Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Cardiac radiographer and designer Brooke Roberts used digital knitting technology to create garments with patterns based on brain MRIs and medical images (+ interview).


Based in London Brooke Robert mesh images of brain segments captured during medical examinations with the designs of Dutch artist MC Escher to create her current collection of knitwear for women.

Crafted from merino wool and ‘sports-tech composite yarns’, the range includes three mini dresses as well as skirts and jumpers in a color palette of grey, mustard and purple – all created using a digital knitting machine.

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Although she runs her own fashion brand, Roberts also works as a radiologist – a job that involves capturing images of the inside of the human body using x-rays and scanners, providing her with a continuous source of stimulation. visual.

The collection is part of her ongoing experiment to combine science, technology and fashion, fusing scans with other images and fabrics.

Each design begins with a medical image, either from friends or from broader research. These are combined with textured textiles and other images to create “hybrid works of art”.

“A lot of the time I combine the scans with other concepts and that’s what takes them in a new direction,” Roberts told Dezeen. “For example, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan segment can be isolated and tessellated to resemble a mathematical and rhythmic image.”

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

“Most brains look very similar. However, imaging modalities show different structures to varying degrees and the software we use allows us to change image settings in post-processing so we can play with the aesthetics of images,” she explained.

“I did this with brain CT and sinus scan images given to me by my friends. It allows me to reinterpret the images and highlight aspects that I find interesting in order to use them for designs of knitting.”

Roberts then develops bespoke fabrics for each season, selecting a combination of different natural and synthetic yarns to create varying weights and effects, then testing each on a digital knitting machine.

Once done, she sketches the silhouettes of the garments and assigns the artwork to them before creating knitted prototypes. These prototypes are used as templates to create technical sheets, which are programmed into a knitting machine to produce the final collection.

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Roberts first moved from Australia to London to study fashion at Center of Saint Martin art school, after realizing that her career as a radiologist did not fulfill her creatively.

“It wasn’t until I launched my own brand that I developed an interest in the capabilities of digital knitting machines and the potential to combine my two careers as a radiographer and designer,” she said. in Dezeen. “The possibilities of knitting are endless and as a technical person with a passion for science, this was a perfect niche for me.”

“I hope to expand into interiors in the near future; knitted brain scanner room dividers – who wouldn’t want those?!” she said.

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Roberts sells her work online through her own online store and is sourced from boutiques such as Browns. Roberts said the internet is enabling a new generation of designers to build businesses outside of the traditional fashion cycle.

“Fashion, for all its talk of innovation and constant evolution, is often very inward looking and technologically outdated,” she said.

“One of the biggest catalysts that technology has offered to fashion is the ability for young, up-and-coming designers to create relatively inexpensive e-commerce stores and create an online community to which they can sell their wares and spark interest via social media. As a result, there are many new fashion business models emerging and the traditional wholesale model is no longer the only option for growing a fashion business.”

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Read the transcript of our interview with Brooke Roberts:


Tamlin Mage: How did you start using these methods?

Brooke Roberts: I worked in a knitwear factory in Italy after graduating from Central Saint Martins. I worked for a knitwear designer for three years. I was then focused on cutting and construction and it wasn’t until I started my own brand that I developed an interest in the capabilities of digital knitting machines and the potential to combine my two careers as a radiographer and of designers. The possibilities of knitting are endless and as a technical person with a passion for science, this was a perfect niche for me.

Tamlin Mage: I read that you are a specialist in cardiac x-ray by day – how does this influence the design process?

Brooke Roberts: It’s very important for my design process. He is a constant source of inspiration as cardiac imaging technology advances rapidly. The images themselves are inspiring and thought-provoking. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to see inside the body and analyze human anatomy on a daily basis. It challenges me to think about the concepts of symmetry and beauty and to explore organic forms. The natural beauty inside the body is mesmerizing. It’s also inspiring to watch patients react to images of their own hearts. It is remarkable what science and medicine have enabled us to do.

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Tamlin Mage: Some of the designs look quite abstract from their source material, how do you decide which direction to take the scans for the designs?

Brooke Roberts: Most of the time I combine the scans with other concepts and that’s what takes them in a new direction. For example, an MRI brain scan segment can be isolated and tessellated to resemble a mathematical and rhythmic image. I made this for my AW14 collection. He combined the work of MC Escher with brain scan segments.

Tamlin Mage: How individual and unique is each scan?

Brooke Roberts: There’s not a lot of uniqueness to the images, generally speaking. There are what we call normal variations which occur less frequently but are of no physical importance. Most brains look a lot alike, for example. However, the imaging modalities show different structures to varying degrees and the software we use allows us to modify the image parameters in post-processing in order to play with the aesthetics of the images. I did this with CT images of the brain and sinuses my friends gave me. This allows me to reinterpret the images and highlight the aspects that interest me in order to use them for knit creations.

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Tamlin Mage: What attracts you to body scans?

Brooke Roberts: I can’t quite identify why they attract me. I am fascinated by structures and they look beautiful to me. I see shapes and patterns in them that I find very appealing – they look designed and deliberate. They look great and in most cases work. I’m a total believer in evolution, so it’s not a creationist perspective. I just find the body scans to be the most inspiring images I’ve ever seen and exploring them is what I love most about designing.

Tamlin Mage: What has been the response to your clothes – is there any commercial interest?

Brooke Roberts: The response has been excellent. I had the opportunity to give a TED talk about my designs, present at the Wired Next Generation conference in London, and present at London Fashion Week. There is commercial interest and I have an online store and run private sales events for my clients who span many industries but work primarily in technology, media, medicine and engineering. I hope to expand into interiors in the near future; knitted brain scan room dividers – who wouldn’t want these?!

Brooke Roberts turns brain scans into knitting patterns

Tamlin Mage: How does fashion adapt to new technologies?

Brooke Roberts: Fashion, for all its talk of innovation and constant evolution, is often very inward looking and technologically outdated. For fashion to truly evolve and develop smarter, faster and greener supply chains and products, it needs to be technologically self-empowering.

I can’t believe it still works at fixed seasons where products are shown by luxury fashion houses six months before they go on sale, but ripped off by high street retailers who have them in store weeks later. Summer collections are in stores in the middle of winter due to seasonal fashion cycles.

One of the biggest catalysts that technology has offered to fashion is the ability for young, up-and-coming designers to create relatively inexpensive e-commerce stores and create an online community to which they can sell their wares and generate interest. interest through social media. As a result, many new fashion business models are emerging and the traditional wholesale model is no longer the only option to grow a fashion business.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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