With her face hidden by a balaclava, a member of a rather secretive organisation stands in the middle of a road in County Down. Her codename? Purl 1. Her Age? 47. Her mission? Guerrilla knitting.
Purl 1 belongs to a local group of "yarnbombers" - a movement that creates a special kind of street art using knitting or crochet rather than spray paint.
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"I have finally met group member Purl 3 – clad in a balaclava she’s knitted herself."
I’m driving along remote country roads in rural Northern Ireland on my way to a top-secret assignment.
It’s taken months to plan this meet-up – dozens of emails have been sent backwards and forwards and promises of complete anonymity have been made to members of the media-shy group I’m about to meet. They have even insisted on code names to protect their identities.
I come to a remote farmhouse. I step out of my car and a huge dog runs towards me barking. Then I come face-to-face with a woman in a balaclava.
“You must be Cathal? We've been expecting you… Would you like a cup of tea and some freshly made lemon drizzle cake?” she asks.
This is my welcome into the secretive world of yarnbombing. At a farmhouse at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in County Down, I have finally met group member Purl 3 – clad in a balaclava she’s knitted herself.
The guerrilla knitters, who leave their trademark colourful displays in public places, first came to my attention when I spotted knitted balaclavas hanging over monuments in Belfast to show support for jailed Russian feminist group Pussy Riot.
“We started off just as a knitting group,” explains Purl 1, as we tuck into our cake, “but then we decided to highlight a few local issues. We went out at night and yarnbombed the prom in Newcastle to help publicise the arts festival. After that it just took off.
“People really paid attention. So now we have plans to target the G8 summit and highlight environmental issues. The whole world’s media will be there so it’s a good opportunity.”