October 1, 2006
Knitters practice urban beautification by taking their needles to the streets.
“Everyone has a sweater or a scarf knit by a grandmother or an aunt,” says Magda Sayeg, who cofounded Knitta Please. “There’s something about the amount of work that goes into a piece that shows care. Knitting is an act of love.” Her Houston-based group of ten knitters is dedicated to sweaters—not for people but for stop signs and telephone poles.
“Houston is a lot of steel and cement—not so pretty,” Sayeg explains. Rejuvenating the urban landscape by dressing in wool its most overlooked elements—telephone poles hairy with staples, perforated sign poles, expired parking meters—hardly seems like a sensible beautification strategy, but what started in October 2005 with a very localized act (a door-handle cozy for Sayeg’s clothing shop) has exploded into an international guerilla public-art campaign.
The first stop sign tagged was in view of Sayeg’s shop. “I watched people pull over, get out of their cars, take pictures, and ask who’s responsible.” Plan-ning future tags, the crew settled on the name and crafted an online MySpace profile. Each piece of “knit-ffiti” is labeled with the URL, which has directed comments and knitting from around the world to the crew. “People write to say, ‘Thank you for the purple pom-pom on the bike rack outside my house,’ but I’ve also gotten marriage proposals,” Sayeg says.
From the banal—lampposts, parking meters, bike racks—to the monumental—the Great Wall and Notre Dame Cathedral—Knitta’s tags are growing in scope. A recent commission by Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival produced upward of 60 tags and more than 250 feet of knitting. “If I have my way, we’ll tag something monumental in every city,” Sayeg says. A skyscraper cozy? “It’s funny, but you start looking at things like that.”