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The Knitters Have Taken to Tagging

knit bike rack

Last week while strolling through downtown Berkeley, we came across a municipal sign ensconced in a colorful knitted woolen cozy. I was really curious about it, and asked my friend Ida if she had any insight as to why the visitor information sign had its own armless sweater. She explained to me that the knitters have taken to tagging, and such artistic creations were not uncommon in the city. Ida also told me that she had seen similar work in Portland, as well as many other places on the west coast.

The very next day when I was in San Francisco, I noticed a bicycle rack outside of my cancer doctor’s office that had also been “tagged” by another anonymous knitter. This unexpected act of art/graffiti/knitting seemed to be part urban beautification, part demonstration of love for the bike rack, part celebration of the simple beauty of creating something by hand, and part random individual expression.

I am totally down with this inspired trend of knitters tagging public space in this manner, and hope that it continues to spread. The creative fusion of knitting and tagging seems inherently rather subversive, linking two distinct social spheres that do not generally overlap; it also raises interesting questions about what is public art and what is graffiti.

knit detail

“Tagging” by knitter graffiti artists in downtown Berkeley, California.

I am not sure if this low-tech public art movement is mostly a west coast phenomenon, or if it happens everywhere. If you have ever encountered knitter tagging or unexplained artsy public crocheted creations in your neighborhood, please share your experience in the comments section.