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Georgia Tech grad student Matt Gilbert has been making some awesome crochet from a pattern generator he made, finding inspiration in acoustics. He and I share a strong opinion that computing and iterative crafting (crochet, knitting, weaving, etc.) have much in common. He writes:

While the Jacquard Loom allowed for the beautiful and elaborate patterns to be woven again and again effortlessly, it automated the process of textile production, putting many people out of work and separating the producer from their product. Most of the weavers (or “spinsters”) who lost their jobs were women. Knitting was also automated in 1589 by William Lee, out of sheer jealousy that his wife was spending more time with her knitting than with him. Surprisingly, a similar historical event occurred in computation; the term “computer” was once a job title and those workers were also often women. Much of computation was seen as a kind of clerical work on par with typing and many of these jobs were lost once computation was automated.

On one level, this project is an experiment in appropriating technology for mass production for the purposes of small-scale production, while maintaining a connection between the producer and the produced good. This is what I call “augmented craft”, as distinct from automated production. The computer plays a role, but it does not displace the person.

I couldn’t agree more. And his sweaters are pretty eye-catching on their own, too! Via Extreme Craft.

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Becky Stern

Becky Stern is director of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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