Kniterate — the new essential tool for every Fab Lab and Makerspace

Kniterate is a digital knitting machine that is going to change the way we design, prototype & produce small batches of knitted garments, in the same the way that desktop 3D printers revolutionised design, prototyping and small-batch production in the manufacturing industry. Kniterate uses yarn to “print” digital clothing files via an easy-to-use internet platform, which means that users can design garments on the screen then press “knit” to make them.

Currently, professional knitwear designers send their designs to one of the large industrial knitting machine companies in order to get a knitted sample made and then sent back to them. If there’s something not quite right with the design, as is often the case, they have to go through the process again and again until it’s right. With Kniterate, the iteration loop is reduced from weeks or months to a matter of days, and brings down the associated costs significantly.

At the other end of the scale, independent sellers, for instance those selling on Etsy, are using manual domestic knitting machines, made in the 70s 80s or 90s, and requiring a fair amount of strength and patience to use. With Kniterate they can easily design on screen and then leave the machine to automatically print out their products while they do something else, thus empowering the small business owner to be more productive.

“Humans have been making clothes at home for thousands of years — this just happens to be the latest way to do it.”
Dr. Mark Miodownik, WIRED Magazine (November, 2014)

We at Machines Room do have a special interest in this machine. The Kniterate team are members and residents in our East London lab, and we have been closely involved with their development. We have purchased a Kniterate (it’s available on Kickstarter at the time of writing), and when it is installed next year, it will sit in our Fab Lab area alongside the laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutter, milling and routing machines as just another tool that our maker community can use on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Because we hire our machines out by the hour, we will repay our investment pretty quickly; by my reckoning, around 4–5 months. Just like we have already done with our 3D printers and other machines, we will develop a charging structure that works for professional knitwear designers, fashion students, Etsy sellers and hobbyists.

“This is a future that has the capacity to lead to a world where customisation and artisanal craft are the default, not the pricey added extra. Where products are not just one of thousands but are thousands of one-offs. Where innovation is open and versionable, driven by the tinkerers, iterators and context not the centralised corporate lab.”
Indy Johar — read Medium article here

To buy a Kniterate machine is ten times cheaper than its industrial counterpart. This is part of a new trend where start-up companies provide compact and cheaper versions of industrial tools in order to bring small scale production back to cities, with social and financial value being redistributed to local areas and also radically changing supply chains. It provides us with a new way to look at the way we will live in cities of the future, tying in to the Fab City vision that we are working towards.

“An inversion of the traditional image of fabrication, a Fab City would be a place that makes most of what it consumes within the city and recycles the majority of its waste. Maker spaces are seen as a prototype for this; rather than needing to ship a thousand stools from a factory abroad, the Fab Citizen would download a design file and fabricate a stool in their local Fab Lab from recycled materials…”
Gareth Owen Lloyd — read Medium article here.

If you live near East London and are interested in using our Kniterate once we have it installed, it would be really helpful to know how you would like to use it. From sweaters to shoes to smart textiles, it has huge potential, and we are keen to make as many people as possible aware of its existence and develop its potential. If you’re not in East London, Kniterate are keen to support workshops and organisations who want to buy a machine collectively — you can register your interest here