This Is How We Do It

Translating hand movements from crochet practitioners into unique material objects


In this project with a group of local crochet practitioners I captured initial data from the practitioner’s hand movements via a small accelerometer device attached to the crochet hook. During the subsequent set of workshops I then used the recorded data to experiment with different data representations in material forms that were then laser cut to explore together with the crochet practitioners how or in what way these materialisations relate to their craft practice and their crochet techniques.


The iterative designs throughout the workshops were developed in response to craft practitioners’ comments and suggestions. This allowed us to experiment with different digitally fabricated materials and technologies, such as 3D printed forms and laser cut materials using acrylic, wood, card and fabric. And also develop different approaches to working with digital fabrication technology in more participatory and performative ways. The participants were very engaged and curious throughout the process to explore their different crochet techniques through the data generation and translation processes. The sharing and comparing of these artefacts as well as the interactive data generation process lead to multiple occasions of the practitioners comparing their crochet techniques with one another while also creating artefacts that held personal meaning to them.


One participant described her artefact as “beautiful and quite poignant …it represented me struggling and (more or less) succeeding to learn a skill I’d always admired and associated with my granny and mum…I like that it visualises a tradition and is written in secret crochet code and placed on my mantel piece for me to feel proud of.”

crochet-bethan  crochet-cindylaser

This project was conducted in collaboration with Thomas Smith, John Bowers, Peter Wright (Newcastle University), Jonathan Hook (University of York) and Arno Verhoeven (University of Edinburgh).

Associated publications:

Nissen, B., Bowers, J. Data-Things: Digital Fabrication Situated within Participatory Data Translation Activities. In Proc. CHI’15, ACM (2015)  [pdf] [link]

Smith, T., Bowen, S., Nissen, B., Hook, J., Verhoeven, A., Bowers, J., Wright, P., Olivier, P. Exploring Gesture Sonification to Support Reflective Craft Practice. In Proc. CHI’15, ACM (2015)  [pdf] [link]

Nissen, B. Digitally Fabricating Data-Things: A Participatory Approach to Making Data Physical. Workshop contribution to ‘Exploring the Challenges of Making Data Physical‘ at CHI’2015 [pdf]

Nissen, B. Growing Artefacts out of Making. In K. Bunnell & J. Marshall (Eds.), All Makers Now: Craft Values in 21st Century Production, International Conference Proceedings, Autonomatic Research Group, Falmouth University (2014), 113 – 119. Falmouth University, ISBN 978-0-9544187-9-3  [pdf] [link]