Mystery knitter vents Edinburgh trams fury in ‘yarn-bombing’ blanket protest

The embroidered tram work protest which was attached to the fence on Princes Street. Picture: Mary Gordon
The embroidered tram work protest which was attached to the fence on Princes Street. Picture: Mary Gordon
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It is a case of knit-and-run. A public art craze which has swept the States has landed in the Capital as a colourful if short-lived protest against the tram works.

The “yarn-bomber” struck Princes Street some time on Tuesday in the early evening, leaving their crocheted comment “Tramway to Hell” on the barriers surrounding the 

Market researcher Mary Gordon, 44, snapped some pictures of the knitted notice.

“I was making my way home when it caught my eye. It was on tram barriers near the H&M close to Waverley Station. Quite a few people were gathered in front of it, having a look and taking pictures.

“I’m certainly familiar with the concept of yarn-bombing, and I know it’s been getting more popular here, but I’ve only ever heard of people, say, covering up benches or handrails to add a bit of colour to the environment, not making a political statement. It’s a bit like graffiti, but without the paint.”

Unfortunately, when the Evening News visited the artwork had already been removed. Our photographer was told by tram workers it had been moved to one of their cabins in York Place for safe-keeping but the trail went cold when an official there sternly denied any knowledge.

Mary, who is herself a keen knitter and crocheter but insists she wasn’t responsible, said that the blanket was of a “high-standard”.

“I would guess that it must have taken at least a week, maybe two, so a lot of work went into it.

“Princes Street looks grim beyond belief right now and it was nice to see something colourful that was also making people think.”

Grant McKeenan, who owns the Copymade Shop on West Maitland Street and who has started his own anti-tram poster campaign, said he thought the protest was “excellent”, adding: “Anything speaking out against the trams is good in my book, and clearly someone’s gone to a lot of 

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader confirmed that the council had removed the colourful protest.

“When unofficial banners are put up it’s normally the process that they are removed, in case they come loose and flap into the face of a pedestrian or into the path of a cyclist.

“It did look like nice crochet work though, someone had clearly spent a lot of time on it.”

The city council added that the blanket was still in their possession if the owner wished to claim it, no questions asked.

Although the council said it was the first time they had dealt with a case of this nature, Edinburgh is home to its own “social knitwork”, with one yarn-bomber decorating benches in Princes Street Gardens with knitted pom-pom bunting during this year’s festival. Knitted “jumpers” also appeared on lampposts in Elm Row during August.

Last year people taking part in the Occupy Edinburgh protest in St Andrew’s Square left similar woolly items wrapped round foliage and the 2011 Leith Festival held an event called “Cool Wool” where people were encouraged to make jumpers for trees in the area.

Stylish way to needle the opposition

Yarn-bombing, also called yarnstorming, guerrilla knitting, urban knitting or graffiti knitting has been needling the authorities for years.

The origins are unclear with some claiming it began in the Netherlands, and others that it was born in the USA.

There are examples of yarn-bombing dating back to 2002, but it appears to have really taken off in the US in 2005.

In the beginning yarn-bombing was mainly concerned with reclaiming or personalising sterile public places, without damaging property. However, more recently some have used the technique to make more overt political statements. These include two German students who covered trees in Dusseldorf and Duisburg with knitted anti-nuclear signs and the Danish artist who yarn-bombed a tank in protest against the Iraq war.