Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pesky Irregularities in Handknits?

Check out the knitting machine that expects to usher in a paradigm shift in the way knitwear is mass produced: it's called "Complete Garment Knitting". Shima Seiki calls it Wholegarment:

A whole 3D sweater can be made at once by the machine--no seams, no waste from from cutting pieces, and no
inconvenient irregularities hand-worked into the garment. A sweater could also be made only on an on-demand basis.

As a crocheter I read this and think, "Huh--so the marketing edge for this company is: all the benefits of a handknit with none of the perceived drawbacks." (Handknitters can already create on-demand 3D garments with no seams and no cutting.)

You might wonder why this topic is on a crochet designer's blog. Crocheted fashions can be mass-produced at times, but never machine-made like mass-produced knits are. Well, at bare minimum, I've always been fascinated by how two manufacturing markets within the fashion industry compete: the Knits vs. the Wovens. ("Knits" here meaning the mass-produced, machine-made kind.)

We yarnies, even those of us who don't knit, are impacted anyway. For example, I've seen hand knitters evaluate their knitting using a machine-knitted standard of regularity, especially when it comes to stockinette and maybe garter, I guess where "irregularities" are easiest to spot; even the term "irregularities" seems imported from a machine-knitting aesthetic.

You know what? Crocheters just don't do that. This is a luxury that I think many of us crocheters take for granted. Good crocheters do aim for a consistent gauge, but are far less likely to have a perfectionistic goal for their stitching. After all, crocheters don't have machine-made stitches with which to compare their handmade stitches.

But what if they did? I look to knitters for clues to how machine automation affects the handmade experience.
This is a significant, experiential difference between handknitting and crocheting.

It's good to keep an eye on the Knitwear industry's innovations, sometimes for design ideas, sometimes for a view of the future of knitwear, sometimes just for a fashion industry perspective on knits (and by extension, crochet at times).

What about "Gaugeless Knitting"? The benefit of having a machine with this capability is that it "helps the knitting industry to not only free itself from the standard notion of knitwear being mainly for the Autumn and Winter seasons, but to shed seasonal perceptions toward knitwear period, so that more collections can be made throughout the year and consequently attain a larger share of the textile market."
(Please note: italicizing throughout this blog post is mine)

As a crocheter, I easily forget to what degree knitwear is tied to certain seasons because crochet isn't, except when uneducated people conflate it with knitting. In fact, if you had to tie crochet to any season, a case for summer could easily be made.

Here's another way for knits to compete against the wovens:
Thanks to WHOLEGARMENT® technology, the term "knitwear" is no longer reserved for thick and bulky, clumsy sweaters reserved for casual occasions. New materials, especially fancy yarns combined with fine gauge capability and new knitting techniques result in a variety of fresh new items which at first glance seem like wovens."

In the fashion world the knitwear industry apparently labors under the same stereotype that crochet does in the yarn industry: does the criticism of "thick and bulky, clumsy sweaters" sound familiar?! Too funny!

Here's one more, special to designers: "
Unlike conventionally knitted sweaters whose seams tend to break up the continuity of the garment design, the seamless process allows patterns and designs to remain uninterrupted across the entire garment-- front-to-back, over-the-shoulder and down-the-sleeves. And it looks much nicer, too. Also without seams there is the opportunity to create single-knit garments which feature truly functional reversibility without the added weight and bulk of double-knits."

Maybe this is a breakthrough in knitting, I don't know; for machine knitting anyway. In crochet, many stitch patterns are already reversible, as well as seam-free. Maybe that's why so many crochet designs in magazines are photographed inside out!


  1. Fascinating stuff Vashti! You raise such interesting points! What the heck is gaugeless knitting? Dora

  2. Very interesting! Knitters are very perfectionistic and have a terrible time breaking free. This can be a stumbling block when knitters learn to crochet - fewer and different rules.

    I see a big trend in hand knitting patterns towards top down in the round seamless designs.

    Thanks for the information - great perspective will help me help my customers.

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  4. Thanks Dora! I'd never heard of "gaugeless knitting" until I went to the Shima Seiki site. I wonder if they coined it. They distinguish it from other "so-called 'multiple gauge knitting'". Thinking about it takes my mind in new directions.

    Hi Sheryl, interesting tidbit about the trend in hand knitting patterns toward seamless top-down in the round! Thanks for your perspective from your experience working closely with many knitters.

  5. This is fascinating--I'm happy to see innovation that will reduce waste in mass production of garments, and also technology that might reduce the reliance on poorly paid garment workers.


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