Mar 212010

Soirée réconfortante du Lait

I last posted about the arrival of spring, but according to the Weather Network, we’ll be getting some flurries late next week (ouch – I just took the bike out of storage this weekend!)

In any case, I thought I’d share these photos I took of these knitted toques used as advertising in Montreal. Having been alerted about them, we were on the lookout for these pieces as we walked about during the city’s Nuit Blanche festival at the end of February.

Soirée réconfortante du Lait

Here’s a video of the toques being put on the advertising columns (by the way, the toques are made of wool stretched over an aluminum frame). You’ll spot where some of  the columns were located:

The toques and knitting in general have been used by le Lait (Quebec’s milk company) to conjure up cozy feelings and nostalgia associated with drinking milk as part of their winter 2010 campaign. A grandmother who knits is the star of the TV spots (most in French and one in English – as well as her knitted motorcycle.) Apparently it took a dozen knitters and 500 working hours to complete set decor and costumes used in the TV ads. More photos can be found here and here.

While the link between grandmothers and knitting is not so novel (although it was done in a playful, ironic manner), what’s interesting are the methods used to link milk and knitting in interactive ways: online, within bus shelters and in metro (subway) stations, and social events out. Bus shelters around Montreal dressed with a knitted toque have jacks where passerbys can plug in their headphones and listen to comforting stories related to milk. Or a free Facebook and iPhone app called Tricot Mania where you knit stitches to score points and create a superhero costume for a milk-drinking septuagenarian. The website also features a create-your-own knitted portrait page.


I’m not sure if the toques and ads are still running, but if so be on the lookout for them. There’s no doubt that knitting has moved beyond being a private hobby to a social outing, but made me wonder, to what extent has it entered public (or private) space when companies start using it in their ad campaigns? And what does this mean for the future of knit graffiti…

Feb 242010

Spins & Needles Opening Night

With the festival ending a few days ago, we want to give a big shout out to everyone who took the time to be part of this Winterlude 2010 experience.

To all the dedicated volunteers who with cold hands helped with installation, de-installation, photography and crafting/instructing in “extreme”  temperatures and the coziness of Maison Charron.

Installing at Jacques-Cartier Park

To all the urban cozy contributors, from Ottawa-Gatineau, across Canada and internationally. Without you the installation wouldn’t exist.  We received over a hundred contributions in different-sized shapes and colours. It never ceased to bring a smile to our faces when we received envelopes or bags with a new submission and a handwritten message, often with a story behind the cozy.

Cozies First Round Tagging

To everyone who passed the word on about the installation and call for participation and to those who rallied troops together to make stuff.

To those who came out during the workshops, events and installations  -  we hope you had a fun time!

Winterlude Urban Cozy Installation - First Session, Confederation Park

To the National Capital Commission for hosting us to add a new twist to the festival this year.

And to everyone else we may have forgotten, including all those who supported us before and during the festival.

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier

Stay tuned for news for future Spins & Needles programming, including our 5-year anniversary coming up soon.

Feb 242010

Magda Sayeg: Mexico City Bus Project
Magda Sayeg stitching for the Mexico City Bus Project, 2008

Fittingly, the seventh and final artist profile features who many would consider is the poster-lady for urban knit graffiti: Magda Sayeg of Knittaplease fame.

Currently based in Austin, Texas, Magda began Knittaplease in 2005 as a response to the dehumanizing qualities of an urban environment. As her website says: “The simple juxtaposition of this woven material placed within an urban environment has inspired a new generation of knitters who no longer view function as the sole purpose for knitting. This new approach to knitting questions the assumptions of a traditional craft while adding a previously unused material to the world of street art.”

We were able to nab Magda before Winterlude opening weekend for an hour-long conversation over Skype. Here’s what she had to say about urban knit and street art movements, her creative background, how the city has influenced her work and where she sees this whole movement going.

KnittaPlease at National Gallery of Australia
KnittaPlease graffiti at National Gallery of Australia, 2009

S&N: How long have you been making things, in particular knitting? Are there other ways you get creative e.g. music, design other ways?

