This is perhaps one of the stranger exercises I’ve had to do for Uni work. In this exercise I’ve been asked to research contemporary and historical examples of where and how knitted items have been represented. I began with a mind map of my own instant thoughts on knitting and it’s associations.
I started my visual research by searching for contemporary knitting in Pinterest. I was surprised by the amount of images that came back and also surprised by how many of them related to catwalk fashions or graduates from degree courses. I was also intrigued to see the use of knit wear in men’s fashion, in quite bold ways.
Fashion Brand Sibling showcased some particularly bold, unusual knitwear pieces in their SS16 Catwalk shows. They included enlarged stitch elements in contrast colours within their knitted jumpers, see photo to the left for an example. I’ve not really kept up to date with fashion trends, particularly in menswear so this was a surprise to me. It shows an innovative, modern approach to knitted items, breaking that stereotype of knitwear for men being purely about functionality.
A similar aesthetic was also evident on the A/W 15 Catwalk shows of Paris Fashion week. This time through the work of Designer Henrik Vibskov. His SS15 Catwalk show featured a menswear piece with a large stitch detail and slashes through the fabric. I’m not sure if this is entirely knitwear but it’s interesting again as a departure from menswear being mostly functional (see photo opposite).
My final contemporary example of men’s knitwear comes from DecoriaLab Knitwear Design Studio. They specialise in Knitwear and Jersey Fashion Solutions, creating samples of stitches, patterns, trend ideas for Clients within the Fashion Industry. The sweater in the image to the left is unlike any men’s knitwear item I’ve ever seen. It has sheer sections, vivid pink and orange colours, several knit patterns. I had no idea such designs were possible, it seems to me to be pushing the boundaries of what is possible within knitwear.
Historical Men’s Knitwear:
In complete contrast to the images I chose of contemporary men’s knitwear are the following examples of Knitwear of a more historical nature. In the image to the left; Vintage knits, men’s balaclava pattern by LucysPatternBox . A knitted item, created with purpose in mind, not fashion. Here Knitwear takes a more serious role, and is connected to the war effort.
Other more Historical examples of men’s knitwear came to light as I remembered the association of Fishermen and knitted jumpers. I searched Pinterest for ‘Fisherman’s Jumpers’, and found some historical examples.
Searching for examples of Fishermen’s Knitted Jumpers I came across the term Gansey Sweater. This seems to be a kind of pattern or knitted sweater that was created for Fishermen Historically. I also came across a Pinterest board dedicated to Gansey Sweaters. And a website dedicated to the tradition of Gansey or Gurnsey Knitting, called, Propagansey. I also discovered a contemporary clothing company which is dedicated to hand crafted techniques, including the Gansey knitted sweater, called Wayside Flower. You can see their collection of Gansey Knitwear here.
For me this was a fascinating example of what we see in the design world in general today, that split between exploring complexity and innovation or pursuing the hand crafted, simpler designs of the past.
Contemporary Women’s Knitwear:
Strangely enough looking at examples of Fishermen’s knitwear leads nicely into some of the trends in Women’s Knitwear today. Looking at images of women’s knitwear it’s clear some draw their shape, colour, pattern from looking at the form of Fishermen’s Jumpers. The oversized knitted jumper seems to have become a bit of a staple in women’s fashion, an everyday winter wardrobe item…
In the image left an example of an oversized knitted jumper by I Love Mr Mittens.
In the image left from Grazia Magazine – a women’s fashion/gossip magazine, an example of ‘streetwear’ (ordinary women’s everyday fashion). A simple, plain coloured oversized jumper which resembles the simplicity and warmth of the Fisherman’s jumper (albeit with more style).
However there is also the more creative, wild side to women’s contemporary knitwear. It seems to use simple knitwear patterns as a base on which to throw bold colour, textures, and 3D elements…
Couture Fashion Design House Delpozo, created the Knitwear piece seen above, and here. On the one hand the base knitted jumper looks like an Aran Jumper. But with the inclusion of bright red crotchet and tassel like details the jumper becomes a much more contemporary piece of fashion. I think this is both exciting and overwhelming at the same time – it’s visually confusing!
The image opposite is a piece of knitwear from Hayley Grundmann’s MA Graduate Collection. Having graduated from Central Saint Martins, Grundmann gave an interview to the university blog; Central Saint Martins MA Graduate Hayley Grundmann in conversation for Granary 1.
Her work feels like a further extension away from the forms of knitwear in the past to new avenues in the future. It’s marked by a fun, playful approach and the use of unusual, cheap everyday materials, such as bin lines, foam, dressing gown flannelette. Whilst her work probably can’t be worn in the everyday (with ease), I think it has a charm and life to it that is nice to see.
Further contemporary designs using knitting methods:
Children’s wear or focused designs have been associated with the Knitting of perhaps older women, grandparents in the past. But there is re-making of these in a more modern approach to pattern design. I found one example of this in Etsy shop MukiCrafts.
These examples feel like a funnier, fresher take on perhaps the knitted jumper created by your grandma as a birthday present.
Knitting in Artwork/ Graphic design
Self-titled ‘Textile Artist, Model Makers, Prop- Stylist’, Jessica Dance, creates among other things, knitted models of objects, foods, products, and curates/arranges these for a variety of clients and causes. In the image opposite a series of hand knitted food items called ‘Comfort Food’ forms the front cover art for magazine Stylist. I think this is a good example of clever complex design, it takes a concept ‘comfort food’ and toys with it.
In the image opposite the arrangement of knitted foods used for the magazine stylist, before inclusion of text/positioning.
Below another example of knitted food from the series, this time a Doughnut. I think this is just a really effective, fun, alternative use for knitting. Jessica has worked for several clients, including Dorset Cereals, Nike and Dogs Trust.
Kate Jenkins is another example of a Textile Artist whose hand knitted and crocheted work has been used in commercial art. Her creations have a humorous feel to them often subverting or adapting brands to stitch related fake names. See the peanut butter alternative ‘extra stitchy’ as an example of her work.
Her work has also graced the covers of magazines, Fish and Chips 4, seen below was restyled as cover artwork for The London Evening Standards Food Magazine in 2012.
Jenkins, who sells her work under the name Cardigan, has also turned her creations into Card designs. There seems to be no end to the extension of different forms of/use of knitted items in contemporary visual culture!
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this research project, finding my original associations of knitting to be outdated. The visual examples I’ve found focus heavily on contemporary uses of knitting, and strongly contradict any notion of Knitting as an elderly past-time generating items for practical uses. But I will say that contemporary fashion has built upon the stereotype of functional knitwear to create outlandish, bold designs.