Photo Credit : Photography: Annelise Hough
Construction Knitting Patterns
Textile + Surface Design - Fashion
The Construction Knitting project is created through a collaboration between knitwear designer Nikki Gabriel, and graphic designer Anthony Chiappin.
Construction Knitting Patterns and recycled Wooli Yarn, are a DIY knitting package created to stimulate a new interest in knitting that is relevant to our current design culture, as opposed to the nanna-craft it is commonly associated with. By engaging recycled materials into the project and fusing contemporary graphic design imagery to communicate the structural knitting instructions, this project attempts to transform the idea of the conventional knitting pattern into a contemporary print media design collectible, and in function create an experience where pleasure and fashion are linked by awareness and responsibility.
Construction Knitting is a self initiated DIY design concept formed by a collaboration between knitwear designer Nikki Gabriel and graphic designer Anthony Chiappin.
Nikki Gabriel is a Textile Design graduate from RMIT, and through her commercial knitwear design background, business practice and textile production experience realised that there was room in the market for a design focused DIY knitting product. Her teaming with Anthony Chiappin who holds a BA Design/ Illustration and MVA, and who has 23 years experience in graphic design, illustration, advertising and digital media, provided a perfect springboard for the conception of such a product. The project evolved through extensive research and over a period of 3 years, many meetings and design discussions between Nikki and Anthony ensued.
The object was to create a product that was different to what was currently available for this market.
It appeared that most knitting patterns were targeting an older audience, and new craft for a younger audience seemed to celebrate mostly the nostalgia of knitting. In comparison the Construction Knitting project was created to stimulate a new interest in knitting that is relevant to our current design culture, by presenting it in a graphic design format and the use of recycled materials for the purpose of this product.
The patterns are based on knitting geometric shapes, such as squares, rectangles and triangles, which require only beginner knitting skills. The intention is to simplify knitting instructions, de-mystifying old-fashioned knitting jargon and revamping it into a new design experience, to therefore engage a wider audience.
Nikki devised a modular knitting system for this project: The pattern begins with a single shape creating a garment, which when added to with a new shape is repurposed into a new garment construction.
How to knit the shapes are translated into a set of instructions using graphically designed illustrations devised by Anthony, showing step-by-step garment constructions, including how to join the knitted geometric shapes.
The Knitting Patterns are a full colour printed double-sided A2 poster, which when folded, package into an A5 hard cover. The design layout of the Construction Knitting Pattern transforms the idea of the conventional knitting pattern into a contemporary print design collectible.
The yarn range for the Construction Knitting has been the pivotal process to the development of the product, as the patterns are designed for the use of this particular yarn exclusively. Therefore it was a requirement of their brief that the yarn needed to be new, interesting, unique, and sustainable.
The result is a bespoke knitting yarn called Wooli, which is a mix of rainbow of factory remnant fibres of wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk and possum. The composite fibres are re-carded and spun into a bulky tweed style yarn according to Nikki’s requirements.
The knitting needles for Construction Knitting projects are also designed by Nikki Gabriel. They are handmade in New Zealand using a traditional wood turning technique, crafted from recycled Rimu timber. Each pair is unique. The surface of the knitting needles are designed to be less slippery than regular plastic needles, creating an ideal knitting apparatus for this type of yarn, to remedy stitches slipping off the needles easily.
The manifesto of the Construction Knitting Project is: Creation, Interpretation, Building, Formation, Making, Conception, Invention, Nature.
Intersecting Craft and Design
Our internal project brief was to simplify a knitting pattern so it could be understood by a wide audience, and to reposition the notion of knitting from nostalgic craft to a design exercise relevant to our current culture. By incorporating elementary design principles of interlocking geometric shapes to create a 3-dimensional structure, the knitting patterns succeed in creating contemporary looking garments, that are easy to make.
The further originality to this design exercise is the modular building activity in the project. Within the project there is the option of adding additional shapes progressively to each garment, which transforms the existing garment into a new one.
Intersecting Craft and Industry
Nikki Gabriel’s persistent research on low environmental impact yarn production, eventually led to an arrangement with a spinning mill in New Zealand to use up their factory remnants of fibre production. The mill developed a yarn spun from a rainbow of waste fibre of wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk and possum, creating a new high quality yarn blend, specific to Nikki’s requirements for a chunky yarn.
