Reprogramming the hand: Bridging the craft skills gap in 3D/digital fashion knitwear design | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-4689
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4697



Designer-makers have integrated a wide range of digital media and tools into their practices, many taking ownership of a specific technology or application and learning how to use it for themselves, often drawing on their experiential knowledge of established practices to do so. To date, there has been little discussion on how digital knitting practice has evolved within this context, possibly due to the complexity of the software, limited access to industrial machinery and the fact that it seems divorced from the idea of ‘craft’. Despite the machine manufacturers’ efforts to make knitting technology and software more user-friendly, the digital interface remains a significant barrier to knitwear designer-makers, generally only accessed via experienced technicians. This article focuses on how this issue is being explored through practice-led research being undertaken by Jane Taylor at Nottingham Trent University. The investigation is a response to a skills gap between knitwear designers and the latest flatbed knitting technology and is grounded within the researcher’s experience as both a knitwear designer and technologist. Through her practice, Taylor explores how the Shima Seiki SDS1 CAD system can be used as a design tool, in order to use the SWG (3D Knit) machines more creatively. Specialist training has built on the researcher’s tacit understanding of hand/machine knitting and pattern cutting, her established craft practice, where constant iterations can be made during the textile and shape creation stage. By reprogramming the hand, this research proposes a craft-based methodology that reverses the traditional relationship between making and technology, placing crafting at the centre of creative design practice where it can be applied to support and further the potential of advanced technology. This article is a revised version of a paper that was first presented by the authors at The First International Conference on Digital Fashion, at London College of Fashion in May 2013.


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