Aims and findings

Aim 1: to investigate the relationship between amateur fashion making and well-being, with special reference to hand knitting

Through this research, I gained an understanding of the ways in which fashion helps us to meet our needs for identity and participation and explored the anxiety which is often associated with it; I concluded that the relationship between fashion and well-being is inherently ambivalent. 

I constructed a metaphor of fashion as a commons [read more: blog post] and argued that industrialisation has enclosed this commons, alienating wearers from the making of their clothing and restricting the options for identity construction. 

I examined the experience of making clothes at home, with a particular focus on hand knitting. I saw that the process of making offers many benefits, and that wearing homemade items can be empowering in terms of identity. However, because homemade clothes are marginal within contemporary fashion culture, wearers are sometimes unhappy with the things they have made and can lack confidence in their positive reception [read more: paper].

Aim 2: to explore the ways in which a designer-maker can support amateur re-knitting and design activity

I worked with a group of female amateur knitters, developing methods for re-knitting existing garments along with strategies for developing design skills. In doing so, I learned about the support required to open up amateur creativity; I came to see open activity as occupying a halfway point somewhere between the prescription of a conventional knitting pattern and unsupported, endless choice [read more: paper].

The six participants each re-knitted an item of knitwear from their wardrobes; I found that they were able to design, and that tacit knowledge and peer support were important factors. Meanwhile, I identified two strands of my new role: metadesigner and hyper-amateur maker [read more: blog post].

Aim 3: to explore the ways in which amateur re-knitting and design activity affects the practices and perceptions of amateur makers

I saw that the research participants had enjoyed the experience of designing and re-knitting, and wanted to continue. I examined the feelings associated with opening existing garments, and investigated which garments the participants were more inclined to alter; I found that condition was a more important factor than origin [read more: paper].

I developed an understanding of the relationship between wardrobe practices and identity, and saw that re-knitting could provide a way of returning unworn items to active use. These items could be transformed both physically and in terms of the meanings associated with them. 

Finally, I considered how re-knitting relates to well-being. I concluded that many of the well-being benefits of conventional knitting would be transferred to this new practice, and that in some respects – including the experience of wearing the re-knitted item – re-knitting may be more positive in terms of well-being. While re-knitting would not be a universal strategy for sustainable fashion, I found it to be effective not only as a means of extending product life, but more holistically as an alternative means of participating in fashion and as a way of addressing the relationship between fashion and consumption.