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July 15, 2011 / KristenMakes

My Work! (part one)

Imagery_Reversible button

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.


Hey, and welcome back!  Hopefully at this stage of the Reversible Project things will start to get a little more interesting.  If you’ve stuck with me through all the wordy posts, I am very thankful!  I know when I take the time from my day to do some blogreading, I tend to skim through wordy bits to the pretty pictures, so the fact that I have gotten such great, informative, and enthusiastic comments (proving to me that I AM being read) on these past posts is wonderful.  Today, I wanted to get a little more personal with you, and share some of what I’ve been doing this year.  A lot of it has been more explorative and isn’t necessarily going in to my final submission, but it got me where I am now in my focus.  Initially my plan was to describe my journey in this post, and share my end ‘product’ in the next.  However on further reflection, the project is (A) too complex for the journey to be described in one post, and (B) the garment is just a small portion of my work/submission, and there are other factors to consider.  As such, I am splitting the journey into two posts: semesters 1 and 2 will be covered in today’s post; and semester 3 and my finished work will be in the next post, next week.  I thought that this ‘journey’ (as I keep calling it) would be helpful maybe for anyone else out there interested in returning to school.  I’ve always wondered at the mystery that is postgrad work, and am eternally curious at what other people are working on; it’s always quite fascinating.  So, not that my work in itself is fascinating, but perhaps you’ll find the opportunities and processes at this level interesting…

I came to Heriot-Watt’s MA Fashion & Textiles Design course wanting to learn more about knitting, but I wasn’t sure what the focus of my final project would be.  A collection?  An installation?  A research paper?  So with no plan, I was able to just learn about knitting, and not try to compartmentalise it into how I wanted what I learned to look like.  The first semester was about research, team projects, and familiarising myself with the facilities.  I did a project in which I studied Aran hand-knitting.  I looked into the history, the cultural and mythical implications, its prevalence in fashion today, and also looked into presenting it in a unique way while experimenting with the technology the uni had.  This was also about the time I refashioned this Aran jumper.  I used some of the knitwear design software to create a digital image of a cabled swatch.  This swatch was never actually knitted, but on the computer, I chose different cable stitch patterns to create my own swatch , digitised it to simulate actually knitting (2), and then that image was digitally printed onto different types of woven fabric, to see how the illusion of knitting would react on a flat and rigid surface (unfortunately, I don’t have a photograph of the printed woven fabric).

loopProject 1bknit_flat

Additionally we did a group project in which we planned and designed a limited-edition product, using principles of co-design and slow design.  Our product was a tote bag that used scraps from local weaver, Locharron, organic and fair trade cotton, and iconic images of the Scottish Borders.  The scraps were laser-cut into images of a fox, a reiver, and the shield of Galashiels.  The cut scraps were then needle-punched into the tote bags we made to create small shopping tote that had meaning and significance to the area.

Totes 2  Totes 1

Towards the end of that semester, I began to think more about my personal project.  By then I had decided on reversible knitted textiles and began to work with the V-beds, taking a weeklong crash course to learn different stitch patterns.

V-beds 2    V-beds 1    V Beds 4

I also began to use the Shima, and see how the design/manufacture process worked on these knitting machines.  This stage was more about learning which would lead into experimenting.  I took a paisley image and imported it into the software program, fixed it to be more ‘knit-friendly’ (meaning clean it up and make it less detailed), and knitted it in a plaited sample and a double-sided jaquard, to see how the image would translate. Plaiting is a technique knits with 2 strands (or ends), keeping 1 end (the main colour) on one face of the work and the other end (the contrast colour) on the reverse.  When the image in the structure moves the stitches from the front bed to the back bed of the machine, the contrast colour is visible, thus making the image.

Learning Shima 1  Learning Shima 2

Learning Shima 3  Learning Shima 4

Semester two was about individual experimentation and learning, along with a side project for industrial placement.  I experimented with different ways in which knitted textiles can be reversible.  I started off on the Shima again, using imagery in jacquard or fair isle structure.  This was a nice effect, as the image created on the ‘face’ of the fabric resulted in an interesting image on the reverse, made by the floats of the yarn.

structure 9  structure 8  CIMG1070

I tried out some caustic devore, which is a chemical paste that eats out the wool fibres, so on a knitted textile that is a blend of wool and a synthetic fibre, the wool will disappear and the synthetic remains…  This didn’t work out to my liking as either the structure was compromised and non-functional, or the result wasn’t as informative to reversible textiles as I liked, and it is difficult to control how the fibre or colour might react to the paste. However I was really pleased to try it, and feel that in another setting or brief, this practise would be fascinating to investigate further.

