Wildemasche - Mass Customisation of Knitting
One of the custom made scarves produced by Wildemasche
2004-09-11: Wildemasche, a company based in Plüderhausen, Germany, has used advanced technology to open up the world of knitting to customised design. Wildemasche will customise a scarf or sleeveless pullover by including a design or image as part of the knitted pattern. This is done with no minimum order quantity or surcharges.
This type of customisation is different to many other examples in the clothing industry, where a personal image or design is printed or embroidered onto an existing garment. In the case of Wildemasche, the design is actually knitted, as the garment is being made. Some of the images on this page show the level of detail which can be achieved in the knitting process.
The Wildemasche company is an associate of Dobrowolny Stricktechnik (www.dobrowolny.de), which has been offering wage knitting services for over 20 years now. Jan Dobrowolny describes how Wildemasche was started: "We mainly knit for big fashion companies. The idea for custom scarves came up, when we thought about doing something
new that everybody could enjoy, not just fashion designers or companies, but consumers as well."
In addition to sales in Germany, Wildemasche has so far sold to customers from Austria, France, Sweden, UK, Switzerland and the United States.
The two custom made knitted products currently available from Wildemasche are scarves and sleeveless pullovers. Scarves and pullovers are made using 48% Merino fine wool and 52% acrylics. A Wildemasche scarf is around 175cm long and about 25cm wide, and is made without fringes. A kids size of 120 x 17cm is also available. The sweaters are available as a fine gauge sleeveless unisex sweater / vest, in sizes S, M, L & XL. The front and back can be designed freely, with allover patterns possible as well.
Wildemasche offers the product customising service through its website, www.wildemasche.com. The site has both English and German language versions. The website contains a configurator which allows customers to select the foreground and background colours, and design options.
The Wildemasche online scarf configuration tool
Having firstly selected the foreground and background colours from a set of 16 choices, the customer can then select from a wide variety of design templates and arrange these on the scarf. For a customer who wishes to design their own pattern from scratch, they can create an image on any picture editing software. Wildemasche provide a comprehensive tutorial on their website, advising customers on how to make the most effective use of picture editing software when designing a scarf.
Especially for scarves with a customer's own design, Wildemasche advise that you should choose your knitting colours according to the colours in the pattern file, e.g. if you create a pattern with a rather dark motive in front of a rather light background, you should choose the knitting colours accordingly. Otherwise the motive will look inverted on the scarf. This is especially true for contrast colors like black / white. Before saving the file in the picture editing application, it is necessary to decrease the colour depth to two colours, so that it will match the foreground and background colours already chosen.
Further examples of customised scarves
When the design is finalised, the customer saves the file, preferably as a GIF or PNG image, and sends this to Wildemasche as an email attachment. (The ordering process is carried out through a secure server; it is only the image file that is sent by email.) The pictures show the level of detail possible in the knitting process - the scarf below has an almost photographic quality.
Scarf designed by customer from scanned photograph
The file for the pattern must be 1120 x 176 pixels (for kids size 800x116 pixels). This is because one side of the custom scarf has 1120 x 176 knitted stitches. The rear side of the scarf is made up of 197.120 knitted stitches as well, but the colors for those knitted stitches cannot be chosen independently, as they are the swapped colours from the front side.
In the case of sweater, Wildemasche.com has a separate configuration page where customers can select the background and foreground colours, and add text in various sizes and styles. For those wishing to go further in their customisation, Wildemasche provide the customer with a unique set of template image files, corresponding to the front and back of each size of pullover. These templates can be opened in a picture editing application and the required design drawn out within the boundary of the pullover. The completed design file can then be sent to Wildemasche as part of the order.
On the left is a design template file which has had text inserted on the Wildemasche.com sweater configuration page. The example on the right has been designed by placing the shape template into a picture editing application.
When an order is received by Wildemasche, the picture is transformed into machine code, and knitted on a Stoll CMS flat knitting machine. Dobrowolny Stricktechnik has more than 40 of these machines at its disposal, and this is only one part of their overall manufacturing resources. Custom designed scarves cost around €30, while sweaters are about €44. Delivery charges are from €9.50, depending on quantity and delivery location. Orders are usually knitted within three days.
One of the Stoll CMS machines used by Wildemasche
Wildemasche is currently investigating the possibility of offering customised pullovers with sleeves. A decision on this will be taken in the next few months.
Over the last few months, MadeForOne.com has featured a number of companies offering mass customisation of different clothing styles. Knitted garments are generally associated with high cost and significant labour input, making them an unlikely candidate for mass customisation. However, Wildemasche, through the effective combination of electronic commerce and advanced knitting technology, has brought mass customised knitted garments to reality. The company is in a strong position to benefit from the growing interest in customised clothing.