Thursday, October 21, 2010

Knitting A Yarn

This school year at Politecnico di Milano is focused on knitwear. We learn to knit on the machines, design knitwear, make patterns for stretch fabrics and drape with stretch fabrics.  The machines are manual so we have to thread them, then move the carriage from left to right over and over while changing settings and such. And if one little mistake happens, the whole thing unravels. It is very satisfying once you get the hang of it, but so far, more often than not, it is quite frustrating. In the photo below, it looks like I'm a pro but I'm actually in the midst of saying, "Wait, wait, I'm not ready. I lost a stitch."

This is the setup of the macchina maglieria. We put the cones of yarn on the floor and thread the yarn through the wires above the machine. The yarn can be a combination of two or three yarns to create a different thickness or color combination. Then the yarn is loaded into the carriage, pictured on the left below. The needles are put into the correct position, depending on the pattern, and the carriage is moved across to thread the needles. A comb is then inserted from the bottom to hold the stitches and then the carriage is pushed from side to side until the sample reaches the correct length. The comb is the metal piece with the holes and the black weight hanging from the bottom.

Below, the sample is in the process of being cast-off, which is done by hand, with the tool in the first photo, which moves each stitch, one by one.

Below is my first complete sample. The yellow yarn at the top is the waste yarn that gets removed at the end. I have about a million more samples to do before the semester ends.

Outside the school with my Magnum Gold ice cream bar (painted with gold butterscotch!), perche devo avere dolce dopo il mio pranzo. That means "because I must have dessert after my lunch." Actually I must have dessert after every meal and for breakfast as well. Nutella happens to be the national breakfast of Italy, says it right on the label.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Lifetime Of Fashion

One of my favorite stops on the way to Florence was the Fondazione Cerratelli. This is a foundation that houses a huge collection of costumes for theatre, and such. When we went, there was a painter who was dressing up his models in 18th century costumes. He then posed them, photographed them and he would later use those photographs to paint a huge mural. Amazingly, we got to touch everything and we even got to use the costumes in a little spontaneous project. We were put into groups and our goal was to combine the vintage garments into a modern, present-day outfit.

Below are the styles that the class came up with, starting with my group.

In Florence, we went to several apparel museums. The first was at Museo Pietro Annigoni, which featured sculptural dresses.

When we went to Emilio Pucci's residence, I was well aware it was a rare gift. Pucci is known for bright colors and wild prints. 

Back in Florence, Briana, Regine, Christina and I happened upon the House of Fabrics and its wonderful proprietor Romano Romoli. He enlightened us with history of Florence, including the flood of 1966 in which he lost 15,000 meters of fabric in the store. He also shared with us one of the poems from his book.

"Velo di Sposa"

Dov'e il nero cratere
che partori la bianca
Il ghiacciaio che la scolpi.
L'argento dei fiumi
che la imprigionarono.
Milleni oscuri ammanta
il muschio della foresta.
Soli due alberi
stretti in tenero abbraccio.
Bianca cascata
sull'alto dirupo
e velo di sposa
mosso da giovani venti.

"Bridal Veil"

Where is the black crater
that gave birth to the white
The glacier that carved it.
The silver of the rivers
that imprisoned it.
Forest moss cloaks
the dark millenia.
Only two trees
bound in a tender embrace.
White cascade
on the high precipice
is a bridal veil
moved by young winds.

If that wasn't enough, he also personally draped us in some of his fine fabrics.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Knitting The Wool Over Your Eyes

We stopped a few places along the way to Florence. One of which, was a wool recycling plant. It was wonderful to see that all of these sweaters that people throw away end up in this plant to be recycled. The sweaters are first sorted by color, then the trimmings, buttons, etc. are cut off. From there they are put into bundles and stacked all the way to the ceiling until they can be ground into small fibers. The fibers are then sold to a company that spins them into yarn.

The colors in this plant where so beautiful. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Recycling is sexy.

These factories have their own form of dust consisting of wool fibers.

The yarns are then sold to companies such as Steiger. Steiger is a knitting machine company that continues to push the evolution of knitwear. Knitwear designers come to Steiger and the two companies work together to develop new stitches and techniques.

Some knitwear ends up at the recycling plant, some ends up in the closets of consumers and some are lucky enough to be collected at Deanna. Deanna is a knitter and also an avid collecter of knit samples, designer knitwear, vintage clothes, and books related to fashion. This whole trip was a jar full of eye-candy.