• Brooke Roberts-Islam

Kniterate brings industrial digital knitting to a desktop near you

Over the past year I have been keeping up to date with the progress of East London based start-up Kniterate, led by the trio of Gerard Rubio, Triambak Saxena and Tom Catling, aiming to revolutionise knitting for garment makers in the same way that desktop 3D printing has for rapid prototyping. I’m pleased to say their first machine is launching via a Kickstarter campaign and event at the Machine Rooms today, having come a long way since their HAX prototype at the Maker Faire Bay Area in 2016.

The Kniterate team have developed a desktop digital knitting machine in partnership with an industrial knitting machine manufacturer in China that bridges domestic knitting with industrial knitting, shrinking mainframe tech into an affordable machine for making one-off designs and for materials research, development and swatching.

Kniterate’s machine launches via a Kickstarter campaign at 4pm today and has a number of pre-launch fans spanning Maker Space owners, engineering, design and architecture schools and small scale knitted scarf and glove manufacturers. The machines purchased during the Kickstarter campaign, if successful, will be delivered a year from now and will be supported with a simple software package allowing users to upload and refine their designs before knitting them fully shaped and ready to link together (in the case of a jumper) or ready to wear for simpler items like scarves and beanies. The software is being developed along the lines of Photoshop and Illustrator with easy tools for designing and shaping garments.

For fellow knitters, this seven gauge machine can cope with a vast array of tuck and transfer stitch arrangements and has six feeders, allowing for multi-colour jacquard designs. At at around $4500 it is at least five times cheaper than industrial alternatives and doesn’t require specialist technical knowledge to operate. Kniterate will be providing servicing for their machines, though, and will be training an international team of technicians over the coming twelve months, pre-shipping of machines.

The most exciting aspect of this new product is its potential to bring industrial technology into the workshop, studios and potentially homes of designers, makers and engineers and allow new ways of experimenting with the type of machine once reserved for a the industry-connected few. I could go on, but these pictures of shoe designer Dr. Matthew Head‘s take on the now ubiquitous (thanks to Nike Flyknit) high-tech, super slick knitted trainer made on the Kniterate machine show how access to this tech breaks down design and manufacturing barriers and allows local manufacturing in a creative and more responsible and sustainable manner.

The Kniterate team aim to create a catalogue of yarns with the best knitting parameters for these, along with a yarn sales platform akin to the Amazon marketplace. With surplus seasonal yarn stocks an untapped potential resource there may also be an opportunity to partner with large international suppliers to inject luxurious and high tech fashion industry yarns into this maker-led movement, providing the opportunity to create products that truly rival those available in the luxury sector of the fashion industry.

Keep an eye on the blog for future experiments between BR Innovation Agency and Kniterate, but in the meantime, head over to their Kickstarter campaign and pledge to be part of the movement.

Also part of the Kniterate team are LCF Knitwear graduate Yi Ling, LCF knitwear student Jinhee Park and creator of the interactive display, Laurence Symonds.

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