Sunday, 8 June 2014

Learning to knit with a domestic knitting machine

Ever since the Brunswick Novices group was established, I've been dithering over the question of basic machine learning.
As a recovering school teacher, I am not anxious to reprise that role. I was very happy to have the opportunity to take some lessons from experienced knitters and instructors, but I have noticed that not everyone responds well to that style of passing on the craft. Some are anxious to charge on at breakneck speed, and others would like lots more time to become familiar with just one part of the material presented, and others still are hoping that something else would have been covered.

Last week, I heard something on the radio that crystallised my thinking on the subject and inspired me to work out how knowledge could be passed along in a way I could be comfortable with. I heard about the work of Sugata Mitra,  Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University in the UK. I met the concept of a Self Organising Learning Environment.
Have a look at this TED clip. It seems to me that a Self Organising Learning Environment, is an ideal model to use with adult would be machine knitters.

I picture creating an environment, with access to a variety of resources.
1. One or more knitters familiar with the particular process under consideration.
2. A large TV connected to an iPad to show YouTube clips or other online demonstrations.   
3. Another electronic device with e books and /or access to online resources..
4. Dead tree books with information on the process
5. Any relevant notes
6. Enough machines for each participant to try the process hands on.

Each participant can draw on all or any of the sources to take what is needed.
We'll give it a try and see how it goes.

Edited to add, This could be seen as just a souped up and labelled plan, very close to the experience to be had at Elaine's East Malvern weekends, and the Lancefield live in weekend of knitting. Both of these are regular and and successful MKAV events.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Industry Standards!!!?? Reflections on the unsatisfactory nature of clothing size standards.

Would you be shocked if I were to admit that I don't especially like making clothes? I enjoy thinking about clothes. I'd like to have slightly intimidating clothes, because that's sometimes necessary. But mostly, I'd like to have clothes that look like they were meant for me. That's me as I am. Not me less a few kilos. Not me with broader shoulders. Not me surgically altered to a more convenient shape.  I'd be perfectly happy to buy them in a shop, where I could see how they looked , without having to construct them first. I'm not hung up on exclusivity, I don't care if a whole lot of other people have the same thing. But the problem is, they don't have clothes that look like they were meant for me in the shops. 

Given that I rarely find ready made clothes, I was delighted to find an indie pattern designer in Melbourne, selling contemporary designs to the world. Stylearc. Have a look, the website is good. There are tutorials on sewing and construction. There is an excellent magazine style newsletter. All good, but, when I check out the size chart, I find the industry standards used for the patterns are the same standards that make commercial dresses and tops so unsuitable. Who ever thought it was consistent with reality to increase the width of the shoulders with every dress size? Apparently the average dress size in Australia is 16. According to Elizabeth Zimmerman, late inspired knitting evangelist, most women have a shoulder width of 14.5 inches. According to the size chart that's a size 8. Maybe the measurement was taken a little differently, but the shoulders are still going to be way too wide on most people using the larger sizes, and the result will be frumpy, unless some skilled alteration takes place.

Check out the Clothing Engineer for some of the Stylearc designs beautifully constructed - and patiently altered to fit.

But what, I hear you ask, does the doll up in the corner have to do with any of this? She is there illustrating my solution to the fitting problems, pending commercially available design that really is sympathetic to actual body shapes. She is wearing a version of my friendly cardigan, with the design features added to a her basic block, referred to in this recent post.
Her skirt is based on a Miyake design,
very easily adapted to any size and shape, and using small safety pins instead of the snap tape in the original design. And her rather odd hairstyle is disguised with a merino and silk headwrap
Rather than try and alter patterns to fit, I find it easier and more satisfactory to work out the real dimensions of the body I want to clothe, then work the design features required into a personalised block (sloper)

Sometimes though, a design is more accepting of a variety of dimensions. You may see a similarity between the jacket in this Miyake pattern, and this jacket ,  discussed in another post. Another example of a paper pattern based knitting project.

Edited to add, I drafted this post over several days, having been moved to disagree with the Stylearc claim that patterns will fit if they are drafted to Industry Standards. Either I was oversensitive to the references to Industry Standards, or the references I recalled had been altered or removed by the time I published the post. I do not mean to disparage Stylearc patterns, the designer is doing a great service for the community making clothes outside the mass market. The size chart gave me the measurements to crystallise exactly what I find unsatisfactory in industry standard sizing