Crafting the Composite Garment: The role of hand weaving in digital creation

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Piper, A ; Townsend, K (2015)

There is a growing body of practice-led textile research, focused on how digital technologies can inform new design and production strategies that challenge and extend the field. To date, this research has emphasized a traditional linear transition between hand and digital production; with hand production preceding digital as a means of acquiring the material and process knowledge required to negotiate technologies and conceptualize designs. This paper focuses on current Doctoral research into the design and prototyping of 3D woven or 'composite' garments and how the re-learning, or reinterpreting, of hand weaving techniques in a digital Jacquard format relies heavily on experiential knowledge of craft weaving skills. Drawing parallels between hand weaving and computer programming, that extend beyond their shared binary (pixel-based) language, the paper discusses how the machine-mediated experience of hand weaving can prime the weaver to ‘think digitally’ and make the transition to digital production. In a process where the weaver acts simultaneously as designer, constructor and programmer, the research explores the inspiring, but often indefinable space between craft and digital technology by challenging the notion that 'the relationship between hand, eye and material’ naturally precedes the use of computing (Harris 2012: 93). This is achieved through the development of an iterative working methodology that encompasses a cycle of transitional development, where hand weaving and digital processes take place in tandem, and techniques and skills are reinterpreted to exploit the advantages and constraints of each construction method. It is argued that the approach challenges the codes and conventions of computer programming, weaving and fashion design to offer a more sustainable clothing solution.
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