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Mathematical scarves knit in luxurious merino. Algorithmically generated patterns, no two scarves are alike. Knit in Seattle, WA.
Mathematical scarves knit in luxurious merino. Algorithmically generated patterns, no two scarves are alike. Knit in Seattle, WA.
795 backers pledged $124,306 to help bring this project to life.

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Update: Stretch Goal Reached! New Color Added!

Many of you have asked what it would take to add another color to this run of knits. The answer was $7,000. At $107,000 of funding, we added a third color, which makes three colorway possibilities: Black + White, Black + New Color, White + New Color. You will get to vote on the color. Those who pledge more, have more weight in the color choice. Yarn is purchased in 100 pound pallets, so the new color will have to be something many of you love. You will be able to mix and match your orders. So if you are at the two scarf level, you will be able to choose one scarf in Black + White and one scarf in Black + New Color. No need to change your pledge or up your pledge for the new color, it is included for all backers. This stretch goal has been reached, so the third color option will ship!

Will the new color be green? Blue? Red? Or perhaps purple?

KnitYak is making noise! As seen on:

KnitYak: custom mathematical knit scarves

KnitYak makes custom provably unique knit scarves and other computationally fabulous knit items with mathematical algorithms.

Hi, I'm Fabienne, but you can call me fbz. I'm a passionate hand-knitter and mathematician who works with hardware and electronics. Four years ago I bought my first consumer knitting machine, modified it, and fell in love with knitting algorithmic computer generated designs. I tried to have a collection of unique pieces manufactured in a textile factory, but found that no one was producing one-off knitwear. Be a part of this project and help KnitYak purchase an industrial knitting machine and start a new kind of local on-demand textile industry.

Unique Scarves

When I started out modifying knitting machines it was because I wanted patterning that was beautifully non-repeating. I wanted something that looked great no matter how I draped it or wore it. To find algorithms that produce great knit patterns, I set out on a journey to find code that created images that look great "pixelly" as a knit. Knitting is made up of tiny "v"'s, not square pixels, so that also played into the choice of algorithms.

One of the algorithms I ended up loving was an elementary cellular automaton that generates great knit patterns which are non-repeating in some lengths, and yet not noise. Noise is the random "snow" that you used to get on an analog TV when it wasn't tuned to a channel. I was looking for outcomes where you could visually see that a pattern had order and meaning. I also wanted a pattern that looked great with many outfits and with prints or solids.

The final outcome is KnitYak: provably unique scarves and knits using elementary cellular automata. Your KnitYak scarf is something you will want to wear for a long time. I wanted patterns that wouldn't feel trendy. All of the scarves are provably unique; no one has the same scarf as you and I can prove it. KnitYak scarves ship with the specific code and generating key used to make the pattern on your scarf. There is something powerful about knowing the mathematics and code behind the pattern you are wearing. If you want to reorder the exact same scarf or a similar coordinating scarf in the future, you provide KnitYak with the source code. Perhaps you want to knit matching items on your modified consumer knitting machine or with hand knitting. With the source code and generating row and width constraints you receive with your KnitYak scarf, you can generate a number of coordinating items. 

Quality

I am an obsessive hand knitter who loves high quality fiber. If I had produced an inexpensive run of scarves overseas, the scarves would have had to have been knit in squeaky acrylic yarn. Besides that, an overseas manufacturer can only produce 5000 copies of the same scarf. From KnitYak you receive a custom unique scarf in high quality merino. No two KnitYak scarves are the same.

I chose merino wool for the first run of scarves because it is soft, luxurious, warm, and comfortable to wear next to the skin. Merino won't pill or fuzz and lasts a lifetime. Wool knits don't wrinkle. As with other luxury fibers like cashmere, merino is hand wash cold, lay flat to dry or dry clean. KnitYak's yarn is sourced from one of the few remaining fiber mills in the USA. The merino wool is dyed and spun onto cones in the USA from New Zealand wool. Your KnitYak scarf is knit using black and white cones of this USA produced premium quality merino wool.

