she may work with the metal post nearby. If you want to see it the result, you’ll have to stroll by to have a look.
Polly, a native Montanan, is an IWAP member and has lived in Prague since 2009. She enjoys writing articles for The Bridge, which gives her the opportunity to share a little more insight into Czech culture.
This article was recently published on The Bridge an online magazine for International Women of Prague. Check it out! https://bridge.iwa-prague.com/prague-culture/