I’ve been making things my entire life. I’ve never been the kind of kid to be bored and demand instant entertainment. I’m 36 now and if I were bored I’d even cut up newspapers and make hats.

I come from a family where creativity and being an artist wasn’t considered a legitimate profession. As I got older, there was less concern for my parents’ approval so I explored food. That was back in the 90s, when coffeehouses were the cool thing. When I started making food I had such a creative time doing it. I did it for 10 years but then the work load became too intensive. I decided one day to get into craft and making clothes and making things and did a craft market and that just filled me with a newfound interest. I picked up on stuff that I liked as a pre-teen, which led me to opening a shop where I carried good design like from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) graduates, which perhaps was too cutting edge for Houston. I found myself really frustrated. That’s where Knitta was born. I was looking at the ceiling and then just picked up knitting needles for the first time in 20 years. I would spend hours and hours knitting – there was an instant satisfaction. So when I made that knit graffiti piece for the door handle, I was thrilled with it. I never expected other people to enjoy it as I did. But people who walked by would ask about it. I decided to call up my friend and explained this whacky idea of putting material on steel or signposts. At the time I didn’t call myself an artist or graffiti artist. But people loved it – they got out of their car and took pictures. I decided then I wanted to do every STOP sign in the city.

KnittaPlease at Mexico City Bus Project
Mexico City Bus Project, 2007

S&N: You’ve travelled around the world with Knitta. What’s been your favourite piece that you’ve installed? In what city?

The bus in Mexico City is my all time favourite. (S&N: The project took a week for the six yarnbombers to complete, using repurposed knitted and crocheted blankets. The bus was hollowed out and used as a workshop space for the community arts. The bus is still parked at Plaza San Luis). It’s like I left my child there. I went there with a bunch of material and secretly didn’t know what I was going to do with it. But with the good support of some local people, we got it done in 4 days. It brought a whole new attention to my work – it was like a springboard to my career. I had the Guiness Book of World Records calling. Normally this kind of thing only responded to people who were into craft and the DIY movement.

With travelling you get to meet people all around the world. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my professional career, nothing has every warmed my heart like this. I never had this feeling with retail. I get to connect with other people around the world, who are still friends. Knitting brings such a powerful connection.

Magda Sayeg Knit Graffiti in Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas, 2009

S&N: How does your city of Austin inspire you creatively? How has travelling to different cities inspired you?

Knitta was born in Houston. Houston is inspiring for its food, international flair, but has no appreciation for history or urban planning. Everything is new, little that is old. Freeways, cement, but a lot of trees. Austin has civic pride and it’s changed my attitude. Austin is so beautiful in terms of art but still has a struggling arts scene because it’s a music and film town. But the energy is so great and positive.

In terms of my inspiration, I’m a blog addict for sure. I’ll give a nod to a handful of artists who inspired me when Knitta was a sparkle in my eye, everything from graffiti artists to museums to children. Barry McGee, Jeff Koonz, Tom Freidman. I also absolutely love graphic design. Mike Perry’s blog. I’m constantly inspired by different things from Turner classics to fashion.

Travelling to different cities helps me explore my work. I do approach every project differently. There have been times where I’ve been asked to do something the same as the last project but I like to do different things, to progress. I have a dream list of projects I’d like to do.

It’s interesting, a city like Venice you can’t think of as being the same urban context as other cities. It’s not urban, it’s ancient but it’s beautiful. It was the only city in the world that was made with the intention of not using cars. I’ve asked myself, do I even invade this city with relics? Though because it’s so ancient, I think the young people yearned for something different. I do see myself going back. I’ve been invited to Italy five times in the last year and a half. Juxtaposing urban contexts in all sorts of ways creates a dialogue with someone because it engages the person unexpectedly.

Knit Graffiti by Magda Sayeg, Venice Italy
Venice, Italy, 2009

S&N: What’s up next for Knitta and your other creative endeavours?