The other aspect of quality in these knits is that using a top of the line industrial knitting machine here in the USA means no hand work is required. All of the knitting and finishing is automated on the machine. This means that there are no sewn borders on your scarf; all of the casting on and binding off is done by the industrial knitting machine. I did not want to create any need for fiddly linking or hand finishing work for low pay. As I love hand knitting, I wanted to have my free time not fulfilling orders not to be taken up by hemming, casting off by hand or any hand linking of knit edges. Also, I did not want to pay someone a very low wage to do the tedious finishing work. The machine doing all the knitting and finishing frees me up to pack and ship all of your lovely custom orders and to hunt down and create fun new algorithms for knitting patterns.

Double Bed Jacquard

Your KnitYak scarf or wrap will be knit in a technique sometimes called double bed jacquard or just jacquard. Jacquard is a misnomer in that a jacquard loom weaves and a knitting machine knits. It was named jacquard in that it can produce "picture knitting" like a jacquard loom can produce woven images. In hand knitting terminology, this knitting technique is called double knitting. Regardless of what this technique is called, the resulting fabric is perfect for scarves and wraps. The fabric that comes from this technique has no floats (there are no un-knit strands of yarn that hang on the reverse side of the fabric) and double bed jacquard knitting will not curl. It is thicker than a single knit piece of fair isle fabric, and is therefore warmer. Knit in lace weight merino yarn, double bed jacquard still has lovely drape and is not stiff. Currently, the best you can do on a consumer knitting machine is to have one "smart" side of the fabric with an image and one striped or checkered side of the fabric. I am working very hard to make this first production run of KnitYak scarves and wraps have two "smart" sides to the fabric. The ultimate goal is to have the opposite colors knit on the back from the front, as with true double knitting in hand knitting parlance. This may very well be possible with this run of Kickstartered scarves, but they will have at least one beautiful patterned side, as with consumer knitting machines.

There is very little to no waste produced when knitting two color scarves in double bed jacquard. Exactly as much yarn as is needed is used from the cones of merino yarn for each scarf. There are no discarded borders or scraps. At the extreme, you could even unravel your scarf if you tire of it far in the future. Knitting can be unravelled back to yarn that you can use to knit something else. The high quality merino KnitYak uses won't wear out or pill and will be reusable far in the future as reclaimed yarn.

Elementary Cellular Automata

KnitYak makes scarves and wraps with elementary cellular automata algorithms. An elementary cellular automaton (plural: automata) is a computer algorithm which follows a set of simple rules.

The images that are generated from the algorithm are created as follows. Each elementary cellular automaton has rules explaining what happens to a cell for the next row, based on the cell above it, and the cells above and to the left and above and to the right. For example, Rule 110, (seven scarf-sized iterations of which are shown above), follows these rules:

Each cell is affected by the previous row above. Following the leftmost square on the diagram, a black cell in the previous row one cell to the left, and a black cell above, and a black cell above and to the right means that in this row, the cell will be white. Now take a look at the second square from the left on the diagram. If one cell up and to the left is black, and the cell above is black, and up and to the right is white, then the new cell will be black. You may have even recognized that 01101110 is the binary representation of decimal number one-hundred and ten. That is why this rule is named Rule 110. Mathematical!

Each of the seven scarf sized iterations of Rule 110 above have different initial conditions. Which cells are "turned on" or set to "one" in the first row determine the initial conditions. Below is a GIF that shows an iteration of rule 110 in a width of 61 cells with a first row where the cells (23,0) (42,0) and (60,0) are set to "one". Each new row below is generated according to the set rules of Rule 110 from the previous row.

