BMW Residency: the Knitted Engine

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I’m just getting started on a very exciting project – a residency at BMW Plant Hams Hall in Coleshill as part of Lichfield Festival.

Local schoolchildren and staff from BMW Hams Hall  will be joining me to create ‘The Knitted Engine’, a collaborative piece exploring the hidden similarities between engineering and knitting. Traditional knitting and crochet techniques will be used to construct a replica BMW engine – presented as a three-dimensional exploded diagram – in a clash of making cultures.

This is my early (and slightly vague) ‘artist’s impression’ of the finished piece (which, I have to confess was based on elements of a lawnmower engine, rather than a fancy BMW one!).

I’ll be making most of the parts in workshops with the schoolchildren, but I have made a start on my crankshaft, and will add pictures of the work in progress.

The finished piece will first be on display for staff at the BMW plant, and then on show to the public in the South Choir Aisle of Lichfield Cathedral from 11-17 July, as part of the festival. I’m also running a ‘learn to crochet’ workshop at the festival.

Update: there are 5 posts in total about the Knitted Engine, from initial sketches and workshops to photos of the finished piece. View them all here.



As an engineer / knitter, I say “Brava!” This is awesome. Did BMW provide you with CAD drawings to work off of, or an actual dismantled engine? (Or an engine you dismantled yourself?)

  • Amy 

    Hi Mel, thank you! I was based at the BMW plant for a couple of days, so first I looked at some engine parts in one of their workshops just to get an idea of what everything was (and looked round the plant, seeing the production line was ace). Then one of the staff put together a load of diagrams for me, to show how the bits go together and remember the names. That enabled me to get my head round the structure of the engine – and finally I looked in more detail at the engine parts, measuring / photographing / drawing them to give me instructions to work from when I was back in my studio.


Latitude: knitters needed

Sunday, May 22, 2011

 As part of my Keep & Share activities, I run a knitting tent at various summer festivals. We sell Keep & Share knitwear and knitting supplies, and run a free drop-in activity where people can learn to knit and crochet, or just borrow needles and yarn to knit a contribution to a communal knitting project.I’m currently on the lookout for 4 competent knitters to join our knitting team for Latitude Festival this July (15th-17th). The deal is that you get a free festival ticket in exchange for spending most of your time at the knitting tent teaching people to knit! It’s a fun place to hang out (knitting being such a convivial activity and all) and you get plenty of breaks to run off and see bands etc – plus you have each evening free.Interested? Please drop me a line at, outlining your knitting/crochet abilities (at a minimum, you need to be able to teach knit/purl/cast on/cast off, and any crochet skills are a welcome bonus) and your availability for the festival (ideally, you would arrive at the festival on Thursday afternoon/evening and stay until Sunday night or Monday morning, though there is scope for some flexibility).You’ll find more info on Latitude Festival, including travel information, here.


Research summary

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Having successfully negotiated the first hurdles of my PhD by passing the PgCert in Research Practice, my next challenge is a meeting on Monday where a faculty panel takes a look at my proposal. Here’s the summary of what I’m aiming to do:

Enabling fashion ownership through material intervention in knitted garments

This research will explore the potential of material intervention to address the personal wellbeing issues of contemporary mass-produced fashion. It employs a central metaphor which treats fashion as a commons, comparing a shared fashion culture with a shared land resource, and draws on the activist repertoire of groups seeking fair access to land along with emergent strategies of design activism.

The motivations for and barriers to individual action will be investigated and tools to support wearers in making knitting-based garment interventions will be developed. While the main focus is an increase in personal ‘fashion wellbeing’, it can be argued that individual making activity would also bring collective sustainability benefits.

Update – the panel approved my proposal with some minor changes to the wording. Hurrah!


Suzanne Margaret Harris

  1. Wow, well done you!

  2. Gail Goldstone

    It sounds like a very fascinating piece of research Amy, I will be very interested to hear how it develops for you. I don’t want to sound like a panel member – but would you like to expand a bit on ‘material intervention’ – do you mean ‘material’ as in fabric or as in substantial/practical?

    • Amy 

      Hi Gail, thanks for commenting! I’ll be posting updates on my research here, in and amongst all my other knitting projects.
      Good question – I think I had used ‘material intervention’ to mean substantial/practical, but given that I’m talking about textiles, it has a nice double meaning as fabric, which I hadn’t specifically noticed! I’m interested in people physically tinkering with existed knitted garments, and have tried to use material intervention to cover the ground in between making (which usually implies making something from scratch) and repairing (which implies rectifying a fault).