Knitted prototype: how to make a cardigan out of 5 knitted rectangles

One rainy day during lockdown in the UK, I wondered whether I could make a cardigan out of 5 knitted rectangles.

A quick google search showed that no one had yet written a wikihow or made a youtube video on the topic, and so I figured it was worth testing out.

But before investing time, money and effort into knitting an adult sized cardigan, I decided to prototype my idea, to then scale up later if the endeavour proved successful.

Pre-planning

As with all projects I created my hypothesis to test, and defined my success metrics to keep me focused, because this was a project of imperative importance.

My design hypothesis:

I believe that I can make a very basic cardigan
If a user can wear the knitted pieces on their body
Then I will see that you can make a cardigan from 5 rectangles.

My two metrics of success:

1) Is it technically possible?
The end product needed to clearly resemble and function as a cardigan.

2) Was the knitting enjoyable?
Before I add another creative past-time I wanted to know whether I enjoyed knitting.

Process

With those factors listed above in mind, I created a process plan for the steps I would take.

high level process map for those time strapped cardigan knitters

Step 1
First, I did my ground research, scouring knitting websites, interviewed knitting experts (my gran and my friend) to consult on the feasibility of a rectangle cardigan. I learnt that it was possible.

Step 2
Then I sketched out a plan of how the rectangles would come together using pen and paper.

Step 3
I then bought a small ball of yarn, knitted 5 tiny rectangles and sewed them together.

5 rough rectangles to be sewn together
The finished prototype

Step 4
Of course, I then tested my prototype on two small sized users. The first was a human shaped soft toy I had in my house, my second user was my colleague Dave Hunter’s cat.

If you’re wondering, it’s a Kappa- a mythical flesh-eating demon from Japan

Usability test findings

From the two usability tests I found…

User 1
My soft-toy was able to wear the cardigan. Whilst it was good to learn that the rectangle cardigan could cloth a (relatively) human shaped body, there were obvious differences between me and the Kappa. One being of scale and anatomical differences. The second, that I needed to be able to move in my cardigan because you know… i’m alive.

User 2
Dave’s cat refused to wear the cardigan fully, which may be due to the rectangles not being proportionally made for cat shapes.

From these findings here are some suggestions for the next iteration of the rectangle cardigan:

  1. take appropriate measurements of body proportions for the rectangles if making for non-human wearers.
  2. Practise knitting to make better knitted rectangles.

Final thoughts,

Whilst I cannot fully say in this design iteration of the rectangle cardigan functions well as a wearable item of clothing (metric 1), I did find the process very fun (metric 2). So all things considered, as a past-time to whittle away the never ending winter lockdown days for a young child-less person looking for a new hobby I’d say it was a very successful endeavour!

Keep an eye out for future design iterations of the rectangle cardigan… or I might actually learn how to read a knitting pattern.

Human learning things at @nhsdigital. Interested in UX design and anthro stuff 📖