The BoneKnitter is a dream for slow technology that honours New Zealand's natural environment and pays tribute to generations of Māori and Pākehā merino growers, shearers and wool handlers.
We envision a future where orthopaedic casts are crafted from all natural materials and slowly knitted over broken bones. Where a medical caregiver offers us a comfy chair and brings us a hot cuppa with some gingernut biscuits, before running wool into the machine and hand-cranking it to life.
Inspired by early 20th century home knitting machines, we imagine a BoneKnitter crafted from sustainable native rimu wood and naturally stained. Three rows of different sized needles, knit three different weights of merino wool and native plant materials into three separate layers - one on top of the other.
Each cast is made from single origin NZ merino wool, and as we comfortably wait for each layer of the cast to be knitted, we are invited to learn about the people, places and animals that produced it.
We see individual casts crafted from the range of natural merino wool colours, both plainly styled and patterned after the topographic contours of the land where the sheep were raised, or the genetic sequence of the sheep that produced the wool.
Each cast comes with data histories for each animal, and we are given personal collections of photos and stories to take home.
The woolen cast & wooden machine.
The base layer of the cast uses ultra-fine 15 micron merino wool; the middle layer uses medium 21 micron merino wool; and the top layer of the cast uses fine 19 micron merino wool.
The gauze-like first layer is knitted with merino wool infused with medicinal manuka honey and kawakawa extract. The wool's natural lanolin helps keep the skin from becoming dry and itchy, and manuka and kawakawa plants have long been used in Rongoa Māori to heal wounds and ease aches.
The second, middle layer of the cast takes full advantage of merino wool's natural ability to stay warm when it is cold, and cool when it is hot. The thick and chunky spin of the yarn also provides padding to protect the bones while they heal, along with a soft and attractive cuff over the edges of the hard cast.
The third, and top, layer uses merino wool spun with NZ flax or harakeke fibres, infused with native bio-resins that set as hard as fibreglass. In Māori songs, harakeke often evokes human relationships and bonds, and its presence in the cast symbolically ties producers to the people who live with - and heal through - their products.
Wool enters the BoneKnitter through holes in the top of the barrel, where it catches the first needle. The machine's knitting speed is controlled by the hand-crank, and a carved wooden platform is provided to rest the broken limb during the knitting process.
Looking to the future of medical products, we see timeless traditions of people caring for animals, the land, and each other.