As I explored the studio’s facilities I was mesmerized by the diverse and quantity of mechanical and electronic machinery used to create textiles. These varied from a selection of handlooms, computer interfaced looms, and electronic jacquard loom, to knitting machines, industrial knitting machine, digital textile printer and an embroidery machine. They had a combination of the most innovative tools as the most primitive ways of spinning yarn. The department focused not only on the design process but the structure and fabrication of materials to and techniques creating one a kind fabric to industrial production.
The looms ranged from simple knotting techniques to larger jacquard looms. Students were starting with this basic cross looping motion of the yarn from the vast selection of synthetic and natural fibers. These yarns differed in textures from crippled to smooth, colors, elasticity and strength among other qualities. Most of these synthetic and organic fibers were donated to the facilities and seemed to become brittle and their colors were fading.
The importance of having total control in the process and material formation of textiles seems inherent to the nature of the medium. The process of making textiles involves as much physical process as chemical. Their fully equipped dye lab had the option of chemically bonding color with organic materials as well as synthetic polymer fibers. They used a combination of urea, salt and soda ash diluted in hot distilled water. For pigment to set on the fabric without fading, it was then placed in a vapor machine for several hours, rinsed and then left to dry.
I found many measuring instruments in the dye lab addressing the importance of having exact measurements of the chemicals mixed. Because it is so heard to recreate the exact color twice, yardage of fabric was done simultaneously. Many color swatches with different times and quality fibers were available for student’s used. I also saw many inspiration boards with a diverse hue of colors use as reference for their color combination and pallets.
The more advanced students use the Industrial Knitting Machine. This machine seemed very complex and complicated. It hand an numerous amount of threads coming from different directions constantly moving back and forth in a repetitive notion. Many samples of knitted fabric draped in rows on hangers from the same machine but ordered through a company. They all differed in pattern, colors, textures, and feel. Some were more still and rigid while other where very elastic and flexible. Other seemed to have innovative synthetic fibers that reflected. The textile was closely knit while others were knit further apart giving a sense of transparency.
After walking for a while I finally saw a students piece draping on a model. It seemed like it was made by some organic wool fiber. I was not sure if the yarn was hand dyed or industrially dyed. This outfit had a combination of different threads probably industrially knitted. Stitches hold together these different areas of fabric. It seemed like it was a heavy material for it had a draping quality to it. The knit created an elastic feel allowing the fabric to contour to the surface of the body.