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Hacking Sewing Machines To "Glitch Knit" With Nukeme

This kind of needle work will one-up your grandma any day.

Burger King, PayPal and Internet Explorer aren’t logos we’d typically wear emblazoned across our chests (or up our thighs). But Japanese, Tokyo-based fashion designer, musician and artist, Nukeme, does it like a pro hacker for his latest project, Glitch Knit, a knitting machine hack.

Glitch Knit is a collaborative project among So Kanno, Tomofumi Yoshida and Nukeme who have hacked a Brother KH-970 knitting machine, which is now open-source and spewing digital glitch. Nukeme says found glitch is simply not enough, he is interested in “making glitch data physical.”


As we noted earlier, there are many artists and designers who are turning glitch into textiles and fashion. By bringing together handicraft and hacking, there is a tightly-knit glitch knit community which extends beyond Japan. Some other art, textile and tech nerdiness includes Glitchaus, created by Jeff Donaldson, who offers data knit scarves, including error scarves and bug scarves, while glitch textiles come alive in the work of by Brooklyn-based artist Philipp Stearns who creates binary blankets from Word, iTunes and OSX binary files. Stearns’ Glitch Textiles show glitch knit works with image patterns that are created from short circuited cameras. Gorgeous stuff.

There is also the OpenKnit Printer by Spanish designer Gerard Rubio, an open-source 'clothing printer' which is a 3D printer that knits your D.I.Y. customized clothing. It's faster than your grandma, as an entire sweater can be knit in an hour.

There has also been a new book published by Verena Kuni called Crochet + Knitting for Geeks which offers some examples and some digital knitting how-to’s.

NeuroKnitting created by Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet creates personalized scarves depending on your brainwaves. For each custom-made scarf, brainwaves are collected through an EEG headset and sent to the Knitic machines, showing what your brainwaves look like after listening to a ten-minute track of classical music, displaying them in black and white knit.


And the lab coats, who can forget those? Nukeme has co-created a melting pixel overcoat (see lead image) in collaboration with Tokyo programmer and hacker UCNV.

In Berlin, Nukeme was recently selling his Glitch Embroidery at the Yami-ichi internet black market, an IRL bazaar for internet kitsch. The hoodies, sweaters, t-shirts and jeans have logos that have been distorted for style and statement. This is not dissimilar to the clothing found at the knock-off mecca known as the Shanzai Biennial.

Made with a Brother Innovis D300, the Glitch Embroidery pieces are made with Shisyu PROver.8 software and the Hex editor Stirling. The needle movement creates glitch when the Hexadecimal code in the embroidery data is disrupted. Basically, whatever is ruined is printed.

Glitch Embroidery by Nukeme

It all started in a two-day glitch workshop at the Tokyo University of the Arts, led by Japanese talents UCNV, Yosuke Hayashi, and Shusaku Hariya. Soon after learning basic glitch techniques, Nukeme got his hands on a used sewing machine. Along with his collaborator, Dorita, he brought his glitch brain to the needle. “I guess I’m fascinated in something that has an element of advertising,” he once said.

Here’s how it works: Nukeme has connected a fashion platform called Arduino to the Brother, which is linked to a computer. He then rewrites the binary code that moves the needle in the embroidery machine. The program loses control, creating design disruptions in the final patterns (and logos).


Everyone is accustomed to making mistakes with glitches, annoying technical errors you inevitably cannot avoid. Nukeme said he has no intentions of creating great knitwear. The misapplication and the unexpected, spontaneous designs that come from the machines is the end result, be it beautiful or not.

While art glitch with fashion is unpredictable, Nukeme thinks it will lead to new design ideas. “Our imaginations keep changing with technology,” he said. “Computers have different ideas than we do.”

Good luck trying to find the Glitch Embroidery online for sale. In avoiding copyright infringements and lawsuits from monolithic brands, he can’t sell the stuff online. There is noconvenient online shop, but the pieces–like the rad Internet Explorer hoodies, for example–are still available at internet black markets. Yes, it is the market spirit to get off your butt and into the real world again. That’s the thing with glitch, though. It’s a bit of a bitch.

Nukeme shows at the Tambourin Gallery in Tokyo from April 22 to May 4, 2014.

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