As Bali and her yarn-bombing accomplices flick their needles to form quick, seamless cables at their weekly crochet catch-up, they realise that this month marks two years since Yarn Corner foundation. The basis of their mission is to cover ugly poles, dull-coloured bike racks, other street furniture and objects they happen to fancy in colourful crochet. Those more skilled with a crochet needle form flowers and critters to brighten up the streets.
The group now has around 520 local and international members who contribute to a series of commissioned community art projects. They have been inundated with orders for their wool-based installations and their services are booked out until mid-2014.
"It was only ever meant to be a stitch and bitch group," says founder and director Bali, who wouldn’t give her full name, chuckling and pulling out an enormous ball of yarn from her bag.
Yarn Corner has made Melbourne home to one of the world's largest wool-based public art organisations. Over the two years, projects have escalated in size from wrapping crochet socks around two poles in front of a cafe to making 85 cosies for the trees which line Parkville's Royal Parade – a project that will take shape in early June. Some installations are fleeting while others stay up for months.
An intrinsic link to community, landscape and a strong sense of public ownership has solidified the humble yarn-bombers’ place within the international street art scene. Although a lot of effort is poured into a wrap that is left to bear the brunt of Melbourne's stormy weather, each piece becomes one of those quirks that make our everyday suburban walk unique.
With such large numbers in the group, members represent all ages and walks of life. Put simply, it’s clear the resurgence of craft has not discriminated in its appeal. One member, who says she works in a high-stress corporate environment, reflects on how she finds doing something methodical and tactile highly relaxing. Climbing a ladder and strapping your work to a landmark has its own thrill. Maybe in the near future, a pencil skirt will go hand-in-hand with a knitted balaclava and a penchant for painting the town mohair? Unlike other forms of street art, a yarn-bomb can be easily snipped off if it obstructs anyone's property and some councils now allow and encourage the practice.
Bali works full-time as well as co-ordinating all of Yarn Corner's projects, communications and requests. As if she did not already have enough on her plate, she's also leading crochet classes on weekends and has taken on the role of managing To Addis With Love, a group that aims to craft quality crochet blankets for patients at Hamlin Fistula in Ethiopia.
Yarn Corner revels in having a community focus and is in the process of applying for a grant, which will help them set up a permanent shopfront complete with a gallery and shop to support local craftspeople. If all goes to plan, there may even be a coffee machine with crochet doilies and tea cosies a plenty.
All are welcome to join Yarn Corner. For more information on painting the town mohair, click here.