hand / machine - after thoughts

hand / machine - a final year project 

A few months has passed and I finally feel able to put into words the whirlwind that was my final year at Gray's. My project, Hand/Machine, was a labour of love and stress that I am so glad is over, but simultaneously I am restless to create again.

At the beginning of the year, what I thought I would make is not anywhere near what I actually made, but when I look at the outcomes, what was photographed comes across exactly how I pictured it in my mind as I was making it in the last few months of the year!

Initially, I envisaged a largely sustainably sourced collection and one focused on digital and tech waste, but by the end the influences of my dissertation research and contextual research of knitwear and artists morphed my project into one that combines hand and machine knitting in such a way as to invoke a sense of nostalgia and a need to touch it - almost recreating an ugly jumper knitted by a grandmother. 

By incorporating two distinct methods of making - a "commercial" approach and a "conceptual" approach, each half of the collection involved differing processes and timescales that really pushed me. 

With the machine knitted pieces - two jumpers with "trails" within their patterning - I followed a more commercial approach that involved more planning and actual forethought into the design and shape. The patterning developed from the mark making I had fun doing based on the photographs of unnoticed man made objects in the environment. Wiggles, lines and dots were placed within each section of the jumper in a completely random manner, following a pattern for a jumper I made up before hand. 

In the more conceptual approach, I started with a large amount of soft, merino wool in shades that linked with my mark making, and started knitting with 10mm and 12mm circular knitting needles. The jumper and cardigan were knitted bit by bit, photographed after a period of knitting so I could place it on the body and work out where the piece was going to go. I enjoyed this process so much as I was able to change the plan of knitting as I went, molding and shaping the two pieces into something simultaneously nostalgic and traditional as well as innovative and fresh.

By the time the fashion show on the 12th and 13th May came around, I had just 40 hours to finish off half the collection and add in knitted pants and socks(!) It was one of the most stressful periods of my life so far, but luckily I did not shake too much while hand-joining socks together, and the show went very well. All I know is I do not plan on staying up for 40 straight hours ever again in my life.

The last few weeks of fourth year were much calmer, involving making a sub collection derived from hand/machine, and sorting paper work and portfolio work into something more cohesive than the mess that was in my brain. 

Hand/Machine has been such a fun project, and I can't wait to continue looking in depth at nostalgia and knitting when I move down to London to study MA Textiles at the Royal College of Art. I am already looking at Hand/Machine and seeing ways to improve it... I hope to make more knitted soft things that provoke excitement and enthusiasm for knitting as a craft and art from those that look at it.


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