Made in the Neighborhoods of London: How EcoKnitware Reduced Costs and Lead Time Knitting Scarves
December 11, 2020
In our first Study Case, we look at how EcoKnitware and Adapt worked to develop the Protest Gear project.
We thoroughly enjoyed being part of this as it struck a chord with everything that’s near and dear to us: An artist-led project with sustainability at its center and manufactured locally.
EcoKnitware, one of our earliest adopters in London, was founded with a simple mission: to manufacture small quantities of high-quality knitwear using sustainable and traceable yarns whilst reducing their eco-footprint by knitting locally in the UK.
Climate activists Adapt approached EcoKnitwear looking to launch a new scarf collection called Protest Gear. The goal would be to take the aesthetic of football scarves and use it to champion and call action to various causes, with a percentage of the profits going to climate NGOs.
Kniterate provided the technology that allowed Ecoknitware to take the Adapt designs and easily convert them into files to be knitted. EcoKnitware then used those files to adjust the machine parameters and knit the scarves properly.
Having a Kniterate machine gave EcoKnitware the capability to run small-scale production runs of on-demand knitwear. It also made the project financially feasible for Adapt. This was due to the local nature of manufacturing and the ease of converting designs to knitwear meant that for Adapt, testing the idea was more affordable and it could avoid the upfront costs and risks of investing in a minimum order.
The initial preorders of around 20 scarves have already been manufactured and are ready to be shipped.
We interviewed Tim from the EcoKnitwear team to discuss how their technology helps them every day.
Hi Tim, how did you end up with a Kniterate in your workshop?
Kniterate is the only digital knitting machine on the market which would allow us to knit on-demand knitwear for our fashion brand INGMARSON. One of the key requirements was to be able to easily take a digital design and turn it into production quality knitwear without complex digitization techniques. The Kniterate Digital design software gave us the ability to easily import our digital designs and turn them into instructions for the Kniterate knitting machine.
Our other requirement was machine size as we needed to be able to have the machine in a small studio in the heart of London. INGMARSON’s vision was:
- To be able to knit locally to reduce the carbon footprint for the finished product
- To be able to knit on demand, so we only knit items that are ordered rather than mass-producing unwanted items
Based on this vision, and the availability of the Kniterate machine, EcoKnitware was formed with the aim of producing knitwear, not only for INGMARSON, but also for other environmentally conscious clients interested in knitting small quantities of sustainable and environmentally friendly knitwear.
The easy to use digital design software, size, and price of the Kniterate machine means that it is now possible for any small business to be able to design, and knit small quantities of production quality knitwear locally.
How did Kniterate help you reduce costs and save time?
By having access to a Kniterate machine, we have completely changed the model for how our knitwear is produced.
It is very hard to find companies that will do small quantities for a competitive price, and almost impossible to be able to find this locally in the UK.
Being able to design and knit locally saves on months of sampling and knitting times allowing us to go from idea to knitted production-ready garments in hours rather than weeks.
This has reduced our costs dramatically allowing us to reduce the cost of our garments, and allow us to produce custom-made garments, locally in London and sell them at a price point that competes with fast fashion brands which are mass-producing in China.
By running our own machine, we also manage to have full control over the yarns to ensure they are environmentally produced, with high animal welfare standards and full traceability.
Now that we have the Kniterate machine running in our studio in London we can start working on the next part of our vision to reduce the environmental impact of knitwear production even further. We are starting to work with farmers, spinners, and dyers in the UK to create a locally produced yarn that matches the quality and feel of yarns sourced from abroad yet at a significantly reduced eco-footprint.
How was it to work in the Adapt project?
We love Adapt’s vision for producing scarves to raise awareness of the climate crisis that the world is facing, and we’re really excited to work on this project with Adapt and Kniterate.
The scarves are really complex to produce as they are multi-colored scarves. However, by working in close partnership with the team at Kniterate we digitized the designs, carried out the initial sampling and the scarves are now on sale and being knitted on-demand.
After using the Kniterate machine and software with such complex designs, we are now able to rapidly digitize designs and turn them into production garments for our clients, and looking forward to working with Adapt and Kniterate in the future to produce more garments for such a worthy cause.
What do you think this production model means for the future?
The ethos and vision of both INGMARSON and EcoKnitware are to be able to produce environmentally friendly knitwear locally on demand. The fashion industry is beginning to change towards this slow fashion model where people are interested in high-quality products that are produced locally rather than mass-produce overseas.
Due to the Kniterate machine and digital design software, we now find ourselves in a perfect position to be able to meet this demand and still produce high quality, environmentally friendly, sustainable garments at a price point that competes with the fast fashion industry.