When knitting the KnitYak scarves, each cell or pixel is represented as one knit stitch. With Rule 110 (notably a Turing complete rule), I have chosen to make the points of the "v"'s of the knit stitches correspond with the bottom points of the triangles. For other rules, such as Rule 73, I flip the knitting 180 degrees to line up with square edges produced by the emerging pattern of the rule. KnitYak scarves will be knit from many different rules of the elementary cellular automata algorithms, but only from the rules that look gorgeous in scarf and stole widths and lengths.

As the old saying goes, a GIF is worth a thousand words. Here below are some examples of Rule 110 pattern generation in scarf lengths. Would you like to generate your own Rule 110 GIFs? Here is the code I wrote for these.

Rewards

$1: Gain access to all of the KnitYak updates. If you like, your name will be added to our website thank you page as a funder. You will see all of KnitYak's project updates and receive our undying gratitude!

$40: The KnitYak black and white merino knit square. Provably unique 7 inch by 7 inch square of knit fabric using an elementary cellular automata algorithm. No two are alike! Your square is a special snowflake of the knit variety. Use it as a small piece of art, sew it into a decorative pillow cover, or just pet it longingly while dreaming of electric sheep. They are essentially the very beginning of a KnitYak scarf. These will be manufactured from black and white USA spun merino on demand for you in Seattle, WA.

$150: The KnitYak scarf is a luxurious black and white merino scarf, knit with a pattern generated by a computer algorithm called an elementary cellular automaton. No two scarves are the same. Your scarf is the only one like it in the solar system. The scarf is 7 inches wide by 75 inches long (17.78cm wide by 190.5cm long). It is made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. It will be manufactured on demand for you in Seattle, WA.

$300: Two KnitYak scarves in premium quality black and white merino, knit with patterns generated by elementary cellular automata algorithms. You can specify if you would rather the two scarves be similar or be very different before we produce them. Similar scarves are generated from the same rule with a different starting seed row and different scarves are knit from different rules. See the explanatory image here below:

Each scarf is 7 inches wide by 75 inches long (17.78cm wide by 190.5cm long). They are made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. They will be manufactured on demand for you in Seattle, WA.

$380: The KnitYak wrap is a custom unique large knit wrap (very wide scarf) in merino. KnitYak will generate a provably unique wrap for you with an elementary cellular automaton algorithm. No two wraps are the same. Your wrap is the only one like it in the world. The wrap is shown here in a seashell algorithm, but yours will be knit with an elementary cellular automaton rule. This wrap could also be used as fabric to cut and sew your own creation. If you are handy with hand sewing or a sewing machine, there is enough fabric here to perhaps cut and sew a small or medium sized sweater with 3/4 length sleeves. The wrap is 20 inches wide by 62 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 157.5 cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Manufactured on demand in Seattle, WA.

$760: This reward level is for two custom unique large knit wraps in merino. KnitYak will generate two provably unique wraps for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. The wraps shown here are in a seashell algorithm, but yours will be knit with elementary cellular automata rules. You can specify whether the two wraps should look similar, or if they should look very different (similar: same rule, different starting seed row, different: different rules). See the image here below:

With the two knit wraps pledge level, you can also specify to have the two wraps knit in one extra long piece from one iteration of an elementary cellular automaton algorithm along the whole length. This wrap or these wraps can also be used as fabric to cut and sew your own creations. You could sew the two together to make a small throw blanket. Two wraps of 20 inches wide by 62 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 157.5 cm long) or one long wrap of 20 inches wide by 124 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 314.9 cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

$1337: Nine custom unique knit scarves in merino. KnitYak will generate nine provably unique scarves for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. Each of your scarves will be unique. You can specify if you would rather some or all of the nine scarves to be similar or all very different before we produce them (similar: same rule, different starting seed row, different: different rules). Please see the explanatory image above under the two scarves reward. Each scarf is 7 inches wide by 75 inches long (17.78cm wide by 190.5cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

