Knitwear Embraces Tech To Create a New Future For Textiles

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Tamsin Blanchard of The Guardian writes:

“I am in one of the subterranean rooms that form part of the backstage rabbit warren of Somerset House in central London. This wing used to be offices for the Inland Revenue, but it is now occupied by Makerversity, a hive of young business start-ups which get to rent desk space at affordable prices. One of these businesses has just moved out of the Makerversity incubator into its own bigger space a few doors along. A workman is carrying a window through the room. It is being put back in place after it had been removed to allow access for three industrial knitting machines. This is the headquarters of Unmade, where old-fashioned knitting meets cutting-edge technology.

‘We’ve got physicists, computer scientists, a user-experience expert,’ says Ben Alun-Jones, one of the three founders of Unmade, which uses coding to power knitting machines as though they are 3D printers. He met Hal Watts and Kirsty Emery when they were all at the Royal College of Art. Alun-Jones and Watts did industrial design and Emery specialised in knitwear. They had an idea to apply what they knew about 3D printing to the 1980s computer-programmed knitting machine. “They can be used to make something that is useful rather than making just anything,” he says. “You press a button and a garment comes out.” It’s a far cry from the knit-and-natter sessions that were the last big knitting craze.

By enabling people – and brands – to “print” clothes to order, the whole process of clothing manufacture can be reconfigured. Unmade will never produce anything that nobody wants. It is estimated that 10% of all the clothes made in the world go straight to landfill, which, says Alun-Jones, is “insane”. “We seem to have lost something in mass production where you are making things for everyone, but everything is made for no one.’

Fascinating article with interviews also with Wool and the Gang.

Read the full article here.

Image: geralt