information design through screens & objects

Unravel Calendar

concept, design, fabrication
The Unravel Calendar is a 12-month Gregorian knit calendar made entirely of yarn, representing time through rows of stitches. Each day, the user pulls a loose string to unravel that day of the calendar back into yarn: an embodied ritual that creates an opportunity to slow down and actively reflect on material transience and the human experience of time. The calendar leaves the user with a spool of yarn at the end of the year that they may make into another knit artifact.

The Unravel Calendar proposes a material philosophy of products that are made to be unmade. This approach builds on sustainable design movements including design for disassembly, cradle-to-cradle, distributed making, and emotionally durable design. The Calendar is made from a single material that the user disassembles into its usable “raw” form simply by interacting with the object over time. The user can recycle the yarn themselves without special equipment, leveraging the accessibility and latent knowledge of knitting as a domestic and distributed method of making. The yarn is embedded with the memory of the year, carrying its material significance into the next phase of its life as a sweater or blanket.

The weeks and months of the Unravel Calendar read bottom-up, so January 1 is at the bottom of the calendar. This is so that the calendar can be hung with the unraveled end on the bottom. Each day in the calendar is made up of 1440 stitches, one for each minute of the day.


I knit the calendar using a tubular jacquard technique with two colors of yarn on a Shima Seiki industrial knitting machine. I created a custom pattern for the machine using knitout, a file format created at the Carnegie Mellon University Textiles Lab to represent low-level knitting instructions like “knit on needle 151 with yarn 1 going right to left,” much like how G-Code provides instructions to a CNC machine tool. I designed and wrote a program in Javascript that generates the knitout instructions for the full calendar in two colors.

The first iteration of the calendar followed the conventions and layout of a typical desktop calendar, with knit squares representing days, arranged in rows of weeks, which in turn make up blocks of months. When one square unravels, it feeds into the next square to its right. Because knitting typically is done in rows back and forth, I put a lot of time into designing the knit pattern to allow one day-square to unravel into the next day beside it. The pattern is a variation on the entrelac knitting technique, which involves a number of complex operations that are further complicated by incorporating two colors. As a result, for the final iteration I returned to a simpler layout where days are knit as rows spanning the full width of the calendar.