Seamless Knit – Dimensions Unfolding

An investigation of 3-dimensional knitted form-building

Through a practice-led design inquiry, Jyoti Kalyanji’s research project engages in a conceptual displacement of seamless knit technology in its endeavour to extend knitted form beyond surfaces that mould and move around the body, to focus on those that enclose 3-dimensional geometric forms. In this edited interview, Kalyanji explains how the project took shape.

“The research was guided by an architectural form-building approach, using performative operatives in the systematic fabrication of 3-dimensional cubic geometric forms; configurations commonly referenced across domains such as architecture, industrial design and engineering.

“Emerging from the research is a knitted form-building methodology encompassing a cubic form-building system. The system is supported through articulation of a cubic form-building domain that includes initial components for a 3-dimensional form library alongside a system of textual, symbolic and visual representations. Tools and resources have been developed to support the translation of 3-dimensional geometries into the knittable surfaces of the technology’s 2-dimensional programming grid. A range of 3-dimensional cubic artefacts have been produced, providing physical representation of previously unrealised fabrication capability through easily decipherable objects.

“The research and its findings demonstrate a space of possibility – of what could be – through new ways of approaching knitted form. More specifically, the research demonstrates the potential of knitted fabric within a new and emergent design dimension; one underpinned by 3-dimensionality, volumetric forms and tactile surfaces. The research engages with seamless knitting technology, so a textile fabrication technology which was originally designed and marketed for knitwear production. People are realising that it can actually do more complex fabrications in terms of technical knitwear and three-dimensional product – fabrications that can be applied in applications like furniture and footwear, those kinds of things.

“My research was aimed at demonstrating non-garment form-building possibility and alongside this, looking at a way of viewing and working with the technology that would abstract from the domain specific field and allow for a broader level of engagement, without having to know the digital knitting language.

“The research path really started in my undergrad. We were introduced to the knitting technology in year 2 and, in year 3 I started to use it more independently. In my Honours year I explored a bit more and started to understand the programming language, and then through my Master’s I was able to start applying this language to modify and create other forms. I only really reached the point where I had started to understand 3-D fabrication towards the end of the study – specifically the programming of a 3-dimensional cube.


“I knew the technology had the capability to fabricate perpendicular surfaces but I didn’t know any more than that. Examples of this kind of fabrication were very limited, and the technology is not easily accessible so there was not much in the way of points of reference. My PhD was really about understanding how to explore what was possible – I knew there was far more, but I didn’t have a sense of how to define or demonstrate some of this.

“I have always felt that as new and advanced fibres are developed and people start to understand the technology, it’s potential to move textile manufacturing into a high value and customisable production tool will become more evident – and it is something that we can do in New Zealand. We might not be able to do the mass manufacturing but we can do all the prototyping and the innovative research and development.

“Originally, I was intending to conduct this research as a collaborative project but I realised that if I went down a collaborative path, I would only be exploring a really narrow field in terms of a specific product or application. I wanted to look more broadly at the technology’s capability and then find a way for more people to access it in order to develop innovative products.

“There was an intrinsic motivation in knowing there was so much to discover and that kept me going in some form. The work is very process based, most of the value of the research comes out of the process. It’s not like you produce a product or a piece that holds the value as such, it is more that reflection of the practice allows for new methods of engagement and exploration to be extracted. One of the things that I didn’t expect and probably learnt the most from was the exhibition that I put together for the examiners before handing in the thesis. Thinking through the exhibition content forced me to go back through my practice and to reflect to pull it all together in a way that was easier to communicate and more accessible to a broader audience.

“If I hadn’t had to work through that exhibition and think about how I could demonstrate the value of process and the learning that came from it for the examiners, I wouldn’t have ever gotten to the place that the research ended up. It was probably one of the most value adding pieces in the end and really allowed me to represent findings from the research in a more accessible format.

“The research was all practice-led, in that the research was embedded in the prototyping, but I didn’t know what the outcome was necessarily and I wasn’t leaning towards a final outcome. I was trying to explore 3-dimensional knitted textiles but this isn’t really an area that has existed in the past. There wasn’t really language or process so a lot of the method or theory I used ended up coming from other areas and I ended up with a kind of form building process from the architectural field. That gave me another way of looking at textiles. Rather than thinking about the volume of a 3-dimensional form, you can also have the surface or the skin of that volume. Thinking about the 3-dimensional textile forms as the surface or skin of a 3-dimensional volume shifted my process to focus on surfaces or faces as an additive fabrication process – this shift is really what extended my thinking around the form-building process that emerged from the practice.”

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges
Mandy Smith

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© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021