03 July 2015

It's felting, Jim, but not as we know it

Having missed the textile graduates in week 1 of New Designers, I determined to get to the Royal College of Art show, heat or no heat, and had a good look at the printed, constructed, and cutting-edge MA projects; for the curious, each student has a profile and photographs here.

Then a quick walk-through of the Design sections - and this set-up caught my interest -

A carpentry tool as part of a knitting machine? Well, almost. It's a programmable needle felting machine, hacked from a jigsaw so it has PUNCH. The fabric samples were of considerable thickness, and the patterning can be subtle and precise.

Adam Blencowe describes his work:

Fuzzy Logic

A new technique that brings felting and digital technology together.
Using a hacked tool in combination with CNC, textiles can be bonded together by matting the fibres from one cloth into the other with a precision not typically found in felting. The marks created in the bonding process become patterns and pockets that enrich the surface of the fabric but also present the opportunity to make the material three-dimensional.
(CNC = computer numerical control)

In the felting, two layers of fabric are joined without stitch, by this busy little machine - see it at work on Adam's website. There are many design possibilities, of course, but what of the practical application, the resulting product? That is still in development. (I suggested using the fabric for absorption of sound from hard bare walls - the patterning would be striking in modern environments.) My feeling is that anyone who can think of combining plaster and ice to make molds out of frozen objects - the project is called "Thaw" - will come up with further new developments.
Strategic use of cable ties to position the computer-controlled punching needle

Fabric samples

Subtlety of design (via)
And this, the magic board, contains the history of the work of the machine - it's the foam into which the needle punches, so the marks are its tracings in making the fabrics -

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