31/10/2014 7:54

Windmill knitting in London

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On top of a building in London the blades turn on this windmill and drive the mechanism for this knitting machine.
From below a scarf is being knitted without any human interaction.
As the yarn unwinds the length of scarf grows steadily longer down the side of the building.
This is manufacturing, the Wind Knitting Company way.

Here in her studio in Bethnal Green, east London, below the rumble of the railway arches, designer Merel KARHOF is hard at work.
The self-confessed windmill mad Dutch designer is the FOUNDER OF THE WIND KNITTING COMPANY.
She designed the first prototypes for the wind-powered knitting machines.

Once she was satisfied the idea worked, she began selling the scarves her machine produced. A typical scarf will cost around 40. pounds
Karhof says: "I have in my hand here one of the wind-knitted scarves. So the idea is this windmill is on top of the rooftop and it knits a long scarf along the building, towards the inside of the building. And every now and then I harvest the material, I cut pieces of more or less two metres and I tell you in how much time they've been made. So, knitted in 120 minutes on the 18th of June, 2009."
She came to London to study at the Royal College of Arts and was immediately struck by the amount of wind in the city.
This became the main influence behind her first designs.
"I arrived here and I was intrigued by the amount of wind you see around, in the Tube there's a lot of wind, on the street there's a lot of wind," she says.
Of course Holland is a country synonymous with windmills so many people assume her passport is responsible for her designs.
She says: "Everybody was really making fun of me, in the sense that I moved to England and then I'm here and making - with my Dutch nationality - always windmills. A lot of people always refer to that and they think it comes from that."
Her cottage industry is small scale at the moment. Even on a windy day it will take several hours to produce a finished scarf.
However, the ambitious designer can foresee a time when thousands of metres of knitted scarves are produced a large wind farms.
"At the moment I have a couple of prototypes. But I really would like for the future - and I've got some interest from different places over the world - to make a big wind farm, knitting machine farm," she says.

As well as grand schemes for rolling out her wind-powered knitting factory on an industrial scale, Karhof is working on other windmill inspired projects like these men's silver button holes with working blades.
However, this artist and designer admits the knitting machines are her primary focus - a project she sees as much as a piece of performance art as a practical craft.

"I really like the mechanism of the knitting machine, it's kind of like hypnotising the way the needles move up and down. I wanted to create a machine that's nice to look and that's a sort of performance piece in itself," she says.
Merel Karhof's windmills will take centre stage at the Industrious Artefacts exhibition at Holland's Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen on May 27.

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