Knitic project, or how to give a new brain to knitting machines

knitic - Varvara&Mar


(originally created and posted on Arduino blog)

Knitic is an open source project which controls electronic knitting machines via Arduino. To be more precise, Knitic is like a new ‘brain’ for the Brother knitting machines allowing people to create any pattern and modify them on the fly. Knitic kit is composed by an Arduino Due, a diy printed circuit board on top of it, connected to the electronic parts of the original machine, (like end-of-line sensors, encoder, and 16 solenoids) and a software to control the needles real-time.

knitic - Arduino Due

In the past days I interviewed Varvara & Mar, the duo who developed the project. They’ve been working together as artists since 2009 and their artistic practices lay at the intersection between art, technology, and science. When I run into their project I immediately liked their approach as they see knitting machines as the first real domestic fabrication tool, that has been  overlooked in the age of digital fabrication.

Check the tutorial above and then below some answers to the questions I sent them.

How come you got interested in knitting?
Everything started in January 2012. We had an idea to knit poetry from spam emails. Hence, we were invited to the 3-month-long residency at MU gallery in Eindhoven and 1-month residency with solo exhibition at STPLN in Malmö,  to develop our project. After seeing MAKE magazine article on hacked knitting machine by Becky Stern, we thought it’s easy and fun to do the hack. Well, we had a bit underestimated the complexity of the project, but finally made more than one knitting machines work and started also Knitic project.

How and why did Arduino become useful to your project?
Arduino is A and B in our work. It means we use Arduino for many purposes, and to be honest, we don’t imagine our lives without it.
We applied Arduino already in our first hack of knitting machines, when floppy emulation script didn’t work for us, since we had 940 and not the 930 machine. Hence, we connected all buttons of knitting machine keypad to Arduino and were able to program knitting machine automatically.
In terms of Knitic, Arduino has a key role, because it gets the outputs of sensors, energize the right solenoids according to the pattern, and communicates with Knitic program written in Processing.

Some weeks ago you were at Maker Faire in Newcastle : which type of people got interested mostly about Knitic? 
Interestingly, the most interested group of people were Dutch educators and the ones connected to creative industries. Also people from local hacklabs were very interested.

In some of your presentations you said that knitting and some other more crafty practices are a bit overlooked by fablabs and makerspaces, why do you think is it like that? Is it a matter of gender balance or there’s something more?
We think it is mainly because of the gender and also because MIT, where the  concept of fablab comes from, is dominated by engineers and architects, who saw more potential in hard-surfaced object fabrication, like 3d printing, laser cutting, CNC, etc. Plus there is not much information about hacking and developing open source knitting or sewing machine online. But we hope that things are slowly changing and soon lots of makerspaces will have knitting machines and other tools for handcraft. Hence, we think Knitic is an important example for re-empowering crafts with novel digital fabrication approaches.

knitic - Makerfaire

I have a knitting machine at home and I realized you need a lot of patience to make it work, but then it’s fun. Do you think that these hacks could lower the barriers and make it more attractive to less nerdish types?
We don’t think that knitting requires more patience than 3D printing, for example. To be honest, with knitting one is able to achieve first results much faster than with a 3D printing machine. To learn a new skill always requires some time investment.

In your opinion, what type of micro-business connected to these knitting machines could flourish in the next years?
Good question. Definitely, custom made knitwear. At the moment, there are no services which are offering knitwear (sweater, scarf, etc) with your own pattern and letting you chose the yarn type. There could be also  lots of interactive knitting and unique pattern generations. For example, we are working on a project called NeuroKnitting right now.
Soon we’ll make more information available on it. In addition to that, there is another business option that is open hardware in the form of Knitic Kit (pcb and components) or, why not, the whole knitting machine.

Thank you!


The future of knitting


(Segue in italiano)

When a couple of years ago I got interested in the development of the first open-source loom and interviewed Margarita Benitez of Osloom I suddenly realized the potentiality of weaving, knitting and crocheting in terms of modularity and flexibility.

