Destroy my (striped) sweater
November 30, 2016 6:23 PM   Subscribe

How can I buy or make a person-sized, custom-all-over-printed striped sweater by Christmas?

My fellow grad students and I want to give our advisor a cool Christmas gift. Our advisor once wrote a paper on stripe patterns, and we thought it would be cool to run his algorithm and give him a (possibly-ugly-for-fun) Christmas sweater emblazoned with his stripe patterns. How should we do this?

Size: We obviously don't have his measurements, but we can guess them.
Materials: Don't care.
Price: There are four of us, and we could probably afford $200 total.
Color: We'd like to have a blue sweater with black and dark blue stripes, but any colors would work in a pinch.
Pattern: We can generate the pattern ourselves on a 3D mesh, but we don't know anything about creating knitting patterns.

Some possible methods:

* Ideally I would like to produce a 3D model of what we want and have someone magically print it all over for a sweater for us, but nobody seems to offer printing *all over* a sweater. The closest I've found is all-over printing for a panel on the front of a sweater, which wouldn't give rise to very interesting stripe patterns.
* I also looked around at custom sweater knitting services, but they all seem to cost $300+ and they require people to have placed orders months ago. (I'd be happy to pay MeFites who'd be interested in knitting this--feel free to MeMail me! You'll make a bunch of academics very happy.)
* We have a friend who does computational knitting, and they have an industrial knitting machine--maybe they could knit our sweater? We'd need to figure out how to produce a pattern, though. And I have no idea how much time or yarn it would take them.
* We could screen print all over a store-bought plain sweater, but I'm not sure that would work for all-over patterns. We'd also have to figure out how to discretize our stripe pattern over many sheets of printer paper.
* As a last resort, we could buy fabric markers and draw on a store-bought plain sweater, but 1. That's against the spirit of computer science! 2. It wouldn't look as good. 3. The pattern would come off in the wash.

Any suggestions?
posted by glass origami robot to Shopping (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Two corrections:

1. Would prefer knitted over printed, since the pattern would look better that way.

2. On googling, I see Print All Over Me offers a white sweater that can be printed over. The stripe patterns won't be perfect if flat-overlaid and mirrored as they require, but it might work. Anyone have experience with them? I see some very negative reviews online, but those could be self-selected.
posted by glass origami robot at 6:31 PM on November 30, 2016

What a great idea! Can you post a visual example of the stripes? If the stripes are parallel to each other, here is what I would do:

1. Buy multiple sweaters in the colors you like at a thrift store. Choose tighter knit solids. Make sure that at least one of the sweaters can function as the "base" which includes the collar and the cuffs in the color you want.
2. Deconstruct the pattern pieces and cut the fabric to form the stripes (cutting into strips)
3. Reassemble using a serger

I've already done this kind of thing using stripes of scrap material for sleeves, and the sweater turned out very unique.
posted by oxisos at 6:37 PM on November 30, 2016

Would you consider doing a scarf, hat, or socks? They are all much simpler to create than a sweater, so you might still be able to find someone to make it in time.
posted by veery at 6:45 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Here are two images from the paper. They aren't normal purely-horizontal-or-vertical stripes; rather, they can split or end.

Unfortunately a scarf is not topologically interesting enough to create cool stripes... maybe socks, though!
posted by glass origami robot at 6:53 PM on November 30, 2016

[hyperlinks for ease:]

Image 1
Image 2
posted by papayaninja at 7:07 PM on November 30, 2016

I am a knitter and there is a reason the knit sweaters you found that are made by hand are so expensive. the hours of labor that gets put into making a sweater in enormous. I would suggest trying to figure out how to use a knitting machine. Socks might be an option but they are sometimes trickier than sweaters, so it's hard to tell if your funds are low.
posted by ruhroh at 7:19 PM on November 30, 2016 [12 favorites]

Best answer: An inbetween option could be to draw on a sweater and then have someone machine embroider over your stripes.much quicker and easier than knitting but still durable and stitched in.
posted by rmless at 7:41 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Cool stripes! Could a sweatshirt or hoodie work instead?

If so, buy a sweatshirt or hoodie in the base colour (blue I guess),
stuff it very tightly with newspaper, pinning all the openings closed so the newspaper can really stretch the fabric out smooth, and laying the newspaper pretty flat under the surface of the fabric so the crinkles don't warp the fabric too much.
Draw on the lines with a pencil to get the placement right.
Create the stripes with a paintbrush and black fabric paint (this brand looks pretty good), perhaps using painter's tape to give sharp edges and ends to some lines.
Sweatshirt fabric is pretty smooth so the paint should lay down well.
With a little practice you should be able to get nice crisp details (maybe buy a secondhand top in similar material to practice on first).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:52 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you want it knitted, I think your best bet is to talk to your computational knitting friend and find out what they would need to do it. You're not realistically going to find anyone who can do it by hand in that time and budget. Sweaters take ages, and that pattern is conplex enough that even a very skilled knitter might have a few false starts.
You say a scarf isn't going to work - what about a hat, or cowl, or mittens? They're so much smaller that you might have a realistic shot. Also much easier to get the size right than a sweater.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 8:00 PM on November 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

If I understand this correctly, these stripe patterns are specifically patterns that change based on the curve of the object, and you want the stripes to curve in that same way around the curves of the sweater.

We have a friend who does computational knitting, and they have an industrial knitting machine--maybe they could knit our sweater? We'd need to figure out how to produce a pattern, though.

Have you asked the friend about this? I bet they'd be able to take your 3D model and figure out how to turn it into a pattern. Of the ideas you list, that really seems like the only workable one to me. (Hand-knitting a sweater, particularly a sweater with such a finicky custom pattern all over it, would take... god, I have no idea but a very very VERY long damn time.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:00 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

No link to the paper?

