knitting + code residency in Bordeaux
I have been invited to a one week residency by Processing Bordeaux and Sew & Laine, two associations based in Bordeaux (France) from September 2 to September 6. This residency will be open to the public throughout the week but I will be available to show and explain the work that has been done on Saturday between 3pm and 5pm.
preparing for the residency
To anticipate and start some experimentations before getting my hands on the machine, I asked my mother to teach me how to knit using punch cards on her old Silver Reed MOD. 260. I grew up with her using this vintage machine from the eighties, punching cards to program patterns and me winding the wool (using it again felt like one of those Proustian moments). After a few hours of learning the basics, I borrowed the machine a few weeks ago and have been using it since.
The machine next to my desk. You can see the wool winder on its right side, and the instruction booklet next to it.
Close-up of a pattern being knitted. Using the punchards only allows for up to 24 columns.
The residency will be focused on generating and knitting images made from data sets. The idea is to create beautiful knitted visualizations with the traces we generate in our constant interactions with the digital world. For these visualizations, I’ll need a versatile typeface that can be very, very small and stay legible if stretched (stitches are rectangles, not squares like computer screens’ pixels). So I have asked fellow graphic designer Emilie Coquard to come up with a typeface that would occupy the smallest amount of space possible, but that could be scaled easily.
Early researches by Emilie for the tricodeur typeface using copies of a punch card as reference.
The following tests show in-progress renders of her work. The smallest font size is 3 stitches wide / 5 tall, which is small enough to place around 50 characters with spaces in a 200 stitches wide pattern (the ideal according to typographer Emil Ruder would be between 50 to 60 (with spaces), so this should work just fine for novels and long text!).
Smallest font sizes. Squares and circles show the stretch factor. Rectangle display units used to be common back in the analog TV era and were a pain to deal with in video formats, so I’m a bit worried about going back to that.
Artificial stretching made with punchcards as a test to the sturdiness of the typeface. Here each row is knitted twice in a row.
The back of the cover pattern. You can see small floats appear because of the sporadic use of one of the thread. Large floats can be a problem when managing two or more colors.
near future programmable knitting machine for generative design
I am limited to small patterns with this machine, but the machine I’ll have during the residency will be programmable by floppy disk up to 200 width patterns (and unlimited height).
The cable to connect a programmable knitting machine to the computer. This a simple FTDI cable hacked to enable two-way communication. Original tutorial and the modified, simpler alternative I used.
You can follow the residency on this website: letricodeur.com