Knitty Gritty and the rise of Whistler's yarn bombers 

Knitting might just take the valley over before you know it

click to enlarge Getting gritty
  • Getting gritty

Anna Lynch loves to knit. That's right. She's 24 and she loves to knit. What about it?

She created Knitty Gritty, a community group devoted to knitting and crocheting, two years ago to swap techniques and talk shop. In the years since, Lynch says the group has shifted its focus to take on large-scale yarn bombs around town.

Whistler, watch out: you're going to get bombed.

"I think it's a good way to get knitting out there a bit more as a trendy thing," Lynch says of yarn bombing, a form of graffiti where public property is given, essentially, colourful sweaters.

"(Knitting) has a bad reputation as being a little bit old fashioned, so I'd quite like to do something that shows that it's not just knitting old jumpers, that you can do something more with it."

Lynch moved to Whistler from England two years ago. A knitting enthusiast, she was still struggling with certain elements of the craft and was hoping to find a group in town that she could join and learn from.

"When I couldn't find one, I decided to set one up for myself," she says.

She searched on Ravelry, which Lynch says is "like Facebook for knitters" to find like-minded locals who might want to meet up.

Now, they meet every Tuesday night at Gone Bakery for Knit Night. There are people in their 20s, people in their 80s, and every generation in between.

"Whistler being a ski town, there are always people knitting or crocheting, trying to make themselves toques. There seem to be a lot of people, whether they come to the knit night group or not, there's a wide range of knitters," she says.

Last month, Pique wrote a digest item in its weekly Arts News section seeking information about what we naively dubbed the "mystery Function Junction knitting enthusiast" who had been yarn bombing the south end of Whistler for months.

We learned very quickly that the bomber was (and is) Hayley Wirsching and that she crochets rather than knits.

In the days following the article, we received over a dozen emails — far more than we normally receive about non-political topics. Most of these were providing helpful hints as to the identity of Wirsching, but two (including one from Lynch) let it be known that there is, in fact, a burgeoning community of knitters/yarn bombers in Whistler.

As it happens, Whistler loves its yarn bombers. Lynch appeared on Mountain FM after the article ran to talk about the craft and what makes it so popular.

Wirsching was asked to appear as well but couldn't be reached. But for the record, she doesn't know why it's so popular 'round these parts.

"I don't know why people like it so much but it makes them happy. That's all I know because everyone tells me every day," she says with a laugh.

"It's unexpected, I think. The further out I go into the woods people like it more because you're in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden there's a bomb in the trees," she says.

Following the profile we ran of Wirsching, she claims she is now "the busiest person in the world." The Whistler Arts Council has commissionedn her to bomb three lampposts outside of Millennium Place for this year's ArtWalk. She's been hired by Gone Bakery to bomb the railing outside the shop, along with several other projects including a (delightfully awesome) plan in winter to make toques and leave them around town for people to find.

Yarn bombing has grown in popularity over the past five years, particularly in Europe and the U.S. In London, a group called Knit the City has tackled some ambitious projects, bombing buses, trees and phone booths, which inspired Lynch to pursue her own projects.

During the 2012 World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Knitty Gritty bombed the inukshuk at village gate, giving it a colourful scarf that was promptly removed.

This year for ArtWalk, she's creating a knitted bicycle that people can ride around the village. The piece will be mountain-themed, with mountains and rivers knitted onto it. It's a step in the direction Lynch hopes to see ArtWalk move, where it integrates more knitting and yarn bombing.

"I'd like for it to be something that Whistler can be known for," she says.

She's currently planning a large-scale bomb for the summer, which she says may or may not be an entire section of the Valley Trail, where people will see a bit of yarn bombing leading to something bigger. No word on when that will be done but she says it will include pieces from everyone in Knitty Gritty.

She's also planning a "fibre festival" at some point this summer that will include vendors and artist demonstrations. Beyond that, the specifics have yet to be determined.

In the mean time, Knitty Gritty has launched "Knit by the Lake," which will be held on the first and third Tuesday of every month throughout the summer at Lost Lake Park. New members are always welcome.

Visit www.knittygrittywhistler.com for more information.

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