People who aren't familiar with my sweater knit fabrics or machine knitting in general often ask how the fabrics are produced or how my fabrics differ from sweater knits available elsewhere online or at the local fabric shop. I can only speak in general terms about other knits, but I can tell you how my fabrics are made.
This is the corner where I knit the fabric. That's a Passap DM80 knitting machine. I'm sure it looks familiar to any machine knitters reading this! It's considered a v-bed, semi-industrial, hand knitting machine. (Yes, semi-industrial and hand knitting!?) Every time the green carriage is pushed across the needle bed another row is knitted. Though my machine is similar in many ways to machines found in knitting mills, my fabrics will never be as wide as those produced in a knitting mill, because the industrial machines are wider.
My knitting machine has mechanical needle selection, meaning that every stitch pattern is "programmed" into the machine by way of some mechanical action, either with a punchcard or by directly manipulating clever little sliding metal pieces called pushers. The pushers "remember" the stitch pattern so it's not necessary to enter the pattern for every row.
Getting back to the top picture, if you look closely, you can see a computer between the knitting machine and shelves of coned yarn. I make some of my more complex designs using a program called DesignaKnit 8. Though the program can be used for designing garments, I use it to help me visualize a stitch pattern, to quickly do color separations (for multi color knitting), and to give me alerts to change settings or yarn colors for certain types of knitting. I use the program mostly when I'm doing swatches for professional clients. Even though my knitting machine isn't electronic, I have a cable with a sensor that links the computer to the knitting machine to keep track of where I am in the stitch pattern.
On the back wall is some of my yarn collection. The quality of the yarn is what makes my fabrics different from much of what is available online and in fabric shops. My merino wool knits are soft and luxurious. The pearl cotton knits show excellent stitch definition. And my knitted bamboo is silky with a subtle sheen. It's all because of the yarn, some of it the same yarn used in the sweaters from famous designers.
When I'm making an original stitch pattern design, as opposed to a standard rib or stripe or houndstooth, the idea often begins with a pattern found somewhere other than in fabric. I try to translate the pattern to knit, knowing full well that it will never look like the original source, but that it's a good place to start. Since I'm inspired by texture, I usually redo the swatch several times, each time doing a variation such as adding extra tuck stitches in order to tweak the texture just a bit and, of course, trying the pattern in different fibers and colors. Other times I'll just do a (relatively) flat color pattern that comes from my imagination or from "playing around" on the knitting machine or computer. I rarely do figurative knits.
|This lacy pattern was inspired by wood floor panels.|
|A photo of a grating and potential stitch pattern|