The latest advent in knitting allows endless possibilities, not only in fashion and sportswear design, but also other applications that require highly versatile and technical fabrics.
Very often a designer’s ideas remain in the realm of dreams without the ingenuity of engineers. The proprietary flat knitting machines developed by German manufacturer STOLL, one of the world’s largest knitting machinery companies, has made many a fantasy a reality.
For over 140 years, Stoll has continued to perfect knitting technology, making some of the most advanced machinery being used by major brand names today. Its most recent innovation, Autarkic Direct Feed (ADF): autarkic comes from the German word autark, meaning independent or self-sufficient. It refers to the individually controlled yarn feeders that enable unprecedented pattern and colour variations that can be adapted to exacting production requirements.
With ADF, it’s now possible to choose from an almost unlimited spectrum of colour combinations with the company’s numerous patented techniques, which can be combined to create even more possibilities. While it is technically knitting, ADF is also able to make fabrics that look woven, adding another creative dimension for designers.
The machines also cater for a range of materials to be used. This means that materials like functional yarn can also be knitted into the fabric, giving it a pliable and mouldable texture that would be desirable for many different applications. The sports bra, which requires body mapping, would greatly benefit from these versatile ergonomic features.
According to Norbert Grobe, Director of Sales and Marketing of Stoll Asia, the applications for ADF are far-reaching, and not limited to fashion but also sportswear, medical textiles, furniture and even the automotive industry.
There are countless benefits to using ADF. “It’s very environmentally friendly because of an energy-efficient feature that results in a 20 per cent saving in energy, and there is little wastage of materials. It also allows for great diversity when it comes to patterns, materials and thickness, as well as flatness and 3D,” said Mr Grobe.
Optimal functionality and the knitting aesthetic are important considerations for sportswear and athleisure designers. Special yarns, as well as the physiological wearing properties, are often required. ADF allows for great flexibility in stitch tensions and sizing, making fabrics that are abrasion-resistant, cushioning, breathable and lightweight.
Some of the world’s best known sportswear brands use ADF on their signature sneakers.
The ability to use elastic threads in a variety of options is the perfect basis for medical applications in compression, orthopaedics and wound care. ADF is also used to produce fabrics for skateboarding, and knit fibres into complex, seamless shapes to create chic, light-weight yet sturdy furniture.