The Purly Queens – Albany’s Yarn Bombers
Almost six years ago, a local knitting and crocheting group noticed that the high street bus shelter was looking a little bare and dusty and so decided to dress it up in time for Christmas. Armed with nothing but their knitting needles and crochet hooks Operation Bus Shelter was born. A few weeks later, under the cover of darkness, the knitting ninja’s crept into town and silently (apart from some nervous giggles) began to decorate the old bus shelter with their creations. Unfortunately, a local police cruiser, who couldn’t help but notice their efforts and had driven past the group repeatedly, had decided to lay in wait for their departure. Once they had accomplished their mission they snuck back to their cars to speed away into the night. But as soon as they set off, they were all asked to pull over and explain themselves and were even breathalysed, much to everyone’s amusement.
So began the story of the infamous Albany Yarn Bombers, known only as the Purly Queens.
Bombing with yarn originated in Canada in 2004 and some of the group had seen similar efforts during a trip to the Eastern States and drew their inspiration from this growing international sensation. Multitudes of colourful garments are created to be displayed around local structures and buildings to highlight social, political and just for fun agenda’s. Over the past six years they have decorated telephone boxes, gun turrets, the Iconic Dog Rock, bicycles, trees, a cow and created a monster foot trail along Stirling Terrace and York Street to name but a few.
Although they are well known, it is suitably difficult to track down the illustrious spokesperson of the clandestine group, known only as “Knit one, Sip one”. It appears that they are Albany’s best worst-kept secret, with everyone seeming to know someone in the group but guarding their true identities with vigour. Each member of the group has an alias or “Nom du Knit” and when out in public during the “bombing” these are the only names they will use. With such monikers as “The Happy Hooker”, “Incogknitto”, “The Termiknitter” and “50 Shades of Fray” this only adds to the entertainment. More recent additions to the group have been “Bi-Stitchual” and “The Knitorious BIG” showing the diversity of the group dynamics, whose ages range from 10 – 65 years, with varying levels of ability and experience.
The group currently stands at around 30 members who do the knitting and crocheting, along with the invaluable support of a further 20 or so people who actively help out with the “bombing”. This typically involves a lot of cable ties, ladders and strong hands and “Wooley Mammoth” is always in demand. Although traditionally seen more as a womens art form, there are also six male members of the group who help out. Each bomb takes months to prepare for; deciding on the idea, creating the patterns and designs as well as arranging and organising the bomb itself. The ideas are decided upon democratically within the group, and they have regular meet-ups to discuss possible bombing locations and themes, often with much hilarity at some of the more outlandish possibilities.
Once the display has run its term the creations are gathered up and recycled for the next project, of which there are around 6 every year, mainly in the winter months. “Knit one, Sip one” tells me that although they have no official sponsors they are often the lucky recipients of the contents of people’s “Bag of Shame” which consist of half-completed knitting or crocheting projects which have been forgotten about and left to gather dust.
When asked if there were any displays which did not go to plan she laughs whilst recounting a recent project the group participated in to knit the socks for the WA Museum and Spare Parts Puppet Theatre show entitled ‘Tom Vickers and the Extraordinary Adventure of his Missing Sock’.
“The socks were just dreadful,” she chuckles,” There is no way that any soldier would have been able to wear them in reality”. She maintains that one of the main reasons for the continuing popularity of Yarn Bombing is the undoubtable fun and silliness which is part and parcel of being in the group, along with the opportunity to publicly display the artform which they all love.
So when and where will they strike again? ‘Knit one, Sip one’ gives us a small clue…” We will soon be sweeping away the cobwebs from one of Albany’s iconic buildings”. One thing is for sure, wherever the Yarn Bombers hit always brings some local colour and a little happiness to everyone who sees it, and I, for one, cant wait to see what this covert group of woollen warriors have in store for us next.