Textile Insight

March / April 2019

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TECHNOLOGY / KNITS What's Next Sportswear's Knitting Revolution Combines Form and Function. By Debra Cobb ove over, cut-and-sew. The advent of knitted footwear for sports and leisure has inspired a new way of thinking about the design and manufacture of active and athleisure sportswear. Today's seamless, flatbed and whole garment knitting machines are creating a new class of "knit-to-wear" garments that skip the assembly line; reducing manufacturing time, waste, and cost of labor. Using functional yarns and sophisticated knitting technol- ogy, knitwear designers are creating specific structures, zones, and design motifs, all in the same garment, com- bining form and function and offering opportunities for customization. Unlike sportswear garments that are cut and sewn from wide performance textiles, these knitted garments sport fewer seams, reducing weight and creating a more comfortable fit. Flat Knitting vs. Seamless There are several knitting technologies, each with its own benefits and drawbacks, being used to create today's sportswear garments, according to Dr. Andre West, assistant professor at the Wilson College of Textiles, NC State University. Seamless body-sized circular knitting, most often associ- ated with intimate apparel and Santoni machines, is quick and versatile, but requires sleeves, waistbands, etc. to be sewn onto the garment. Using Santoni Shanghai's 3D seamless technology, Studio Eva x Carola is at the forefront of innovation in performance textiles, apparel, and footwear. Many of their prototypes are displayed at the Spinexpo yarn and knitwear exhibitions. "Collaborating with Santoni Shanghai, we are able to engineer the materials on a stitch-to-stitch level and build in functional structures in a body mapping way. This gives us the opportunity to allocate functional zones seamlessly into a garment," explain co-founders Eva de Laat and Carola Leegwater. In contrast, flat knitting yields fully-fashioned "shaped" panels which require sewing or "linking" via machine to create the finished garment. It's extremely versatile when it comes to creating functional structures and visual effects. "There are no issues in flat knitting when it comes to sup- plying different structures for performance," says Markus Kirwald, technical director for the American division of machine maker Stoll. "Flat knitting is the way to go," he suggests. "Now you can produce cool designs with affordable knitting times, and be commercial and scalable." True seamless WHOLEGARMENT and Knit & Wear flat knitting technology from the likes of Shima Seiki and Stoll, while the most versatile, can be slower knitting at finer gauges. Designers and technicians must be specially trained to utilize the intricate software driving these sys- tems, which significantly reduce the cost of labor. "The market needs some time to transition to true knit-and- wear," West cautions. Finally, Italy's Cifra WKS patented warp knit seamless technology offers "a lot of potential," according to West. Warp knitting is faster than circular knitting, and thus highly commercial. Working on Karl Mayer double needle bar smart raschel jacquard machines, Cifra knits seamless garments with intricate jacquard and open mesh patterns. As the warp knit will not run when cut, the edges can be left unfinished. Cifra's main customers include Adidas, Lululemon, Wolford and Calzedonia. "Activewear really has the most potential for these technologies, as it can be the most technical as well as aesthetically exciting," maintains West. M "It's the biggest revolution in apparel." Anne Wiper, product VP/GMM for Smartwool. Cifra's Thermo warp knit seamless collection using insulating yarns. 16 • Textile Insight ~ March/April 2019 textileinsight.com

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