Skiers, skaters, and other winter athletes run an increased risk of lung and bronchial infections when training in cold weather. Stoll, a German manufacturer of knitting machinery, worked together with academic and industry partners to incorporate smart textile technology in this balaclava.
A mesh panel over the mouth and nose is knitted with copper wire that heats air to 40⁰ C (104⁰ F) before it is inhaled, decreasing the incidence of chest infections. A knitted-in electric socket at the back of the head is activated by a cell battery, and is connected to the warming mesh with electro-conductive yarns so fine they cannot be felt.
The piece is part of Stoll’s Performance+ series of athletic garments, designed to showcase the unique potential of machine knitting in the advancement of smart textile technology. Other features include 3-D construction, wind-resistant wool-Lycra blend yarns, and knitted-in reflective stripes for passive visibility. The design received the gold medal in the Outdoor Industry Awards in 2016.
Susan Brown is the Associate Curator of Textiles at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.