Meet Sergio, the new 19-year-old in my life.
Knitting gorgeous sweaters is my favorite thing in the world to do. The S/S 20 Collection included ten handknit tops. But, I thought, how can I scale this and include a range of sizes, and release more than one collection per decade?! I'm not quite ready to use a knitting machine, as some of my sister designers use. I also prefer using aftermarket materials, sometimes referred to as "dead stock" (or "preowned!")
Considering the amount of waste the fashion industry generates consistently, the possibility of upcycling sweaters is appealing. I'm always finding gorgeous cashmere sweaters at thrift shops. Previously I'd purchase them, unravel the yarn, wash it, dry it, wind it, and re-knit into new pieces. Quite the thorough process, but again, not scalable. How can I incorporate the sweaters into new designs and possibly combine the cashmere fabric with handknitted details?
The answer came to me in the form of a 19-year-old named Sergio. I met him on eBay. His previous owner wrapped him securely in bubble wrap and shipped him my way.
The first Friday night Sergio and I spent together, I took care to examine every inch of him. He has a little side storage drawer with all the accoutrements - a little screwdriver, tweezers, a tiny dropper bottle of machine oil, a cleaning brush, a set of needles, a hex wrench.
Something was not quite right with Sergio, however. His plastic casing looked as though it was bulging in certain areas and askew in others. Worst of all, he rocked back and forth like a wobbly table at an outdoor restaurant.
I poured myself a glass of red wine. This was going to take a minute.
Two hours later, having used nearly every screwdriver in my toolkit, and labeling all the plastic panels and bits and bobs so I could put Sergio back together again... he was COMPLETE. Rock solid. His four rubberized feet planted firmly on the table.
I felt like a mechanical goddess! When I plugged him in and turned on his little light - ah! Such satisfaction. Now, he needed to be threaded. That, however, would have to wait till the next session.
Sergio uses thread from four different spools. Each thread is guided through a 7-10 step path towards its final destination, either through a needle (there are 2) or under the pressing plate. Props to Singer, whose instruction manual is fairly thorough, with good technical illustrations. Even so, it took me about 30 minutes to thread the machine each of the first few tries.
Then, when I'd tried to sew a seam, a thread would snap or come undone and I'd start over again.
Bottom line... hand knitted sweaters are not going away from my collections any time soon! But with practice, and the help of my amazing associate Brianna, our Winter 20/21 Collection will feature upcycled cashmere sweaters, combined and reimagined in modern combinations.