Now i’d like to present you two other projects that got my attention. They are not open-source, they are proprietary projects, but they show us how companies are researching and investing in new patented technologies that are revolutionizing the field.

Start with watching these videos. the first is a glance on the Nike’s Flyknit technology and the second is a short interview with the designers who developed it. They show us the first example of the knitting of one piece of trainer uppers using flat and circular knitting technologies. The shoe weights only 160 grams and has multiple yarns of varying properties!

Nike Flyknit technology film from Darrin Crescenzi on Vimeo.

If you want to know more technical information, read this article on knitting industry website and another interview with the developers (even if most of the answers start with the sentence: “We can’t share specifics”)

The second project is developed by Cem Yuksell at Cornell University and is about a new modeling technique that builds yarn-level models of complex knitted garments for virtual characters.
As you can read in the complete research paper in PDF:

“the tool provides the user precise control over the placement and the shape of each individual stitch with immediate feedback, and the final model is produced by a physically based simulation that relaxes local yarn shape, while preserving the global shape of the cloth model to ensure predictable results.”

knitting dress

In this 6-minutes video the concept is clearly explained and the amazing part starts at minute 2’30” during the relaxation phase, when mathematical model adapts to the shape of the body!

If you are interested in the future of fashion and manufacturing, these projects are a good starting point! We’ll do our best to keep you updated.



Quando un paio di anni fa mi sono interessata allo sviluppo del primo telaio open-source intervistando Margarita Benitez del progetto Osloom mi sono immediatamente resa conto delle potenzialità della tessitura, di maglia e uncinetto in termini di modularità e flessibilità.

Ora mi piacerebbe introdurvi a due progetti che da poco tempo hanno attirato la mia attenzione. Non sono progetti open-source, uno è proprietario, l’altro è un progetto di ricerca di un’università statunitense ma ci mostrano quanto sia alto l’interesse delle aziende sulla ricerca e gli investimenti di tecnologie brevettabii che stanno rivoluzionando questo campo.

Iniziate a dare un’occhiata a questi due video. Il primo mostra la tecnologia Nike’s Flyknit e il secondo una breve intervista ai designer che l’hanno sviluppata. Ci mostrano il primo esempio di scarpa sportiva prodotta con tecnologie di lavoro a maglia piano e circolare che vanno a comporre un il pezzo unico della parte superiore della scarpa. Quest’ultima pesa solo 160 grammi ed è composta vari fili con proprietà diverse (più o meno elastiche).

Nike Flyknit technology film from Darrin Crescenzi on Vimeo.

Per approfondire il lato tecnico potete leggere l’articolo pubblicato sul sito di “knitting industry” eun’altra intervista con gli sviluppatori (anche se quasi tutte le risposte cominciano con: “non possiamo condividere le specifiche…”)

Il secondo progetto è stato sviluppato da Cem Yuksell all’interno della Cornell University e tratta un softwear di modellazione tecnica per progettare capi lavorati a maglia per modelli virtuali con una precisione che raggiunge il livello del singolo punto. Come si legge nel paper di ricerca in PDF:

” lo strum ento fornisce controllo preciso sul posizionamento e la forma di ogni singolo punto, con feedback immediato e il modello finale è prodotto da una simulazione fisica che rilassa la forma dell’intreccio, mantenendo la forma globale del modello e assicurare così risultati prevedibili”

knitting dress

In questo video da 6 minuti, il concetto è spiegato molto chiaramente e il momento più interessante scatta al minuto 2’30” quando il modello matematico si adatta alla forma del corpo!

Se siete interessati nel futuro della moda e della sua manifattura, questi progetti sono un ottimo punto di partenza. Faremo il possibile per tenervi aggiornati!

The world in black and white / Il mondo in bianco e nero

Vodpod videos no longer available.

(EN) A couple of cool black and white music videos because today is such a cloudy day i can’t imagine any possible other colors, and I’m fond of Nina Simone and knitting.


(IT) Un paio di bei video musicali in bianco e nero perchè oggi è così nuvoloso che non riesco ad immaginarmi altri colori possibili, e  poi adoro Nina Simone e il lavoro a maglia.