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project by Varvara GuljajevaMar Canet Sola 

SPAMpoetry is our artist-in-residency project at MU in Eindhoven that is taking place within the framework of the M4m mobility programme, supported by the European Commission and coordinated by the Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes.


SPAMpoetry is a series of knitted works containing visual poetry from collected spam.

The process consists of 2 main parts:

1. generating poetry from collected SPAM

2. modifying an electronic knitting machine in order to give SPAMpoetry a knitted form.

Concerning the concept, we are interested in bringing together digital culture and traditional handicraft. To be more specific, the idea is to experiment with the form and meaning of SPAM. We turn SPAM into a romantic, funny or even sarcastic poetry and present it in unusual tangible form as knitted garment. To be more specific, we call final result dysfunctional wearable, because it reminds a sweater but is not really a one. Like SPAM, our dysfunctional wearable does not have a purpose. Talking about the form of artworks, one is able to recognize sweater parts in unusual position and size.

Coming back to SPAM, it is generated automatically nowadays. Hence, we aim to apply the same technique for recycling it, generating poetry from SPAM algorithmically, converting into a pattern and uploading to the knitting machine. Of course, the process of knitting is done manually. Thus, we create a contrast between rapid and overwhelming digital world and slow, careful knitting process.

Why we speak about SPAM? First, SPAM generation, distribution, and reception consume a significant amount of energy that is wasted basically. Hence, with our project we aim to draw attention to this fact and find a meaning and usage for SPAM.

And finally, we apply locative SPAM. In the places where the SPAMpoetry has been produced we have been collecting SPAM from locals. The works presented in this catalogue contain locative SPAM from Eindhoven and Malmö.

The catalogue can be downloaded here: 

We have asked local people in Eindhoven and Malmö (where we have been producing SPAMpoetry) to donate their SPAM to us.


With the help of Davey Taylor we have succeeded to reverse engineer file format of KH940 machine! In addition to that we have created an interface for uploading patterns. It means to use the terminal in not needed anymore. And what is more important, we can upload much bigger patters (KH940 has 10 times bigger memory than KH930) and as well the upload of multiple number of patterns is possible!

All the instructions and code is located here:


We got inspired by the hack of Brother 930E by Becky Stern and wanted to do the same hack.

Advise: be sure to get exact model! that means KH930 since all Brother machines are a bit different. And what is especially crucial is floppy or file format that is not the same on all machines!

We were a bit unlucky with choosing the right model. So we got some experiences with different machines.

First we got KH900 that is useless because have no floppy disc drive. Second we got KH950i that is useless too because has no INPUT mode! INPUT mode is super important in order to know the file format that the knitting machine has.

At the moment we have KH940 on which we have succeeded to make keyboard hack (many thanks for Travis Goodspeed and  Fabienne Serriere for sharing their information online). That means opening up the knitter and simulating all keys in Arduino. Thus, we have automized all the process of uploading new pattern. The truth is, it is a bit slow in case of large pattern because the code in processing is inputting through arduino pixel by pixel.

The mapping of Travis and Fabienne worked well for us. Only difference between 930 and 940 is the ground! 940 does not have the ground on the resistor that 930 has. We are taking ground from the floppy disc drive connection plug. On the photo this lonely wire that is attached to the resister is not connected.
Instead the ground comes from the black wire that is connected to floppy disc drive plug pin1!
Here is the ready matrix mechanism consisting from BC547C transistors and 1k resistors for simulating buttons:

we followed this schema by Travis Goodspeed:
Keymu10 Shield

About the FTDI cable and emulating floppy disc drive,  luckily the floppy pin layout is the same on 930 and 940 machines. So we followed tutorial on Ladyada blog to make the cable.
The next problem occurred while emulating in python (by Steve Conklin) floppy disk drive on our computer.

If you receive the same error in your terminal:

python img COM12
Preparing . . . Please Wait
Traceback (most recent call last):
File “”, line 631, in
File “”, line 382, in handleRequests
File “”, line 504, in handleFDCmodeRequest
AttributeError: PDDemulator instance has no attribute ‘write’

DO following -> Edit the file and on line 504 change

(thanx to Steve for the help!)

Now we were able to backup knitting machine memory to the computer. But all the files are empty! 😦 It is possible to see how many stitches and rows has a pattern but not more. So with uploading patterns through floppy emulation we are stuck at the moment.

Video explaining whole working process:


Knitting our 1st automatically uploaded pattern
Digital knitting with a hack KH940
the same pattern in Processing ready for uploading:
processing sketch to send the image to KH940

and the 2nd one much bigger (44 stitches x 512 rows):

Our idea is not only about knitting garments but as well giving a form to SPAMpoetry.

Here are our first small-scale tries before turning them into installation:

SPAMpoetry on canvas:
back side:
and new solution canvas-sweater:
for the pleasure of readying:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 29, 2012 2:47 pm

    yey !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    why are you not wearing your crochet hats from Liverpool NIna ? Is it spring now ?

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