Hacking Textiles

Over the past week I augmented my design quiver with some seriously geeky techniques. Neighboring Silicon Valley, and having my share of nerdy tendencies, this was inevitable.

First off—take cover people—I’m workin’ a laser!

Adjusting the height of the Laser Cutter

Wednesday night, I headed up river to the best little maker lab I could find, and got schooled in using the laser cutter! Design considerations, software, safety, all culminating in controlling the machine and cutting a design.

I admit it—it’s a rush to draw something out, then see a nearly parallel, nearly monochromatic, and coherent beam of light carve it from your material.

Laser Cutter Computer Control

I’ve had brain full of ideas to bring laser cut textiles into my designer pillow collections…now I have the ticket to ride.

“So what else?”

Hacking my knitting machine!

“Say what?”

You heard me.

Now I don’t own a factory. My knitting machine is big and clunky. Akin to a big weaving loom–it’s truly hand manipulated—you push a carriage back and forth across a long bed of needles to knit each row. I work up a sweat doing it.

Once you deploy the yarn feeders on top, the machine looks rather bizarre—like some strange metallic grasshopper. And it has quaint 1980’s technology with built in patterns like you might see on sweaters.

But, my goal is to knit my own patterns.

Did just that on Sunday.

With the help of my new friend, Adrienne (fellow member of my machine knitters guild and head of the South Bay Meetup) I took one of my hand-drawn designs, scanned it onto the laptop, and well, knit it up!

Knitting Machine Hooked to Laptop

We used a simple open-source program*. Adrienne had knit with the program before— things like a tribute-Spock hand in the “Live Long and Prosper” pose and, of course, Elvis’s face; so she walked me through it.

I also couldn’t have done it with out my card-carrying geeky husband Chuck. I dragged him along, but turns out he enjoyed himself. And when it seemed we were stuck, he quickly Googled and downloaded the right driver for the funky connecting cord.

Knitting Coming off the Machine copy

Here’s my drawing…

My Sketch

…and here’s my knitting!

My Machine Knit Design

“Woo-hoo!” Shouted that a few times as my pattern emerged from below the needlebed. People at our meetup were crawling under the table to check it out.

This is my test design…planning more luxurious and interesting yarns for realsies.

Okay, so now lots in the design mix for the next pillow collections. Back to the studio to make it happen!

*There are also are some more pricey machine knitting software packages out there, especially good for those who want to design and shape fitted garments like sweaters, as well as knitting patterns. But I wanted to take a more furgal route…and to challenge my tech-y skills!

What newfangled design technologies are you seeing & using in your projects and homes?

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2 Comments for “Hacking Textiles”

The SKY is the LIMIT!!!

Thanks, Casey! Having a blast!

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