There was some debate during our planning phase about what the term modular really means. The word modular itself means that the object (in this case, the project) has pieces that can be combined or connected in different ways. Couldn’t this speak true of so many knitting projects?
For our Stitch Lab today, there won’t be any technique tutorials — instead, we’ll be exploring the flexibility of the term modular as it applies to knits, and how there are many designers that are constantly stretching the boundaries of it’s applications.
While researching the subject, we came across this very interesting blog post, which discusses a technique for knitting originally patented by Virginia Woods Bellamy in 1948. According to the writer, Bellamy called her invention ‘numbers knitting,’ and used a collection of six elementary shapes that built up into a variety of garments. All of Bellamy’s pieces were designed and explained using the knitter’s workhorse, garter stitch, and her six shapes, to form mostly variations on knitted blankets. (She also wrote a book on the subject, but it’s exorbitantly expensive and hard to find!)
The idea of piecework or patchwork knitting, as modular knitting is sometimes called, is hardly a new idea — and has been explored by many knitters outside of Bellamy (though she is one of the only ones to patent it.) You might have encountered modular knits from Elizabeth Zimmermann, like the Tomten Jacket, which was re-visited by Jared Flood for adults on his blog, Brooklyn Tweed, in 2007. Or perhaps you’ve come to the technique by trying out a pattern like Wingspan. In these pieces, modular knitting takes on the definition of being built in small sections at a time — each wedge builds on the next, each square turns and miters and forms the next piece.
Other patterns expand on the idea of modular knitting in a more literal way — making ‘modules’ that will be knit together into a greater whole. Olgajazzy’s Aranami Shawl is one of our favorite examples of this, but there are others, like Svalbard, which uses pieces knit flat to form a dimensional garment built off of itself. You can see how the construction has no seams, as viewed in the Wool People 6 LookBook screenshot, below:
When you look at modular knitting as individual smaller parts forming the whole, it’s easy to see how a technique like entrelac could be considered modular. Since each piece is knit separately and builds into the diamond-patterned fabric, but these pieces aren’t individually responsible for the garment’s shape (they are only used within it,) entrelac is a bit of a stretch of the definition. Couldn’t you imagine Motley in our exclusive Spincycle colorway?
Be sure to check out this week’s newsletter to see some of the other ways we decided to stretch the definition of modular knitting, or come to our Stitch Lab, Modules, to learn how to create some of these techniques yourself!