$3400: Receive nine custom unique knit wraps in merino. KnitYak will generate nine provably unique scarves for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. The wraps shown here are done in a seashell algorithm, but yours will be knit with elementary cellular automata rules. Also, all nine wraps will be different with unique patterns. You can specify if you would rather some or all of the nine wraps to be similar or all very different before we produce them (similar: same rule, different seed starting row, different: different rules). Please see the explanatory image under the two wraps reward. Each wrap is 20 inches wide by 62 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 157.5 cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

How the scarves are made

Your KnitYak scarf starts as computer code which generates a pattern. The elementary cellular automaton algorithm generates a pattern and KnitYak makes sure it is a unique pattern using more code, so no two scarves are alike. You receive a preview of the generated scarf before it is knit to confirm that you love the pattern. The unique pattern is then sent to the knitting machine which knits it using two colors of merino yarn. Your finished scarf is shipped to you with a description of the algorithm used, the exact source code for your specific scarf, and the exact seed parameters and width used to generate the pattern on your unique scarf.

The Kickstarter goal amount

This Kickstarter will help KnitYak purchase an industrial knitting machine for manufacturing local to Seattle, Washington. The $100,000 minimum funding on this campaign covers the break-even minimum to: purchase an industrial knitting machine, ship a machine to Seattle, pay Kickstarter fees and payment provider fees, pay state and city use tax, pay state B+O taxes, pay state sales tax, purchase the yarn for this production run, pay for shipping and packaging, and pay the rent and electricity for a light industrial space for the machine. KnitYak wants to bring you the best quality locally produced knitwear possible. Our spreadsheets and our financial plan have been examined and revised by financial experts and people who run businesses. If we raise this Kickstarter goal of $100,000 we are confident we can deliver all of the knitwear sold in this Kickstarter campaign. We are going to need every dollar of this goal to get where we are going.

Previous work with knitting machines

For the last four years, I have worked with modified consumer knitting machines. It all started with a project called Multi threaded Banjo Dinosaur Knitting Adventure 2D Extreme!!!!! built by Travis Goodspeed, Arjan Scherpenisse and myself over three days in Amsterdam in 2010. We made an avatar creation station, a top scroller 8-bit video game in which dinosaurs were bad and banjos were good. If you won, your name was immortalized in a physically knit winner's panel displayed in a large window facing the street. Many months after we finished with the project and the gallery show in which it was displayed, I purchased the same machine back and had it shipped to Berlin where I was living at the time.

I then spent six months just understanding the maximum limits of modified consumer knitting machines. My machine, a Brother KH930, had a hack with an emulated floppy drive I had extended with Travis Goodspeed from work by Steve Conklin, Limor Fried, and Becky Stern. The extra scripts we wrote to control it all from the command line are here. Travis and I also made an extra button pushing matrix open source hardware and software board and the write-up is here.

In my six months of exploration on the machine, I figured out how to knit double bed jacquard on my old machine and I produced a set of Mate Cosies. The Mate Cosies were an experiment to see how far I could get with small production runs on my consumer knitting machine. I released the pattern here which also explains in detail how to set up Brother knitting machines for double bed jacquard which had been missing elsewhere online. Some of my consumer knitting machine work is documented here, here and here.

It turns out that even small production runs on my modified and improved consumer knitting machine were very hands-on and quite time consuming. The missing function of a consumer knitting machine is the ability to bind off or finish the last row. From the way the machines are built mechanically, there is not simple or even moderately complex solution to add on the functionality to bind off. Binding off by hand is very time consuming on the tiny stitches produced by even a consumer knitting machine. Pictured here below is the bind-off for one of my Mate Cosies.

Industrial knitting machines, it turns out, have had the ability to bind off for decades. That is why it is so important to get an industrial knitting machine with this campaign to bring back local and on-demand textile manufacturing. Please support KnitYak in purchasing an industrial knitting machine to change the way textile manufacturing is done.

Thank You!

