Following the capstone instruction, I adopt Gantt Chart which is really helpful in time and project management. Here I attach the latest version of my Gantt Chart
Design, Production and Prototyping
My capstone is compose of data visualization, machine knitting, and exhibition.
The user testing in the last 10 days concludes that the heat map or the stacked bar chart perform better at displaying the worldwide births and deaths than the stacked line chart. Users could obtain more information from the numbers and more sentimental feelings from the black-and-white contrast in these two data visualization.
In the Week of Mar 18, the focus of production moves from data visualization to machine knitting, as the machine had been delivered. The physical production could boil down to 3 stages: understanding how the machine works, hacking it with the open source, and automatization.
The machine Brother KH-930 was delivered with two thick books, one of which is an operation manual and the other is a pattern book. The good thing is that I scheduled enough time to understand the machine by tackling it. The learning curve takes as much time as I expected.
I successfully assembled the machine, following the manual. Nonetheless, I encountered a glitch on Mar 14, which took me a whole day to solve. When I tested out the plain knitting function of the machine, I stepped forward to turn on the machine to knit the built-in patterns that, in contrast to plain knitting, requires electronic control nor power. However, it kept blinking the number 888 on the screen. The manual does not list a solution to such problem. I googled and found an e-manual of another version on Amazon.com. According to the e-manual the blinking signals a CPU error. The manual also provides a way to fix it with a warning that this step clears all the memories. It halted me because the manual does not point out clearly what kind of memories would be cleared. Inspecific, the memories of the 500 built-in patterns, or that of the user input patterns? As I could not risk losing the built-in patterns, I went to another round of searching with different key words. Finally, somewhere in a old forum said that the step does not have an effect on the built-in patterns. The problem was solved without risk, after rounds and rounds of googling. I narrated the encountering in this report because through this glitch-solving process, I realized that there would be much difficulty to gather the information of such a vintage machine whose production has been discontinued since 30 years ago. In contrast to most of nowadays documentation that are searchable, the e-manual is a scan version of a physical copy and the solution from a user’s answer written many years ago in an old forum.
Apart from tackling the machine, I also read a book The Knitting Technology in order to get familiar with the analog form — knitted fabrics. The book, published in 1980s, covers many related topics including knitting terminology and knitting machine, for which it is worth reading and conducive to my learning about knitting.
The Knitting Patterns
The machine supports a dozen of knitting stitches and up to 500 built-in patterns. For each type of stitch, it requires a set of configuration steps — to operate the buttons and rotary knobs to the right position on the carriage. Sometimes it needs two carriages to work together. It matters to me to understand not only what a type of stitch pattern looks like, but also what operation the machine requires for such type of knitting.
The goal is to explore the possibility of integrating the texture of knitted fabrics into data visualization, which entitles the output object a third dimensional of attributes. For example. the concave or convex surface could represent a dimension of data. Here I list in turn the stitches I have experimented. Tuck Stitch requires some needles to skip the knitting loop for a few rows, so that the tense of the yarns on the skipped needles causes the loops nearby to tuck together. Skip Stitch also requires some needles to skip, whereas the output pattern is composed of holes. Lace, Thread Lace and Fine Lace patterns look similar and are always remixed. It especially entangles one thinner yarn as the pattern and a thicker one as background so that the thickness of the yarns sharpens the contrast of the color. I have not tried the Fair Isle Pattern. According to the description it is simply a two-colored pattern without difference in stitches or texture. I would further experiment the Weaving Pattern and Intarsia Pattern.
At this stage, it is for sure that the output fabric would take black and white as the data visualization marks. In my data visualization design, the third color is mainly used as a background and border to be distinguished from black and white. Nonetheless, the project no longer considers to use more than 2 colors because it requires manual operation to change to a third color. Instead, the project seeks to implement a knitted texture so that viewers can tell the pattern from the background according to the texture. For example, the pattern is knitted to be convex and the background concave. The next step would be to figure out the right pattern, and hack the machine to take the user input images, while I am waiting for PCB board electronic components to be delivered.
The open source, AYAB, controls the knitting machine digitally through Arduino and an originally invented Arduino shield. It provides the schematics and the bill of materials to produce the shield. I was not worried at all about find a factory to produce the shield, aka a PCB board. However, when I sent the package that I downloaded from Github to a factory, they rejected with the reason that the files are not well organized. What is more, after I placed the order from another factory, it printed the wrong version of the Arduino. It turned out that I was confused about the PCB files and therefore sent the wrong version myself. It occurred to me that even I probably would not need to design a PCB board for this project, I should at least know the basic of PCB in order to communicate with the factory. Here I express my appreciation to Rudy and Nicholas who answered me a lot of questions with their expertise and patience. I ended up ordering again and got the PCB board of the right version
Even in the world’s factory, I failed to find some counterparts of the electronic components that are required in the bill of materials. Fortunately, one Taobao vender provides oversea purchasing of the electronic components. Therefore, the purchasing costed more time than I scheduled.