As far as projects go, I’m doing large-scale projects in Austin and then Rome and then Estonia. I’m doing a lot of work with corporations. It’s actually worked out quite fun and I think it’s fine working with sponsors. The bus for example wouldn’t have happened it wasn’t for Aboslut Vodka. I am working on the Knitta book and now gatheirng all submissions. It’s kind of unknown territory putting it all together. I’ve got a new website for myself as an artist. I do feel I want to use my name more than Knitta. It was a little bit of collective that I started with Knitta but I am doing more solo-oriented projects so I feel less of connection. But I’m not laying it to rest yet as of yet – it’s my comfort zone.

KnittaPlease at The Standard, Los Angeles

S&N: Where do you see urban art headed in the next few years?

Right now I see cities and people that are responsible for the development of cities paying more attention to the idea that this (knit graffiti) is a legitimate art form. Though that could be good or bad. What I do see though is different kinds of graffiti that won’t be so banned or outlawed. People are putting down the spray can picking up everything from LED lighting to moss to Banksy‘s stuff to Space Invaders. I remember there was a time when skaters were not allowed to skate anywhere. Now every city is competing to have the biggest skate park. I think cities will start paying more attention to the voices of the citizens. I’m definitely seeing this in my own work.

Many thanks to Magda for taking the time to chat with us. Watch for her upcoming art picture book on knit graffiti to be released in October 2010. Also check out her newly launched website to see more photos of her work, as well as the KnittaPlease blog. Look for her trademark knit graffiti in a city near you.

Feb 242010

De-installation, Confederation Park

It was two sad days last Sunday and Monday when we de-installed the urban cozies from both festival sites. It’s hard to believe that the festival is over and that these unexpected pieces are no longer there. Here’s a few shots of what we did:

De-installation, Confederation Park

De-installation, Parc Jacques-Cartier

De-installation, Parc Jacques-Cartier

It took about 60 minutes per site to take down the installation (compared to several hours and many cold hands to put them up). Each pieces was removed with care so that they could be upcycled into new pieces.

The little squirrel/beaver guy below was the result of a collaboration between my mother and I (she crocheted the body, I glued on the features). It currently sits in my office cubicle as a small reminder of the Enchanted Forest. My contribution is also below: the different shades of green leaves.

Hidden Squirrel, Confederation Park

It will definitely be a different experience walking by these bare trees now!

De-installation, Confederation Park

Feb 202010

In addition to the contributions from the artists who have been profiled so far, here’s a recap of some memorable cozies. Don’t get us wrong – we love all the urban cozies that came to us, like they were are own! The ones that follow though definitely brought smiles to our faces for their whimsy, their use of creative materials or the story behind the cozy.

Parc Jacques-Cartier Urban Cozy
Submitted by Ainsley Walton, Ottawa (Parc Jacques-Cartier) – Ainsley combined an old pair of her favourite striped socks she had been saving for the perfect project, a fur trimmed hood and pom poms.

Confederation Park Urban Cozies
Submitted by Anna Kempffer-Hossack, Ottawa (Confederation Park) – – Anna created this non-textile cozy from colourful bread bags she had been saving. The bags were torn into pieces that were knitted together.

Confederation Park Urban Cozies
Submitted by Sue Kean, Ottawa (Confederation Park) – Sue, who was informed by her daughter Melissa about the Project, created this sculptural tutu-esque cozy from tulle, perfect for the Enchanted Forest at Confederation Park.

Parc Jacques-Cartier Urban Cozy
Submitted by Miss Grainger’s Grade 5/6 Class, Ottawa (Parc Jacques-Cartier) – Miss Grainger taught her entire class how to finger knit just for the Winterlude Project. The knitted garland adorns the tree outside the entrance to Maison Charron.

Parc Jacques-Cartier Urban Cozy
Submitted by Gillian Sullivan, Ottawa (Parc Jacques-Cartier) Gillian’s edgy black and red cozy features the word “Tree Cosy” stitched into it. It adorns one of the large trees on the path to Maison Charron, as an introduction to the installation.

Confederation Park Urban Cozies
Submitted by Jenny Robichaud and Catharine Moore, Ottawa (Parc Jacques-Cartier) Jenny and Catharine’s cozy, complete with wings and skirt, was inspired by woodland fairies, perfect for the Enchanted Forest at Confederation Park.

