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Teacher gives new meaning to tree-hugging

December, 2010

It’s hard to walk down the busy streets of Montreal without being faced with graffiti. Elly Abramovitch, a high school teacher, contributes to an alternative version: knitting graffiti. “I saw it on the Internet. It’s a movement that started in Europe and in the States,” Abramovitch says.

The movement isn’t new but it’s only recently that Abramovitch discovered this art form. It started when she first took up knitting.

“I started to knit swatches and decided to put them on trees,” Abramovitch said. She says she wanted people to “question and wonder” what it was. Abramovitch leaves a little tag, almost like a business card, inscribed “Knitty Gritty,” with each of her works.

Abramovitch exhibits her knitting in such familiar places as in front of FACE, the high school where she teaches. Others are placed in front of schools where she’s been a substitute or in parks and places she visits often.

Elly Abramovitch’s handmade swatch keeps a Mile End tree warm near Luke Callaghan School. Photo: Nerrissa Boudreau

All the locations where she’s left swatches have a deeper meaning, she says. For example, she left one in front of her old apartment to commemorate the death of her cat and another in a park for another pet. Every location is chosen carefully and the swatch designs are tailored to their location.

Another idea behind Knitting Graffiti is to dress up the bland exterior, making the outside more aesthetically pleasing without harming the environment or leaving anything permanent.

“It’s not like spray paint or anything,” Abramovitch says, and it’s not a hassle to remove them: All you need is scissors.

Knitting graffiti doesn’t need to be placed on trees: It can be planted on light posts or hand rails.

Abramovitch makes her own organic wool, so if they fall off, they will decompose. Abramovitch’s projects are small compared with other cities. “In the States, there are communities,” she said. “They go out and do it together, so they can cover a lot more ground.”

Slowly but surely, she’s been spotting more knitting graffiti in Montreal. “I’m glad its popularity is spreading.”



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