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Jean Oberlander

MA work

The machine gives back the hand

The machine gives back the hand is a culmination of several years of work on creating a world that finds joy and appreciation for the languages of knitted stitches and drawn marks. It has built up over time to form an alphabet of mark making that seamlessly intertwines with the knitting, through a past and present steeped in memory and the tradition of knit itself.

The language of memory, developing an alphabet of marks and lines, which derive from hazy moments, lost things and perceived still lives, that are seen and passed by in our daily lives; captured colours from journeys and the misremembering of commuting becomes a language in and of itself – built up and drawn in layers and papers that are transmuted into flat and three-dimensional pieces of textile. The drawn marks become knit stitches, the world is interchangeable. Soft and hard. Knitted and drawn. 

By infusing my own memories into these made works, it emulates the lived life of jumpers around us, which we can never throw away. Let the merging hand and machine processes create a balance of naive anarchy, which uses drawing by hand and on machine to create pieces in flux between the body and space.


  • MA Degree


    School of Design


    MA Textiles, 2019



  • Jean’s work finds the space between the body and the jumper, by joining and seaming knitted pieces by hand and with machine, to develop a language of marks, memories and stitches. A sense of planned chaos envelops the soft knitted pieces – they are jumpers that aren’t jumpers, to be both worn and viewed, performed in and gazed at. Her research gathers memories of colour, of knitting and of the metaphorical jumper, in order to capture the haziness of remembering and mis-remembering. Her narrative focuses on how knitting can be a tool for memory, and combines the written word and making in a process that appreciates the never-ending loop of a knitted stitch.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles, Gray's School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, 2017
  • Experience

  • Production assistant, Eribe Knitwear, Galashiels, 2016
  • Exhibitions

  • Satellite: VSA at Summerhall, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 2018; Seams, Textiles Group Show, Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, London, 2018; OPEN 2018, Graduate Showcase, Visual Arts Scotland, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 2018; MAKE, MA Textiles Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London, 2018; New Designers, Business Design Centre, London, 2017; Graduate Degree Show, Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen, 2017; Soft / Not / Soft, Aberdeen, 2017
  • Awards

  • Distinction in Masters Dissertation, 2018; Commended in the Undergraduate Awards, 2018; Alexandrina McKenzie Legacy Award for Meritorious Work, 2017; BP Graduate Design Award, Highly Commended, 2017
  • Conferences

  • 'What is softness, but a well worn jumper: unravelling the cross-overs of love, memory and tactility in knitting', In the Loop at 10, Knitting Conference, Winchester School of Art, 19-20 July, 2018