Knitting in the Round - Provotyping to explore innovation in Fair Isle knitting
This practice-based research study explored possible roles for digital technologies in the contextually-located practice of Fair-Isle knitting in Shetland. The purpose of this research was to evaluate a provotyping approach in a traditional craft context to enable knitwear practitioners to reflect upon innovation in their own work. Furthermore, I explored how the Product Design Engineering practice (PDE) can be harnessed methodologically for creative engagement.
This project followed an action research methodological approach and was conducted partially site-based in Shetland. The initial data was collected through a scoping trip to Shetland during which I interviewed a range of knitting experts to gain insights into the traditional nature of Fair Isle knitting. The process was evidenced through audio/visual data and thematically analysed. Based on the analysis of this engagement I developed three digital engagement tools (provotypes) that challenged the traditional design process in Fair Isle knitting. During the evaluation and dissemination stage these provotypes were brought back into the context in Shetland for participants to explore innovation in their own work and imagine future design approaches in Fair Isle knitting.
The findings of this study showed how provotypes can support reflective dialogues for craft practitioners to develop new perspectives on their own practice and showed a situational value of provotypes, in particularly as narrative tools that enabled the dissemination of research insights to a wider audience. This research intends to provide an account of using technical artefacts early on in the research process. Contrary to similar studies that have been taken place in the fields of interaction design, this study explored the approach of provotyping in a traditional craft context. This might be of relevance to PDE practitioners interested in the methodological account but also to researchers and craft practitioners interested in the role of innovation in a traditional craft practice.