3-D Knitting

This is a sample from The Knitting School Newsletter that went out this morning. For complete content sign up for news in the side-bar.

All rights reserved. Copyright Helen Sharp 2017


If you work in the knitwear industry it is hard to avoid the buzzword “3-d Knitting”.

When I first heard the term a few years ago, I thought it was knitting done with a 3-d printer and I thought “What is the point of that?”.  Then I understood it to mean pieces that were knit to shape using a combination of fashioning and short rows, and I thought “What’s new about that?”.  After all, a sock is knit 3-d, so is a hat, gloves, an Icelandic sweater. Anything knit without seams can be considered 3-dimensional knitting.

Now, I am somewhat better educated in the matter. I even went to a 3-d knitting conference. And I am here to share my vast wisdom!

We can break down machine-made knit goods into the following categories:

Cut & Sew Knits: Garment pieces are cut from knit yardage just like woven fabric. T-shirts are cut and sewn. So are sweat pants, sweatshirts, leggings and most sportswear. The machinery needed to assemble the pieces is different from woven fabric machinery as it needs to accommodate the stretch of the knitting, and it’s potential to unravel. Overlockers (or sergers) are used for assembling  knit fabrics.

Cut & Sewn Sweaters: The difference here is that the pieces are knit in panels to the width of the garment, so there is less wastage. The pieces come off the machine, one after the other with a draw-thread separating each piece. The welts are finished, as are the side seams. A J shape is cut out for the arm-hole. The sleeves have slightly more wastage as there is usually a widening from the cuff to the underarm, and also a sleeve-head shape. Formerly, much sweater knitwear was made using this technique. If you read my article on Haute Couture you will remember the company Dehen, still working with old school knitting machinery and cut & sew techniques.

Fully Fashioned Knitwear: Garment pieces are knit to shape using increases and decreases. Less wastage. No need to cut the fabric. Cup-seamers and linkers are used to assemble the garments. Most fashion knitwear is made using this technique.

Knit & Wear: Shima Seiki, a Japanese knitting machine manufacturer developed the first machine that could knit an entire garment in the ’90’s. No seams. No assembly required. However, the design potential was limiting and the machines were mostly used to create underwear garments where the lack of seams provided more comfort. The early machines could only knit jersey (single-bed) garments. Now they have the ability to knit ribs in the round too.

3-D Knitwear: These machines (from both the German knitting machine manufacturer Stoll and Shima) can knit pieces that incorporate not only different stitch types but different yarns in the same course of knitting. Combine this with high tech yarns and very complex and sophisticated fabrics can be made, with channels for laces, areas that are more breathable, areas that are more elastic.  The pieces that come off these machines are finding their way into auto parts, aerospace, the medical field, the military and of course, running shoes. Fashion apparel? Not so much. But as with all things related to fashion – that could change.


The Nike Flyknit running shoe put 3-D knitting on the map

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