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier
Submitted by Mary Kroestch, Toronto (Parc Jacques-Cartier) We were all blown away by Mary’s craftmanship on her show-stopping cozy, a crocheted/knitted piece inspired by Jackson Pollock paintings.

Confederation Park Urban Cozies
Submitted by Cornelia Robinson, South Africa (Confederation Park) – Cornelia submitted two fantastic hat-shaped cozies adorned with intricate colourful flowers that added character to barren trees.

Parc Jacques-Cartier Urban Cozy
Submitted by Nicole Schlosser, Winona, ON (Parc Jacques- Cartier) – Nicole’s colourful crocheted scarf complete with pom poms and flowers was one of the first cozies we received and drew lots of attention at the Winterlude 2010 press conference.

Confederation Park Urban Cozies
Submitted by Knitsea, Finland (Confederation Park) – Knitsea, a known knit graffiti artist, contributed this cute little knit graffiti square featuring three unexpected cats sitting on a tree.

If you’re in Ottawa, this weekend is the last to check out these urban cozies at both sites, and if you contributed, to check out your own!

Feb 172010

Robyn Paton's Cozy in Progress

The sixth  Urban Cozy Project maker profile features Ottawa-based super duper textile crafter and snap-happy photographer, Robyn Paton. Her work has been featured in Venus Zine (winning the magazine’s Holiday Craft-Off contest twice), the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Magazine, the Craft:zine blog and loads of other places. When not sitting in front of her sewing machine making stuff for her shop over at, she can often be found playing with any one of her army of foster kittens, blogging, or whipping something up in her kitchen.

Here’s what she had to say about her involvement in the WUCP and how travelling and her city of residence has influenced her work.

S&N: Describe your contribution(s) to the Winterlude Urban Cozy Project.

I contributed two cozies to the project – one for both parks! Because I work mainly in textiles, I thought it would be more fitting to sew rather than to knit. You’ll recognize mine if you’re out an about – they look like miniature patchwork modern quilts.

Temporary Installation for Press Conference, Confederation Park
Robyn Paton’s Patchwork Quilt Cozy #1, Winterlude 2010 Press Conference, Confederation Park

S&N: What inspired you to participate in the Project?

So often we hear that Ottawa is boring, or cold, or uninspiring. And this project takes all of those things and proves them wrong! Art isn’t just for museums – it should be everywhere, and it should make you smile when you stumble upon it. This project is an opportunity for so many people to make that happen, even if it’s just for a few short weeks. During the installation days for this project it seemed to me that everyone who walked by was just unable to keep themselves from grinning – and if we were lucky, stopping to ask questions about what we were up to, too.

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier
Robyn Paton’s Patchwork Quilt Cozy #2, Parc Jacques-Cartier

S&N: How long have you been making things? Are there other ways you get creative e.g. sewing, felting, other ways?

I think it’s safe to say I’m been making things for as long as I could figure out how to use child-size craft scissors – it’s really been for as long as I can remember. But seriously, my foray into the “business” of crafting started in my mid-twenties. A very basic sewing machine as a christmas gift changed my life. Right now my work is focused on textiles and sewing – making quilts and quirky handcrafts like camera straps, guitar straps, and beautifying other things that can otherwise be fairly ho-hum.

Robyn's Kitten and Straps
Robyn’s Kitten and Trademark Guitar Straps

S&N: You’ve travelled to different places. What’s one crafty/arty/culture-related experience that still inspires you today?

For me, especially because I work with textiles, I’m always inspired by my travels – the textures, cultures and history of the places that I’ve visited always inspire me to work with new patterns or look at things in a different way. If I can, I always seek out the textile markets when I travel – giant multi-story buildings in China, monday markets in cities like Amsterdam. All are full of ideas, and even better, other crafty-types to connect with and learn from.

My most memorable experience is probably a visit I paid to a silk-rug-weaving factory on the silk road, in the Chinese desert. The women who do that intricate, detailed work can spend years working on just one rug. It inspired me to think about tackling the big this-is-going-to-take-me-forever projects that always seem so terrifying at the outselt. If these rug-weavers could produce such beautiful results, so could I!

