Yarnbombing or yarn storming, as it's called in places like the UK and Iceland, is an international revolution; here in Denver, the Ladies Fancywork Society's work has brightened random street corners and local art museums alike. Now, Icelandic yarn stormer Linda Björk Eiríksdóttir, aka BarbaKnit, has come from Reykjavík to lead local participants in a yarn-storming action in Civic Center Park Saturday as part of the Taste of Iceland, a touring event bringing the frigid island's food, drink, music and culture to American cities.
In advance of the event, we asked Eiríksdóttir to explain why she just can't stop decorating things with yarn. Keep reading for the full Q & A.
Westword: Tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got involved in the yarn storming revolution.
I am Linda Björk, a mother of two girls; I work full time as an accountant and am also going to school to become a certified accountant. So hobbies aside, I am quite busy most of the time. However, I always seem to find the time to nurture my hobbies. I do a lot of knitting and crochet. I did cross stitch and embroidery for years and still do it but very rarely. My mother is a very talented seamstress and all her sisters, as well as my grandmother, do some kind of handcrafts. So my doing this is no surprise to anyone, as I was basically raised with all this inspiration around me.
I had seen yarn-storming projects when I traveled, in Copenhagen, in Brighton and in London, and I Googled it and fell in love with the concept and wanted to try it out. I have always loved graffiti and street art, but I am no good at drawing or painting, so this was something right up my alley. Combining graffiti and yarn! One evening my friend was at my house, I was trying out some yarn that I ended up not liking and decided to use the swatch as my first yarn-storming piece. We went out to the street, and I stitched it on a street light. That piece is still there, almost three years later. Even if it was just a small piece, I got very inspired.
I knew other people who I thought would be interested in joining a group of yarn stormers, so I made a Facebook group and invited some people and encouraged them to invite their friends. The group now has over 200 members, but not all of them are active. I do my yarn-storming projects both with the group and on my own. With my group, we did a bus for Culture night in 2012 and a bus terminal a year later. We have done up the statues in the city, raised awareness for breast cancer, honored LGBT rights on Gay Pride Day for the past three years, among other projects.
Why is it an important thing to do?
I can only speak for myself, and personally, I just need to do it, both to raise awareness for certain topics, and also because it just makes me happy. Not everything I do is political or for a cause -- sometimes I just do it just because I feel like it. I like the element of surprise and the colors and the warmth that I find that it brings.
Most cities are full of gray, sometimes boring buildings and surroundings. A pop of color can do a lot for your mood! You can have different textures, you can combine knitting/crochet/embroidery in whatever colors you want, you can make a statement or you can raise awareness on certain topics, a certain place or whatever else you like. There are no limits.
What will be happening at the event in Denver?
I will have some already made pieces there with me that I have been working on lately, that will go up to dress up the trees (as many as we have the time to do) in the area. We would love people to come and join us and bring their knitting needles or crochet hooks, some scrap yarn or samples that they have around and haven't found a use for yet. It can be anything, big or small. If you think the piece is boring, don't like the yarn, or don't want to use it, bring it with you and find a purpose for it, pop it up with maybe some embroidery or a fun border and add it to the piece. It does not matter if you have never done yarn storming before; it is easy and fun, and I will assist with the installation.
Who can participate?
Anyone! My daughters (aged nine and fifteen) often come with me when I yarn storm and help out! The former Mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr, came and helped out when we did the bus terminal. It is a fun thing to do for anyone -- children and adults. It doesn't matter if you don't know how to knit or crochet, you can grab one of the pieces I have already made, and add it to the piece with my help and guidance.
What will happen to the installations after the event ends?
Usually when I do yarn storming, it just gets to stay up until somebody takes it down, or I take it down myself when it is not that pretty anymore because of pollution or weather. The plan is to let it stay up for as long as possible. When you do yarn storming, you are speaking to the public and leaving it in their hands. What happens to it is not up to me, but to everyone else, and I never know how the public reacts or responds to it. That is part of what makes it fun. Some of the pieces we did at the bus terminal a year ago are still there, but some have been taken down or removed by someone. I took a few down myself because they were not holding up well enough, but I have left most of it alone and up to the public. Anything else you'd like to say to encourage knitters to come out and take part?
Come! Bring your family and friends and a snack and a blanket and take part. Yarn storming is a wonderful way to break out of your box! We do not always have to follow a pattern or do everything exactly like it is "supposed" to be done. Giving your mind and your hands the freedom to do whatever they want is a wonderful and relaxing thing, and you might even surprise yourself! Can't wait to see you there!
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A Taste of Iceland hosts an afternoon of yarn storming with Linda Björk Eiríksdóttir from noon to 3 p.m. at Civic Center Park, in the area just east of the McNichols Building. Admission is free, and participants are invited to bring their own knitting tools and materials with them -- or use knitted pieces provided by the artist. Visit Iceland Naturally online for details. Learn more about Linda Björk Eiríksdóttir and the Reykjavík Underground Yarnstormers on Facebook.
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