Devore 1b Devore 1c Devore 1a

Devore 2a  Devore 2c  Devore 2d

devore 5b  devore 5c  devore 5f

I also did some embossing of knitted fabric…  This experiment didn’t work so well, because the nature of the fabric does not allow for permanent setting of the embossed image. Additionally, it is difficult to have absolute control and be exact in the placement of your images.

Emboss 4  Emboss 2  Emboss 6

I tried using imagery in plaiting again. I was pleased with this result, as it translated into a very drapey, soft fabric with an interesting image, reminiscent of chevron striping.

Plaiting 1  Plaiting 2  Plaiting 9

I also tried some digital print.  I knitted up some single-jersey samples from different fibres on the V-beds, had them coated (a typical step in prepping knitting fabric for the digital printer), ironed them onto a tacky paper to provide stability while feeding the fabric into the printer, and then the actual printing which was done by the technician.  Although I neglected to take pictures at this stage, I was happy with the result.  The ink worked nicely with the textiles, and I made a mental note to revisit this option at a later, more informed stage.

Additionally, throughout this semester, I began to think about pattern and imagery.  I find myself fascinated by the knit stitch and the chevron outline that it creates.  This fascination served as the basis for my ‘playing’ on Illustrator.  Some of these simple and crude designs developed into some elements that I also wanted to revisit later; others I hated!

Broken ChevronBroken Chevron_2Allover KP_2Imagery_chevron_space dyeImagery_Chevron_lgerImagery_floats_lgImagery_filling with pattern_allover

At the same time, I began to think about what garment I would make.  I had already completed the hand-knitted reversible jumper, and wanted to think about a garment that could not just be reversible, but also reworkable.  I started by drawing inspiration from a dress you may have seen me wear during a me-made-month, the reversible vintage Vogue pattern dress.

Day 20_b  Day_25-b  Day 13_b

Thinking along those lines, I began to work on a half-size toile (what you may know to be a muslin).

Initial Toile 2garment shapeInitial Toile 5

I translated the measurements from my toile into a basic hand-knitted half-size shape.  BASIC indeed, but it helped me think about what the next step was for the garment shape during my final semester.

Initial Toile 9  Initial Toile 10  Initial Toile 8

Initial Toile 7

And that is me, at the end of my second semester.  The timing was just perfect (early May) because not only did I need a break for some reflection and distance, but also this was the same time that our friends M&S came for a visit.  I returned to uni a week or so later, ready to dive in with a clearer focus of how I wanted to end my time in the programme.  Scary enough, the time for experimentation was over and I needed to be making.  Next week, what I made, and how I made it!

So now, it is time for Friday night, shepherd’s pie, Guinness, and Harry Potter 7 (part 1) on disc at home; and tomorrow… Harry Potter 7 (part 2) at the cinema!  Have a lovely weekend yourself!



Leave a Comment
  1. Neil Hill / Jul 16 2011 5:39 am

    I skimmed over the wordy bits and looked at the pretty pictures. Nice work.

  2. Sølvi / Jul 17 2011 6:04 pm

    This is so fascinating, Kristen! I really appreciate that you are taking the time to document and share all of this! 🙂

  3. KristenMakes / Jul 18 2011 9:27 am

    Haha, nicely done. Thanks!

  4. KristenMakes / Jul 18 2011 10:02 am

    @Solvi, Thanks! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!

  5. lisa / Jul 22 2011 1:03 am

    ha! funny you should mention harry potter. i just saw a movie about j.k rowling and how harry came to be. the movie showed the coffee house in which she did a lot of her writing and i believe you once featured it on your blog. so i thought of you. xo

  6. KristenMakes / Jul 22 2011 4:24 am

    Elephant House! It’s a great place to sit and sip tea! That sounds like a movie I’d like to see… Miss you Lisa!

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