Playing with Texture

Detail, Waves and Interference stitch pattern, wool

What happens when you finally decide to clear out the old storage unit? In my case, several cardigans and fabrics created in the '80s slowly get back into circulation.

Beginning in 1984, I machine knitted a series of jackets and fabrics. I used several techniques, but the ones I'm sharing today I learned from Susanna Lewis.

Clockwise from top left Waves and Interference coat, back of Teal Green Ripple Yoke coat, back of  Waves and Interference coat]. Photos circa 1985. Click to enlarge.

Hand knitters may be familiar with Susanna's book Knitting Lace [affiliate link]. Machine knitters know her from her book with Julia Weissman A Machine Knitters' Guide to Creating Fabric [affiliate link], or simply Bible, as machine knitters call it. Lovers of artwear may be familiar with Susanna's fabulous one of a kind machine knitted coats, featured in Julie Schafler Dale's book Art to Wear [affiliate link]. Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, an upcoming exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will present the work of Susanna Lewis and several others who created art to wear during the 1960s and '70s. The show will run November 10, 2019 through May 17, 2020.

Susanna Lewis taught a class at Parsons School of Design in the 1980s called Machine Knitted Fabrics. It was the best machine knitting training I ever had.

There were 8 students in the Parsons class, none of us taking the course for credit. Each Tuesday morning we sat around a table and Susanna would pass out worksheets. She would then show us swatches based on a technique of machine knitting, discuss the principles and methods to create them, and fill us in on variations. The next week we students would return with our swatches based on the worksheet and discuss what we'd learned.


Southwest Spectra jacket, cotton, back and front
These particular techniques are known as rippled jacquard and embossed rippled jacquard. They are double knit fabrics.  For the machine knitters reading this, texture is built on the technical face of the fabric by knitting extra rows on selected needles. I machine knitted on a bulky Brother 260 with ribber. I've also knitted the fabrics on a standard gauge machine, but they take longer.

All of the cardigans pictured are cotton, though I've used these methods with wool often. They are also fully fashioned; I knit each pattern piece in a simple shape with increases or decreases. They were sewn together by hand.

Daisy, cotton

I'm now quite nostalgic for producing fully fashioned pieces again and will take advantage of an opportunity to produce some soon. Plans are to revisit these knitted fabric techniques in the near future, I'm hoping for early 2020!

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P.S. If you've been wanting to add sweaters to your handmade wardrobe, but didn't quite know how to approach them (without learning to knit), I have an answer for you. My How to Cut and Sew a Sweater opens again for registration very soon. Join the list to learn more about it!



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