A Practical Investigation into Flat Bed Weft Knitting, its Relationship to Digital Technology and it’s Use to Accommodate and Enhance Women’s Three Dimensional Body Shapes, Particularly those Outside UK Standard Sizes
In: Knitting 2005: Global Challenges, Innovative Solutions, Manchester, UK.
It is predicted that the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement (2005) and consequent competition from the Far East will be detrimental to the European Textile and Fashion Industry.
Discussion about standardisation of garment sizes has led to debate over bespoke clothing .(Berry, 2000) Research in the USA reveals that larger sized consumers seek better fitting, comfortable clothing; customisation’s underlying principle.(Berry, 2000) It is possible that the declining British knitting industry (Orton, Gurdeep and Courtney, 2004) can move into associated niche markets.
The ‘outsize’ clothing market is expanding; currently twenty four million adult Britons are overweight , whereas in 1980 only 2.5 million were classed as such. (Laurance, 2004) The average British woman has a proportionally larger stomach and waist than her 1950’s counterpart, and is a size 16. Paradoxically, women of size 16 and above find clothes shopping frustrating, humiliating and fruitless. (Shabi, 2004) This contiguity presents an interesting and novel area of investigation.
UK consumers spend £23 billion a year on clothing , when viewed in the context that two thirds of British women are overweight (Laurance, 2004) , a picture develops of a dissatisfied yet growing market.
Aims and Outcomes
Is the primary value of knitted fabric on larger bodies its inherent stretch? This research questions whether such a method of achieving fit is satisfactory by exploring shaping methods in combination with direct body shape data. It also challenges the ‘norm’ of the size 12 woman, (disproved by SizeUK findings) and the horror of fat which is demonstrated from haute couture (Evans, 2003, p85-96) to the high street (Shabi, 2004).
Outcomes are anticipated to include creating a vocabulary common to both designers and technicians, thereby enabling the production of bespoke knitwear for larger women.
Case study, qualitative methodologies allow multi-method, reflexive and evolving research within a selected participant group, whilst siting the question in its real-world setting. (Marshall and Rossman, 1999) A pilot study has commenced, the results of which will be available by June 2005.
An electronic survey, derived from the Heath Carter endomorphic somatotypes, (Carter, 1980) is gathering additional body shape information.
Measuring the body is by traditional methods and exact body ‘clones’ of the participants facilitate experiments. Measurements are between pre-established landmarks; negative spaces are gauged and stance documented, establishing the body’s proportional girth and silhouette. Drawings, photographs and video provide a visual record and data for knit prototyping.
Samples are knitted on a 12gge Shima Seiki 102ff machine and SDS1 system at the University of Brighton. This versatility pursues a thread of the research; enabling bespoke knitwear through a dynamic, digital relationship with the consumer.
Consistency of yarn is established, which pre-supposes the price point of custom made knitwear will initially justify a quality fibre. (Berry, 2000).
Single jersey is the selected structure; it is supple and not as complex to ‘read’ as other structures when shaped around the body. Purl fabric constructions provide permanent surface-pattern-to-stitch ratios to show distortion. (Smirfitt, 1975), (Spencer, 1983) Narrowing, increasing, stitch quality, gathering, progressive doubling and flèchage will add three dimensional shape.
Tests of knitted shapes on the body will make particular note of wrinkling, strain, bulk, flare and drape.
Relationships between body shape and fabric is currently found to be the most contentious over protruding parts of the body, specifically bust, hips, stomach and particularly around the shoulders. Space between body and knitting over concave body areas is directly influenced by the degree of ease introduced elsewhere. The investigation of ease and its application to specific areas represents the ongoing practical content of the research.
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