With a rich history that can be traced back to ancient Egypt, knitting is an enduring craft that has undergone a modern evolution in recent years. Advancements to the age-old practice have catapulted the craft onto the contemporary scene, transforming the technique of fabric making into a digital endeavor. While the technology behind digital knitting was initially forged in the fashion and sportswear industries, it has recently been introduced to the contract office furniture market as well. Revolutionizing the design industry as they create inspiring workspaces, Haworth has introduced the advantages of digital knitting for interior design applications. “We do a lot of work with fabrics—materiality is important in our industry” says Jeff Reuschel, Global Director of Design and Innovation at Haworth. “With digital knitting being relatively new, it seemed like a great marriage. Anytime you can be at the front edge of something, you are going to be better off. We bring something to the table that is going to advance this process, not just for Haworth—but for knitting in general.” Coupling distinguished designs with new technologies, the debut of Haworth Digital Knits applies the advanced knitting technology of forward-looking fashion to creatively conceived commercial furniture fabrics—bringing beautiful knit patterns, soft high-performance fibers, supportive structures, and breathable comfort into the workplace.
Haworth uses computerized knitting to construct furniture fabrics that stretch in all directions—unlike ordinary textiles that only stretch in two—endeavoring to equate the fit and experience of a desk chair with that of favorite running shoe. “Everything in materials starts with a fiber,” says Alexis Putman, Color, Materials, & Finishes Designer at Haworth. “And that is exactly where we start with the knitting machine—an actual fiber around a spool of yarn. We program small swatches, tie it up on the machine, string it through, knit it, and then go from there.” Yarns are combined to make different material makeups, which are tested for tenacity, stretch, strength, strain, and so on.
With cutting-edge digital knitting machines and custom fiber compositions, Haworth Digital Knits are crafted without typical design constraints to reveal refined and unique pieces characterized by otherwise unachievable performance elements, patterns, colors, and textures. With expert engineering and efficiency, a design sketch can be swiftly translated into a knitted material that enhances interior furnishings—from seating and lounge furniture to panels and more. Advancements in yarn and fiber technology allow for endless knit combinations—similar to woven fabrics, while stitch patterns specifically enhance structured support, comfort, and airflow.
Haworth Digital Knits are designed to fit the individual curves and contours of unique furniture pieces to create a personalized experience of comfort for the user. Introducing flat-bed weft knit technology on three desk chairs—Very, Zody, and Fern—Haworth’s digital weft knitting techniques comprise a precise process that can isolate knit structures to designated areas of a chair or product. “If you take the Very knit, for example, we are actually able to hone in on specific zones of the chair to increase comfort, density, and breathability,” says Putman. “Whatever we want, we actually pinpoint in the chair because it’s knit-to-fit and it is one product coming off the machine. It allows for more flexibility in the sense that we can do whatever we want for any specific product.” Offering strength and stretch wherever it is needed, the targeted zones also allow for support and airflow in unexpected ways.
Achieving perfect pattern alignment, passive ergonomic support, and breathability, Haworth designed tighter knit structures in the pelvic and lumbar regions of the knit back task chairs while using more open and flexible stitches in the thoracic region of the back. This is all accomplished without the use of additional textiles, fill, or foam. Providing a product that conforms to any user’s body, the digital knits marry design and innovation to deliver the ultimate in comfort. Designed, produced, and tensioned to precise specifications, the making of Haworth Digital Knits also ensures sustainable practices. Materials do not go to waste in the digital knitting production of Haworth’s knit-to-fit task chairs, which also allows reduced overhead, as well as the time and manufacturing complexity when compared to the traditional methods of upholstering products. “We are making it all in piece, there is no cutting, and there is no waste,” says Putman. “We are totally hitting on our sustainability story in doing, as well as making it a part of how we see moving forward in the future with furniture.” Haworth Digital Knits set new standards in innovative design for inspiring workspaces that ensure well-being and sustainable standards.