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The Myth of the Silhouette on Form Thinking in Knitwear Design

This thesis presents and discusses the results of foundational experimental design
research in the field of fashion design methodology, with a particular focus on
knitwear. The research explored and broadened the foundations of form-thinking
in the design process for knitwear and knitting, with the objective of developing
alternative form-concepts and working methods relevant to practitioners and
students active in the field.
Knitting is not simply designing using yet another technique; it is designing from a
different perspective. When making a knitted item, no material has to be prepared
beforehand, as material and item can be created at one and the same time. Thus,
the prevalent distinction between form and material as two separate parameters in
the design process for knitwear can be questioned. Hence, developing the design
process for knitwear by focusing on alternative ways of understanding the notion
of form is of great significance as regards further developments in the wider field of
knit and knitwear design.
The key aim of the research was to replace the silhouette – used as a guiding
principle in form thinking – with the notion of invariants, which define what we
do as we knit a given garment. The notion of invariants used in this thesis comes
from topology, and refers to properties that do not change under non-destructive
transformations. The form of the garment is then given by basic invariants, which
define what we build and how we build it. As these properties do not change
under non-destructive transformations, they do not suggest a specific silhouette
with regard to ready-made garments, but rather a more fundamental form, which
characterises the garment throughout making and use. Employed in this way,
the notion of an invariant introduces a form of concrete geometry which focuses
directly on the specifics of making.
Several initial experiments are described in brief, and this is followed by a discussion
of the three more elaborate design experiments which led to the development of a
theoretical framework. This is then exemplified with the last design experiment, in
which theory informs the set-up, and consequently shows the design potentials of
the suggested method.
Keywords: knitwear design, form thinking, silhouette, practice-based design research
Boras, 2015

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University of Boras