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Knit The City

Knitting, as the old song has it*; what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing!

I was forced to knit as a small child at school.  I embarked on a scarf (or was it a sock?) but after a few rows it went all wonky and I cast aside my yarn and needles in disgust, feeling that I'd been taught a valuable lesson; knitting is rubbish, and if you want a scarf you should go to a shop and buy one that someone else has knitted: they knit so that we don't have to.

How different it could all have been if only Knit The City had been available in the craft classes of my youth.  It makes knitting look fun and exciting, and it's written by a masked guerilla knitter, so it would probably have gone down really well with the mainly Trotskyite primary school teachers of the early '70s.

Knit the City records the exploits of a group of 'yarnstormers', devoted to the art of 'enhancing a public place or object with graffitti knitting'.  The first examples featured in the book are simple-looking stripey tubes, much like the leg-warmers of yesteryear, which appear mysteriously on lamp-posts, sign-post poles and bicycle cross-bars, each adorned with a tag bearing Deadly Knitshade's evocative logo:

Plarchie and friend.
As more yarnstormers arrive to swell the ranks of DK's woolly posse the knits become more complex and ambitious.  In a tunnel beneath Waterloo station a knitted spider lurks in its knitted web, surrounded by struggling knitted captives.  The rusty gates of the deserted Strand Station disgorge a host of knitted ghouls on Hallowe'en.  Deep in the Natural History Museum strange woolly specimens appear; a knitted Slender Snipe Eel, some knitted squid, and a gigantic orange kraken knitted out of supermarket carrier bags, Squidius knittius giganticus plasticus, or Plarchie for short.

A herd of hand-made sheep hurries along the handrail of London Bridge, and knitted cherubim with carefully-positioned felt fig-leaves hang around at Piccadilly Circus on Valentine's Day.  In Parliament Square, a whole phone box gets the yarnstorm treatment.

The yarnstormer's adventures are all retold here in a winning and whimsical style, with plenty of full-colour photographs.  It's like a coffee table book for people with really small coffee tables, and would make an excellent present for anyone who likes knitting or graffitti, or knitting and graffitti, or public art that isn't all about Meaningful Stuff , or who just fancies a chuckle.  At the back there are step-by step step guides to knitting your own squid and sheep, but if it's actual knitting patterns you're after you should probably also look at Stitch London, by Deadly Knitshade's close friend and confidante Lauren O'Farrell, which is equally well-illustrated but heavier on the knit-on-purl-one stuff and will teach you how to knit traditional British bobbies, Big Ben, and Her Majesty The Queen, plus corgis.  (Alan Titchmarsh liked it too, but don't let that put you off.)

Knitting will never look the same again.

Philip Reeve

Knit the City is published by Summersdale and you can buy it HERE.  Go on.  You know you want to.

* I may not be recalling the lyrics with perfect accuracy, but I'm sure it was something along these lines.

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