Fibers Luciferins Machine Knitting

Surface Design – Final Results

Since my last prototypes of surface manipulation on my machine knit samples, I dove in with a large machine knit piece of wool.

I used a 1-ply acrylic (blue) to sew the stitches. I used stitch counters on either end. This helps the thread to not pull through, once it’s pulled to tension. It also helps me keep track of where threads are.

First Large Machine Knit Piece prepped with surface manipulation stitches (before pulled to tension)

It took quite a bit of time to put all of the stitches in place. It was the perfect activity for late night movies, zoom faculty meetings, phone calls with friends, etc. I find it comforting to be able to do something that is not as mentally intense as other aspects of Luciferins. In addition, it’s great to have not only something to do with my hands during other lowbar activities (ie faculty meetings), but making progress with my studio practice at the same time. Plus, it keeps me focus on what is being said. The stitches pattern was an upside down “U” followed by a right side up “U”, alternating the direction of the stitch each time and spreading them out between rows, so that no stitches lined up perfectly together.

Machine knit piece (circular) detail of stitch formations

Once all the stitches were in place over the entire structure, I went back and pulled each stitch tight, placing another stitch marker on the (no longer open end) thread, securing it with a knot. By the end of this step, I had a nice knitted log.

Large Machine Knit Piece, pulled to tension

I dropped it in a pillow case, then dropped it in my foot pedaled washing machine-Yirego Drumi- that I love! It’s perfect for felting larger pieces. Especially for me, an apartment dweller without a personal washing machine. Given all the surface manipulation and stitch markers, I prefer felting in a washing machine versus rolling or rubbing the piece. It’s just not feasible.

It felted up quite nice. I let it sit a bit longer in the hot water. I also added flecks of my olive oil soap. I think in all, I had 3 changes of water with about 5-10 minutes of agitation each time. I wanted to make sure that the folds also felted, not just the top of the folds.

Large Machine Knit Circular Knit piece with surface design stitches FELTED

I let it dry with the stitches and stitch counters in for several days (Being that it is early June, the heat wasn’t on). I also did not want to put this in a dryer and risk more felting/shrinkage. I placed some fans on it to speed up the process a bit.

Afterwards, I pulled out a few stitches to see the result of the surface design. I was quite pleased with the textures and ridges.

Felted piece with a few stitches pulled out

As I was pulling the stitches out, I realized that not having a resist in the center, provided me a few issues. While most of it felted nicely, not felting to the other side, a few areas nearly felted entirely together. Yikes. I had thought this might be an issue. Yet, with an issue, one can only work through it. In my case, it required me to pull apart the sides and the stitching. At first I thought I might loose the stitches or even not be able to fully pull the sides apart. But the good thing with wool is that it’s quite durable and strong. It took several sessions of *really* pulling the sides apart, that I was able to free up the sides. It also gave the surface design more room to breath and softened the fabric.

Detail of surface design – pulled out
Machine Knit Circular piece, felted and pulled apart
Machine Knit Circular piece, felted and pulled apart

I’m really loving the surface design that resulted. It’s given such an interesting texture to the fabric.

Detail of final surface design
Detail of final surface design

My plan is to then cut up this material and to sew it together to create these weird forms. Straight tubes are rather dull. Yet, I can more these more natural looking formations with bulges and growths. I’m going to continue doing surface manipulations in this style on other machine knit pieces of fabric. The current piece I’m working stitches into is very loooooong. Much longer than this piece. I’m finding it rather bulky to work with. Note to self: machine knit a bit shorter pieces in the future.

Yet, the next piece I felt, I will use a resist that I put in place before I pull the stitches tight and secure them. This should keep it from felting together and let the pulling apart be by choice (not necessity).

I’m super eager to cut these up and to sew together a final form. I created a super rough prototype a few weeks ago, in a fit of frustration. I cut up previous surface manipulation tests (ie failures) and sewed them together quite quickly. I cut hard lines into the fabric, which I’m not inclined to do in the final pieces as it results in too hard of a geometry. But, the image below serves as a general example with these old prototypes. It never hurts to keep unsuccessful prototypes, as you never know how they could serve you well in the future.

Cut up other surface manipulation prototypes, and sewed back together

Otherwise, it’s back to stitching and machine knitting for me. I want to have a good amount of material ready to work with, before I start creating (ie sewing) the final format of the fiber structures for Luciferins. I’ll be doing some paper prototypes first before I cut this material.

Stay tuned!