• The Disruptive Designer

Hacking a Hackett Jacket


This sample aimed to explore the problems and potential opportunities for digitally embroidering a removed pre-made jacket chest canvas from a manufactured jacket.

Half the jacket was deconstructed to allow the material to be attached to the embroidery hoop. Due to the thickness of the multi layers, the canvas had to be totally removed from the jacket front panel, which also prevented the embroidery being visible on the cloth side of garment. This particular chest canvas consisted on a chest felt, and 3 layers on differing canvases.

The chosen embroidery design is the William Morris design circa 1884, a floral wallpaper design that I used to laser etch on previous samples (See past blog entries) . Using an actual William Morris design raises several questions, particularly around the themes of copyright infringement, suitability, ethics and semantics. I could produce my own designs paying homage to Morris, however during this exploratory experimental phase I more keen to explore process and materials application rather than "design". I would like to find out what is possible, what affects can be created and how far I can push digital and craft processes. Using the same William Morris design throughout allows for consistent comparison and cohesive linkage of my work.

Digital Embroidery

I have a love hate relationship with digital embroidery and fascinated by the speed of productivity and variety of digital stitches available within the software design stage. The results can be striking and achieved in a fraction of the time compared to traditional hand embroidery. However, I do feel my work loses the "human touch" when 100% machine embroidered, resulting in a rather "stiff, rigid" and "forced" aesthetic. I am constantly tempted to "loosen" it up a little to mimic the imperfection element achieved by hand traditional hand embroidery. This raises questions on the relationship between designer and digital technologies and creativity, innovation and process. As discussed by Martin Woolley in his paper :Maintaining the human touch - exploring crafted control" within an advanced textile production interface, this sample explores the concept of "risk' by manipulating the embroidery machine during its production stage. As the operator/designer I am limited to what can be changed after the design has been sent from laptop to machine. The chosen fabric (chest canvas) is a passive material in the fact its visual appearance change is governed by the machine and the operator. The remaining considerations to explore are the operators technical knowledge regarding the machine usage and its capabilities and the operators creativity in manipulating the embroidered canvas during process. In both cases the operator keeps a close connection with the tool as seen in traditional embroidery.

I could have allowed the embroidery machine to fully automatically embroider the chest canvas, with no operator intervention, however I did not feel the experimental learning would be maximised as I already knew what the outcome would look like. I decided to allow a % of the sample to be machine automated with the remaining to have elements of operator intervention or "crafted control" (Woolley, M).

The stitch skip intervention was explored, which enabled the designer to stop the machine at any point during the production stage and "skip" forward stitches. The result as seen in the samples above, reveal the stabilzation stitches/framework that the machine uses prior to surface stitching which typically hides these. The purpose of these stitches is functional in that helps to prevent the canvas from distorting. The wire framework and understructure is helps hold shape as seen in Jason Heppenstalls scrap metal pieces and the canvas work in menswear tailoring. For me this is just as aesthetically pleasing and interesting as the resulting outcome and could be something that celebrated in it's own right. As the machine moves around the canvas it tends to leave a trail of thread, which normally is cut away by the operator, however here I consciously decided to keep them, which creates a "pin art" affect, breaking the images "clean and accurate" appearance. Leaving these also celebrates the fact a machine has been used in the process with the operator again celebrating the fact and not hiding it's usage. Taking the sample one stage further, I wanted to explore the craft of Rhinestone application, using hotfix heatgun, rhinestones and tweezers. Applying Rhinestones to an embroidered sample can only be really be done through a designer intuitive approach, and not really something that can be preconceived at earlier stages of the design process due to not knowing the embroidered design pattern pre hand. In this instance I left the sample in the embroidery hoop and scattered various rhinestones over the sample area, using tweezers to move them into position. Once I was happy with their size and position I applied heat using the gun.

Rhine-stoning the bespoke adhoc sample is incredibly time consuming and something that cannot be imitated by a machine, which adds to the uniqueness and bespokeness of the outcome, reinforcing the hybrid craft practice and therefore adding to the perceived qualities of uniqueness, luxury and craftmanship.