Yarn bombing Revelstoke

John Devitt

Yarn – Noun.  Meaning,

  1. Spun thread used for knitting, weaving, or sewing
  2. A long or rambling story, esp. one that is implausible

Bomb – Noun or Verb.  Verb meaning,

  1. To hurl, or drop bombs
  2. Informal.  To move very quickly

By now everyone in town has seen the warmly wrapped salmon statues on the corner of Third Street and Mackenzie Avenue.  Sometime in the middle of the night on February 29th, a ruthless, woolen graffiti gang struck these highly prized community statues and left them swathed in brightly coloured tube tops.  This was not the first time the crochet hooligans struck, having left a similar message of colour on the Rotary clock, mere blocks away earlier in the month.  We should remain vigilant, as it is certain this group will strike again.

The creation of the yarn bomb is credited to Den Helder, who first attacked in the Netherlands in 2004.  The first recorded incident of yarn bombing in the western hemisphere was noted in Texas in 2005.  Since then these acts of terrorism have spread worldwide.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarn_bombing)

Using yarn to enhance existing objects is a legitimate form of artistic expression.

Further research into the topic of yarn bombing reveals a much deeper history.  The yarn bomb was one of many inventions of warfare that was first developed in the Renaissance period.  While some scholars claim to have seen rare schematics designed by Da Vinci, this cannot be substantiated.  What is clear is that the device was not widely adopted due to a high failure rate on the battlefield.  An exploding shell was built, housing copious amounts of yarn.  This shell would be fired over an advancing line of enemies and explode, causing reams of yarn to fall, thereby entangling enemy forces and halting any forward progress.  After a brilliant failure by the English to effectively utilize this technique at the battle of the Yellow Ford in 1598, the yarn bomb sunk into obscurity.  Hugh O’Neill who led Irish forces in the battle, completely wiping out the English wrote at the time about his encounter with the yarn bomb “If anything, this tool only served to confuse our forces for a brief moment.  We were incredulous that the English could actually believe something like this could work.”

The yarn bomb was not employed again until the early 20thCentury.  During World War One, the underground Belgian resistance

It can even be a political statement.... sort of a make-blanket-not-war statement.

revisited this concept.  As wartime supplies were hard to come by, but livestock plentiful, there was a great deal of wool available to be spun into yarn.  The Belgians envisioned utilizing yarn bombs in a non-explosive manner, stitching elaborate barricades and entrapments throughout the northern trench lines.  Lack of yarn durability to bayonets turned out to be the least of their worries, as frequent wet and cold weather caused many of these barricades to shrink, allowing easy access to German forces.  While some in the Belgian underground pondered the integration of synthetic fibres to prevent shrinkage, the yarn bomb was quickly discarded as an effective means of resistance.

It wasn’t until the 21st century that the yarn bomb would be revived.  The term “yarn bomb” is a tongue in cheek reference to those earlier attempts by the English and Belgians, however in the new millennium the term has become synonymous with art installations.  While some consider yarn bombing acts as graffiti, the installations are non-permanent and can be easily removed if necessary, thereby preventing vigorous prosecution of the act.  Those who create yarn bombs due so to reclaim and personalize sterile public places.  The installations add colour to drab landscapes.

Some citizens in Revelstoke have questioned the motivation behind the recent yarn bomb attacks.  Asking “what is the point?” or “doesn’t that seem like a waste of yarn to you?”  While on the surface these two questions may seem valid, deeper contemplation reveals a simple answer, “So?”  These yarn bombs have added colour and whimsy to the town, generating laughter and smiles to all who pass by.

As the Revelstoke yarn bomb gang increase the frequency and daring of its woolen assaults, I for one, am looking forward to amplified creativity.  It is only a matter of time until we see our bus shelters, gondolas and band shell gifted with colourful inspiration.

Or it may just be something mundane, like a bike.