Making Garments the 1940s Way

A loopwheler machine, through a toothed-wheel process, creates one metre of textile an hour by weaving and stacking cotton into a brushed fleece. Fashioned around a cylinder, as it grows, the fabric bunches up at the bottom of the machine, with garments created in the round with no side seams. Each device can only weave between twenty to twenty-five shirts per day, and it is woven in the round, each cylinder reflecting the body size that will wear the finished garment.

The process was developed in 1926 by the Italian inventor Guiseppe Negra, who licensed it to American sportswear brands such as Champion and LL Bean. They went on to create sweaters this way until the 1950s when modern knitters replaced loopwheeler machines.

Introduced to Japan in the Taisho Era (1912–1926), the machines stopped being produced in the 1970s. Only two factories remain operational globally –Kanekichi Industries located in Japan's Wakayama Prefecture and Merz B. Schwanen factory situated in Germany.

Each loopwheeler machine has more than a thousand beaded needles set by the craftspeople who operate them, making the process entirely analogue. There's no tension pulling the fabric, just gravity and some pullers, creating a material that has a unique texture and beautiful irregularities as if the air is woven into it. The garments we produce using loopwheeler machines are made in the Kanekichi factory. There they make our t-shirts and sweatshirts on machinery that is eighty years old.