Neo Knits

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By Sara Carpenter
A pair of designers dream up a fresh way of knitting pixelated fabric, powered by a 21st-century sewing machine.

After creating the Blur sofa for Moroso in 2010, New York–based designer Marc Thorpe collaborated with Jos Pelders, of the Dutch textile manufacturer Innofa, to conceive a fabric capable of pulling off a disappearing act.

To do this, the duo developed software to translate a 2-D design into a 3-D piece of material. The process, which took nearly two years to perfect, begins at the top of a complex sewing machine that resembles a miniature vertically oriented Large Hadron Collider. There sits a ring of needles containing an assortment of colored threads. When the software calls for a hue, a needle drops into the piece and the resulting stitch becomes a square "pixel" in the design. While this is occurring, the fabric is simultaneously knit (not woven) into layers, creating a textured piece of undulating peaks and valleys.

Applied to the sofa, the gradient design and texture moves from white to full saturation and challenges one’s perception of the piece’s shape. The overall beauty simplifies the Blur sofa into a singular image, achieving Thorpe’s goal of minimizing the form—and allowing us to pull a Houdini, no magic word required.

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