The most generalizable result would be a collaboration with your computational-knitting knitting-frame owner, but that might not be quick. oxisos' idea is delightful, but if you don't have someone deft with a serger already you're likely going to come up with a lumpy sweater.

Slightly automating pseudostrabismus' approach, and guessing about what the stripe algorithm is like (is it one of the ones that varies with the diameter of the tail sleeve? is it? is it?), I would try getting a sweater, measuring it carefully, running a stripe-generator on a model of the sweater, lasercutting the image out of craft felt or thin plastic, and stencilling it onto the sweater using fabric paint. But if more than one of those steps is confusing-sounding, go for hand-painting it.
posted by clew at 8:00 PM on November 30, 2016

You COULD also - and this may be a very dumb idea, mind you, since I don't know all the technical details involved here:

-Produce the 3D model of the stripe pattern, making sure to make your model as close to the shape of a sweater with your advisor inside it as possible

-Isolate the non-striped portion of the pattern, blow it up to the size of the sweater

-3D print this shape (with stripe-shaped holes in it) in discrete chunks appropriate to the size of whatever 3D printer you have access to. You may need to create borders around these chunks and overlap them if doing this will just result in a bunch of unconnected lines!

-Put the sweater on a dude about the same shape as your advisor

-Apply a weak adhesive to the curved chunks and put them on the guy over the sweater (you might need to do this in multiple stages, in which case mask of the parts of the sweater you aren't working on)

-Generously apply spray fabric dye (the adhesive will prevent most of the bleed-under)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:00 PM on November 30, 2016

If you can get the golden child of the lab to stand there and get spraypainted, and video it, and show the video as part of the gift ceremony, I vote for showbiz_liz's plan.
posted by clew at 8:06 PM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

We could screen print all over a store-bought plain sweater, but I'm not sure that would work for all-over patterns.

Wouldn't you just take your 3D model and squoosh it flat before generating the cutting patterns? That's how an all-over printing place would have done it anyway. (They certainly wouldn't have set up a sweater on a torso-shaped mannequin and painted it with a robot arm like a car, which it sort of sounds like you were imagining)

We'd also have to figure out how to discretize our stripe pattern over many sheets of printer paper.

There is a program that can do exactly this!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:11 PM on November 30, 2016

There are places online that can print allover sweatshirts? I usually use artscow and everything I've ordered so far has turned out pretty great.
posted by CarolynG at 8:47 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My suggestion would be to sew a sweatshirt rather than knit a sweater, given your timeframe. Can you take the stripe patterns and overlay them over a basic sweatshirt pattern template? Then print those custom pattern pieces on one of knit fabrics available at Spoonflower and have someone sew it? Sewing is so much less time-commitment than knitting, and there are reasonably good 2D/3D models of sewing patterns available in the world that you might be able to work with.

That said, the thing you are trying to do is likely within the design capabilities of your friend with the industrial knitting machine, assuming the shape of the sweater you want is itself within the knitting capabilities of a knitting machine. The problem I foresee that based on the diagram you've presented, the most interesting stripes are going to be around shoulders and upper-arms, and as a general rule, those are knit flat and sewn up, not really knit as a single curved piece. A yoked style sweater might offer more opportunities to bend stripes around corners, but most flatbed knitting machines can't effectively produce a traditional yoke. They can do a pseudo yoke using short rows and knitting cross-ways, though. If you can figure out the pattern with them, their knitting machine might be able to produce it in a few hours / days. That said, you will also likely need some hand-finishing, especially if you go with a non-traditional option.

Estimating knitting yardages is not hard once you know what size of garment you plant to make and yarn you plan to use -- they will easily be able to do that, as well. Cost of yarn will vary mostly based on the type of yarn you plan to use -- inexpensive acrylics vs. higher end natural fibers. It's reasonable to imagine an adult sweater costing anywhere from $50-$500 in yarn alone, before you compensate your friend for their time and effort.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:49 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's a great idea but fraught with difficulty and expense. Can you not just print a tshirt? That rabbit image and the two diagrams next to it are a great design for the center front. Add a line or two of type to personalize it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:54 PM on November 30, 2016

Best answer: $5 for basemesh of a hoodie on a man's torso, choice of file formats.
posted by clew at 1:55 AM on December 1, 2016

Don't even think of asking a handknitter to do this - especially if you are not willing to pay a fair wage, you don't have an actual pattern, and you have a limited time frame. I no longer do commissions but I'd ask in the region of $1200 for something like this (and that's even without taking materials into account).

This calls for a custom tshirt or sweatshirt with a screen-printed pattern.
posted by kariebookish at 6:04 AM on December 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

I think mittens or socks or a tea kettle cozy would be the winner here, as they are plenty curved to show off the pattern, yet small enough that it won't take forever.
posted by jillithd at 7:04 AM on December 1, 2016

Response by poster: Here's a mockup (not topologically accurate). We'll probably go for a flattened all-over print, or stitching/drawing the design on with reference to the 3D model.

It would be really cool to have the black outlines to mimic the diagram style, so I might order the print with just the stripes, and fabric-marker-on the black outlines later.

It's pretty important to me to have a sweater, because Christmas sweaters are a thing!

clew: Not linking to the paper because I'd like this question not to show up in a search for my advisor or his paper :^) I memailed you the link.
posted by glass origami robot at 11:22 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

FYI, mockup link is broken
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:31 PM on December 1, 2016

Response by poster: That's strange, does this work? Anyway, here's a real mockup (modulo colors, alignment, etc.) that another grad student made.
posted by glass origami robot at 12:48 PM on December 1, 2016

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