Montreal: August Long Weekend
One of Robyn’s Travel Photographs: Windows in Montreal, August Long Weekend

S&N: How does your city inspire you creatively? What would you like to see more of in your city?

I’m originally from Halifax, and it’s still the city I call home, but the longer I live in Ottawa, the more I feel as if I’m connected to the arts and culture in this city in such a good way. Five years ago, you could probably have counted those of us in the “craft scene” on your fingers and toes, really. And now, up-and-coming crafters are everywhere – and people are sharing ideas, teaching each other new skills, and connecting in ways that just didn’t seem possible only a few years ago. Search for Ottawa on’s “local” search, and you’ll be astounded at how many amazing things the artisans of this city produce. That’s what inspires me about this city – it is just better and better, all the time. I’d love to see more collaborative spaces where we can share our talents, ideas, and skills on a regular basis.

In addition to her crafty skills, Robyn is  a social media and marketing superhero – check out her blog. Twitter feed. and Flickr account for some really beautiful photos. She definitely helped saved the day with her showstopping textile cozy at the Winterlude 2010 press conference. Thanks to Robyn for answering our questions!

Feb 162010

Examining Cozies at Confederation Park
The Enchanted Forest, Confederation Park

Rather than show photos of cozies all by their lonesome, we thought we’d show more photos of urban cozies in their social context:

Confederation Park Urban Cozies
Walking along the pathway towards the Enchanted Forest, Confederation Park

Examining Cozies at Confederation Park
Examining what all this means, Confederation Park

Installing Cozies @ Parc Jacques-Cartier
Conversing about urban cozy installation, Parc Jacques-Cartier

Each time we’ve been physically onsite to install or visit both parks, it’s been definitely interesting to see how people react to the covered trees, lampposts and benches, and the ensuing dialogue.

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier
Look up, way up, Parc Jacques-Cartier

Many visitors comment that they love that the idea of covered trees at Winterlude this year. Some people “aren’t too sure about it” (that’s a quote we heard a couple nights ago). Some just see it as part of the winter decor.

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier
Sipping a hot drink by the tree topper

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier
What is this all about?

For the most part, the installation piques the curiosity of visitors who want an explanation of what these “mysterious coverings” are all about. Some spot the S&N tags attached to several urban cozies which explains they are part of the “2010 Winterlude Urban Cozy Project”.

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier

Looking forward to more dialogue about the Project, online and on-site at both Parks this weekend.

Feb 152010

Parc Jacques-Cartier, Winterlude 2010

With one weekend to go until the end of Winterlude, there’s still some time to drop by our craft workshops happening this Saturday at Sunday at Maison Charron, the little white cabin surrounded by urban cozies, in Parc Jacques-Cartier.

With volunteers and instructors on hand, you can whip up some decoupage hot chocolate coasters, some furry wooly monsters, and of course, learn to knit.

If you remember one of our first blog posts, Parc Jacques-Cartier and Maison Charron were empty public spaces before Winterlude weekend. That’s definitely changed with crowds of people checking out the snow maze and snow tubing (which we plan to do next weekend!)

Here’s some highlights of the past couple weekends from the Craft Labs and around the park:

Green Door to Maison Charron Weekend Craft Labs @ Winterlude 2010!
Welcome to our Weekend Warm-Up Workshops!

Maison Charron Craft Labs
Mitten Garland in Entrance from the Urban Cozy Project

Maison Charron Craft Labs
Getting Warm and Making Stuff

Ice Hog on the Decks
Ice Hog on the Decks

Maison Charron Craft Labs
Proud Maker

Maison Charron Craft Labs
Knitting Up Some Wrist Warmers

Maison Charron Weekend Craft Labs @ Winterlude 2010
Proud Mom Shows of Her Kids Creations

Maison Charron Weekend Craft Labs @ Winterlude 2010
Knitting on Sticks

Finished Cozies @ Parc Jacques-Cartier
Trees Enjoy Some Quiet Time

Feb 152010

Battling a cold cold night and the opening cermonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in our home country but the show went on! We had a spirited crowd come out to the Crystal Lounge at Confederation Park to listen to some funky beats and make some stuff. Thanks to all those that came out!

