Guerilla Knitting on my way home from work

Tessa Smith

Knitty Gritty sash on tree
On my way home from work last Friday, I spotted this knitted sash on a tree. The tag says, “Knitty Gritty” so when I got home I googled the name, but couldn’t find anything that seemed to match, even though I seem to remember hearing about a Montreal group who knit things to put on lampposts, trees, machinery, etc. Anyone know more about this?

In my search, I got kind of carried away looking at all the Craftivism and Code-as-Art projects in other cities. Here are a few of the ones that really stood out to me. Seriously, this stuff is pretty incredible.

In public, there’s Knitted Graffiti and Guerilla Knitting and Knittivism. And in the galleries and studios, there’s Open Source Embroidery and New Media projects with craft materials…

Lisa Williams describes the connection between knitting and coding by showing how a single piece of string that makes up a garment is like a line of source code in a computer program. Both technologies have developed through culture, meaning they’ve had to be transmitted from person to person, either for free or within different structures of control.

Knitting gives me a lot of respect for my ancestors as hackers, Knitting is source code – you look at a knitting pattern – that’s the code for a sweater. As we industrialise, more and more of the world we experience comes in a black box. We know how to use things but we don’t know how they work. I’ve been de-black boxing my wardrobe.

The philosophy of Open Source Embroidery (from whose website I took the preceding quote) is that by working with coding and crafting at the same, we can better understand why the methods and materials that we use to build things need to remain open and freely distributable.

“Lace Fence” made with metal fabric and coated steel wire. Photo: DEMAKERSVAN

 “Hello!” on bus seat, by Ulrika Erdes.
Public Embroidery: “Hello!” on bus seat, by Ulrika Erdes.

 Helena Collin
“Stitching Together” made from embroidered text messages. Photo: Helena Collin

From May 17th to June 15th, London’s House of Technology Termed Praxis (Http) Gallery is housing the exhibit “Open Source Embroidery: Craft and Code”. The centerpiece of the exhibit is HTML Patchwork, an international collaboration of 216 hexagonal patches that form the hexadecimal palette of web-safe colours. The work was initiated by Ele Carpenter at Access Space, a drop-in computer lab in Sheffield that lets anyone use its computers that were built from recycled parts and loaded with open source softwares to work on creative projects.

“The same arguments about Open Source vs Free Software can be applied to embroidery. The needlework crafts also have to negotiate the principles of ‘freedom’ to create, modify and distribute, within the cultural and economic constraints of capitalism.” (Ele Carpenter, in an interview with Jess Lacetti). So there’s an important difference between “free” and “freely available” or “open source” information when your work takes place within a capitalist culture of business and art. Should the instructions be free and the products be sold? How material are the materials that make up our information and pass it along?

You can view the entire Patchwork here. Click on any patch to bring up a larger image and read about the individual artists. Other projects coming out of the Access Space include scarves embroidered with text in different programming languages.

Crocheted Plastic
Crocheted Plastic

Crochet Reef
Crochet Reef

Finally, just in the category of cool knitted art, The Los Angeles-based Institute for Figuring is putting together a Crocheted Coral Reef, using Hyperbolic Crocheting. The work is designed and curated by the Institute’s co-directors, Christine and Margaret Wertheim, and it welcomes pieces from anyone who wants to contribute. In general, the Institute focuses on artistic examinations of mathematical forms and geometric figures. They have also started work crocheting with discarded plastic. Get in touch with them by email.

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Links to more info on photos in this post:
- Embroidered Text Messages
- Public Embroidery
-Lace Fence