Isomorphic Textiles: designing through technology in the medium of WholeGarment knitwear
Over the last sixty years, knitting has evolved through new technology developments in the area of commercial knitwear. The birth of seamless knitwear in 1995 by Shima Seiki has become the pinnacle in cutting edge technology, with a women’s pleated pull over with structure design recently being knitted in 23 minutes and 19 seconds, on the newest ‘MACH2X15L’ machine (Rodie, 2009). Accompanying this manufacturing capability, designers have been introduced to a range of digital tools and methods that have changed the way they approach the development of commercially knitted apparel products. However, while this technology is being taken up across the Fashion/Textile Industry, generally knitwear designers are still not confident in using this technology to produce creative, innovative designs through the virtual interface of CAD Design systems. A recent study based upon a comprehensive survey from the 2006 UKHEI (United Kingdom Higher Education Institution) recognised the conceptual shift required in integral knitting: 3D seamless machine knitting presents a new way of making clothing, forcing the designer to reassess ancient hand techniques.....the introduction of this complex technology forces a conceptual shift in the way knitted garments are designed and created (Sayer, Wilson & Challis, 2006, p.41). This research aims to investigate technical and aesthetic directional choices made by the designer in WholeGarment® knitwear design. Hunter (2004) has recognised that that the automation of knitting software is a key element limiting flexible pattern creation in the revolution of integral garment technology. Though the technical machinery and programming has developed and become highly sophisticated this has tended to leave the designer bewildered as to where to begin with computer aided design in a virtual realm. As a researcher-practitioner in the field of knitwear design, I have taken an exploratory approach conducting a series of informal experiments based on a series of design parameters through the production of sample swatches in different yarn types, various fabric construction techniques, digital textile printing and half scale knitted prototypes, which can be assessed for fit and garment construction. This practice-based, experimental research will assist in understanding and evaluating designing through technology, resulting in the completion of various knitted garments and a written exegesis. The Appendix in this thesis is a report on a TEC (Tertiary Education Commission) funded summer studentship project, conducted at the Textile & Design Laboratory between December 2009 and March 2010. It is titled Analysing the New Zealand Fashion Market: New Opportunities in Knitwear Design (Gover, A. 2010). The project documented in the report has contributed immensely to the background research and understanding of the commercial application of machine WholeGarment® knitting. A capsule collection was developed as part of this project was used in industry to showcase some of the possibilities of WholeGarment ® knitting and digital printing. The report demonstrates the value of applying educational research for practical industry application. Although the appendix is a separate body of work from the thesis, it is included as a foreground to this project. It provides information about the current New Zealand context and demonstrates insight into the background and rationale of this project in relation to the New Zealand knitwear market. In the report, the works of various designers and researchers working with these technologies have been documented to provide insight into a wider international context, alongside local applications.