I have been studying at Stoll Germany for 3 and a half weeks now, and I feel that I can finally write a little bit about what the classes have been like.
We are learning how to program the computerized Stoll flat knitting machines using Stoll's latest software, M1+.
The software controls every aspect of the machine, including the speed of the motor, the amount of tension on the fabric as it knits off the needles, the size of the stitches, the distance the two needle beds shift when you do a racking transfer, the distance the yarn feeder stands from the edge of the fabric—absolutely everything. All these aspects must be considered and adjusted during both the programming and the knitting.
There are some great default settings as a starting point though, and many built in motifs and macros (they call them modules). Yes, there are deer, butterflies and snowflakes (no clowns). There are also cables and arans (10x10 cables—and the machine can knit them without breaking the yarn)!
These machines can knit the front of a sweater with cables AND jacquards in under 5 minutes (okay, depending). If you fine tune the program, you can DECREASE production time, a major issue.
If you are like me, and you are used to using a Brother Knitting machine or a Passap Knitting machine, the speed is dazzling. The techniques are awe-inspiring. This isn't even a “whole garment” or “knit and wear” machine, either. Those machines have four needle beds and you can knit a seamless garment with sleeves, patterns and everything. You don't even need to weave in the ends (well, maybe one or two).
The first two weeks were basic orientation to the software. The second two weeks we learned fully fashion techniques (to create shapes like necks and sleeves). We also learned a technique called “color arrangement.” Based on the way the machine handles intarsia techniques (did I mention most machines have three knitting systems and 16 yarn carriers?) you can trick it into executing the most amazing color and structure patterns you never dreamed. A student in the class from Amsterdam was able to create a fabric that was a 1x1 jacquard net on the back and a pointelle on the front using the color arrangement feature.
The students in my class come from diverse backgrounds.
Amsterdam works at a textiles lab and works with artists to help make their loopy fiber dreams come true. She has been using the Stoll equipment and software for a while now, and was sent by the lab to receive updated training.
Chicago is originally from Hong Kong where her folks run a knitting mill. She just graduated from the Art Academy and is here to get more skills.
Melborne has her own children's line and works with a artists hub where they have equipment you can access with membership. She teaches there. The Austrailian government sponsored her training here. Leischester has been operating and programming knitting machines since he was 16 and they were using punch cards. He is a freelance technician.
Eritrea owns his own knitting mill. A recent project they completed involved making close to 100,000 sweater vests for the South African officials who controlled crowds and traffic for the World Cup.
New Jersey graduated from art school a couple years ago and is interning with Stoll for six months.
They are interesting to talk to, kind, creative, and smart. They all have engineering minds. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. This stuff is hard!
That's where it ended. Some of you had more questions about the industrial equipment and other things that happened. Like, when I went to see the singing Christmas Tree in Frankfurt,
or when I ate Kangurufleisch at a Teppenyaki restaurant. Drop me a line . . .