The Openknit project is a Reprap-inspired, open source hardware knitting machine that can produce an adult-sized garment from yarn and a digital file in about an hour. The project includes plans for the machine, free/open software for designing clothes, and a promise to deliver STL files so you can print out the parts on your 3D printer.
Knitting, crochet, and other textile arts are, of course, a longstanding form of 3D printing -- using machines to deposit, align and interlock a feedstock to form 3D objects.
The Openknit garments are rather beautiful, as you can see from the Flickr set. If you're interested in understanding the underlying system, here's a good explanatory animation. It shows a high degree of ingenuity and skill on the part of the designers.
Presently, production outsourcing has become the norm: mass fabrication of goods at low costs improves corporate profit margins but pushes precarious labour conditions due to a race to the bottom in competing developing markets. Production entails long and precise processes before those goods reach our hands, many of which are pervasive in our daily life, and frequently in intimate contact with us, such as textiles. In such a context the market price we pay for goods has not absorbed the externalities created, thus we end up paying far less for them than the real impact they have in society and the environment.
OpenKnit offers an alternative landscape to this production model. It’s an open-source, low cost (under 550€), digital fabrication tool that affords the user the opportunity to create his own bespoke clothing from digital files. Starting from the raw material, the yarn, and straight to its end use, a sweater for example, in about an hour. Designing and producing clothes digitally and wearing them can now happen in the very same place, rewarding the user with the ability to make decisions regarding creativity and responsibility.
In order to increase accessibility to this new tool, a step by step assembly manual is published while the software Knitic allows you to design your customized clothes easily and feed them into the printer, just a few clicks away. Do KnIt Yourself, acts as an open-source clothing platform, a virtual wardrobe that allows users to share clothes, not only with those near you.
Deeply inspired by the RepRap project, OpenKnit is an ongoing project that waits to evolve organically with/for the community. There’s a long and exciting way full of possibilities to be developed, I can think about many of them, but happily some are still unknown. Join the project openknit.org