It’s the season for wrapping up in warm knitwear but what progressive designers have been creating away from the catwalk trends might inspire you to upgrade from classic chunky knits and hack your sweater.
Glitch Knitting is a fairly recent development from Glitch Art, an art movement that began circa 2002 with a philosophy of finding the aesthetic in digital code errors and is also known as data-bending and “The Art of the Error”.
Nick Britz, a “new_media artist” working in and teaching Glitch art defines it as:
“Glitch art is the aestheticization, recognition, and/or instigation of a glitch, a break and/or disruption of the expected flow of a system.”
Ever since technology became readily accessible we have been tinkering with the nuts and bolts of our personal machines with a curiosity that comes naturally to the creative mind and leads us to discover new visual languages that we can use to express ourselves. Glitches in computer data can create incredible fractals of pixels and colour that we may not in all sobriety have conceived for ourselves. These beautiful new patterns and colour fusions are of particular interest and excitement to artists and designers whose colour wheels may have spun dry and seek a new aesthetic.
The main technique for Glitch Knitting involves the hacking of computerised knitting machines to create intentionally broken code that causes the knitting machine to read the damaged data, knit the errors and produce interesting and often improbable patterns and stitches.
The hacking part may seem challenging to designers who are new to experimentation in computer environments but if you are interested in trying this new technique for yourself you’ll find plenty of help from the “open-source community“.
In general hacking a computerised knitting machine involves wiring an Arduino – a single board microcontroller – to the motherboard of the knitting machine so you can interact with it.
One of the first to experiment with hacking knitting machines is designer and and artist Nukeme from Osaka, Japan who studied fashion design for three years. Nukeme is now a multi-disciplinary glitch artist and has created projects of glitch knitting in collaboration with Software engineer So Kanno and Hardware engineer Tomofumi Yoshida using a hacked Brother knitting machine as seen in the tutorial video above.
Nukeme was introduced to glitch art by programmer UCNV and together they attended a Glitch Workshop in Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. They have since collaborated on many projects including a lab coat, digitally printed with a glitch design onto a cotton lab coat designed by Nukeme. The coat was showcased at a glitch fashion event “Glitch @ Tokyo Kaihouku” in Isetan Shinjuku, Tokyo in July this year.
Nukeme has also created a project of Glitch Embroidery where he distorts widely recognisable company logos into glitched forms and was selected by the jury of the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival.
In 2009, artists and textile designers Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet began collaborating together on art and technology projects and later came to develop “Knitic”; their Glitch Knitting project and open hardware.
Instead of hacking the knitting machine’s computer they have developed their own PCB – Printed Circuit Board, that creates, what they call, a new brain for the Brother 930 and 940 knitting machines and allows you direct control over the needles to the extent that you can make changes to the code as you knit.
In the Knitic project “Neuro Knitting” the duo collaborated with Music Technology Researcher Sebastián Mealla C. whose work focuses on Human-Computer Interaction and Physiological Computing. Using a non-invasive EEG headset they recorded the brainwave patterns of people listening to the music of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and translated them into visual data that they were then able to use as a knitting pattern for their hacked knitting machines. The result was a pattern where every programmed stitch was created by a unique brain state that came from the listener’s response to the music and was materialised in the knitted garment pattern.
The process is shown in their video :
In 2011, Brooklyn based artist Phillip Stearns started a project called Glitch Textiles to explore digital textile art with the idea of using the cold hard logic of digital code to create soft warm textiles. To achieve this he worked with a range of digital techniques including cameras that had short circuited tools that had been developed for digital forensics to visualise data. Phillip was able to pursue the project thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in 2012 which has enabled him to create a beautiful range of Glitch Textiles such as “Binary Blankets” and wall hangings.
Phillip’s idea was to bring to a physical reality the everyday digital codes that make up contemporary life so that we could literally feel the fabric of the data.
In another series of blankets and scarves, where the designer’s theme was “Infected Blankets”, he translated the genome of the H1N1 Influenza virus into a colourful pixelated blanket pattern where each pixel represents the coding for an amino acid based on a direct mapping between the DNA and color values.
In this video the designer explains the concept and process of his textile designs.
Here he shows us a demonstration of hacking a digital camera to achieve the glitched images.
He then sends the finished image that he created with intentionally broken, manually rewired cameras or edited raw data of an image file, to be woven or knitted resulting in beautiful and original textiles.
MRRK is the brand name of print designer Mark van Gennip who creates a variant of glitch in his textile prints. Based in Amsterdam Mark’s process of creating his designs for his “Ink Storm” collection involves interrupting the digital printing process by hand causing the application of ink from the printer to disperse into how he describes “Storms of ink that rage through each print leaving spontaneous colour nuances and unique shapes”. The fabric used is 100% silk double georgette which has a flowing movement that compliments the swirls or colour.
Margo Wolowiec is a textile designer working from San Francisco whose process of creating her glitch textiles is vastly different from the hacked computer approach. Taking her inspiration from Bauhaus weavers and Navajo rugmaking, Margo weaves glitched images taken from social networks; Facebook, Instagram Tumbler etc., and creates the images by hand-dying the thread at the loom as she weaves the textile.
As many of these are artists and designers who are coming from diverse disciplines their projects may not have intended to be a work of fashion design but by understanding their work and broadening your field of research, you will be more aware of the technological advances in textile design that will serve not only to inspire your own work but also to keep you ahead of the game.
“Our imaginations keep changing with technology, Computers have different ideas than we do.”