Saturday, January 4, 2014

Knitted Branding: Interpreting a 2D Vector Design with Double Knitting

Last year, my niece and her husband took over a coffee shop in a small northwest town. They named their new venture "Arrow Coffee," and had plan to rebrand it as a northwest themed coffee shop. As the family graphic designer, I am often called on to help with designs. Around that time, an illustrative designer, Von Glitschka, started a satirical logo design service called 5ive Minute Logo. He draws the logos on his iPad, as a creative exercise. Not being a logo designer myself, I thought it would be fun to see what Von could come up with. Surely his 5 minute logo would be more creative than anything I could design. If my niece didn't end up using the logo, who cared? Because it only cost $5!

Besides the $5 fee, Von only asks for three things:
  • Name of Business
  • Type of Business
  • Valid Email Address (so he can email the logo back to you)
So I paid the five dollars and waited in anticipation for what he would come up with. A week or so later, I got my completed logo. In only 5 minutes of drawing, Von came up with this.

His name is Chief Piping Hot
Though my niece didn't end up using the logo, I liked it so much that I decided to make a knitted version of the happy coffee cup. I thought it would be a fun challenge to convert a 2D design into a 3 dimensional knitted sculpture, devising the pattern as I went along.

Around that same time, my mom gave me a classic knitting book as a Christmas gift: Notes on Double Knitting by Beverly Royce. Double knitting allows you to knit seamless tubes on a pair of straight knitting needles, without the use of double pointed or circular knitting needles. I thought it would be fun to tackle this double knitting technique, creating a 3D knitted version of the Arrow Coffee logo.

With the exception of the face, I made the entire project using double knitting, including the feathers and the arrow. When I started the black hat (coffee cup lid), I didn't have the illustration handy and I couldn't remember what color it was supposed to be. For some reason, black seemed like the logical choice. Later on, when I realized the original illustration had a brown hat/lid, I was a bit disappointed that I had gotten the color wrong. However, it turns out that in real life, brown coffee cup lids are a special order product, and that's why we never see them. Black and white lids are the only standard lid color choices.

But back to the knitting: The only part of the sculpture/toy that was not double knit was the smile and the eyes, because those didn't need to be tubes. I knit the smile flat, and then stitched it on. For the eyes, I crocheted some small black circles and some small white yarn buttons for the eyes, and sewed them on like I would regular buttons.

To make the cup more able to stand upright, I stitched in some white plastic canvas into the base of the body and some black plastic canvas onto the underside of the lid. I was able to find plastic canvas in different sized circles, and just trimmed them down to the size I needed.

I had a bit of a hard time figuring out how to stuff the body. Regular poly fiberfill just made the piece lumpy. And also, the white body was knit a little too loosely (that was the first piece I made, so I didn't know what size needles I should use to get the gauge that I wanted), so the fiberfill started poking through the stitches. As a side note, double knitting has the effect of loosening your gauge, so use needles at least two sizes smaller than you normally would.

Another challenge was figuring out how to get the arrow to be straight across the coffee cup. Because if it was simply attached on either side of the cup, there was a tendency for the arrow to sag. So the arrow needed to be in a single piece, physically going through the pillow.

It seemed that I needed a custom pillow form made, so I began the hunt to find someone who did sewing. You might think it would be easy to find a custom sewing service (not a tailor shop), but it's actually quite difficult. Neither quilt shops, craft shops, nor sewing machine centers offer custom sewing services. After a few months of asking around, I found a local lady that did sewing and asked her to see what she could come up with. I dropped off my knitting with an explanation, a shrug of my shoulders, and a hearty "good luck." A month or so later, she found a solution and was ready for me to come and pick up the pillow.

For the body, she ended up rolling up a cushion from a piece of lawn furniture and using that as the pillow form. It had the softness of a pillow, but offered the smooth, lump-free texture that I couldn't get with the fiberfill. For the arrows, she ended up using my original idea, which was bamboo shish kabob skewers, inserted three-at-at-time,into white plastic drinking straws, which were them inserted straight through the body of the cup.

In order to make the feathers stand upright, I stitched them together, then wove a black twist-tie into the edge of the red feather. Then I stitched the end of the twist tie onto the top of the lid. That gave me a way to bend the twist tie into the correct angle so that it would hold the red feather upright.

Normally, I only knit afghans, so this sculptural project was a fun change. It will probably be a few years before I decide to knit another pillow/toy/sculpture, but when I do, it will be helpful to have double knitting in my bag of tricks.

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