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MOST UNIQUE: “I’d never knitted trousers before,” says Dodd. (left) | MOST DIFFICULT: This required 12 different balls of yarn at once. (right)

Joseph Ford

STANDARDS

CCSS: 7.RP.A.2.C, MP1, MP4, MP5

TEKS: 6.5A, 7.4E

Cozy Camouflage

A knitter and a photographer team up to create clothing that blends in with its surroundings

Most artists want their creations to stand out. But Nina Dodd, a knitter who lives in Brighton, England, creates clothing designed to blend in perfectly. From tile-patterned walls to leafy landscapes, Dodd’s creations seamlessly match up with their surroundings—and they’re all made out of yarn.

The Knitted Camouflage project started with a bus seat. Buses aren’t known for their fashion-forward upholstery, but that didn’t stop Dodd from being inspired by one. One day, she took a closer look at the bold geometric pattern covering the seats of the bus she rides every day and decided it would make a perfect knitted sweater. “It was so obvious to me that it would look good,” she says.

Most artists want their work to stand out. Not Nina Dodd. She’s a knitter who lives in Brighton, England. She creates clothing designed to blend in perfectly. Dodd has made clothes that match up with everything from checkered walls to leafy landscapes. And they’re all made out of yarn.

The Knitted Camouflage project started with a bus seat. Dodd had been riding the same bus every day. One day, she took a closer look at the bold pattern covering the seats. She decided it would make a perfect knitted sweater. “It was so obvious to me that it would look good,” she says. 

COURTESY OF BRIGHTON & HOVE BUSES BUSES.CO.UK (LEFT); JOSEPH FORD (RIGHT)

FIRST PROJECT: The bus seat sweater that started it all

The bus-inspired sweater caught photographer Joseph Ford’s attention. They decided to team up: Ford would take the pictures, and Dodd would knit the clothing to match the background. Then they would take photographs of models wearing the clothes at the same site as the original image.

Ford began looking for interesting places clothing could blend into, like a seaside cliff or a piece of street art. When he’d find a potential background, he would snap a picture and pass it on to Dodd to see what she thought. Together, Dodd and Ford came up with nine different camouflage creations for their first batch. But they’re both still on the lookout for fun new places to blend into!

The resulting sweater caught the attention of photographer Joseph Ford. He and Dodd decided to team up. Ford would take photos, and Dodd would knit clothing to match the backgrounds. Then they would photograph models wearing the clothes in the spot that the outfits matched.

Ford began looking for places clothing could blend into. He wanted interesting scenes, like a seaside cliff or a piece of street art. When he found a potential background, he snapped a picture. He sent it to Dodd for her opinion. Together, they came up with nine different camouflage scenes. They used these for their first batch of photos. But they’re still on the lookout for new backgrounds!

Joseph Ford

MOST SCENIC: Matching a knit blanket to a cliff edge was surprisingly easy!

MADE WITH MATH

Once they decide on a place, Dodd breaks out her ruler. She carefully measures the area each color takes up. Since each garment must take up the same area as the background it blends into, these measurements become her pattern. A knitting pattern is a list of instructions on how to make a specific item of clothing or object.

The project—and knitting in general—showed Dodd just how much math goes into her favorite hobby. “I was one of those students who felt that I was no good at math,” Dodd says, “but I use it all the time now quite instinctively in my designs.”  

Once they decide on a place, Dodd breaks out her ruler. She carefully measures the area each color takes up. Each garment must take up the same area as the background it blends into. The measurements Dodd takes become her pattern. A knitting pattern gives instructions on how to make each part of an item.

The project showed Dodd how much math goes into her favorite hobby. “I was one of those students who felt that I was no good at math,” Dodd says. “But I use it all the time now quite instinctively in my designs.”

Joseph Ford

MOST COLLABORATIVE: Dodd and Ford worked with street artist Monsieur Chat—he’s blending into his own art!

The bus seat sweater is a perfect example. To re-create the seat as a sweater, Dodd measured each part of the seat’s pattern and took a photo for reference. She carefully found the diameter of a circle on the seat’s design. She also counted how many rows and columns of circles were on each seat. Dodd then used grid paper to design the knitting pattern. Each square represented a single stitch, or loop of yarn around a knitting needle. The average sweater is made of about 75,000 stitches, so that meant a lot of grid squares.

And that was just the planning! It took some trial and error before Dodd was happy with how her pattern looked when knitted. “My first attempt didn’t look quite right, because the circles looked more like squares,” Dodd says. She changed the color of the stitches at each circle’s “corner” to the background color. “Presto! Circles,” she says.

The bus seat sweater is a perfect example. To mimic the seat as a sweater, Dodd measured each part of the pattern on the seat. She also took a photo for reference. She carefully found the diameter of a circle in the design. She counted how many rows and columns of circles were on each seat. Dodd then used grid paper to design the knitting pattern. Each square represented a single stitch. The average sweater is made of about 75,000 stitches. That meant a lot of grid squares!

At first, Dodd wasn’t happy with how her pattern looked when knitted. It took some trial and error to get it right. “My first attempt didn’t look quite right, because the circles looked more like squares,” Dodd says. To fix it, she found the stitch at the “corner” of each circle. She changed the color to the background color. “Presto! Circles,” she says. 

