After a creative elicitation exercise involving mix-and-matching verbs, adverbs, and feelings, I sketched out a series of goofy designs.
Many of them were so goofy or so obtuse that when it came time to select one to pursue for this project, they had to be discarded by default. The one idea that I thought would be achievable based on the parameters of the assignment, and not so complex as to necessarily require a microcontroller, was the so-called Deceptive Jumping Necklace.
The Necklace would sit clasped on its wearer’s neck until, when it was most unexpected, it would unclasp and leap off. When expanding the design I imagined it held fast by a set of electromagnets controlled by a microcontroller hidden in the central pendant. This central pendant would also hold springs that would push the necklace away when it was activated. It was goofy, but it could be read as a piece of critical or dark design, which are design avenues I am interested in.
I had no practical experience with knitting. I had done some simple weaving before, but I wanted to learn to knit. Even at the time I felt that weaving would be more appropriate than knitting for this object, but I wanted to take the opportunity to push myself and learn something new. I planned to knit the body of the necklace and weave a small patch to serve as the mounting for the magnetic clasp.
It took me several false starts to get the hang of knitting. The first round of stitches that set up the first needle was simple enough, but the process and movements for the core stitching did not come easily. Furthermore, in my hubris, I had asked my instructor for small needles as I wished to knit something that would have the same stitch density as a weave. She warned me that large stitches would lead to larger loops which would be easier to knit, and she was right. The small loops were difficult to keep ordered and occasionally got very tight.
I had to stop and restart several times, but eventually, thanks to a very helpful YouTube video, I got it going.
While knitting, I decided that a necklace was the wrong form for the project. A bracelet would maintain the same kind of affordance as the necklace with respect to the critical design aspects, and would be a little simpler and faster to make. Also, I had by now decided to try to realize the project without a microcontroller, and a bracelet would be a better fit for an object that was just a swatch of knitted cloth.
As I knit, I attempted to include two lengths of conductive thread – one of the fourth stitch from the beginning, and one on the fourth stitch from the end. These will eventually become the wiring that keeps the clasp engaged.
The bracelet turned out well enough considering it was my first serious foray into knitting. For some reason – probably through missing or fouling up stitches – the finished knit has a distinct curvature to it, which works for a bracelet!
For the next step, I wove a swatch to serve as a place to anchor the clasp mechanism. I had done some weaving in workshops previously so this was familiar to me, and a YouTube video was a good refresher.
I tied off the cut portions of the weft and trimmed them down.
There is much more work to do. Having never knitted before, I spent a majority of the week getting comfortable with the process through trial and error. I understand now how to recognize a mistake and fix it right away, which I did not when I began. Mistakes I made early in the knit were deeply woven before I recognized what they were.
Furthermore, I settled on the initial design of the project before I truly understood the needs of it. Before this piece is completed I intend to re-imagine it so it can function without a microcontroller, and to utilize one of the fabric-based sensors. Perhaps I will eschew magnets altogether?
While I’m disappointed to not have a completed product I am excited to have discovered knitting, which I find fun and relaxing. Now that the hurdle of learning to knit has been overcome I’m looking forward to continuing exploring, and perhaps knitting myself a big fluffy scarf.
References & Resources
RJ Knits (2018, November 24). How to Knit: Easy for Beginners. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_R1UDsNOMk&feature=youtu.be
The Met (2016, March 11). #MetKids-Weave on a Mini Loom. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWLIy-Um7_0