From village arms to symbolic motifs, the embroidered patterns of traditional Dutch knitted fishermen's jumpers tell stories about the work of fishermen and their origins. Because of these clear references to villages and towns, the jumpers as a clothing phenomenon are strongly anchored in the Dutch clay soil.
For this reason, the jumpers, predominantly made between 1875 and 1950, formed the starting point for the 'Keeping it local' project of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam, HvA). Within the project, efforts were made to achieve a more local clothing production chain and visual language, the first result of which - a 3D-knitted fisherman's jumper - will be presented on December 22, according to a press release shared by HvA.
Shorter chains in the fashion and fishing industries
The jumper was developed by Maaike Feitsma and Leslie Eisinger of the Fashion Research and Technology research group at HvA. They made the jumper for Hendrik Kramer, currently the only and probably the last professional fisherman in Amsterdam. Kramer is a sixth-generation fisherman. His family has its roots in the village of Urk in the province of Flevoland, the Netherlands. Kramer is committed to making the fishing industry more sustainable and shortening the supply chain. Currently, his fish is often exported abroad, but he would rather supply local customers and restaurants.
There are parallels between Kramer's work in fisheries and Feitsma and Eisinger's project: for the researchers, too, more sustainable and local production and consumption is the goal. As part of their project, the HvA research group invested in a 3D knitting machine that does not knit a garment into individual pieces, but instead knits all the parts together in one go. That way, no human hand is needed to attach the pieces to one other.
It is precisely the high cost of that handiwork that causes clothing production today to be largely outsourced to faraway countries where labour costs are lower, the press release explains. The knitting machine makes it possible to keep production on Dutch soil. The jumpers will eventually also be produced for other customers, but only made to order. That way, the researchers hope to avoid overproduction.
Chains, texts and a haddock
The jumpers are made of cotton and wool with Responsible Wool Standard labels. Kramer's features various motifs, including tight cables symbolising chains, a haddock representing Urk, and the word 'Metanoia', the name of Kramer's fishing vessel. Some of the motifs were designed using a computer programme, which generated the patterns based on entered data on the topic of 'chains'.
Over the next few months, a jumper will also be made for students of the HvA, with motifs referring to the college and to the city of Amsterdam. The aim is to present the jumper on February 10, also known as Warm Sweater Day in The Netherlands. In the meantime, efforts are being made at HvA to create a digital design system that will allow private individuals to translate their identities into unique patterns they create themselves.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL and has been translated and edited into English by Veerle Versteeg.