This Kickstarter would not have been possible without you, the backer, and without the generous and way-beyond-the-call-of-duty help of:

Star Simpson, Dan Shapiro, Nuvelocity Video Production, Sam Muirhead, Lenore Edman, Michael Ossmann, Thorsten Haas, Joe Heinrich, Greater Seattle S.C.O.R.E., Ellen French, and many others. Thank You!

Risks and challenges

One challenge KnitYak faces is the reliability of the industrial knitting machine we purchase. KnitYak is sourcing a machine directly from the manufacturer with a warranty.

Another challenge is the proper use of the machine. The price of the machine includes an eight week hands-on training course for the knitting machine operator which I will attend. Also, I have worked with modified consumer knitting machines, designed electronics, written software, and am quite good with mechanical machines.

A machine of this size requires a special location with noise being allowed and with higher power available. I have sourced two possible light industrial offices for rent in south Seattle which meet these needs.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Support KnitYak and follow along with KnitYak's progress. Gain access to all of the backer updates. If you like, your name will be added to our website thank you page as a funder. Thank you for your support!

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    KnitYak square

    Custom unique knit square swatch, 7x7 inches (17.78 x 17.78 cm). KnitYak will generate a provably unique square with an elementary cellular automaton algorithm. No two knit squares are the same. Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    KnitYak scarf

    Custom unique knit scarf in merino. KnitYak will generate a provably unique scarf for you with an elementary cellular automaton algorithm. Your scarf is 7 inches wide by 75 inches long (17.78cm wide by 190.5cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    Two KnitYak scarves

    Two custom unique knit scarves in merino. KnitYak will generate two provably unique scarves for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. You can specify if you would rather your two scarves be similar or be very different before we produce them (similar: same rule, different starting seed row, different: different rules). Each scarf is 7 inches wide by 75 inches long (17.78cm wide by 190.5cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $380 or more About $380

    KnitYak wrap

    Custom unique large knit wrap in merino. KnitYak will generate a provably unique wrap for you with an elementary cellular automaton algorithm. This wrap can also be used as fabric to cut and sew your own creation. The wrap is 20 inches wide by 62 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 157.5 cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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    Pledge $600 or more About $600

    Four KnitYak scarves

    Four custom unique knit scarves in merino. KnitYak will generate four provably unique scarves for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. You can specify if you would rather your four scarves be similar or be very different before we produce them (similar: same rule, different starting seed row, different: different rules). Each scarf is 7 inches wide by 75 inches long (17.78cm wide by 190.5cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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    Pledge $760 or more About $760

    Two KnitYak wraps

    Two custom unique large knit wraps in merino. KnitYak will generate two provably unique wraps for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. You can specify whether the two wraps should look similar, or if they should look very different (similar: same rule, different starting seed row, different: different rules). With this pledge level, you can also specify to have your two wraps knit in one extra long piece from one iteration of an elementary cellular automaton algorithm along the whole length. This wrap or these wraps can also be used as fabric to cut and sew your own creations. You could sew the two together to make a small throw blanket. Two wraps of 20 inches wide by 62 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 157.5 cm long) or one long wrap of 20 inches wide by 124 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 314.9 cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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    Pledge $1,337 or more About $1,337

    Nine KnitYak scarves

    Nine custom unique knit scarves in merino. KnitYak will generate nine provably unique scarves for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. You can specify if you would rather some or all of the nine scarves to be similar or all very different before we produce them (similar: same rule, different starting seed row, different: different rules). Each scarf is 7 inches wide by 75 inches long (17.78cm wide by 190.5cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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    Pledge $3,400 or more About $3,400

    Nine KnitYak wraps

    Nine custom unique knit wraps in merino. KnitYak will generate nine provably unique scarves for you with elementary cellular automata algorithms. You can specify if you would rather some or all of the nine wraps to be similar or all very different before we produce them (similar: same rule, different seed starting row, different: different rules). Each wrap is 20 inches wide by 62 inches long (50.8 cm wide by 157.5 cm long). Made from USA produced soft merino wool in black and white. Made in Seattle, WA.

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Funding period

- (30 days)