Aino-Maria Ilkko | Textile Design

My collection entitled "Neulemekko", consisting of knitted dresses, comprised my Master's level advanced research and product development project. I designed and made a few-piece knitted dress collection for the eco-friendly retail clothing shop Mereija in Töölö, Helsinki. While in the process of designing and finishing my studies I kept a blog (Neulemekko-blogi) on my progress. The blog functioned as a back-up of the project, a vehicle of progress, a foundation for my work and a tool for artistic expression.

The materials needed for the dresses were collected from various sources: my home, closets and donations from friends. The dresses are knitted and crocheted by hand. The hem of my last dress, for example, was made with an old scarf.

In addition to taking on Mereija's business idea of making new things out of old things on a material level, I explored the concept of the recycling of ideas. At the same time I thought about the repetition happening in my textile art and handiwork project. I followed the idea of repetition from a material through to a more abstract level of realisation. I thought about how many times an old idea can be repeated and recycled. The question of repetition has always intrigued and partly disturbed me. I searched for an answer to it through my artistic work.

Thread and thinking about the nature of thread became the central element in my work process. Thread was my tool for repeating and recycling old ideas. I kept returning to the initial idea, the knitted dress, and after that began making repeated movements with the knitting or crocheting needle until the thread became a finished piece of textile.

I completed the project in the summer of 2008. My idea was to knit one dress per month. I wanted to finish the dresses by hand so that I could take them with me and make a travel journal out of the project by means of the blog. The artistic process gained a dimension of nomadic independence; my world came with me on a sock knitting needle in my bag wherever I went. Towards the end of my project in July and August, the dresses were photographed in cooperation with Noora Niinikoski in a fashion photos series in the 9/2008 edition of "Image".

The knitted dresses are both consumer products and unique works of art. The process of making them was mostly an artistic one, with the products being more or less a byproduct. The Neulemekko (knitted dress) project became a multidisciplinary work. It is simultaneously a work of photography art, word art and handiwork.