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Media Contacts:
Lisa Parillo-Chapman, 919/513-4020
Greg Thomas, News Services, 919/515-3470

Nov. 18, 2003

Textile Students “Seamlessly” Learn Latest Technology


The key to appreciating the latest three-dimensional textile-design technology could be as simple as taking your favorite sweater and turning it inside out. Chances are there are seams where the sleeves and cuffs join the body. But the future of knit clothing lies in making these seams a thing of the past by using a technique called seamless knitting.

Now, students at North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles are getting hands-on experience with three-dimensional seamless knitting technology and learning about its benefits both in the classroom and on the retail sales floor.

Traditionally, the elements of knit clothing, like sleeves, bodies and cuffs, are made separately and then assembled – sometimes in different factories – into the finished product. Technology has now advanced to the point that items such as seamless sweaters and lingerie are becoming practical to make – and they’re also becoming popular with consumers.

The Shima-Seiki Company – which invented WHOLEGARMENT™ technology, or seamless knitting, about 20 years ago – recently entered into a technology exchange agreement with NC State by placing a WHOLEGARMENT™ knitting machine and design system into the College of Textiles. That allows students to experience seamless knitting before they ever enter the workplace. The college benefits by providing students with education in the latest technology, while the Shima-Seiki Company gets the opportunity to demonstrate its continuing developments to the college.

According to Lisa Parillo-Chapman, an instructor in the college’s Department of Textile & Apparel Technology & Management, whole-knit fabrics are more complicated than traditional knitting. “The one person working on the machine has to learn three things – how a knitting machine functions, textile design of knit structure and garment design. It’s not typical that one person would have expertise in all three of those disciplines.”

But whole-garment knitting has its advantages. Clothing comes off the machine as a finished product. A small sweater, for example, takes about 20 minutes, Parillo-Chapman said. This allows students to quickly determine if their textile design worked as envisioned, since there is no need to assemble the knitted components of their clothing.

For consumers these advances mean seamless clothing and its attendant benefits – no chaffing and no seams that pull apart. “Lingerie is an obvious area that benefits from whole-knit fabrics. It’s so finely knit that seams would be very noticeable. Seamless bras and panties are becoming very popular, especially with today’s tighter clothes and stretch fabrics,” Parillo-Chapman said.

Medical and protective textiles are another area receiving research attention. The seam of a garment is usually the first to fail, so if you can design a garment without a seam, you’ve got a garment that offers greater protection. Parillo-Chapman says that researchers are also working on special support hose that are precisely fitted to the body with variable rates of compression; if more support is needed near the calf, for example, the hose are tighter around the calf than other parts of the leg.

In all, whole-garment knitting seems to be the wave of the future. “To us, the idea of whole-garment knitting is that we can do prototypes in one place – we don’t have to send garments out to be sewed – but the other aspect is that you are getting a better design because you are actually designing the fabric at the same time you are designing the shape of the garment, so the two are better integrated,” she said.

“This integrated process may reduce lead times for new product development investments, minimize inventory costs, provide potential for in-store fit and enhance designer brand promotion,” said Nancy Powell, an associate professor who teaches knitting design.

Both machines should help make NC State textiles students more job-ready. “If we can train students in this technology now, we’ve cut out some of the learning curve when they get into the workplace,” Parillo-Chapman said.

- thomas -

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