Here’s some highlights from the night:

Cozies by Night @ Confederation Park
Cozies by Night @ Confederation Park

Spins & Needles @ Crystal Lounge
The Night Begins at Crystal Lounge

Spins & Needles @ Crystal Lounge
Crafting Up at Crystal Lounge

Spins & Needles @ Crystal Lounge
DJ Jason Pelletier Spins Some Funky Beats

àSpins & Needles @ Crystal Lounge
Whipping Up Some Furry Monsters

Spins & Needles @ Crystal Lounge

Spins & Needles @ Crystal Lounge
Finished Creations!

Feb 152010

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier

The fifth Winterlude Urban Cozy Project maker profile features widely published and highly sought-after knitting designer superstar Sally Melville who, surprisingly, is Ottawa-based!

Sally teaches workshops at over 20 venues across North America every year, and her work has appeared in magazines from Vogue Knitting to Interweave Knits. She is the author of several books, including the best-selling Knitting Experience series. I was lucky enough to meet her at one of the Carleton Tavern knit meet-ups organized by Laura Twiss (previously featured in the blog). Sally was knitting something for the Project and was wearing some awesome tartan boots.

Here’s what she had to say about her involvement in the WUCP, her creative background and how the city has influenced her work.

S&N: Describe your contribution to the Winterlude Urban Cozy Project.

SM: My contribution to the WUCP is a multi-coloured tree corset. It just kind of evolved from putting 3 yarns together and throwing in some short rows. And I believe it’ll fit some tree out there! (This is kind of how some people knit, isn’t it? . . . Just for the love of knitting, knowing it will fit someone!!!) (S&N: we used it as lamppost because it fit so perfectly!)

S&N: What inspired you to participate in the Project?

SM: How could I NOT contribute to this project—to bring knitting to a public place with creativity, humour, intelligence?!? What a great idea! I am honoured to contribute.

Sally Melville and her Awesome Tartan Boots

S&N: Describe your design/craft/knit background. How long have you been making things? Are there other ways you get creative e.g. sewing, felting, etc?

I’ve been knitting things since I was 7 years old. It just felt as if I had found what my hands were meant to do. (They do say that if you are struggling with your life’s direction you should look to what consumed you at the age of 7. Knitting was it for me—as well as writing, teaching, and pretending to be a fashion designer.) I’ve done lots of other stuff too (quilting, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, needlepoint), but it is always knitting that calls me home and consumes me.

S&N: What is the next creative project you are working on/would like to work on?

SM: I have just finished a birthday present for my son’s baby’s first birthday, so I can’t speak about it because it’s a surprise! And my next project is my camelot coat (from Mother-Daughter Knits, 30 Designs that Flatter and Fit (POTTER CRAFT, 2009),) to be made for and given to Michelle Obama. (My daughter is making tabbed cuffs to match.)

Urban Cozies at Parc Jacques-Cartier

S&N: How does your city of residence inspire you creatively?

I have learned—and pass the information forward—that finding one’s geography is important to creativity. It’s not that my city inspires me so much as that I live in a place where I am so  ‘at home’ that my creativity can flourish. (I was raised in a large city on the water—Toronto—went to high school in a city on the water and huddled against the ‘rocks’–Sault Ste Marie—and Ottawa has all 3—a biggish city, on the water, huddled against the rocks. The rolling, waterless farm land of Waterloo, where I spent 40 years and from whence I came, was NOT my geography.) My work itself is inspired by my closet! I want to design, knit, teach stuff that will help people make stuff they will finish and WEAR. This way, we honour our craft.

Catch Sally’s unique and colourful urban cozy at Parc-Jacques Cartier on the pathway towards Maison Charron. Her latest book, Mother-Daughter Knits, 30 Designs that Flatter and Fit (POTTER CRAFT, 2009), was a collaboration between her and her daughter Caddy Melville Ledbetter. Special thanks to Sally for taking the time to answer our questions.