Project Innovation / Need
Knitting & Graphic Design
The Construction Knitting pattern intersects design and craft by combining graphic design to illustrate knitting instructions. This offers a new perception of the act of knitting and shifts the idea of it from being an old-persons craft to that of being a design process and resource that can be applicable to many forms of contemporary 3-dimensional design. Within a craft context, this knitting project further democratises design, making design accessible as a DIY at home project. The experience of the construction method in this project, can also then be applied to other mediums and materials, and so offers a new learning dimension within craft and design.
Yarn Design & Recycling in Industry
The manufacturing and processing of wool is either dominated by mass production on one end of the scale or hobby craft on the other. Mass production quantities out-scale a niche design product for cost viability, and hobby craft out-costs an end product for a competitive wholesale/retail market. The discovery of waste fibre at a spinning mill solved this problem of fibre supply resource meeting production viability for a niche product. This is a rare facilitation arrived at through research, product knowledge, extensive experience and determination.
Process & Purpose
Instead of concealing the base material of the rainbow of coloured fibres pre-spinning, Nikki has chosen to exploit the recycled characteristics of the yarn blend. When spun the yarn has an authentic mix of yarn colour with indiscriminate random dots of pure colour that remain throughout the yarn. This is an aesthetic proclamation of industrial innovation faithful to its process and purpose, a solution relevant to a growing post-mass-industrial awareness.
With Nikki Gabriel’s experience of producing labour-intensive hand-knitted fashion collections, she understood the necessity of quickening the task for this project, to create a realistic accomplishment experience for the novice knitter. Therefore the Construction Knitting patterns are designed to be quick and easy, by using chunky wool to knit easy shapes for fast growing projects.
Further, the Construction Knitting Project needed to be adventurous enough to really have a point of difference, and the accompanying yarn needed to be unique enough to fill a gap in the market.
Her approach in the Construction design scheme, suggests new creative and inventive ways to make a garment. Nikki creates a method of function following form by showing how one creates the geometric shapes first and then demonstrates how the shapes transform into garments when joined. Utilising her knowledge of the characteristics of a knitted textile, she offers adventurous solutions to constructing a garment, working with the pliability and drape of the knitted fabric.
Anthony Chiappin translates these exercises with graphic communication, so the instructions make sense and reads easily in print. Anthony designed a series of step-by-step vector illustrations to communicate the knitting instructions. This is a very novel method to a knitting pattern.
The knitting yarn specifically for this project had to be ecologically sustainable to fulfil any merit of validity within the marketplace, as the current yarn market is flooded with mass and small craft production. The solution to this was finding waste yarn to up-cycle, to create something authentic for the marketplace, but also significant in that it provides a solution for waste.
Nikki’s eventual course of enquiry led to a small spinning mill in New Zealand. She found that their remnants of waste fibre were being discarded due to its fragmentary nature making it not suitable for re-use. Nikki struck an arrangement with the Mill to accumulate this remnant fibre from all their production runs to mix and spin into a knitting yarn specifically for her.
Finding a sustainable solution to the knitting yarn product was difficult, in that yarn is a heavily industrialised process and requires large volume production. On the opposite end of the scale the hobby craft market was too expensive an option, and unreliable as a continual source of supply.
There are also very limited industrial resources available (in this part of the world). The opportunity of using recycled factory fibre remnants presented itself at a knitting mill in New Zealand. Through Nikki’s long-term working relationship with this mill, coupled with her persistent research of low environmental impact yarn production, the mill developed a yarn spun from a rainbow of waste of wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk and possum, creating a quality yarn, specific to Nikki’s requirements for a chunky yarn blend.
The energy resource used for this production is approximately 80% lower than compared to processing fleece for spinning from its raw stage. Raw natural fibre undergoes a rigid cleaning, de-hairing, carding, and de-lanolising process that involves high chemical and energy usage. Also; often the re-cycling of waste fibre too is heavily chemically bleached to return it to a decolourized stage for further processing. The decision to use the waste fibre as is, is pivotal in cost and energy saving for the purpose of this end product.
The duo also found it important to make responsibly sustainable decisions in the printing of the pattern product. The knitting patterns are printed on FSC recycled stock made from post consumer waste, and the hard package covering is recycled un-bleached kraft board.