Joseph Ford

MOST COMPLICATED: This tile sweater has no repeating patterns!

BLENDING IN

Locations with large areas of one color, like the cat street art, were straightforward to make. But locations with a lot of colors and shapes were much more complicated. One of the trickiest was a cardigan made to blend in with a tile wall.

“Although it looks very geometric, there are no repeats in that pattern at all,” Dodd says. “I literally drew and colored in the whole pattern on about six pieces of graph paper I had stuck together with tape and worked from a picture on my phone.” 

Locations with large areas of one color were simple to make. The cat street art was relatively easy, Dodd says. But locations with a lot of colors and shapes were much more complicated. One of the trickiest was a cardigan Dodd made to blend in with a tile wall.

“Although it looks very geometric, there are no repeats in that pattern at all,” Dodd says. “I literally drew and colored in the whole pattern on about six pieces of graph paper I had stuck together with tape.” And she was working from a tiny picture on her phone! 

Joseph Ford

MOST RETAKES: Buddy the Rat was hard to photograph.

Other designs were easy to knit, but difficult to photograph because of who—or what—was wearing them. A simple tube of hot pink yarn was the fastest knit. But it ended up being the hardest to photograph because a rat modeled it! “Buddy the Rat was lovely,” says Dodd, “but unfortunately he just didn’t like wearing a sweater.”

Figuring out how to re-create real-world patterns in clothing was a fun challenge for Dodd. “The ideas and then the design are the exciting, sparkly stage of the process that keeps the creative part of my brain happy,” Dodd says. “I start from the standpoint that anything is possible. I just have to manage to work it out.”

Other designs were easy to knit, but difficult to photograph. Knitting a simple tube of hot pink yarn didn’t take long. But it ended up being the hardest to photograph because a rat modeled it! “Buddy the Rat was lovely,” says Dodd. “But unfortunately he just didn’t like wearing a sweater.”

Figuring out how to match real-world patterns was a fun challenge for Dodd. “The ideas and then the design are the exciting, sparkly stage of the process that keeps the creative part of my brain happy,” Dodd says. “I start from the standpoint that anything is possible. I just have to manage to work it out.”

Joseph Ford

MOST INTIMIDATING: A robe for Fatboy Slim, a famous English DJ and musician

Solve proportions to answer the questions about the Knitted Camouflage project. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Solve proportions to answer the questions about the Knitted Camouflage project. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

For the graffiti cat sweater, Dodd knit 12 stitches to make 2 inches in width. The sweater is 9 inches wide from the left edge to the beginning of the black smile. How many stitches wide is that?

For the graffiti cat sweater, Dodd knit 12 stitches to make 2 inches in width. The sweater is 9 inches wide from the left edge to the beginning of the black smile. How many stitches wide is that?

Each pants leg has an opening with a circumference of 8.5 inches. It took 15 stitches to make 3 inches in width. How many stitches make up the circumference, rounded to the nearest stitch?

Each pants leg has an opening with a circumference of 8.5 inches. It took 15 stitches to make 3 inches in width. How many stitches make up the circumference, rounded to the nearest stitch?

The most complicated project was the tile-print cardigan. At its widest point, its circumference is 42 inches. It took 50 stitches to make 4 inches in width. How many stitches make up the full circumference of the cardigan?

The most complicated project was the tile-print cardigan. At its widest point, its circumference is 42 inches. It took 50 stitches to make 4 inches in width. How many stitches make up the full circumference of the cardigan?

The smallest piece was a pink sweater for Buddy the Rat. Buddy is about 6 inches long. It took 3.5 rows of stitches to make 0.5 inches in length for Buddy’s sweater. How many rows of stitches did Dodd knit?

The smallest piece was a pink sweater for Buddy the Rat. Buddy is about 6 inches long. It took 3.5 rows of stitches to make 0.5 inches in length for Buddy’s sweater. How many rows of stitches did Dodd knit?

Each rectangle on the tile sweater is 6 inches wide and 4 inches high. It took 11 stitches to make 2 inches in width and 21 rows to make 3 inches in height. How many stitches across and rows tall is each square?

Each rectangle on the tile sweater is 6 inches wide and 4 inches high. It took 11 stitches to make 2 inches in width and 21 rows to make 3 inches in height. How many stitches across and rows tall is each square?

Knitters use the term gauge, which is a unit rate that tells them how many stitches there should be per inch of knitting. This helps a knitter make sure their finished project will fit as planned. If Dodd makes a sweater that is 32 inches and 160 stitches wide, what is the sweater’s gauge?

Knitters use the term gauge, which is a unit rate that tells them how many stitches there should be per inch of knitting. This helps a knitter make sure their finished project will fit as planned. If Dodd makes a sweater that is 32 inches and 160 stitches wide, what is the sweater’s gauge?

Design your own knitted camouflage project! Pick an area in your school to blend into. Take measurements and use several pieces of grid paper to make a knitting pattern, where each square represents one stitch (about 0.2 inches).

Design your own knitted camouflage project! Pick an area in your school to blend into. Take measurements and use several pieces of grid paper to make a knitting pattern, where each square represents one stitch (about 0.2 inches).

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