For the love of Knit.
Reversible is a project in which I share the work that I am doing for my MA in Fashion & Textiles Design. I am investigating sustainable design for knitwear in a reversible and reworkable context. Utilising the organic quality of the knitted structure to create intrinsic shaping and detail as fabric and garment are simultaneously created, I am designing and knitting a garment that can be worn in different ways and produce different looks. As such, I invite the wearer to engage personally with their own wardrobe, and hopefully value and meaning can be instilled into a garment that would otherwise be thrown out after a few wears. In this blog feature, I will talk about why I chose this path, how I am proceeding, and what the final product will be. I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences in this space so that we may all learn and benefit.
Next up in the series I wanted to talk a bit about knitting, as a craft and as a structure/textile. If you are at all familiar with my blog, you know I knit. In fact I love knitting. If my hands could manage, I would knit all day long. The motions, the feel of the wool, everything feeds into a simplistic peace. The point of this post is to explain my love for knitting and knitted textiles.
At this moment, I am wearing my Manu cardigan (designed by Kate Davies), 80% through knitting my Laar cardigan (by Gudrun Johnston), and am expecting the imminent delivery of Little Red in the City, the newest book by Ysolda Teague. Is there perhaps something about Scottish designers that draw me to their knitting patterns? Many hand knitters find themselves in a kind of designer loyalty (as do I) and for me it is due to pattern-writing style and skill.
It all comes down to process really. I think I enjoy the quiet process of knitting more than I am drawn to a design or keen to add a new item to my wardrobe. So I’ve started to ask myself, what is it about the process of knitting that keeps me so absorbed?
Knitted fabric is a series of interconnected loops. The structure of a design is the result of colourwork (fair isle, striping, etc.), shaping (increasing or decreasing stitches), and stitch type combo (knit and purl in hand-knitting, frontbed/backbed in machine-knitting). Knitting has moulded itself to fit the region, culture, needs, style of each knitter. Different types and tasks can be found in different parts of the world so there is not RIGHT or WRONG way to knit (despite what your granny might say!).
It can be ripped, reknitted, felted, shredded, dyed, added to – the limits are only what you can imagine. You can knit onto or into anything, and create any shape or being you fancy. Experimentation and play are key to knitting.
My particular draw to knitting is in whole-garments. Only in knitwear can garment and textile be created concurrently. The structure is such that shaping can be organically and intrinsically worked into the fabric-making so that a completed garment is made without need of scissors or sewing. The fact that you can shape and adjust your knitting to create an entire garment with just wool and needles is just so efficient, so perfect.
I first became intrigued by seamless knitting with Elizabeth Zimmerman and her book Knitting without Tears (which I’ve mentioned before). Her books aren’t really patterns but perhaps recipes, and while some may consider her writing style wordy, I found it incorporates story and meaning into the garment rather than a line by line set of instructions. I felt the same about Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the Top. From those knitting experiences, I learned to treasure the time spent with my work in progress.
My most recent seamless design, also reversible.
On my first day at uni, I was astounded to find that not only are their computerised machines in which a design is translated from computer program to knitted piece in 15 minutes, but also that there are whole garment knitting machines that knit entire seamless items.
(Knitted from a WholeGarment®)
My hope for my MA became to work with the Shima Seiki WholeGarment® machine the facilities had, but due to lack of funding, unfortunately the university had to relinquish the technology. These machines are becoming more popular, but slowly. This is not only due to the cost but also design capabilities. Designers can’t just send a basic classic jumper design to be knitted on a WholeGarment. The neckline (which is usually knitted separately and linked on later) would have to be designed so as to work horizontally with the knit in progress.
The illustration on the left shows a standard V-neck that would be added later. The right depicts how a knitted-in neckline would look, utilising a garter-stitch structure.
At this point (in my limited experience) most brands’ established customers seem to prefer the classic, and most companies don’t have the time or capital to invest in training/development for the designers to become familiar with designing for these machines. I feel that if they did, however, designers would find a way to incorporate what seems like limited capabilities into creative and and unique designs that would be embraced by their customer base.
I digress. My aim in this post is not to explain knitting or to provide a history of the craft, nor to explaning WholeGarment® technologies, but to explore what it is I find so faschinating about knitting. I’m still struggling to put words to the elusive aspect that has me so captivated, but it seems to come down to this: …utilising shaping and seamlessness into design and fabric construction to create complete and finished garments. Beautiful perfection.
Is there any particular aspect about your craft that drew you to it, or perhaps that you realised later on? What gives you quiet satisfaction? Do you prefer to craft garments, accessories, jewellery? I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on what knitting is for me! Back to my Laar now!