Ismahane Poussin on type design with an old knitting machine from the 70s
Through her research, she discovered jacquard knitting, a technique commonly used to make football scarves. Wondering if she could practically combine jacquard knitting with type design, Ismahane set herself the task of realizing this creative ambition in the short four months she had left to complete her degree. She herself acquired a Passap knitting machine from the 1970s and, with “the precious advice of a friend” who knew how to use it, embarked on a project to create a series of knitted type scarves. , titled Salary against the machine.
The knitting machine was a tough biscuit to crack at first, and a far cry from the software it was used to – “no computer connection, no facilities for character design, no electricity”. Taking all of this in her stride, she began to invent her own design process. She used illustrator to create a suitable grid for each scarf, arranging it so that the number of pixels equaled the number of stitches she intended to make. Working a bit backwards, she adapted each letter to the grids rather than the other way around. “It was like doing pixel art, I was at very low resolution,” she says. “I was very happy with it because I’m obsessed with Windows 98, old computer aesthetics, and lo-fi artwork.”
As she continued her experiments, she began to notice how the knitting machine brought its own abstract aesthetic and quirks to her designs. “The letters are played as if my machine were also a typographer: the letters are wider if you knit vertically, for example. The back of the jacquard type also creates its own abstract pattern, which brings an interesting alteration to the legibility of the type. Ismahane began deliberately inverting parts of her knitting experiments to explore this relationship between lettering and pattern. When she finished the scarves, she scanned them and vectorized the letters straight from the yarn, “so that created some fun, organic alphabets or shapes,” which she used to make posters.
When it comes to what these typographic scarves have to say about themselves, Ismahane eschewed kitschy high street slogans like “100 percent Blonde” or “I’m lazy.” Instead, she wanted to use her project to draw attention to the negative impacts of fast fashion: “I knitted short sentences or figures, facts, information that might arouse curiosity or shock. “
Now that she’s finished school, she’s been experimenting with a hacked Brother machine, a knitting machine that’s been hooked up to a computer so you can knit patterns directly from digital software. Leaving behind the old Passap from the 70s and looking to the future, she hopes to be able to work full time as a graphic designer. But she also wants to keep knitting, concluding, “Maybe I’ll find a Brother and hack it?”