Yarn bombing was born the day Magda Sayeg, hungry for a little colour to brighten a drab scene, knitted a soft cover for the metal doorknob of her boutique in Houston, Texas. Yarn bombing (a term coined later by Leanne Prain, who wrote a book on the subject with Mandy Moore) is knit and crochet “graffiti” and has since become an international movement.
I believe this growing trend speaks to the deep human desire to connect, to play, to brighten one another’s days, to the natural generosity of the human heart. The unexpected sighting of a yarn bombing project reminds us that this is our world and we get to bring brightness and play to it—simply for their own sake, and to touch others through this simple gesture.
This act of yarn bombing is a beautiful anti-capitalist act: it is a gesture for the people. There is nothing to buy, nothing being sold, simply an offering of beauty to brighten your moment. It is a reclamation the streets, our streets (filled with non-consensual billboards).
I love and respect the art (and craft) of yarn bombing and yarn bombers. For this craftivism project, however, I am choosing to step away from the term yarn bombing. The word bomb comes from the Greek word βόμβος (bombos), an onomatopoetic term translating into "boom" in English.
It may seem pedantic or knitpicky (mispelling and pun very much intended) to choose not to use the term yarn bombing. The words we use have a power, create an experience when we speak them. And, to be honest, I’ve heard enough about bombs. And war.
And currently, in San Francisco*, war is being waged. A brutal phase in a larger class war is underway. “Gentrification” is the tidy word for it. But let’s call it what it is: it’s a class war, a war on the poor, a war on the working poor. Of course, this war rages on all over this impoverished yet supposedly most affluent country.
So, in this project aimed at raising awareness of the outrageously massive number of homeless children in this city and country (many families become homeless after being evicted from their long-term homes due to gentrification), I will not continue this violence in the language I use for this (non-violent) project.
Instead, I’m introducing the term yarn balming.
A balm is something that has a comforting, soothing or restorative effect or influence.
This project has a very clear intention: to awaken people to the politics and systems of oppression that allow the number of homeless children in this country to continue to rise.
May this project be a balm, something to soothe and restore.
May homeless children be restored into stable, affordable homes.
May sanity be restored ($2100 per month —minimum!— to rent a tiny studio in San Francisco).
May we gather together to take action to challenge the brutal, racist, money-driven systems that allow 1 in 30 children in the United States of America to be without homes.
So, instead of yarn bombs, let’s bring yarn balms, something to heal and restore!
*StreetHearts acknowledges that we are on the stolen land of the Ohlone people.
(A heartfelt thank you to my dear friend Yogi Life Coach: I am grateful for your love of words and grateful that the words yarn balm rolled off your tongue into my ear.)