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Nicci James

Nicci James is knitwear designer and developer looking to change the perception of wool through using a method of garment design and manufacture which brings the fibre to the forefront of the process.

"My interests lie at the confluence of tradition and innovation, seeking to regenerate the familiar rather than to replace it. "Wool has become the material I can’t get enough of because it has so much to offer - a natural, completely renewable fibre that has the capability to help regulate your body temperature, AND it can change state? I could wax lyrical about wool all day."

Nicci was invited to develop this work through a residency at the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA) in spring 2020 alongside leading professor in the programmable materials field, Lining Yao. She has since further extended her research into her design system, sponsored by the Bio Inspired Textiles project led by Professor Veronika Kapsali.

Nicci’s design studio is open for collaborations and consultancy - visit for more information.

Wool Can Be FELT

We have all washed a wool jumper and shrunk it beyond belief. The natural felting phenomenon of wool is usually an undesirable characteristic… but what if it wasn’t? 

My novel method for design harnesses wool’s inherent ability to felt in conjunction with the structural opportunities of knit, allowing me to precisely engineer areas of strength and flexibility within a single fabric. The first piece I have explored with this process draws on the visual language of denim, transforming the iconic trucker jacket into wool. Using the capabilities of wool to reimagine design classics, I am breathing new life into one of the most ancient materials, reinterpreting wool through the lens of contemporary fashion.

Process of jacket development from analysing a traditional denim jacket to the finished, fully felted wool reinvention.
From FLEXIBLE to STRONG in just one wash : knitted front panel test washed (left) and the same sample straight off the knitting machine (right).
Selection of development samples exploring how different knit structures can harness wool's ability to felt.
Engineering folds by using a non felting yarn enables a collar to be knitted in one piece - gaining strength in the wash.
Test samples for yoke seam with integrated pocket. Washed(left) and before washing (right).
Front of the wool 'trucker', showing how the traditional yoke construction of a denim jacket and classic diagonal seams reimagined with felted knit techniques.

My work is inspired by the gradient structures found in nature: A squid beak for example is made up of a small number of materials which change in concentration, making the beak dense and stiff in one area and fine and flexible in another.

Using the same approach with knit structures and wool yarns, I can design a range of different densities across a single fabric once washed. Currently I am also using a resist to prevent or limit felting in specific areas. This not only allows the original quality of the knit to be retained, it enables the integral creation of technical features such as a pocket or a collar.

Photos by Own Way of Inspiration, June 2022.


100% Knitted Wool.
Samples created during residency with the Morphing Matter and Textiles Labs at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mapping a resist to wool’s felting phenomenon can cause 3D forms to be created during the wash. These initial samples was developed during my residency at the Morphing Matter Lab along shape changing material specialist Lining Yao of MIT. This lab is part of the Computer/Human Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University - Pittsburgh, USA.

Further explorations of this research could stretch the method beyond the reach of knit structure alone.

Zegna Baruffa

Yarn Sponsorship